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.

George Urton Passes in March of 1939!

George Urton was 77 years old in 1939.  He had been sick for a while and he finally succumbed on the 13 of March, 1939. George Urton was laid to rest in the Pine Ridge Cemetery per his death certificate.  I have yet to find out if this is where he is buried. I walked the cemetery but did not find his tombstone.  Find A Grave does not have a memorial for him at this time.

March 17, 1939 Announcement of George's Death

March 17, 1939 Announcement of George’s Death

Pine River Journal Mar 17, 1939
George Urton Passes Monday, Services Saturday.
George Urton passed away at his house here late Monday night, following a lingering illness. Mr. Urton was 76 years of age at the time of his death. Funeral services will be conducted from the Chapel of the Northlund Funeral Home, Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. with the Rev. Meade officiating. The internment will be made in the Pine Ridge Cemetery. A complete obituary will be published next week.

Card of Thanks

Card of Thanks

Card of Thanks Friday, March 24, 1939, Pine River Journal Newspaper, Pine River, MN

Card of Thanks – We wish to express our sincere thanks to the many friends and neighbors who assisted us during the illness and death of Mr. Urton. We especially which to thank the Olson Brothers for their inspiring songs, Rev. Mead for his comforting words, those who brought the message by song and to those who sent floral offerings. Signed Mrs. George Urton and Grandchildren.

Obituary George Urton 1939

Obituary George Urton 1939

From the Cass County Independent Newspaper, March 24, 1939

George W. Urton was born in Birmington, Ohio, on May 5, 1862, and spent his early life in that state. He came to Pine River about 24 years ago, having spent a few years previous to that in Mora, Minn. On June 24, 1919, he was married to Mrs. Amarilla Dawes, pioneer resident of Pine River. With the exception of the winter of 1934, which they spent in Florida because of Mr. Urton’s health, he has made his home continuously in Pine River since coming here. Mr. Urton passed away Monday night, March 13, after a short illness at his home. His health had been frail since a long illness a year ago last fall. Funeral services were conducted Saturday afternoon at the Northland Funeral chapel with the Rev. Robert Mead officiating. Burial was made in Pine Ridge cemetery.  Note:  There is no Birmington in Ohio, but there are three Birmingham, Ohios in several counties.

I step back in time and revisit George’s first marriage.  I found an obituary for his wife Serepta and it gives more information about their lives.  I am not clear on the children from this marriage.  They mention a daughter in the article below but I did find a marriage for a George Urton born about 1894 to a Mary Pederson in 1915 in Walker at the court house.  I assumed it was a son.

Death of Mrs. Urton – Wife of George Urton Died of Apoplexy at Home, 1709 Oak Street, Wednesday Morning.  The Brainerd Dispatch, Wed. January 13, 1915.

Mrs. Serepta Urton, aged 50, wife of George Urton, died of apoplexy Wednesday morning at her home, 1709 Oak street. She leaves a husband and a daughter, Mrs. B.L. Yount, of 1601 Oak Street.  Mr. and Mrs. Urton have made their home in Brainerd since March of last year. Previous to that they lived in St. Paul and Mora, coming originally from Wilmington, Ohio. She has a brother, Chauncey Littleton, living on a farm near Tadmore, Ohio, a brother, Clark Littleton, at Moran, Illinois. Three sisters, Mrs. Clara Moran, Mrs. Ossa Moran and Miss Alice Littleton, reside in Wilmington, Ohio. Mrs. Urton was member of the Methodist church. The funeral will be held at 2 o’clock Friday afternoon from the residence. The sympathy of the community is extended to the family in its bereavement.

I really don’t know much about Amarilla and George’s relationship but I think that this third marriage worked out for her. It appears they both were not of good health in the later part of the 1930’s. In November of 1939 her friends and the town would celebrate her life with a birthday party, hopefully, that was a bright spot in a sad time for her, she was not unfamiliar with tragedy in her life.

One last and final try for George Barclay’s Civil War Pension – 1939

Money for Amarilla must have been tight, she was having trouble paying her taxes on her land. Based on gossip from the local paper both her and George Urton did not seem to be in good health. Amarilla apparently suffered a slight heart attack in 1936 and in the same article George was not doing to well either.  In 1937 Amarilla got into trouble with some wood.

Meets with Unfortunate Accident New Years:  Mrs. George Urton had the misfortune of having a pile of wood fall on her on New Years Day. While in the basement gathering wood before building a fire, a stack of wood which had been piled to the ceiling fell on her, seriously cutting the back of her head and blacking her eye. A physician was called immediately to dress her wounds. She is recovering nicely.  Pine River Journal January 7, 1937.

Gordon MacDonald, grandson of Mrs. Urton, arrived Saturday from St. Paul, to be with Msr. Urton who suffered a stroke last week and is still quite ill. He returned to St. Paul, Monday. Mrs. Urton is being cared for by Mrs. Frank Shepard.  Pine River Journal 21, April, 1939.

She tried again for George Barclay’s Civil War pension and this time her grandson Gordon McDonald tried to help her. I actually think her friends rallied and made the attempt to get this pension for her.

Remarried Pension form for Civil War 1939 a portion

Remarried Pension form for Civil War 1939 a portion

She had to fill out a Declaration for Remarried Widow’s Pension form again. The form was completed on 17 April, 1939.  She was required to restate information about her marriage in 1878 to George Barclay, and write about her marriage to Jefferson S. Dawes in 1902 and their divorce in 1909.  Lastly, she had to revisited her marriage to George Urton in 1919 and who died March 13, 1939 in Pine River. The form was signed by Ammarilla Urton and witnesses were Mrs. Frank Sheppard of Pine River and R.G. McDonald (Gordon) 1809 Marshall Ave. St. Paul, Min.  She must have been very sick because she signed with an X.

A letter on State of Minnesota Adjutant General’s Office letterhead for St. Paul dated April 19, 1939 was sent to E. L. Bailey the Director, Dependant’s Claims Service, Veterans Administration, Washington D.C.

Dear Sir: Herewith enclosed “Power of Attorney” given this office by Ammarilla Urton, Pine River, Minnesota, claimant in the above entitled claim fro Civil War widow’s pension.

Mrs. Urton is eighty years of age and very sick and if her claim can be expedited in any way it will help her to take care of expenses. Also enclosed the following additional evidence 1) application for Remarried Civil War widow’s pension, 2) Coroner’s Inquest in the death of George Barclay 3) certified copy of public record of the marriage of Ammarilla Urton to the veteran, George A. Barclay July 27, 1878. Very truly yours E.A. Walsh, The Adjutant General. 

They did not waste any time and Amarilla’s claim was denied the reason given:  “forfeiture under act of August 7. 1882.”

I spent some time trying to find a copy of this Legal act that they refer to and here it is.

7 August 1882 c. 438 22 Stat. 345

CHAP. 438.- An act to amend section forty-seven hundred and two, title fifty-seven, Revised Statutes of the United States, and for other purposes.Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That section forty-seven hundred and two, title fifty-seven, of the Revised Statutes of the United States is hereby amended so as to read as follows:

“Sec. 4702. If any person embraced within the provisions of sections forty-six hundred and ninety-two and forty-six hundred and ninety-three has died since the fourth day of March, eighteen hundred and sixty-one, or hereafter dies, by reason of any wound, injury, or disease which under the conditions and limitations of such sections would have entitled him to an invalid pension had he been disabled, his widow or if there be no widow, or in case of her death without payment to her of any part of the pension hereinafter mentioned, his child or children under sixteen years of age, shall be entitled to receive the same pension as the husband or father would have been entitled to had he been totally disabled, to commence from the death of the husband or father, to continue to the widow during her widowhood, and to his child or children until they severally attain the age of sixteen years, and no longer; and if the widow remarry, the child or children shall be entitled from the date of remarriage, except when such widow has continued to draw the pension-money after her remarriage, in contravention of law, and such child or children have resided with and been supported by her, their pension will commence at the date to which the widow was last paid.”

SEC. 2. That marriages, except such as are mentioned in section forty-seven hundred and five of the Revised Statutes shall be proven in pension cases to be legal marriages according to the law of the place where the parties resided at the time of marriage or at the time when the right to pension accrued; and the open and notorious adulterous cohabitation of a widow who is a pensioner shall operate to terminate her pension from the commencement of such cohabitation.

APPROVED, August 7, 1882.

It is the Sec. 2 part that was the reason they denied Amarilla the pension.  The Claims Service signed the denial on May 5, 1939. Mrs. Bertha Robideau and Mrs. Alice Leef gave their affidavits but apparently that didn’t help. Amarilla was told she could repeal the decision after a year.

George A. Barclay’s Civil War pension would not be awarded ever; however, the file would become very thick and has provided a great deal of information about George and Amarilla my great grandparents so I am happy. I am sad for her however.

Amarilla and George Urton and the 1930’s…

In 1930 Amarilla and George Urton are together and living in Pine River. She states in the census that her father was born in England but I think she is confusing him with her grandfather John A. Spracklin. Daniel D. Spracklin and her mother Elizabeth Keller Spracklin were born in Ohio.

Second Street, Line 73, 20/20 Urton, George, Head, own, no, male, white, 66 yrs, married, married at 56, no, yes, born in Ohio, both parents born in Ohio, trader of horses/cattle, yes, no, 2. Line 74. Urton, Ammarilla, white -H, V, female, white, age 71, married, married at 60 yrs., no, yes, born in Iowa, father born in England, mother born in Ohio, merchant, groceries, drygoods, yes.

Source:  George Urton Family, 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Pine River Twp., Cass Co., Minnesota, ED 11-39, SD 2, Sht. 1 B, April 2, 1930. 

Her neighbors this time are a Maude M. Martin, John Kaler, Harry Hill, a Martin Milberg, Rose Elliott, Theodore LaVoie, Everett Evans,  and Thomas Nash. The Urtons are on Second and Lake Street.

The Pine River State Bank has a wonderful picture dated 1924 and a little history about the bank at this link.


Black Tuesday

Things would get tough for everyone in the 1930’s after the stock market crash. On October 29, 1929 Black Tuesday hit Wall Street and billions of dollars were lost wiping out thousands of investors. The Great Depression settled on the country.

Amarilla and George Urton appear in the records for Pine River having delinquent taxes, from 1924 to 1933 their total tax bill was $280.54 in 1935 from the County Assessors of Cass County for Lot 1 and 2 Urton 1st Addition.

Amarilla’s beautiful house was partitioned off into apartments at some point and I suspect it was in the 1930’s.  This gossip from the local paper is for 1941 but I have seen evidence of this coming and going from the Urton residence going on all through the 1930’s.

In September of 1941

In September of 1941, Pine River Journal



Amarilla marries a 3rd and final time to George Urton

Amarilla had been married to George Angus Barclay who was murdered in 1898.  She remarried to Jefferson G. Dawes in 1902 and that ended in divorce in 1910.  In 1919 she decided to marry again for the third time.

This time Amarilla married George W. Urton on 24 June, 1919 in Pine River, Cass Co., Minnesota. The Logsleds Book states that she remarried in 1920 but that is not quite correct.

 “She married for the third time to George Urton, an area farmer. The Urton marriage was contracted in her old age because she was lonely. The town banker saw to it that papers to protect her property were executed before the wedding.” Ammarilla stayed married to George Urton until he died in 1939. So that was almost 20 years. Source: M. McDonald Notes.

Source: Marriage Record “E,” Cass County, Minn, pg. 268, June 19, 1919, Cass County Courthouse, Walker, MN. George Urton to Ammarilla Dawes June 24, 1919 in Pine River, Cass Co., Minnesota. Rev. Art, Cartwright. [Witnesses Selma and Mevenar Tollefrud.]

Announcement of their marriage in the local newspaper.

Urton-Dawes:  George Urton and Mrs. Amarilla Dawes were united in matrimony last Tuesday evening, Rev. Cartwright officiating. Both of the contracting parties are well-known in this part of the county, the groom having been a resident here for several years past, and the bride, being one of the real pioneers of Pine River. It is expected that they will make their home in Pine River, and the Sentinel-Blaze joins their many friends in wishing them a full measure of happiness in their new relation. June 27, 1919 Pine River Sentinel-Blaze Newspaper.

George Urton was born 5 May, 1862 in Ohio to an Ezra Urton and Mary Ann Wilson. He was a horse trader by occupation. George was first married to Serepta Littleton born 14 November, 1864 in Ohio and died 13 January 1915 in Brainerd, Minnesota. She was the daughter of Jona Littleton and Lucresia Liddle. She is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery but there is no tombstone to mark her grave,  I have visited this cemetery several times and can verify that she has no tombstone. Here is the link to the Evergreen Cemetery directory of the dead:  http://www.brainerd.net/~evergreencem/dotdnames_u-v.html

Serepta Urton in Evergreen Cemetery

Serepta Urton burial location in Evergreen Cemetery – no stone

George and Serepta had  three children that I know of: 1) George Urton born about 1894. 2) Albert Urton who died about 1929 and, 3) an unknown child.

George, the son, married Mary Pederson on 3 August, 1915 in Walker, Minnesota. My search in the census did not find them so I was unable to verify any of this information.  I do have their marriage license.

As they say “3’s a charm,”  and I think that this was probably my great grandmother’s happiest marriage of the three. She stayed with Urton right up to his death. The fact that she didn’t pursue the pension application of George Barclay of 1916-1919, means to me that she cared for Mr. Urton.

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census we find Amarilla with George Urton in Pine River.

Source:  George Urton Family, 1920 U.S. Federal Census, SD 6, ED 93, T625-R824, Sht 12A, 8, enumerated January 19, 20, 1920.

Street EM, House #110, Dwelling 115, Family 9, Urton, George, Head, own home, free of mortgage, male, white, 56 years old, married, able to read and write, born in Ohio, parents both born in Ohio, farmer. Urton, Ammarilla, wife, female, white, 61 yrs old, married, able to read and write, at home born in Iowa. Parents born in Ohio. 

On my visit to Pine River in 2001, I had the opportunity to talk to a Blanche Swift who had lived in Pine River since her birth about 1919. I think Blanche has since pasted away.  Miriam is Amarilla’s granddaughter.

Blanche knew Amarilla as a child. She remembered playing on the steps outside of Amarilla’s store and great-grandmother didn’t seem to mind or get after them for doing it.  She recalled lots of hats, general merchandise, some groceries, and sewing items. She remembered Miriam who visited a couple of times. They all thought that the Lindberg Store on Barclay Avenue was the general store or maybe it was where the Bank was located. Blanche’s dad trained horses and he and George Urton were friends. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of Amarilla with George Urton.  Having it would have been very cool.

Pine River June, 17,1901 – The Plat is Certified!

After Barclay’s death, Ammarilla took charge of the businesses he had started. Apparently she had an active adviser and partner in J.G. Dawes. Dawes platted the village in 1898 almost exclusively on land owned by the Barclay’s. At the time that the village of Pine River was incorporated in 1901, Ammarilla donated to the village 10 lots for a school, ground for a cemetery, the park land on the north edge of the village site of the present city hall, as well as land on the North Branch of the Pine River {Norway Brook} where the swimming area and the dam are located and property for the building of two churches.” From the Logsleds to Snowmobiles book.

Remember by his own testimony at the Grand Jury in May 1899,  J.G. Dawes was not in Pine River till February 1899.  So I don’t think he was platting Pine River in 1898 and would lean more toward 1899 or 1900.

The Cass County Courthouse has the plat maps for Pine River.  They have a table of contents revised 1/2/2007. Now the City of Pine River might have their own maps and maybe those go back further then 1901.

I was particularly interested in the ones with Amarilla Barclay name, J.G. Dawes and the Urton name.

  • A-60 Urton 1st Add
  • A-61Urton 2nd Add

    1901 Original Plat signed by Amarilla or Mrs. G.A. Barclay

    1901 Original Plat signed by Amarilla or Mrs. G.A. Barclay

  • A-25 Dawes 2nd
  • A-24 Dawes 3rd and 4th
  • A-25 Dawes 5th
  • Pine River Plat of 1900, Original plat 1901, A-15, A-15 (Lots 1-4 B1-11 Torrens)

On the side of this plat map is a lot of writing.  There is a certificate of the Surveyor, Certificate of the Owner which is Mrs. G.A. Barclay.  The land is described and it is very difficult to read but the following was sort of interesting.

That said Mrs. G.A. Barclay has examined the above described land to ____ platted as a Townsite to be known as “Pine River.” That said townsite has been platted for _____ purposes as shown on accompanying map, and that Mrs. G.A. Barclay hereby donates to the Public use forever all the streets and Alleys delineated there on. 

Following that was a certificate from the County Treasurer and Auditor about the taxes being paid and lastly the Register of Deeds certificate that it had been recorded.   There is no mention of J.G. Dawes in the writing.