August 10, 1910: John Beargrease dies in his home in Beaver Bay, Minnesota.

On this day up the shore in 1910, John Beagrease died in his home at Beaver Bay. Beargrease was born in 1858, though some accounts say 1862. His father was named Makwabimidem, or “Beargrease” in Ojibwe. John became famous working for the postal service, transporting mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais along the Minnesota North Shore of Lake Superior. In the summer he used a row boat; in the winter, a four-dog dogsled: there were no roads; only a footpath led from Two Harbors all the way to Port Arthur, Canada (today’s Thunder Bay). Beargrease was not alone: his brothers helped with the mail. In fact, they got the job delivering mail because they were already constantly making trips up and down the shore to check their traplines. From 1879 to 1899, the Beargrease brothers used not only dogsleds and rowboats, but also canoes, horses, and larger boats. His death was caused by pneumonia, contracted after he  rescue another mail carrier whose boat was caught in the waves near Grand Portage during a storm. Since 1984 the efforts of Beargrease and his brothers haves been celebrated with the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, which runs from Duluth to Grand Marais and back. Today’s modern mushers have much more advanced sleds than Beargrease used, and competitors run with 16 dogs.

John Beargrease. (Image: Lake County Historical Society)