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Full Fire Extent on Wisconsin and Upper Michigan
The Sheboygan Press
October 8, 1929
is the fifty-eighth
anniversary of the terrible and unparalleled conflagration that
desolated the Northeastern counties of Wisconsin, killing more than a
thousand men, women and children, rendered tthousands of others
and utterly destitute and afflicting others with wounds and injuries
.....The Peshtigo Fire.
northeastern portion of Wisconsin was swept by the
devastating and relentless flames rising out of Peshtigo and
threatening the country for miles around with total annihilation. The
territory included Brown, Oconto, Door, Kewaunee and Shawano counties.
The summer of
1871, memorable for its numerous catastrophes on sea
and land, presented
no horror as
entire counties and left black, unsightly scars and a host of dead and
in its wake, where once had been prosperity and primitive beauty.
A drought preceded the fire, parching the entire
countryside and drying swamp
lands which usually were covered by several feet of water.
suddenly in dry timberlands, insidiously working their way into the
arid swamps and developing almost a furnace heat.
No attempt was made to definitely
establish the origin
as the entire area of timberland around Peshtigo had broken
into flames almost
at once with a dense,
suffocating smoke pall which obscured vision and
rendered the fire fighting even more difficult than
conditions. The fires
burned for weeks, raging at first only in the woodlands but
to marshes and often encircle entire villages.
scourge of the fire increased,licking up miles
of parched vegetation and consuming property while owners
looked on, often
helpless to save even themselves.
intensified feeling of
dread increased to a state of general calamity. The morning of October
through the thick pail of smoke and without promise of the cherished
of rain. An unusual solemnity had settled almost as thick as the smoke
from which it was born, in the village of Peshtigo and surrounding
vicinity. A carnival of death ragging about and stalked the
flaming timberland, but there was nothing save an occasional hot puff
of air to warn the villagers that the danger was more impending than it
had been for the previous days.
of the roaring fire had, by this time reached Green Bay and with the
dread of the possible spreading of flames to that community,
the city was almost immediately panic
New Franklin, at sunset a
thriving village, was at
midnight a blackened and desolate waste, its inhabitants either
cremated in the
burning debris of its business and residence buildings or fleeing half
and without shelter. The fate of New Franklin was the fate of a large
of the settlements on the peninsula, shown in the accompanying map of
About this time word was
received that Chicago was
also aflame. It was as if to
portend the horrible fate of the village of Peshtigo.
of Peshtigo, fire
center of the raging furnace, lay on both sides of
the Peshtigo river. The village was about fifty miles north of Green Bay.
composed of an immense factory of wooden ware, several smaller
hotels, several grocery and general stores, two churches,
several saloons, and
The wind had been very light the
afternoon of the fatal fire. The calm was a
trump of doom and keen fear rose in the hearts of the villagers.
a fiery tornado, the flames broke from their timber confines and
the village, burning the buildings before it and mocking the
futile efforts of
a small band of fire fighters who were soon forced to either flee for
lives or perish in the flames. Some chose the latter course; others
scarcely more fortunate in escaping without clothing, food or
resulting cold and horror
which was evident for days after the
flames had partially subsided, was
nearly as appalling
as the fire itself. Foul gases rose from territories, almost
and were carried far on the crest of a wind which had risen to the
a tornado. The smoke was suffocating and the inflammable gas noxious to
of the charred ruins of the once prosperous
heroic tales of hero dead. But the fire swept
northward to the doom of Menekaune and other villages in its way.
rallied against the flames, and only after days of frantic fighting was
fire frustrated in its attempt to add this city to the list of the
villages. A shifting of the wind filially worked to the
salvation of the city,
although it did not escape unscathed from the fire. Menominee was
and Birch Creek—a small farming settlement
nearby—was completely destroyed and
all of its inhabitants burned. The entire peninsula was aflame, with
destruction of life and property continuing through days of
endless horror and
nights of undefined fear and dread.
The story of
the final days of the fire, the relief to the sufferers
and the generosity of the people in aiding the afflicted is a tale as
as the story of the fire is appalling. Relief was rushed from
quarters, hospitals were hastily thrown open and the sick and
dying cared for.
Provisions were showered from all sides to aid in the relief
work, and a tale
of sacrifice rivalling any in history was written as the terrorized
victims, homeless and ill, were given aid.