Iron Range musher wins fourth Beargrease

Nathan Schroeder congratulates one of his dogs shortly after winning the 2016 Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. (PHOTO by Alli Gerths via Beargrease social media)

Nathan Schroeder shortly after winning the 2016 Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. (PHOTO: Alli Gerths via Beargrease FB)

Nathan Schroeder, a Warba native who lives near Chisholm, won his fourth John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon early this morning when his team crossed the finish line near Billys Bar in Rice Lake, just north of Duluth.

Jason Campeau of Alberta finished second, while defending champion Ryan Anderson of Ray took third.

Schroeder won in 2010, 2013 and 2014. He joins local legend Jamie Nelson of Togo as the only other four-time winner of the venerated winter race, often used as a proving ground for racers planning to run the famous Iditarod Sled Dog race across the Alaskan tundra. Indeed, Schroeder is headed there later this month.

Last year, Schroeder finished 24th at the Iditarod. The year before he placed 17th and was named rookie musher of the year. By day he’s a union millwright based out of Local 1348.

Meantime, if you don’t know the story of the John Beargrease name, you should.

John Beargrease was the son of an Ojibwa chief born at Beaver Bay along the North Shore. He made a living hauling things up and down the shore before there were roads in the 1870s, ’80s and ’90s. Because he was already making the trip, he agreed to carry the mail as well, making him a popular figure in remote communities along Lake Superior. He was also the only source of news for many people in these places. He delivered by canoe in the summer and dog sled in the winter and became famous for his reliability and endurance.

Though he had retired from his route, Beargrease died from pneumonia in 1910 after rescuing a mail carrier in the stormy waves of Lake Superior.

The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon retraces his early route.

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