A mystery solved…A Niece visits Pine River for their Tall Tales Play…1985

When I traveled to Minnesota in 2000 and 2001, I was told that a niece of Amarilla’s had visited when the play “Tales from the Tall Pines…!” had been presented. Knowing what I did about my great-grandmother Amarilla, I was puzzled as to who it was.

So I was told about this play that had been presented in February of 1985.  The play was about the lives of my great grandparents Amarilla and George Barclay.

In early 2014, I was contacted and told that the niece who visited Pine River was Beulah Spracklin Harris, a daughter of Virda and Lillie. She was the guest at the presentation of the play.  I was not aware that Beulah and her family lived in Minnesota, until just recently.

There is a video of the play and it used to be housed at the Pine River Public Library. I visited the library when it was very small.  Since then they have built a new library. I did a search for the video but it is not coming up in their catalog.

Here are some newspaper photos shared by a cousin and I am so very grateful to receive these.  Just click on the photo and it will open in a larger window, then click your back button to return.


Tales from the Tall Pines

Tales from the Tall Pines


Beulah Spracklin Harris, niece to Amarilla and daughter of her 1/2 brother Virda and Lillie Spracklin

Beulah Spracklin Harris, niece to Amarilla and daughter of her 1/2 brother Virda and wife Lillie Spracklin


Tales from the Tall Pines begins with a narrator...

Tales from the Tall Pines begins with a narrator…

Various residents of Pine River participated in the play, taking on the roles of George Barclay, Amarilla and other characters. It was written by Kathy Fraser whom I talked to on the phone from the Visitor Center in Pine River one year.  She was going to share with me some information about the play, but so far it appears that she is still looking for it?  It is okay, by the time I came on the scene it has been awhile since this topic had been revisited. I am content to see these photos from the newspaper.

The character of Amarilla is the one in the dark dress and shawl.  George is the tall man with the stove top hat, which I find rather amusing.  My great grandfather was short, and small in stature. He did have a beard or rather goatee.

Scenes from the play

Tales from the Tall Pines


Apparently a linch party was organized

Apparently a lynch party was organized…

Who knew for sure who was Barclay’s killer…neither of the culprits served time for the murder…so who knows for sure?” – the Narrator…

Once again thanks to my cousin for sharing these wonderful photos of this event and solving my little mystery.

Fire – The Barclay Hotel Burns – December 1915

A major catastrophe occurred at the end of 1915 in Pine River, Minnesota. A fire of unknown origin started in the mercantile store and consumed both the store and the hotel before it could be brought under control. If I am correct it would have happened on the 27th of December 1915.

Immediately following the fire, Amarilla opened a temporary store at the south end of the Barclay block. The store was general in nature but still reflected her millinery interests. The hotel was not rebuilt. Amarilla continued to operate her store until her retirement in the 1930’s.  If you look up to the current header photo of this blog you will get an idea of the area involved in the fire.

The Barclay Hotel

The Barclay Hotel, from Logsleds to Snowmobiles, courtesy of the town of Pine River

Fire Threatened Entire Village…..

“Flames Discovered in R. Snell’s Store, Made Short Work of That and Leaped to Barclay, Bucket Brigade Saved Town, Heroic Work of Citizens Prevent the Destruction of the Entire Business Section. Monday evening at about 9:45 the fire alarm announced that fire was raging in the store building of Mrs. Dawes.

The chemical engine was promptly on hand, but the central part of the store was one mass of flame and it was apparent that nothing could be done, so attention was turned to the saving of the Barclay hotel which, on account of a slight south breeze, seemed to be in danger as soon as the store fire would get to its height. For awhile it looked as if the hotel would be saved, but the heat became terrific and the fire fighters were unable to stay on the job. The roof of the kitchen caught fire first and the old landmark, The Barclay, soon was in ashes.

When it seemed that the whole block would be destroyed, and people began moving out as far over as the post office, the wind shifted to the southwest and the greatest danger was over, for by excellent work in keeping the telephone building well soaked under difficult circumstances the flames were checked. Considerable dynamite was used in trying to wreck the burning hotel but with no effect. The wood shed at the rear of the Sentinel-Blaze office was torn down when it became imminent that the main building was in danger. This, however, as it proved, would have been unnecessary.

The land office of S.P. Hanson at the rear of Mrs. Dawes store had no chance of being saved, so after the contents, including the books and records of Treasurer Linden of the school board were safely removed, it also burned to the ground.

During the course of the fire at the hotel the hot water tank in the kitchen got up steam and tore loose from its moorings and shot up through the top of the building and soared high in the air coming down on the top of Day’s blacksmith shop a block away.

Everybody in the Leef building up as far as the post office were moving out, as were those between the hotel and the corner to the north. The telephone exchange was ripped out and looks as if a cyclone hit it, and aside from the actual fire loss is the only other loss of any amount. It will be several days before connections can again be made and the village given telephone service.

Unstinted praise is due a number of citizens for their work in checking the fire, as they did. Homer Andrews, perhaps more than any other one man, stuck to the blistering job of keeping the telephone building wet while others carried water from every available well. Elmer Raines also was among the conspicuous ones and both of these had their clothes scorched to a distinct brown. Without the bucket brigade there is no telling what would have happened, but chemical also did fine work.

Chief Cromett and his assistant, George Bell were right on the job, and against great odds proved to have been doing the best possible under the circumstances. While it was a great loss, it was as nothing compared to what might have been the result, and many there are who are now congratulating themselves on their good fortune.

The barn at the rear of the Barclay caught fire several times and if allowed to burn would have endangered the Spencer building and the Smith building adjoining in which Dr. Bremkin lives. An attempt was made to dynamite the barn, but it was impossible to give the explosive the required resistance to do any damage to the structure except to blow off the door.

Much of the bedding and furniture in the Barclay was saved, by getting it out, but the greater part of it went up in smoke. Mr. Cater who recently sold the furnishing to the new proprietors holds the insurance as security for the unpaid balance, and will be partly reimbursed for the loss. Mrs. Dawes had $3,000 insurance on the hotel building and $1,000 on the store buildings occupied by R.E. Snell who had insurance to the amount of $6,000 on the stock of goods. The loss to the telephone company will be about $100 with no insurance. The total loss to Mrs. Dawes is estimated at $15,000; Snell’s loss is placed at $8,000 each with insurance as stated above.”

Source:  December 31, 1915, Front Page, Pine River Sentinel, Pine River, Cass Co., MN.

This was a pretty good description of the fire, I believe. The newspaper survived to write about the fire. Things in Pine River are so different now then back in 1915, there has been lots of change since that time. I would have liked to have seen the Barclay Hotel on my visits to Pine River, that would that have been a kick. It probably would not have survived anyway but I am still looking for building plans?

A Tragedy Occurs, the Loss of a Daughter…

Amarilla was no stranger to tragedy.  She had lost her mother when she was a little baby. Her son George Alexander died from an overdose of medicine at about 18 months old.  Her full brother Henry, the only other child that survived from the first family of Daniel Spracklin, was killed in a tragic accident in 1893 in Davenport, Iowa. Her half-brother Alfred died in 1899.  George Angus Barclay, her husband, was shot and murdered in their hotel in October of 1898.

These were all terrible and must have taken their toll on great-grandmother, but the death of her daughter Grace must have been the worst.

Amarilla lost her only daughter and child on December 25, 1911. Grace died at the hospital in International Falls.  She had given birth to a premature baby they named Grace Elizabeth and then succumbed to pneumonia. She is buried in the McDonald family plot in the St. Thomas Cemetery along with Archibald and Mary McDonell, the parents of Ronald, Grave’s husband. Grace is the writers grandmother.

Grace Barclay McDonald

Grace Barclay McDonald

Card of thanks from R.S. and Amarilla regarding Grace's death

Card of thanks from R.S. and Amarilla regarding Grace’s death, Pine River Journal

Grace’s story is featured in the blog:  The Man Who Lived Airplanes, see right side panel for link.

G.A.R. Records Lost for Pap Thomas Post…1911

George Angus Barclay was an old soldier and he participated in the GAR – Grand Army of the Republic.

Much to my disappointment, the records for his local GAR post were lost in a fire. I did find his brother Alexander’s which survived.  There was some information but not as much as I had hoped.  Apparently the GAR gave George a big funeral and it would be great to have that information in more detail.

There was an article in the newspaper for Brainerd Dispatch May 26, 1911, page 1 column 6 titled:

Roster of Heroes Dead – List as Compiled for Dispatch by Pro. J.A. Wilson,

A Veteran of the Civil War.

Old Soldiers GAR

Old Soldiers GAR

There are over 80 names mentioned in the article.  It goes on to state that the Old Grand Army Records Were Destroyed in Odd Fellow Hall Fire of Last year. George appears about 23 names down: Geo. Barclay, 9th Minn. Inf.

There is a book titled: “Brainerd’s Half Century,” by Ingolf Dillan, published in 1923 by the General Print Co., in Minneapolis.  On page 138 there is a listing of the members of the Pap Thomas Post No. 30 with “Not Here” as the title?  George Angus Barclay is listed as sixth person down on the list.

There are muster rolls for the Pap Thomas post 30, located at Brainerd, County of Crow Wing, Minnesota.

Age: 48 years old and born in Connecticut

Residence was Pine River

Occupation Lumber

Entry into service August 18, 1862

Rank Wagoner, company [J or I] 9 Minnesota

Final discharge August 24, 1865, rank Wagoner, Co. [J or I] 9 Minnesota

Length of serve 36 months to end of war.

At the very least there is the newspaper account of the condition of the GAR Records for Pap Thomas Post No. 30 so we at least know the state of those documents.

George Angus Barclay is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Brainerd.

Amarilla and J.G. Dawes go their Separate Ways! 1910

About the time of George A. Barclay’s murder in 1898, J.G. Dawes entered into Amarilla’s life. He became her second husband.  He join her in business activities.  He became mayor of the town of Pine River and helped to plat the town.  J.G. Dawes also built her a house in Pine River.  About 1905 he started building a hotel in Longville and expanding his business interests.

Part of the Divorce Decree of Amarilla and J.G. Dawes

Part of the Divorce Decree of Amarilla and J.G. Dawes

After 1905, J.G. Dawes and Amarilla started to go their separate ways.  I do not know exactly when J.G. made the break and left Pine River for good.

In 1909 Amarilla filed for divorce. There were three documents.  The divorce was not friendly and both made unkind statements towards the other. Here is a summary of the contents and I have chosen not to include some of the language. You will note that her name is spelled in the documents with the two “m’s.”

J.G. called her “Rilla.”

The first is a Serving of the Complaint to Jefferson G. Dawes by the Sheriff of Hennepin Co., Minnesota, Otto S. Langum on 10 December 1909.

The next is a two page document called a Complaint between the two parties, stating that Ammarilla is 51 years old and J.G. is 57 years old. That they were married on the 2nd day of September in 1902 in the city of Minneapolis, MN. That the plaintiff, Ammarilla, has been living in the state of Minnesota for more than one year. That the plaintiff was treated in a cruel and inhuman manner….. There are no children issued from this marriage. That the plaintiff has real and personal property valued at $7000. That the plaintiff demands Judgment to dissolve the marriage between the two parties.

On the second page of the document, Ammarilla is sworn to truth and the document is notarized on the 8th day of December 1909. Below is a summons to J.G. Dawes to answer the complaint and if he does not do so in 30 days, judgment will be rendered.

The third and final document is the Divorce Decree itself. Apparently J.G. Dawes did not appear or contest the divorce and it was granted to Ammarilla on 1 February, 1910 in Cass County, Minnesota.

The Court, by virtue of the power and authority therein vested and in pursuance of the Statute in such cases made and provided, does order, adjudge and decree the marriage between the said plaintiff Mrs. Ammarilla Dawes and the Defendant Jefferson G. Dawes be dissolved and the same he hereby dissolved according, and the said parties are and each of them is freed and absolutely released from the Bonds of matrimony and all the obligations.”

I don’t know why this makes me sad. I like J.G. Dawes even though he may have been a big talker and told a good tale. He was still a very interesting person and I wish I knew more about him and where he came from so I could judge his character.  Some articles that appeared in the newspaper about him, that I have posted in past posts on this blog,  suggest he was a little arrogant.

The story of what happened to Jefferson G. Dawes is not yet over and he will appear in future posts.  His time with Amarilla had ended and they both moved on.  Amarilla would be on her own for nine years before she decided to remarry for the third time.

The Death of Sarah, Amarilla’s Step-mother – 1907!

Amarilla’s father Daniel Spracklin had remarried after the death of his first wife Elizabeth Keller. Elizabeth was Amarilla’s mother. He married Sarah Blacketeer Allgood a widow in 1863.

Sara Spracklin

Sarah Spracklin

Amarilla and Sarah didn’t get along according to family stories, the particulars of their relationship are not clear.  By 1875 or 1876 Amarilla left home and headed to Minnesota. Amarilla would meet and marry George A. Barclay in 1878 and reside in Pine River till her death.  I have shared about their lives together in past posts on this blog.

It is unclear as to how the death of her step-mother affected Amarilla. Sarah died 22 August, 1907 in Dayton Twp., Iowa Co., Iowa. Her tombstone is on Find A Grave and she shares it with Daniel.

“Sarah Spracklin, died April 22, 1907, wife, mother and step mother to parties named in said record.”

“Obituary for Sarah Spracklin
Mrs. Sarah Spracklin was born Sept. 28, 1836, in Park County, Indiana and died at her home near Deep River, IA, April 22, 1907. She had been a citizen of the neighborhood for over thirty years. She had been in poor health since last October and was a patient sufferer. In her early life she united with the M.E. Church and had ever been a faithful member. Funeral services were held at the Deep River M.E. church Thursday afternoon, conducted by Rev. Keopple of Millersburg. A large concourse of friends were present to pay a last tribute of respect. The children of the Bunker Hill school were present in a body at the home Thursday morning to pay respects to their dear old friend. By her kindly acts and comforting words she had endeared herself to every child and young person in the neighborhood. She was a loving wife and devoted mother. Those left to mourn their loss are an aged widower and seven children together with grand children and other relatives and friends. The children are Verd, of Dakota; Mrs. Gilchrist and Dan and Ed, of What Cheer; George and Reed, of this vicinity. The procession of teams that went from the home to the church from the neighborhood was represented. Internment was in the U.B. Cemetery (Community Cemetery 5-7 miles west of Millersburg).”

The Deep River Journal – 5/3/1907 pg. 2 – Sarah Spracklin. 

Finding this obituary of Sarah Spracklin was a challenge. As you can see Daniel and Sarah lived very close to Deep River which is in Poweshiek County, Iowa and not Iowa County, Iowa, where they actually resided on their land in Dayton Twp. The obituaries of both Daniel and Sara Spracklin were found in the Deep River newspaper. Daniel’s will be shared in a future post.