Guest Column: Second settlers in Pine River were John and Alice Leef

No "Leef" unturned

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John and Alice Leef were the first settlers in Pine River.
Contributed / "Logsleds to Snowmobiles" book

PINE RIVER — The first column celebrating Pine River's 150th birthday started “at the very beginning,” which highlighted George and Ammarilla Barclay's founding of Pine River.

They were the first settlers in Pine River.

George Angus Barclay founded Pine River in 1873

This article is about the second settlers in Pine River.

Taken from the “Logsleds to Snowmobiles” book, John P. Leef and his family were the first settlers in 1893, following the Barclays. They took up residence on a farm four miles west of the Barclay's ranch and operated the farm through the 1890s.

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In 1901, the Leefs built a structure north of the Barclay Hotel on the corner of Front Street and Barclay Avenue right at the intersection where the signal lights and the former Family Dollar building are located.


John Leef was active in the establishment of the Village of Pine River, which was incorporated in December 1901. John served as a trustee on the first village council.

Alice Leef was also active in the village history. She worked with Ammarilla Barclay in the Barclay Hotel. Alice was the second white woman in this area, and it is appropriate we acknowledge her on the second day of Pine River's 150th celebration this summer.

John and Alice were parents of Jeanette, Jenora, Frances and son, Henry.

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The Leef family had four children, three of whom were featured in a photo in the "Logsleds to Snowmobiles" book.
Contributed / "Logsleds to Snowmobiles" book

Alice was a midwife and responsible for many deliveries of newborns before there was a doctor in the area. She played a very important role in the establishment of the Lutheran church in Pine River in 1902.

John and Alice's daughter, Jenora Leef Aamot (Mrs. Arthur Aamot), helped organize the Ladies Aid Society at the First Lutheran Church.

It was at Jenora Leef Aamot's estate sale that Mrs. Bill (Carol) Johnson purchased a quilt at an auction conducted by John Stranne. All the names on the quilt are hand embroidered. The middle block has a date of 1903. Several pioneer families are represented on various blocks with such notables as the Kline family, the Moulster family, Dr. Holman and John Leef.

This historic quilt will be on display at the New Life Church from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, July 7, and Saturday, July 8. We invite you to view Jenora's quilt and many other quilts on display at the New Life Church.

As a side note, I had the privilege of meeting Jenora Leef Aamot while Jenora was a resident of the Good Samaritan Nursing Home. It was sometime between 1994-1997 that I stopped to see Jenora. She was in a wheelchair and was not able to verbally communicate at that time.


I knelt down and introduced myself and stated I knew who she was and the important role she and her family played in the development of Pine River. She looked directly at me and her eyes just lit up. It was clear she was able to comprehend my message.

It was one of the highlights of my experiences at Good Samaritan Nursing Home. I took the “Logsleds to Snowmobiles” book to the nursing station and showed the staff Jenora's photo in that book. The staff was grateful to receive a little background of the person in their care.

All of us, especially during this 150th celebration, should take time to reflect and pay respect to all the individuals of this town who played a vital role in achieving this important anniversary.

Sale of reusable bags will support the 2023 event.

This information and much much more is contained in the 600-page “Logsleds to Snowmobiles” book. It was published to commemorate the Pine River Centennial in 1973.

This article was written using excerpts from that book. Heritage Group North is currently working to have reprints made of the “Logsleds to Snowmobiles” book.

If you don't have a copy now, you may be able to receive a reprint by contacting Pat Johnson of Heritage Group North at 218-851-0898 or email to preorder.

Pat Johnson is a member of the Pine River 150th Year Committee.

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