Site 16: Beaconia Beach

Beaconia is located off the junction of road 98 North and Provincial road 500 in the RM of St. Clements. This out of the way little cove was named for an out of the ordinary little character. 

August Larson, otherwise known as “The Little Dane,” arrived in Beaconia some time before 1910. He was a small man with very short legs. In summer he always rode an ox, and in winter travelled on the ice with a sail attached to his sleigh. He used to ride his ox down to Balsam Bay to get his mail. They say he was quite a comical sight, for as he rode along he would be reading the news paper.

With the idea of hauling wood to Selkirk, Mr. Larson decided to build a barge. When the barge was finished he launched it by himself with the aid of a winch and his ox. To guide his barge at night he built a beacon; it was this beacon that gave Beaconia its name.

Because Mr. Larson was different, there were people who said he was insane. After numerous complaints were made, the sheriff was forced to take him to the mental hospital in Selkirk. Upon delivering Mr. Larson to Selkirk, Mr. Anderson, who was the constable at that time, told the sheriff, ‘That man is as sane as you are.”

Mr. Larson was committed to the mental hospital but escaped two or three days later. The authorities searched for him but he was never found. A few months later, in Nov. 1913, Mr. Anderson received a letter from Mr Larson. He was living in Minnesota. Another letter followed; “The Little Dane” had gone back to Denmark and was never heard from again.

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Lake Winnipeg has generated countless tales of excitement and oddity. Among stories of the latter sort are peculiar escapades of the little Dane, August Larson.

Larson appeared on the scene in 1896, when he made his home in a cove behind an island in Balsam Bay. Over the next 17, locals observed his antics with a mix of amusement, confusion, and suspicion.

In the summer, Larson would ride his ox to Balsam Bay to get the mail. His habit was to read the newspaper as he rode, making for an entertaining scene.

In the winter, he would rig up a sleigh with a sail, and slide across the ice. Larson’s chosen enterprise led to both his departure from the area, and to his legacy.

Knowing a profit could be made in Selkirk, off of wood from the shores of the lake, he constructed a barge to take it there. He launched it himself, with a winch and his ox.

He hired three or four men to help him with the trip south, but only he was willing to climb the very tall mast to fix the clock for the sail.

As complaints came in questioning Larson’s sanity, Selkirk’s sheriff committed him to the town’s mental hospital. Constable Anderson, however, told the sheriff that he estimated that “That man is as sane as you are.”

Within three days, Larson escaped the hospital and disappeared. He later sent letters to Anderson from Minnesota, calling himself a spiritualist and hypnotist, saying he had invented a cream separator, and speaking about a coming trip to Europe.

When Larson had been sailing his barge, he set up a beacon on shore to assist in safe return at night. In 1900, the Canadian Northern Railway named its nearby station Beaconia, after Larson’s beacon.