Sunday, January 12, 2014

On This Date in Minnesota History: January 12

January 12, 1984 – The first John Beargrease Sled Dog Race began on this date. Mushers left the Duluth Arena at 6:45 p.m. on their 350-mile race to Grand Marais and back to Duluth.1 What was expected to be a 22-hour1 race turned into a 66+-hour race2 due to a deep, powdery snowfall and ungroomed trails. Kevin Tournbough of Grand Marais was the winner.

1News Tribune & Herald; “Beargrease ’84, Supplement to News-Tribune & Herald”; Duluth, Minn.; January 11, 1984; pp. 1-10.

2News-Tribune & Herald; “Turnbough delivers the mail”; Duluth, Minn.; January 17, 1984; p. 1B.

John Beargrease

“For almost twenty years, between 1879 and 1899, John Beargrease and his brothers delivered the mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais. With the limited equipment available and loads weighing as much as 700 lbs. The trip was made once a week…an incredible feat for one man to accomplish especially when you consider the constant range of altitude along the shore.

Through the seasons, the Beargrease brothers used a variety of methods to transport the mail including canoes, horses and large boats. John Beargrease himself was best known for his winter travels by dogsled. His sled looked more like a toboggan than today’s sleds and he ran with teams of only four dogs. His fastest trip on dogsled was 28 hours from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. Without the weight, and with today’s advances in technology, Beargrease mushers can accomplish the same trip in little better time, with teams of up to sixteen dogs.”

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