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John Beargrease
Birth: 1855
Death: Aug. 1, 1910
Beaver Bay
Lake County
Minnesota, USA

Namesake of Minnesota's annual sled dog race along the north shore of Lake Superior. He was a member of the Grand Portage band of Ojibwe. His father was Makwabimidem or Moquabimetem (Beargrease), who was a minor Anishinaabe chief. His father was a sailor on the Wieland's schooner, "Charley," and he often carried the mail for Albert Wieland. His mother was Newagagamsbag (or "Otoe"). He had two known siblings - brothers named Peter (Daybosh) and Joseph (Skowegan).

When he was growing up, he lived in a traditional wigwam on the edge of the Beaver Bay settlement. He and his brothers learned hunting, trapping, and fishing from their father. When he was in his late teens, he worked on commercial fishing, passenger, and freight ships that sailed on Lake Superior, including the schooner "Charley."

He is best remembered as the winter mail carrier between Two Harbors and Grand Marais, Minnesota in extreme weather during the late 19th century. He and his brothers began delivering the mail from Two Harbors to Grand Marais in 1879, making the trip once or twice a week. Sometimes, they would take the mail all the way to Grand Portage. John was best known for his mail journeys by dogsled. His fastest trip by dogsled from Two Harbors to Grand Marais was 28 hours, and he once made the trip in 20 hours by boat. He carried the mail for 20 years, until 1899. During this time, he was the link to the outside world for the people who lived along the North Shore and eagerly waited his arrival. With him, he brought weather forecasts and national news stories, or letters from home.

In later years, he replaced his dogs with two horses named "White Charley" and "Red Charley." After 1899, he retired as mail carrier, but continued to trade furs.

He married Louise Wishcob (also spelled Wiscob, Wishcomb, and Weeshkob), a member of another prominent family in the area. Sources are unclear as to the number of children they had, which may have been 12.

His death certificate lists tuberculosis as his cause of death. However, other sources mention that he died from pneumonia which he contracted after diving into the freezing waters of Lake Superior in order to save another mail carrier, Montferrand.

His legendary dog sled runs are still remembered and celebrated annually in Minnesota during the "John Beargrease Dog Sled Race" between Duluth and Grand Portage, a trek of 411 miles. 
Family links: 
  Louise Wishcop Beargrease (____ - 1918)*
  Mabel Louise Beargrease (1898 - 1915)*
  George Beargrease (1901 - 1918)*
*Calculated relationship
Chippewa Cemetery
Beaver Bay
Lake County
Minnesota, USA
Created by: Cindy K. Coffin
Record added: Feb 06, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 47667772
John Beargrease
Added by: Cindy K. Coffin
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- Alisyn
 Added: Oct. 31, 2013
My grandfather was born on the North Shore in 1902 and Beargrease was a friend of the family.Grandfather always spoke fondly of him.
 Added: Jan. 21, 2013

- Cindy K. Coffin
 Added: Feb. 6, 2010
This page is sponsored by: Cindy K. Coffin

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