Life in Pine River – The Barclay Ranch!

There is a book titled: “Down the Mississippi” or “Down the Great River: Embracing An Account of the Discovery of the Mississippi” by Captain Willard Glazier that gives an interesting account of the ranch of George Barclay about 1881.

Headwaters of the Mississippi River - Lake Itasca

In July 2001, I followed up further at the MHS on the reference to Captain Glazier and “Down the Mississippi, (page 35).”  (#F354.655 1841-1905)    This book is not very large about 5 inches by 4 in size and it is bound in a leather cover and it is becoming quite fragile. 

In the table of contents under Chapter II “Through the Chippewa Country” he lists George Barclay …it reads:  “…Ride to Pine River.–Huge Logs and Boulders.–George Barclay.–Characteristics of Indians…….etc.”

Copies were made of pages 35, 36 and 37.  It does not give an exact date.  It does not mention Mrs. Barclay or any children just describes the ranch and accommodations.  The Table of Contents features a really good description of the chapters. 

Page 35-37: 

“After dinner we resumed our journey, with Pine River as the evening destination.  Sometimes in the road, sometimes out of it; now driving along the shore of a lake, and again over huge logs and boulders, it was voted that our ride to Pine River was unlike anything we had ever elsewhere experienced.  The ranch of George Barclay, the only white habitation between Gull Lake and Leech Lake, was reached at five o’clock in the evening.  Here we were most agreeably surprised to find very good accommodations for both man and beast.  Barclay is a decided favorite with the Indians, and his prosperity in this isolated corner of Minnesota is largely due to his friendly relations with them.  He is always supplied with guns, knives, beads, tobacco, and such other goods as are in demand by his dusky neighbors for which he receives in exchange furs, game, snake-root and such other products of the forest as find a ready market at Brainerd or Saint Paul.  Much valuable information was obtained at Pine River concerning our route to Leech Lake and beyond, the peculiar traits and characteristics of the Indians whom we were likely to encounter, and those persons at the Agency who could be of most service to us.  An excellent breakfast on the following morning, with the prospect of reaching Leech Lake, put my little party in the most exuberant spirits for the day……”

Page 148

“…several of my hearers showed their interest by coming large distances to the lecture, and one, George Barclay, a pioneer, told me he had brought his family thirty-seven miles with an ox-team to hear what I had to say about the old explorers.”  Private home in Brainerd, Minnesota August Eighteenth”

In trying to pin down the date or approximate time that Capt. Glazier visited G. Barclay, I found on page. 31 that Glazier headed for Brainerd on July 7, 1881.  He has included his description of George’s ranch in Chapter II – Through the Chippewa Country.  They headed for what is called the Government Road on July 12th to Leech Lake.  He stopped at Reuben Gray’s house who had a hotel/pioneer half-way house between Brainerd and Leech Lake at Gull Lake.  

The interesting thing is that there is no mention of the death of baby George just a little before the visit by Capt. Glazier?

This book is currently available for viewing at Google Books and is well worth reading.

Note:  The photograph above was taken at the headwaters site in the park at Lake Itasca.  They had to clean up the lake from the logging and fix this area with cement so that is why it looks so orderly.  Here is a link to the State Park website:  I think I saw a red fox in the trees when we were there.

A Son is born: George Alexander Barclay 1880!

It was a happy day in Pine River the 10th of January 1880 when George and Amarilla’s son George Alexander Barclay as born. 

On my second trip to Minnesota in July of 2001, I found the actual records of George Alexander’s birth that are mentioned in the “Logsleds…” book.  I did not find the actual quote from Rev. Benjamin Whipple that they feature in the book about the baptism of young George. I did find parish records recognizing the birth of the baby boy.   The collection of the Whipple papers at the Minnesota Historical Society is large and complicated and I have tried at least twice to figure it out. 

Source: “21, baptised George Alexander sone of  Geo A. & Amanda Barclay born 10 January 1880 Sponsors parents, Rev. I.A. Gilfillan at 1/2 ____ house.” (Very difficult to read) (Vol. 10 ,P1035, Box 43 Manuscripts, P.E. Church, Diocese of Minn. Vol 8-16 MHS). 

Source:  Whipple Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths 1859-1895 1 Vol., #142.F.15.3B, Minnesota Historical Society.

Baptisms: August 21, 1880, Pine River, George Alexander Barclay, Parents:  George A. & Ammanda Barclay, Sponsors and witnesses:  Parents and Rev. I.A. Gilfillan.  (Register of Baptisms, Marriages – Whipple Records 142.F.15.3B 1859-1895 1 Vol. – MHS) 

On page 106 first column there is an interesting account of the baptism of baby George in the Logsleds to Snowmobiles book.  This account was taken from The Whipple papers at the Minnesota Historical Society.  

It reads:  “Time evening. Log hotel in the woods, kept by a frontier man and his wife. She is eight miles from the nearest white woman, and between her and Brainerd, 36 miles distant, are just two of her sex. They are happily and contented all alone in the woods with the little infant son God has given them. The Bishop assembles all hands in the dining room and proceeds to baptize the boy. “Name this child,” says the Bishop. “George Alexander,” says the sponsor, the name of the father. “Stop,” says the exulting frontiersman. “George Alexander Barclay,” giving his own name in full. He wished all present and absent to understand that the boy was a Barclay.”

Based on what I have determined, I think it was the Rev. Gilfillan who did the baptism and the journal is housed in the Whipple papers which is a collection of the Rev. Whipple’s. 

There seems to be a little confusion regarding the actions of the father.  The son was named “George Alexander” while the father was “George Angus.”  Did George Angus Barclay name is son after his brother Alexander?

Based on the information from the 1880 census we know that there weren’t that many people in Pine River in 1880 so George and Amarilla were probably far from religious gatherings so they either took this as an opportunity to have their child baptised.  The other possibility is that George was not Catholic.  We see that there are two instances in which George and Amarilla interact with the Episcopal faith, 1) their marriage, 2) the baptism of their child. 

Both Rev. Whipple and Gilfillan are very extraordinary men and no matter which of the two men it was that stopped at the Barclay Ranch is was a major event. 

For Rev. Whipple:

George Barclay Purchases Land!

Great grandfather made a critical decision to move his trading post up to the present area of Pine River, Minnesota.

Two years after building his post on the South Branch of the Pine River, George Barclay apparently decided to move and expand his activities.  He chose a site on higher, more open ground located next to land currently occupied by the Durkee Manufacturing Company.   (Logsleds to Snowmobiles, pg. 104, published 1973).

My Aunt Miriam sent this to me as part of her notes about George’s land purchases (1986).  Just click on the photo and it will open up so you can read it.  She mentions three patents and one deed. 

George's Land - Miriam's Notes

The Logsleds and Snowmobiles book published in 1973 by the town of Pine River for the Bicentennial gives these descriptions of the land holdings on page 105 at the bottom of the 1st column and top of the 2nd. 

In 1876, he moved his establishment to higher ground and started purchasing land at the intersection of four townships:  137N-29W (Wilson), 137N-30W (Walden), 138N-29W (Barclay), and 138N-30W (Pine River).  From this site grew the village.  Appropriately, this largest settlement along the river eventually took the name of the river and became “Pine River.” (Logsleds to Snowmobiles, page 1.) 

…Barclay’s land purchases may have been formally registered as early as 1875 and definitely by 1876; however, the abstract indicates that the first purchase of the NW1/4 of the NW1/4 of Section 6, Township 137, Range 29 (Wilson Township) was not recorded as purchased until July 20, 1878, and the patent not received from the federal government until 1879.  On May 15, 1883, he purchased according to record the NE1/4 of the NW1/4 of Section 6, Township 137, Range 29, from the federal government.  (Logsleds to Snowmobiles, page 105).

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 to Snowmobiles, page 105).

I was doing my usual poking around the internet and found that Cass County government has the 2009 Land Atlas & Plat Book for Cass County, Minnesota up for searching.  I own the 2005 published version.  Here is that link:  You can click on various townships and cities in Cass County and pull up great maps in today’s world. 

The online version does not seem to have the “Information About Land Descriptions” that appears on pages 8 – 10 in the 2005 published version?  It is very important to understand how to read the land descriptions.  The National Atlas has this link to an explanation of the public land survey system:  It might help to make the above information make more sense.

I also stumbled on the Heritage Group North website and discovered they were posting excerpts from the Logsleds to Snowmobiles book.  I also noticed that they have referenced this blog! So in the spirit of sharing here is their link along with my thank you:

George Barclay On His Own: A Trading Post!

Apparently my great-grandfather George Angus Barclay was not a farmer because after 1870 he is no longer listed on the census with his brother Alexander.  George left his brother Alexander in Eureka and he must have headed west and north.  Minnesota has state census but George does not seem to appear in the 1875 version which is missing Cass and Crow Wing Counties online at  

I often ponder what drove him to this remote area and why? It was the frontier back then. I think that his experiences as a wagoner in the Civil War taught him about requisitioning supplies, driving teams, using wagons, creating supply lines and more.  Spending time like he did in the Quartermaster Department gave him the skills he needed to be a trader of goods.  George’s granddaughter Miriam said he was “ambitious.”  Well he would need it where he was going!  

George was about 28-29 years old when he arrived on that south fork of the Pine River in central Minnesota.  He was old enough to be on his own and find his own way in the world. – Pine River Topo Map (You will have to move the map around to find the South Fork of the Pine River.  

Crossing the South Fork of the Pine River

The photo is about where they would cross the Pine River and George’s trading post was not far from this site. The actual site where George’s first trading post is situated on private land.   

The book Logsleds to Snowmobiles, by the town of Pine River makes this comment on page 104:  

“In 1873, George Angus Barclay, according to The Northwest Magazine of February, 1895, purchased 840 acres of land along the Pine River.”  The purchase was made under the “cash entry system” which meant that Barclay paid $1.25 per acre under an 1820 federal law designed to encourage the settlement of farmers on forest lands.  At the same time, Dennis, McNannie, believe to be an Ojibway mixed blood, settled on 80 acres near Barclay.    

In the same year, Barclay and McNannie constructed a trading post, the site of which today is marked by a hole 19 feet square and five feet deep, 140 yards north of the old Elwell Road bridge over the South Branch of the Pine River south of the village.  The post was adjacent to the Leech Lake Military Trail.  McNannie continued as Barclay’s partner or employee until December, 1875….” 

The remains of the 1st Trading Post

My hubbie is being very helpful after I teased him about his pit.  He is of Norwegian descent and his Lokensgard family came to the Minnesota in 1857 and settle near Northfield, Minnesota.  We attended a reunion several years back and they chartered a bus that took all the Lokensgards from Stillwater to Northfield and out to the farm land where they had settled.  The land is on private land as well.  There the family walked about 10-15 minutes to a forested area and when they found the depression where the location of the house had been they gathered to remember the first Lokensgards to come to America.  It was very moving.  I do not have all the memorabilia and stories that my hubbie’s family has so I was estatic to learn I also had a pit in my family history!!!!  It is amazing to me how quickly nature takes over and obscures what came before.  

The “Logsleds” book has been like a guide to me.  Trying to identify exactly when my great-grandfather came to the area of the Pine River is rather difficult.  Believe me I have tried looking at census, deeds, documents, history books and newspapers to see if I could pin it down.  They all seem to think he was there by 1873.  

Brainerd the next biggest town in the area was just becoming a town of significance in 1873.  Brainerd would play a big role in the life of the Barclay’s.  There is an article reproduced from the Centennial Edition of the Brainerd Daily Dispatch (1871-1971) “Choice of Crossing from Three Sites Meant Birth to Brainerd, Death to Crow Wing.”  This article was Web posted Friday March 5, 2004 and recently removed from the web.  Fortunately I took this quote from the article before that time. The town of Brainerd seemed to have all that is necessary to establish a trading post north of the city.  

“As of February 22, 1873, Brainerd had 21 stores, 18 hotels and public boarding houses, 15 saloons, 2 billiard halls, 1 livery stable, 1 tailor shop, 3 barber shops, 2 blacksmith shops, 1 brewery, 2 photographers, 1 newspaper, 5 churches, 4 lawyers, 3 lodges.” 

The header photo of this blog is taken at the Crow Wing State Park.  Crow Wing was the town established before Brainerd but because of the railroad Brainerd took the lead and what you see is a large grassy area.

An Appointment – Pine River Journal!

We were on a mission back in 2000 to get to our appointment at the Pine River Journal newspaper office in Pine River.  

I had written to the Pine River City Hall and apparently my letter had been read in a Pine River Chamber of Commerce meeting.  The editor at the time emailed me and informed me that they had bound editions of the newspaper going back to the 1920’s (some years missing) and that I was welcome to come in and look through them.  I made an appointment. 

Pine River Journal Office

We arrived at the newspaper office in the early afternoon and were greeted and escorted into the editor’s office.  The editor asked me questions and I loaned her photos which she took to make copies.  The result was a full-page article that went something like this… 

 “Climbing Through the Branches of the Family Tree,” 

“It started 16 years ago, with the death of her mother, Bonnie Jean MacDonald, a resident and native of Seattle, Washington, began wondering about her family history.  She gathered bits and pieces of information from an aunt — but the business of life soon took over and she set the project aside…then a year and a half ago, her aunt passed away. 

It was about my quest to learn about my family history and my great grandparents George and Amarilla Barclay of Pine River. The article appeared on page 16 of the Pine River Journal on Thursday, May 11, 2000.  For purposes of copyright, I cannot reproduce this article here but only point you to it.  The Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul has a state newspaper collection and the Pine River newspapers are available in that collection.  

The article was very well done.  I had my 15 minutes of fame.  I do have to point out a slight error. One comment in particular needs to be addressed for it is just not true.  Under the caption for the old picture of Amarilla’s house, that I provided, it states that Grace grew up in that house.  The house that was Amarilla Barclay Dawes Urton’s and later the Durkee’s home wasn’t built till 1904.  My grandmother Grace was born in 1882 in probably Pine River.  She didn’t grow up in that house she grew up in the pioneer house(s) that her father George built.  

We spent some time looking through those old bound editions of the Pine River newspaper.  I made copies of course. There is just something about the feel of old documents.  

The article mentions that we toured Amarilla’s home. This is true.  This was one of the happiest days of my life.  I was very grateful to the current owners for indulging me.  There are very few things left of a personal nature that are part of my great grandmother’s legacy so knowing that this home is still standing is so very comforting to me.  They are tenderly caring for this old historic home.  

The article states that I received a copy of the Pine River history book and this is also true:  

BOOK:  “Logsleds to Snowmobiles 1873 to 1973” written by the town of Pine River.  This is celebration of the 1st 100 years of Pine River’s history. 

Don Moser did indeed hand me a copy and I remember him saying it was the last copy.  I am grateful. I was so excited!  The book has been well-loved and falling apart because of it.  What is in that book has been enormously helpful.  I have learned that there is a copy at the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City but it has not been filmed yet.  

I am very grateful to the Pine River Journal newspaper they have been very kind to me and helpful over the years. We will be revisiting this newspaper in the future for it has opened many doors to my research.

The Barclay’s of Pine River – An Introduction!

We were five minutes outside of Pine River, Minnesota. The date was April 2000. I had picked up a travel brochure in Walker with the title of “Pine River, Minnesota – A Visitors Guide to the Pine and Lakes Region.” In the upper right corner is said “Free Take One!”

As we were driving along I was turning the pages and came to page 10, “A History of Pine River.”  I started to read out loud to my hubby.   

Visitor Guide

 “Pine River owes much of its history to the pine, particularly the white pine. The pine forest stretching across the state from the shores of the “big sea water” to the plains of the “American desert” contained thousands of square miles of the finest virgin timber east of the Pacific Northwest.  

Found near the center of this mammoth forest preserve, located in the giant forest-fertile crescent formed by the headwaters of the Mississippi River and flowing through what many termed “the richest stand of timber in the Old Northwest,” is a river memorialized by early explorers as “The Pine.”

 And at the place where its two major tributaries, the South Fork and Norway Brook merge to form this majestic stream a peppery Scotsman founded a trading post in 1873, then a ranch followed by a hotel.  Later came a railroad, then a town – and finally a prosperous city.

 Within two years after the Northern Pacific Railway had bridged the Mississippi River at “The Crossing” (now Brainerd), George Angus Barclay established the first permanent trading post on the Pine River. From this site grew the village, which eventually took the name of the river and became “Pine River.”

– from “Logsleds to Snowmobiles”

Little did I know that a door had opened and my genealogical life would never be the same. 

Welcome to the Barclay’s of Pine River, Cass County, Minnesota.