Famously Bemidji

Historical Dates

1784 Last battle between Sioux Indians driven out by the Chippewa Indians
1832 Guided by Chief Ozawindib (Yellow Head), Henry Schoolcraft discovers the Mississippi River
1896 Bemidji’s City Charter signed
1897 Bemidji becomes a county seat.
1899 Last battle between U.S. Army and American Indians fought at Sugar Point

Bemidji Distinctions


First City on the Mississippi
The name “Mississippi” comes from a Native American name that means “big river.” That it is, as the the fourth longest river in the world, Bemidji is honored as the first city on the big river, with New Orleans as it’s last.


Named as one of the “100 Best Small Towns in America” in 1993, 1995 and 2002


Curling Capital of USA
In the 2006 Winter Olympics (where USA medaled), Bemdiji sent more athletes per capita than any other town in America – a record eight of the 10 curlers – three on the men’s team and two on the women’s grew up in Bemidji, and the three other women on the team moved here.

More information on Curling



Home of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox
There is no disputing Bemidji’s most famous son is none other than Paul Bunyan, standing lakeside with his buddy, Babe. Named Best Roadside Attraction in The Growler’s “2015 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal” reader’s choice awards celebrating the best of Minnesota, in addition to being honored by Time magazine, listed in the Top 50 American Roadside Attractions.

More information on Paul Bunyan & Babe


Jane RussellActress- Gentlemen Prefer Blonds
Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell was born on June 21, 1921 in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her father was a United States Army lieutenant and her mother had been a student of drama and an actress with a traveling troupe. Picture during her visit to Bemidji in August 2002. Jane in middle- joined by her Jacobi cousins. Jane died February 28, 2011 in Santa Maria, CA

Cade BittnerActor – A Beautiful Mind
Moved to New York City after attending Minnesota State University, Mankato. Also attended The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Landed his first commercial audition as a multi-media spokesperson for Giant Food, Inc. as “Tommy”.

Terry Frost – Actor – The Monster Maker
Drew Starlin – Actor – Mr. Monk and the Birds and the Bees
Kenneth Haycraft – Actor – Maybe It’s Love
Harlan Hegna – Second Unit Director or Assistant Director – Life Inside Out
Pat Fuleihan – Actress – D.A.R.Y.L.


Brian Hickerson – Baseball Player – Born October 13, 1963 in Bemidji, Minnesota
Professional baseball player who pitched in the Major Leagues from 1991 to 1995

Gary Sargent – Hockey Player – Born February 8, 1954 in Red Lake and raised in Bemidji,
Minnesota. Professional ice hockey defenseman who played 402 games in the National Hockey League between 1975–1983. A first team all-star and league MVP at Bemidji State University.

Dave Casper – Football Player Tight End- Oakland/LA Raiders, Houston Oilers & MN Vikings Born February 2, 1952 in Bemidji, MN. Nicknamed “The Ghost,” Casper has been elected to both the College Football and Pro Football Halls Of Fame.



Will Weaver -Author – Weaver became a creative-writing teacher at Bemidji State University
in Bemidji, Minnesota. He resides in the Bemidji area with his wife Rose, who is currently a professor at Bemidji State, and his teenage children.

Mary Hemingway – Mary Welsh, the daughter of a lumberman was born April 5, 1908, in Walker, Minnesota. She lived in Bemidji from age five through high school on 12th and Bemidji Avenue. Inspired by a Carl Sandburg poem of the same name, she moved to Chicago and was educated at Northwestern University, graduating in 1930. In 1932 she became a reporter for The Chicago Daily News. In 1937 she went to London to work for The Daily Express, and then joined Time and Life magazines as a foreign correspondent for Time and Life magazines during World War II. Mary met American author, Ernest Hemingway, while covering the war in London, marrying him in 1946.

Despite Mary and Ernest’s bruised life, they remained together. She assisted Hemingway by typing some of his manuscripts, answering letters and supervising their Cuban household. At the same time, she was his fishing companion on his yacht, Pilar, went with him to the bullfights in Spain, on safari in Kenya and to the celebrity places he frequented. They both had broken bones from ski spills in Italy and survived a plane crash in Africa in 1954. After Hemingway died in 1961, she continued to write for magazines and completed her autobiography, ”How It Was,” in 1976.



Gary Burger – Musician & Filmmaker – Achieved international fame as lead singer and guitarist for The Monks, a punk band from the mid 1960s that opened for artists as Jimi Hendrix, The Troggs and The Kinks.

In popular culture

In Jonathan Franzen’s book Freedom, the father of the main character is cited as having moved to Bemidji.

In the fourth season episode “Little Minnesota” of the CBS television series How I Met Your Mother, Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders) pretends to be from Bemidji when Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) takes her to the Walleye Saloon, a New York City bar for Minnesota Vikings fans, in an attempt to befriend the patrons.

The first season of the FX TV series Fargo, starring Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman, is mainly set in and around Bemidji. (The series was actually filmed in Calgary, Alberta.)

The Unusual

“Lake Balls” in Lake Bemidji. Cladophora aegagropila or Argagropila linnaei are coarse-walled, branching filamentous green algae that forms rocklike aggregates rolled by wave action along sandy shorelines, much like a scouring pad in a rock tumbler. True Cladophora balls like those in Lake Bemidji appear to be nonexistent elsewhere in North America.

Photos courtesy of Bemidji Pioneer, Will Weaver, Penguin Random House, Best Small Towns and Explore Minnesota Tourism