Pine River, Minnesota Histroy

B A R C L A Y ' S

Once upon a time in the unrecorded past, an Indian determined that a direct route, overland, "as-the-crow-flies" from the great body of water we now call Leech Lake to the place where the great river, the Mississippi, "flows directly south" had "advantage" over other paths. Rather than the extended water trip on the extremely long river route down the Leech Lake River to the Mississippi River and around the bow as far east as Lake Sandy or the somewhat shorter, but still roundabout portage route down the Boy River then overland and via lakes to either the Pine or Willow rivers and the Mississippi, a new trail was needed.

Starting at the southern most point of Leech Lake (South Arm) and following the most level, highland, route to the river, our Indian arrives (just 55 miles later) at an island shaped like the wing of a crow where another large stream joins the great river in its Southerly course. The hill country, which is almost continually visible to his west, does not inhibit the path taken by our explorer nor does his trail traverse the large swampland, which he constantly parallels. His route skirts many lakes and crosses numerous small streams, but at only one spot does a major natural obstacle block his journey. This single impediment along the entire route from the great lake to the island by the great river is another river. At first our pathfinder attempts to avoid crossing the waterway by passing it, to the west. For a couple of miles he is successful, but soon he finds another branch of the same river blocking his path south.

Our Indian pathfinder has no alternative. Plunging into the waist-deep water, he fords the river. Later, he will find a shallow ford just west of the point where the two branches of the river join Completing his journey our Indian returns to tell his comrades about his "discovery." Others retrace his path. The path is "improved;" obstacles are removed, and "shortcuts within the shortcut" are discovered. It becomes a communication artery. In war, it is a vital artery. In peace, the articles of commerce, furs and what they will "buy," are transported via the route.

How accurate are the facts of our story is a matter of historical conjecture. However, the existence of a trail between Leech Lake and Crow Wing Island many years before a permanent road was built in 1856 is attested to by many early writers. David Thompson alludes to such a trail as part of a system of "Ojibwa war trails" in 1798. Rev. Boutwell writes of "being guided" along a "war trail" from "Chief Flatmouth's village (on Leech Lake) to Morrison's (Crow Wing)" in 1832. Rev. Breck speaks of "following by myself" a -• clearly marked trail to the home of Chief Joseph Hole-in the-Day in 1852 and of meeting there Pillagers who had "come through a snow storm" from Leech Lake, seeming to indicate for such a difficult journey the need to follow some, well marked trail.

The first Treaty of Washington in 1855 which ceded the upper Mississippi lands of the Pillagers to the federal government called for the creation of "a reserve for the Pillager Indians" on Leech Lake with agency headquarters on what was later to be called "Agency Bay." Agency Bay is just. North of the South Arm of the lake, nears the Northern terminus of our supposed Indian trail. A specific provision of the treaty provided for an appropriation (later set at $15,000) for the surveying and building of a road connecting the Indian agency at Crow Wing with the new reservation headquarters.

The so-called "Leech Lake Military Road" was opened for limited traffic in 1856. Avoiding both hills and most swampy area, the road even with its "deep ruts" and the fact that "it is difficult to travel in wet weather" was the "quickest route to Leech Lake."

The military engineers, like our Indian pathfinder, encountered only one major water obstacle that they could not "ford." It was the same “Barrier River” by this time named "The Pine." The only bridge built on the entire Leech Lake Military Trail was over the South Branch of the Pine River located approximately a half a mile west of the junction of the northern and southern branches near where the Elwell (county) road today crosses the west Pine.

Thus, 17 years before a small, peppery, self-reliant pioneer trader who spoke with a Scottish accent decided to buy land and establish a trading post along the Pine River, the spot where he located was a well-known "landmark" on an established "highway."

Source:  Logsleds to Snowmobiles, Pine River, Minnesota 1873-1973 Centennial Celebration

G E O R G E      A N G U S      B A R C L A Y

(1) 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 "cask' 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, believed to be an Ojibwa mixed blood, settled on 80 acres near Barclay. 40

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.

George Angus Barclay was born August 18, 1844, but the place of his birth is uncertain. It may have been Scotland, but there is considerable evidence that it was someplace in New Jersey. His father was John Barclay, and his mother's name was Margaret. Sometime before the Civil War his mother died, and George and his brother, Alexander, were placed in different foster homes. George ran away from his "turf family," found his brother, and together they enlisted on August 15, 1862, in the Union Army. Evidently, the two brothers also found their father who had moved to Minnesota because the enlistment was at Fort Snelling. George became a wagoner with Company A, Ninth Volunteer Infantry. Barclay was with General Sherman on his "march through Georgia to the sea." He was honorably discharged on August 24, 1865.

From the time of his discharge until his arrival in the Pine River area, there is no information concerning the activities of George Barclay. After the war his brother, Alexander, moved to the area of Farmington, Minnesota, not far from Shakopee where George's father chose to live "because it reminded him of his native Scotland." Apparently the father, John, remarried and had other children, because at the time of Alexander's death in 1906, there was quite a bit of difficulty in locating all the Barclay heirs from "both families." 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. On this site he constructed three buildings: a store, a halfway house for tote teamsters and travelers along the Leech Lake Military Road, and a home.

(2) The complex, later known as "Barclay's" or "Barclay's Ranch" eventually consisted of a half a dozen buildings centered on four quarter sections of land, essentially the present corporate limits of the village of Pine River. 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.The final 80 acre purchase of the SE1/4 and the SW1/4 (Lot 7) of the SW 1/4 of Section 31, Township 138, Range 29, (Barclay Township) was bought on June 7, 1883 from the Northern Pacific Railway Company for $329.36.On July 27, 1878, in St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Brainerd, with the Reverand Herbert Root officiating, George Angus Barclay married Ammarilla Spracklin. Barclay's new bride was the first permanent white woman settler on the Pine River. She continued to hold the distinction for 15 years.

The Barclay's continued to expand their activities and holdings being involved not only with the store and half-way house but also with the fur trade, early logging activities, and farming. That the Barclay's personal property increased is reflected in the records of the Cass County Treasurer which showed in 1876 a tax payment of $.94, in 1879 of $8.67, but by 1895 the payment was $54.18.In 1881, Barclay's was still the only "permanent habitation" between Gull Lake and Leech Lake. Some concern was expressed at that time about "the selling of whisky and beer to the Indians by Mr. Barclay."With the approach of night on July 12, of that year, Captain Williard Glazier, "happily" reported: 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 St. Paul.


Around this time, the Reverand Henry Benjamin Whipple, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota and the so-called "Minnesota apostle to the Ojibwa Indians" visited Barclay's. On a trip from Brainerd to the Indian reservation at White Earth, The Minnesota Missionary reported the following entry in the Bishop's log :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 boy 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.The Barclay son was born January 10, 1880, but died a year and a half later on June 19, 1881. A daughter, Grace Ammarilla, was born April 10, 1882. She married Ronald S. McDonald and went to live in International Falls where she died on December 23, 1911.


Sometime between 1880 and 1884 the Barclay's built a frame storage building on the "ranch" which was distinctive because of its "shingled roof." Additional buildings were added or else the Barclays invested in some "heavy equipment" in 1888, for on September 25 of that year, a $2077.38 mortgage deed on part of their land was recorded in the Cass County Courthouse to Michael Hagberg.By 1888, the Barclays were acquiring more "company" in their region. The Indian were more and more being "replaced" first by the logger and then by the farmer. The regular mail route along the now improved Leech Lake Trail between Brainerd and the Agency included two "semi-official" post offices on the way : Barclay's Ranch on the Pine River and a new settlement to the north called Hackensack.An indication of the "coming of civilization" to the Pine River area in the late 1880's can be found in a list of the articles George Barclay reported stolen after a robbery April 20, 1889:

To be continuted soon!

Source:  Logsleds to Snowmobiles, Pine River, Minnesota 1873-1973 Centennial Celebration

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