MN History Players' "John Beargrease" to tour Kitchigami Libraries
Friday, February 21, 1:00 p.m. Brainerd Public Library
Join us as John Beargrease, Native American fur trader and mail carrier, comes to life! Using props and artifacts, a costumed History Player will engage us all in the memorable life story of John Beargrease in the late 1800s on Minnesota's North Shore.
Many people have heard of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. The race is named after the Ojibwe mail carrier, John Beargrease, who was born in 1858, the same year Minnesota became a state. John grew up in a wigwam on the edge of Beaver Bay, the first white settlement on the North Shore. John was the son of Moquabimetem, who also went by the name "Beargrease." His father was an Ojibwe leader who settled in the area to work in at Beaver Bay's sawmill.
The U.S. Congress ordered the beginning of mail service from Superior to Grand Portage in 1855, but service was spotty-if the lake was choppy in summer or icy in winter, the mail didn't make it through. The Beargrease family came to the rescue. First the father, then the sons picked up the job. John Beargrease and his brothers began covering a regular route between Two Harbors and Grand Marais in 1879. Occasionally, they'd make the trek all the way to Grand Portage. They completed their route at least once and sometimes twice a week with a load of up to 700 pounds of personal mail, packages and newspapers. In the summer, they hiked along the shore, sailed, or rowed a boat. In the winter, they made the trek by dog sled.
John Beargrease's team of four dogs could cover thirty to forty miles a day. When the bells of the sled were heard in the distance, people gathered, not only to receive long-awaited news of friends and relatives but also for reports of ice conditions, snow depths, and other vital information. For decades, until his death from tuberculosis in 1910, John Beargrease was the link to the outside world for the citizens of the North Shore.
"Day or night, good weather or bad made no difference with John Beargrease; he was sure to arrive some time with the mail intact. When he reached his journey's end with his faithful dog team, they would all rest up for a short while and start the return trip, regardless of weather. Nature's wild wintry blasts had no terrors for faithful John." -Willis H. Raff, Pioneers in the Wilderness
Using costume and props from the period, John Beargrease will be brought to life by a Minnesota History Player from the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. John Beargrease's visits to Kitchigami Libraries and communities are part of the MN History Alive! Project with funding from the State of Minnesota Legacy Arts and Cultural Heritage fund. For the complete schedule of John Beargrease visits in the Kitchigami region, visit the Kitchigami Regional Library website at krls.org, click on Legacy Events.
Additional Performances: By Date
Thursday, January 13
9:40 a.m., Nevis Elementary School
1 p.m., Walker Public Library
Friday, January 14
10 and 10:55 a.m., Class Lake Elementary
4 p.m., Cass Lake Community Library
Saturday, January 15
4 p.m. Bemidji Public Library
Wednesday, January 19
2 p.m. Wadena City Library
Thursday, January 20
9 a.m. Menahga Elementary School
1 p.m. Park Rapids Area Library
Friday, January 21
10 a.m. Excelsior Place Senior Living Center, Baxter
1 p.m. Brainerd Public Library
Saturday, January 22
10 a.m. Pequot Lakes Community Library
2 p.m. Pine River Library at the Warehouse
Tuesday, January 25
3 p.m. Blackduck Elementary School
6:30 p.m. Blackduck Community Library
Wednesday, January 26
1:30 p.m. Margaret Welch Library, Longville
Thursday, January 27
1 p.m. Crosslake Area Library