Robert Cochran Barclay: Minnesota Pioneer

Robert Barclay, County Pioneer, Dies at Huron

Funeral Services to Be Conducted at Stockton Thursday.

Stockton, Minn. — (Special to The Republican Herald)– Funeral services for Robert Cochran Barclay, one of Winona county’s pioneers, who died May 24 at 8:30 p.m. at the home of his daughter, Mrs. W.H. Buck, Huron, S.D., will be conducted Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at the Stockton Methodist church. The Rev. R.J. Potter of the McKinley Methodist church, Winona, will officiate. Burial will be in the Stockton cemetery. The Veterans of Foreign Wars will have charge at the grave. The body is to arrive at Lewiston tomorrow.

Mr. Barclay who was 92 years old, had been ill since February 1. Death was due to the infirmities of age.

He was born at Clarion, near Pittsburgh, Pa., January 6, 1844, and was a member of one of the last of the old pioneer families of Winona county, having come to Minnesota territory in July 1854. Winona was then a small town located near where the steamboats landed. V. Simpson had a large warehouse and A.B. Smith a hotel where the Barclays stayed a few days while waiting for the ox teams to come for them.

Indian Village Near Elba.

There was quite a large settlement at Minnesota City at that time and also a large Indian village of more than 500 teepees at Elba where there were Winnebago Indians. There were no towns at Stockton, Lewiston, Utica or St. Charles. Mr. Barclay’s father, Arthur Barclay and his wife, Lilly Hineman Barclay, came to the United States from Raphoe county, Donegal, Ireland, in 1833. They worked in the coal mines near Pittsburgh for a few years and then came west by river, down the Ohio and up the Mississippi to Dubuque, Iowa. There Barclay left his wife and smaller children while he and his two older sons joined a party of men which included Robert Crooks, John Bole and Alec McCully, who had heard about Minnesota.

These men bought land at $1.25 an acre from the government and built their homes in Elba township. The Barclays built the first house in Elba township, and as the other men were not married they lived there until the spring planting was done. Mr. Barclay sent for his family at that time and they came in July, 1854, by steamboat and from Winona by oxen to Knopp’s Creek up Gilmore Valley where trees had been cut to let the teams through to the open prairie.

Recalled Big Catch.

Mr. Barclay often spoke of the groves of trees, large oak trees, flowers, birds and wild game. He often recalled catching three brook trout July 4, 1855, in the Whitewater which weighed nine pounds.

In there first years there, the nearest grist mill was at Decorah, Iowa, and they drove there with their first wheat to be ground into flour. There was a good road most of the way, the road going near the present site of Chatfield. There were eight children in the family, two girls and six boys. When the civil war started one son was in the United States army and two other sons enlisted. Then Robert ran away from home and enlisted. He was brought home twice by his father who finally consented and he joined the same company in which his brothers were enlisted.

Image from the back cover of Brackett’s Battalion: Minnesota Cavalry in the Civil War and Dakota War by Kurt Bergemann.

They were in the four companies of cavalry, known as Brackett’s battalion of the Minnesota Volunteer Cavalry. In 1864, the battalion was called back to Minnesota to defend the frontier from the depredations of the Sioux Indians. The battalion was mustered out of service May 16, 1866, at Fort Snelling, and had the distinction of having seen the longest service of any volunteer organization in the Civil war.

Last Survivor.

Mr. Barclay was the last survivor of the battalion. After the war, he returned to his father’s farm and worked there until he married Madoliene O’Callaghan of Stockton, June 17, 1875. She died April 2, 1935, at Huron. They bought a farm near Stockton and lived there until 1893, when they moved to Winona to reside. They moved to Huron in 1920.

Mr. Barclay was a member of the Masonic lodge for 61 years, a member of the Killpatric post, G.A.R., and had been a member of the John Ball post, Winona. Survivors are four children, Thomas H. Barclay, Jacksonville, Fla., and Hugh C., Robert M., and Mrs. Buck, Huron, and five grandchildren, Gladys Farrell, Merle Barclay, Harold Barclay, Richard Barclay and Cloyd Buck.

Winona Republican-Herald – May 26, 1936

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