Pine River, Minnesota

'Birthplace of the Paul Bunyan Trail' 

History of our Community

Cultural Background Information 

Dakota Indians lived in the Pine River area until the Ojibwa began moving into the region in the early 1700's. By the early 1800's, the Ojibwa controlled lands west of the Mississippi and north of the Crow Wing River, just to the south of the Pine River.
Simultaneously, fur traders began entering the region in the early 1700's, exploiting the fur bearing species of the area. The Northwest Company was the predominant trading company in the area during the late 1700's and early 1800's.
Red River routes that went through the area between St. Paul and Winnipeg, started to open trade in the area. Lumbering became important in the late 1800's and early 1900's, which gave way to an agricultural economy that still exists today.
Pine River was originally established as a logging and fur trading community. 


                           The Barclays - Founders of the City of Pine River 


 George Barclay - 1878

George Angus Barclay - 1878

Amarilla Spracklin - 1878

Ammarilla Grace Spracklin - 1878 

On July 27, 1878, George Angus Barclay married Ammarilla Grace Spracklin.  Together, they are credited for founding the City of Pine River.  Ammarilla is said to have been the first white woman to live north of Gull Lake.

Barclay Avenue - History of Its Establishment  


George Barclay operated 'Barclay's Trading Post' supplying a large area with the foods needed to exist in the north woods.







(Barclay Avenue - 1895 - 1903)

Barclay Avenue, a main street through the city, is named after George Barclay founder of the City of Pine River. 






(Barclay Avenue - 1910)

 Barclay Avenue - 1910

Mr. Barclay was shot and killed in a now non-existent hotel in Pine River on October 29, 1898.  His murderer was never apprehended.


On September 2, 1902, Ammarilla married Jefferson G. Dawes, a flour merchant.




(Barclay Avenue - 1910)


 Together they platted the town of Pine River.

Jefferson G. Dawes & Ammarilla divorced in 1910.







                                  (Barclay Avenue - 1910s)


 Ammarilla Barclay Dawes - 1911

Ammarilla Barclay Dawes - 1911



On June 24, 1919, Ammarilla married George Urton.









(Barclay Avenue - 1920 - 1923)                      








                                (Barclay Avenue - 1950)

Barclay Avenue - 1950s 








(Barclay Avenue - 1950s)                                 


Ammarilla Barclay Dawes Urton in Older Years

Ammarilla remained a resident of the City of Pine River until her death on August 10, 1942.


The Railroad - A Northern Passage


As the area began to open up to logging & fur trading, the Pine River Depot was built in 1895.


Early Pine River Minnesota & International       (M & I) Railway Depot










(Early Pine River M & I Depot)                        

When the railroad officially ceased to run in 1985, interested people began a journey to preserve & restore the old depot for the coming generations to enjoy.





(Old Depot Restoration Project)


(Old Depot Restoration Project)                       




The completed Old Pine River Depot Project.

Front Street - Facing MN State Hwy 371

                                  Front Street - Early 1900s








(North-West View)

Front Street 1908   







(South-East View)                                                  

The Dam - An Integral Part of Pine River's History 


Native Americans canoed the lakes and streams of the area.

Famous explorers plied the present day stream named Norway Brook and the Pine River.






(1906 - 1910 Original Wooden Trestle Bridge before Hydro-Electricity Dam)


1970s - Pine River Dam 

Both Norway Brook & the Pine River flow through our community and the nearby townships.







(Northerly view of the Minnesota Power & Light Hydro-Electric Power House over the Dam. - 1950's)








                         (Dam Swimming Area.  Southerly view of the Minnesota Power & Light Hydro-Electric Power House over the Dam.  The Old Creamery can be seen to the right of the Power House. - 1960s)










(Dam Swimming Area - 1960s)                        

The Old Diving Tower Would Eventually Be Removed.  The Platform Remained As A Favorite Place For Swimmers To Jump Off Into The Water.  A Metal Ladder Served As A Way To Return To The Top Of The Platform ... Only To Do It All Over Again.  This Became A Popular Past Time For Swimmers.

The Historic Dam Steps Also Remained Intact For Swimmers To Come And Go, As Well As Supplying A Great Place To Relax And Take In The Quiet Beauty Of The River.


The original square brick Pine River School was built in the early 1900s.
 School - 1948

Later a large, rectangular addition was built onto the front of the existing school. 






(Pine River School - 1910)                                










                  (Pine River School - 1948) 

 School - 1948
An arial view shows the two sections of the school as well as the school grounds.




          The original "Barclay Hotel" was located on Front Street, across from the Railroad Depot.  It burned in 1917.


The Spurrier Company erected a hotel on the corner of Barclay Avenue and Front Street (Hwy 371) after the Barclay Hotel burned to the ground.





(Spurrier Hotel - 1922)

In ensuing years, as the hotel changed hands, it would become the Lake Region Hotel.

The hotel was tore down in later years to make room for the expansion of Highway 371. 




(Lake Region Hotel - 1949)

Other City History


The Marlow Theatre brought the 'screen to life'.

The building housed the theatre in the front, as well as a laundromat & dry cleaner in the back lower section.

The building burned in later years.


The Damsite Store was a favorite hang out for swimmers and towns people as it offered a place to grab a bite or a cool drink in the summer.


At one time it was an "A & W", as pictured in this photo.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online at, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, by fax (202) 690-7442 or email at