1895 – George’s Home, Prosperous Living in Northern Minnesota

My family has not always been easy to trace and doesn’t show up in published works as much as I would like.  Once in a while I get lucky.  George A. Barclay appears in the article “Homes for Settlers in Northern Minnesota,” in February of 1895 of the Northwest Magazine on pages 34 and 35.

As an example of prosperous pioneer life in this region, George A. Barclay settled there in 1873, at Pine River, thirty miles north of Brainerd and in the heart of the region. He entered 6.0 (640?) acres of Government land under the old and now repealed cash-entry system, at $1.25 an acre. He had $50 left and all his other worldly goods he carried in a pack on his back. He hired a Chippewa Indian to help him build a log house the first in that region. It is still standing in good condition. The Brainerd & Northern Minnesota track runs between his old home and the log barn on the left. Mr. Barclay has now ninety acres under successful cultivation; he has a good store, doing a business, as shown by his books, of $3,000 a month, and he has just completed a new hotel and store building. His property is now worth $18,000 or $20,000.”

A portion of the article about George Barclay's Ranch

A portion of the article about George Barclay’s Ranch

Of course, this article was written to attract other settlers to the area.  I am guessing the Chippewa Indian was McNanny/Nannie.  The article included a picture of George’s Ranch.

George's Ranch 1895 NW Magazine

George’s Ranch 1895 NW Magazine

Source:  “Home for Settlers in Northern Minnesota,” Northwest Magazine, Feb. 1895, Vol. 13 #2, St. Paul, MN

Compare the above picture with this photograph of George’s Ranch in the Logsleds to Snowmobiles book.  Permission given by the town of Pine River.

This is where my grandmother Grace grew up.  Do you see a little girl with pigtails running around and possibly a dirty face?

Barclay's Ranch in Logsleds Book

Barclay’s Ranch in Logsleds Book

When I was traveling in Minnesota in 2001, my goals was to seek out museums that might show me a little of what life might have been like for my great grandparents, George and Amarilla, and their daughter Grace.   So I took out a Minnesota Historical Society membership and it gave me access to several of their historic sites such as the Harkin Store in New Ulm:  http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/harkin-store  This store is a living museum set in 1870 which is close to the time frame of George’s first trading post but I lean toward his later store.

This store seemed very well stocked, with a stove in the center and some chairs.  It also had a mail center (George was postmaster for a time) and a bulletin board.  Did great grandfather’s store look like this or was it totally different?  Somehow I think that his very early store was probably a little cruder and there was the smell of liquor and cigars? He did have to bring goods from Brainerd or trade with the Indians.  When Amarilla joined him in 1878 things might have gotten a little more organized and cleaner, maybe?

Harkin Store

Harkin Store

Warm yourself by the stove

Warm yourself by the stove

I was also curious about their living quarters what would it have been like.   My travels took me to the Cross Lake Historical Society and Pioneer Village:  http://www.crosslakehistoricalsociety.org/  It was wonderful and I highly recommend it.

Cabin at Cross Lake Historical Society 2001

Cabin at Cross Lake Historical Society 2001

If you compare the two photos above of George’s ranch you see the outside of the buildings and these cabins look similar.  Below are two photos which show a little of the interior of the cabin.  In this cabin they had everything.  The kitchen, dining area, laundry area and sleeping area.  Did my great grandfather’s cabin look like this one?  With the addition of the Barclay Hotel, things might have changed a lot.

The Interior with a bed, dishes, rugs and more.

The Interior with a bed, dishes, rugs and more.

More of the interior with a stove and a wash area.

More of the interior with a stove and a wash area.

Half-Way House or Stopping Place!

George Angus Barclay operated a “half-way house” or stopping place in the area of Pine River.  He was not the only one who had such a place along the Leech Lake Road.   He was situated 30 miles north of Brainerd and so his location was a good place to stop, rest, refresh and then continue your journey on to Leech Lake or some other destination.

“When the Cloughs’ outfit finished logging that area, they sold the ranch to Jenkins; and by that time there was so much commotion and traveling along the Leech Lake Road — and the abilities of Ma Jenkins in the kitchen had become so widely noised about — that they had no insurmountable problems continuing the place as a “Halfway House” or traveler’s rest station.  Next north was George Barclay’s at Pine River; to the south was John Bishop’s at the Gull-Round thoroughfare; and now the Web Hill Ranch helped split the distance between the latter two.” 

Source:  Old Timers, by Carl Zapffe, of Historic Heartland. Association, Echo Publishing & Printing, Volume I, pages 6-7, 1988 1st Edition, 1998 2nd Edition.  Mr. Zapffe passed in 1994 and his Association is no more.  The photographs in his collection and maybe more were given to the Nisswa Historic Society, Nisswa, MN, unfortuantely they do not have a website.

See my post dated January 17, 2011 “Wedding Photos of George and Amarilla,” for more information about Mr. Zapffe.

I tried to use the maps of the Leech Lake Road in Mr. Zapffe’s Vol. II that apparently came from the National Archives, but it was very hard and since I do not live in Minnesota I decided to abandon the effort but what I did create on my map was almost a direct line between Bishop, Jenkins and Barclay pretty much following Hwy 371.

The Pine River Centennial newspaper of 1973 had some very interesting articles and mentions George and Amarilla:

“…The history of Pine River really starts with Mr. and Mrs. Barclay (Mrs. Urton).  Mr. Barclay came here in 1876, and with a partner by the name of McNannie, starting a trading post about a mile south of what is now the village site, a few rods this side of the river where the remains of the old cellar may still be seen.  This location was abandoned after a little over a year, in favor of the present location of the village where Mr. Barclay built a log building and conducted a little store and Indian trading post, about where the Anderson Lumber Company yard is now located. 

 Mrs.  Barclay, or you will remember her as Mrs. Urton, came her in July 1878.  At that time there were only three log buildings where the village of Pine River now stands, one being the store formerly mentioned, one used as sort of half-way house for Tote-Teamsters on the trip to and from Brainerd to Leech Lake (now Walker), and a very  large log barn where several of those large loads of supplies could be driven in for over night. 

 Logging had not been started at this point at that time and there were very few white settlers in the territory.  Mrs. Urton once related that while the inhabitants were practically all Indians, she never had any fear of them and they never gave them the least bit of trouble of any kind until after the white man came with his firewater. 

 About this time the Episcopal and Catholic societies started to try educating some of the Indian children and used to come up here to gather up a group of them, taking them away for a four-year course.  They were taught some kind of trade and it was some of those boys who, on their return from the school, built an addition on the old log store and that was where the first school was started.  It would indeed be interesting to trace the evolution of this school through to our present modern high school but time will not permit.”

Source:  Pine River Journal, Pine River, Cass County, Minnesota, 1873 to 1973 Centennial, Vol. 37, Number 22, pg. 2, “Early History of Pine River,” by Frances M. Allen.  

Ever since I heard the term “tote road” I became interested in what it looked like.  I have seen pictures of them as dirt roads or roads with logs laid across them.  You can use Google Images and search for photographs.  People are taking wonderful photos and writing blogs about tote roads.   This is as close as I could get to the area in question.  Can you image driving a wagon with ox or horses along a muddy road.  Hmmm…?  Try Google Images using “Tote Road.”


Notes of Interest:  My copy of this issue was given to me by the Pine River Journal Newspaper.   They have a wonderful collection of newspapers at their office in Pine River.  The Minnesota Historical Society also has a great newspaper collection but they are missing some issues of the Pine River newspaper in the 1930’s.
There are actually two volumes of Mr. Zapffe’s “Old Timers” booklets.  They are oversized measuring 16 inches long by 11 inches wide and they contain approximate 188 pages with an index.  I obtained my copies at the Crow Wing Historical Society in Brainerd.   They are amazing, with lots of photographs, great stories of the families in the area, maps and more covering the Cass and Crow Wing Lake Region.  He does indicate where he obtained the information in some cases.

A Deed: The Northern Pacific Railroad & George – 1883

Meanwhile, George A. Barclay continues to add to his land holdings.

My Aunt Miriam in her notes and the book  “Logsleds to Snowmobiles” mention the Northern Pacific Railroad purchase on June 7, 1883.

“…The final 80 acre purchase of the SE1/4 and the SW1/4 (Lot 7) of the SW1/4 of Section 31, Township 138, Range 29, (Barclay Township) was bought on June 7, 1883 from the Northern Pacific Railway Company for $329.36.” (Logsleds – book page 105, 2nd column at the top)

This purchase is a warranty deed 2 pages long which was filed at the Cass County Courthouse on October 30th A.D. 1883 at 9 a.m.  The Grantor was the North Pacific Railroad Co., Minnesota and Dakota Division to George A. Barclay, Grantee #4382.   It was for $329.36, Deed Book F, pg. 167-168.

“…assigns the following described tracts or parcels of land lying and being in the county of Cass in the State of Minnesota that is to say South east quarter of south-west Quarter (SE1/4 SW1/4) and Lot Seven (7) of Section Thirty-one (31) in Township one hundred and thirty-eight (138) north of Range Twenty-nine (29) West of the fifth principal Meridian containing according to the United States Government survey eighty-two 34/100 (82-34/100) acres more or less…

This deed is located in Barclay Township.  It is interesting to note that McNannie is not listed on this deed.   The other problem is that there is a difference in the two descriptions.  So I went back to both and reviewed them carefully to make sure I had transcribed them faithfully, which I have done.  Therefore I have boldy placed the square representing this deed on the map.  The arrow is pointing to the areas in question. 

#4382 Northern Pacific RR Deed is Added

DeedMapper software that creates deeds does not do small Lots for the land state lands like Minnesota.   The land was 82 34/100’s acres and again Deed Mapper created a deed of 80 acres which is slightly smaller than the original.   

So this is an approximation of the Northwest Railroad deed! A copy of the clerk’s book record is available by contacting the compiler or going to the Cass County Recorder’s office at the courthouse in Walker, Minnesota.

I returned to my DeedMapper Help section to make sure I had faithfully captured the topo map and that my deeds are correct and my acreage is right?  I have not reached a conclusion yet.  

So I ask that you are very careful and realize that this is not an easy task.  Please do not take my word for what you see in the maps, instead read the deeds and patents carefully and draw your own conclusions.  I do believe they are in the right area, just not sure about the acreage. 

The quote from Logsleds also says the “final.”  George and Amarilla left a tremendous paper trail in the Recorder’s office at Cass County, there are also some land transactions in the Crow Wing Recorder’s office.  I stopped counting at 40 today!  My spreadsheet is about 13 pages and double-sided.  Oh, did I mention surveying the land….again?  I am not done.    

Northern Pacific Railroad Guide to Company Records: 


George Barclay & D. McNanny – A Partnership in 1875?

Many sources point out that George A. Barclay formed a partnership with a D. McNannie.  The “Logsleds…” book has a full page picture of this man sitting in a chair and make several references to him in the book.  They suggest McNannie was a mixed blood Ojibwe. 

Studying the land laws of the United States back in 1875 might show some interesting reasons for this partnership.  The whole issue of land and the Indians is very complicated and subject to the laws of the U.S. Federal Governments. 

In checking on McNanny/Nannie at the BML website I did not find any other patents in his name, only the two he purchased with George back in 1875. 

Interestingly these two patents are in Section 8 of T137 R29 Wilson Township.  Visualize the northwest corner of Wilson Township – Section 6:  On its right to the east is Section 5.  South of Section 6 is Section 7 and to its right going east is Section 8.  So Section 8 is diagonal to Section 6 and to the southeast.  The Pine River flows through this Section 8 and the Leech Lake Military Trail follows the river. 

1.  Cass  County – 5/1/1875 – St. Cloud #7373

#7373 Patent – D. McNanny and George Barclay of Cass Co., Minnesota, ….deposited in…St. Cloud, Minnesota the South East quarter of the North East quarter of Section eight in township one hundred and thirty-seven of range twenty-nine in the District of Lands subject to sale at St. Cloud, Minnesota containing 40 acres…said tract has been purchased by the said D. McNanny and George Barclay…In Testimoney Whereof, I, Ulysses S. Grant…have caused these letters to be made PATENT.. 1 of May 1875 etc…

2.  Cass County – 5/1/1875 – St. Cloud #7374 

 #7374 Patent – D. McNanny and George Barclay of Cass Co., Minnesota, St. Cloud, Minnesota the lot numbered six of section eight in township one hundred and thirty-seven of range twenty-nine in the District of lands subject to sale at St. Cloud, Minnesota containing 32 acres and seventy-five hundredths of an acre..DO GIVE AND GRANT, unto the said D. McNanny and George Barclay…In Testimony Whereof, F.  Ulysses S. Grant…1 of May 1875, etc…

In Summary

1.  #7373 SE1/4 of the NE1/4 in Section 8 Township 137, Range 29.  This is approximately where this piece of land is located. Click on the map to make it bigger.

Patent #7373 Added

2.  Lot Six (6) in Section 8 Township 137, Range 29. My Deed Mapper software will not do lot’s.  So I do not show this patent on the above topo map. Further detail will be needed to find this particular lot being referred to in this patent.  It is in the same location as #1. 

Go back to the Minnesota Public Land Survey website and you will see a survey done in 1865 that makes this very interesting reading.  Select the township 137 and the range 29 and it will bring up this old map of the area that is very interesting and closer to what George and McNannie knew in 1875.  


Total acres:  40 + 32 75/100th = 40+32 75/100th acres

Another puzzling thing is that this is in Wilson Twp. not Barclay Twp.  as some sources suggest.  Since I could not find any more patents except these two for McNannie he would have to have purchased land elsewhere by deed.  Barclay Twp. is T138 R29 and Wilson is T137 R29. 

Our Target Area of Townships - Cass County

It is interesting to me that they spell McNannie’s name in different ways which is not a surprise but means you do have to be diligent when researching him.  It might be interesting to study the deeds of Cass and Crow Wing for McNannie.  I have not done that at this time concentrating on George and Ammarilla.

George’s Patents for Land!

Back in April of 2000 I ordered all of great-grandfather George’s patents from the National Archives in Washington D.C.  I received eight (8) patents with seals embossed on them.  I followed that up by ordering the Cash Entry files for three  (3) of the patents hoping for more information in 2002.

I have actually been to the National Archives in Washington D.C.  They house in their lobby for viewing many historical documents including the “Declaration of Independence.”   The National Archives also has branches throughout the country and I have been to the one in Seattle, Laguna Nigel (closed) and Chicago.  In Spring 2011 I will visit the Pittsfield, MA branch.  Here is their website link: http://www.archives.gov/  Their website will be revamped soon.

National Archives Main Branch, Washington D.C.

Patents are the land an ancestor bought directly from the U.S. Government.  Once this first sale was completed land sales and purchases would then be done through county courts. This means a trip to the courthouse in the location where your ancestor lived.  On a visit to Minnesota in 2007 I again visited the Pine River area.  This time I did go to the courthouse and looked up deeds under Barclay to see what I would find.  I studied the deeds at the Cass County Courthouse and there were many.  The clerk was very kind and patient I am indebted to her. I also studied the deed books in the Crow Wing Courthouse.  Still later I decided to take a look at the track books at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Today you can order patents from the National Archives in Washington D.C. or you can go to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website and do a patent search:   http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/search/default.aspx

There you can search for patents for any person who obtained land in a land state.  You can even search for surveys and more.  Once you create a summary list you can actually click further and actually look at an original patent and obtain more detail.  It is wise to perform a variety of spelling searches on surnames and first names in you’re searching to make sure you find all the information for an ancestor.  As you can see “G.A.” was the spelling used for one of the patents.  I also tried other spelling variations of the surname Barclay and this is the list I came up with for George A. Barclay.

Here is the summary list of George A. Barclay’s Patents.

Patentee Name State County/
Land Office
Accession or
Serial Nr.
BARCLAY, GEORGE A MN Cass 8/1/1874 St. Cloud 7082 MN1660__.167
BARCLAY, GEORGE A MN Cass 8/1/1874 St. Cloud 7083 MN1660__.168
BARCLAY, GEORGE A MN Cass 8/1/1874 St. Cloud 7084 MN1660__.169
BARCLAY, GEORGE MN Cass 5/1/1875 St. Cloud 7373 MN1660__.405
BARCLAY, GEORGE MN Cass 5/1/1875 St. Cloud 7374 MN1660__.406
BARCLAY, GEORGE A MN Cass 9/23/1879 St. Cloud 7946 MN1670__.289
BARCLAY, G A MN Cass 5/10/1884 St. Cloud 11834 MN1740__.425
BARCLAY, GEORGE A MN Cass 4/5/1888 St. Cloud 16446 MN1840__.002

Numbers #7373 and #7374 George purchased with his partner D. McNanny. I tried searching on the spelling “McNannie” but I found nothing more.  These two patents are all that are in McNannie’s name.

Both sources, my Aunt Miriam and the Logsled’s book, mention the Northern Pacific Railroad and this is a warranty deed filed at the Cass County Courthouse.

Interestingly, some of these patents that are in the search list above are also recorded in the deed books of the Cass County Courthouse in Walker, Minnesota.

This list is nice to have but it really doesn’t help us understand where great-grandfather George’s land was located so we need to get more detail and the description of the land that was written on the patent.