17 November, 1939 – Founder of Pine River Celebrates her Birthday

A group of Amarilla’s friends put together a birthday celebration for her on her 81st Birthday.  The picture below was in the possession of her grandson Keith B. MacDonald and also appeared in the newspaper article which was on the front page of the local paper.

Amarilla a little older

Amarilla in older years…

Mrs. Amarilla Urton Founder of Pine R., Celebrates Birthday 

A birthday has been arranged honoring Mrs. Amarilla Urton, founder of Pine River, on her eighty-first birthday to be held at her home Friday afternoon (today). A group of friends and old time acquaintances will gather on the memorable occasion and partake of a turkey dinner, which is being prepared by Mrs. Frank Shepard and Mrs. Katie Silk. The group will also present her with a purse of sliver in memory of her anniversary. As a fitting gesture to such a distinguished old lady, a short history of her colorful years during the early days of Pine River are related in the following paragraphs. The dates and facts were obtained by the editor thru the courtesy of a number of her friends.

Mrs. Amarilla Urton was born in Iowa County, Iowa on November 17, 1858, coming to Brainerd in 1877, where she was engaged as a seamstress. Here she met and married George Barclay on July 27, 1878. The young couple drove as far as Gull by team the first night and continued their trip the following day by tote-team to the territory now known as Pine River, where Mr. Barclay operated a trading-post on the river, here the property now used as a cemetery. The trading-post was built by Mr. Barclay and McNany in 1877. The following year, the store was moved to the site now occupied by the Round residence, this was really the first business place in the territory. In those days it was known as the trading-post as this was where the Indians brought their furs and exchanged them for supplies, this being the only business conducted at this time as the lumber-jacks had not yet arrived. Mr. Barclay then purchased three 40’s from the federal government, the deed of which was signed by the President, received three years later which will give you some idea of the rapidity in which land deals were made in those days. Additional land was purchased by Mr. Barclay in this vicinity a short time later.

During all this time Mrs. Urton was the only white woman in the territory. For fourteen years the closest white people were at Gull Lake, which was a considerable distance in those days. One can well imagine the pioneering courage needed by a young woman to carry on in the face of all these obstacles. She spent many lonely years up here in the north, planning with her husband, the future of a town, never complaining and always doing her part in the struggle.

The second white woman to make her home here was Mrs. John Leef who arrived in 1895. Shortly after this time several pioneering settlers arrived and lumbering and timber work was in full swing. The railroad came through here in 1892, and was known as the “Brainerd Northern” running from Brainerd as far north as Hackensack which was then known as Laporte. Their main source of revenue being in hauling lumber.

The first post office was built previous to the advent of the railroad, by Mr. Barclay. Mail was delivered twice a week by stages, which traveled from Brained to the Leech Lake Agency. Four days were necessary to make one roundtrip.

The first shingled building in Pine River was the Barclay Hotel, operated by Mrs. Urton and her husband. The hotel was located on the lot across the street from the Farmers Supply store and was destroyed by fire several years ago. It was while engaged in this business that Mr. Barclay was killed while sitting in the lobby of the hotel in 1898. This was the first death recorded in the records of Cass county. Mrs. Urton later married the late George Urton.

Mrs. Urton took an active part in the building of the village donating the property now occupied by the railroad right-of-way, the Pine Ridge Cemetery, power-house site, two parks, the Lutheran and Methodist church sites and ten lots for the first school which was built in 1897. The first school teacher was Mrs. Peck. Abe White has the distinction of being the second station-agent in Pine River, coming here in 1900, and continuing in that capacity until two years ago when he retired.

The Urton residence was built in 1905 by Mr. Zigmund, father of Harris and Arthur Zigmund.

All in All, this grand old lady has had a colorful life, one that few have the privilege of experiencing. She has spent 61 years of her life here and is well past her allotted three score and ten, still has a keen mind and enjoys keeping posted on world affairs and the progress of Pine River, to which she gave the best years of her life.

It is only fitting and proper that the citizens of this community salute her as the founder and pioneer of this modern city which has developed far beyond her fondest dreams.

Friday, November 17, 1939, will no doubt be one of the most memorable days in her life as her friends gather to honor her on her 81st anniversary, bringing her the well-wishes of everyone, and the making a happy event by her already eventful life.

Source: The Pine River Journal, Pine River, Minnesota, Friday, Nov. 7, 1939, page 1 col. 4, with Picture.

The article is by far one of the best and pretty accurate regarding the life of Amarilla. It is my belief that she was probably born in Benton County, Iowa near Blairstown because that is where her father Daniel had his land at that time.  He would move to Iowa County but that was not till after 1870.

I think it is very interesting that no mention is made of her children George Alexander Barclay and Grace Amarilla Barclay McDonald. Both children had died well before 1939, but there were descendants still living.  They also don’t mention Jefferson Dawes her 2nd husband, nor much about George Urton.  I am sure they didn’t have the room to really cover all the history.

It is too bad great-grandmother never wrote down her life story or her memories, it would have been wonderful to know her life in her own words.

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