John Beargrease, born about 1865, was the son of a minor Anishinaabe chief by the name of Makwabimidem, but Beargrease is best remembered as the winter mail carrier between Two Harbors, Minnesota, and Grand Marais, Minnesota, during the last two decades of the 19th century, well before roads existed along the North Shore of Lake Superior.
Beargrease and his sled dog team delivered mail and needed supplies to residents along this route; he was the settlers' connecton to the outside world, braving storms, brutal cold, volatile and shifting shoreline ice, and wild animals, to keep a regular schedule up and back along the 100-mile stretch of terrain under these dangerous conditions.
Today, his legendary dog sled runs are remembered and celebrated in the annual 411-mile John Beargrease Dog Sled Race, but his importance to the residents of the North Shore should be remembered as more than a dog sled race--rather, it was a lifeline and much-needed connection to the greater community of Minnesota. Today, this memorial sled dog race can encounter very cold and brutal conditions, but more often now there is a question of whether there will be enough snow to safely run the race, with race start dates shifting to maximize weather conditions similar to the shifting ice often encountered during Beargrease's mail runs along the Lake Superior shoreline.
John Beargrease died at his home in Beaver Bay, Minnesota, in 1910. Personally, I think there should be a U.S. postage stamp memorializing this man.
~Deborah Newcomb, Minneapolis, MN