Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
Collected and posted by RITA
This site is exclusively for the free access of individual researchers.
* No profit may be made by any person, business or organization through publication, reproduction, presentation or links to this site.



FAMILY STORIES
OF
THE PESHTIGO FIRE


Survivor Stories of the Peshtigo Fire

This page is dedicated to the people who lived to tell of their survival and stories of the Peshtigo Fire.
All submissions from the family members are welcome for posting.
 RITA

Contibuted by:
Jessica Snyder

Sofronia LaFave Grandow Remembers

[Direct descendant Jessica’s notes :
The interviewee was the wife of Antone/Antoine Grandow. Antoine was the son of Basil and Sophia Grandeau, and the brother of Mary Grandeau Deau.
Mrs. Grandow was named Sofronia LaFave at the time of the fire. Her father's name was Louis LaFave. I am guessing that their surname was a corruption of the name LaFavre.]
 

Charlie House, a Milwaukee newspaperman, interviewed Mrs. Antone Grandow when she was 95 about her experiences as a girl of 12, and he kept his notes of the conversation. She and her father had gone out to a log cabin near Peshtigo to go partridge hunting in the fall of 1871.



Sofronia LaFave Grandow
"It was so hot you couldn't hardly breathe,". "There was smoke everywhere for 3 or 4 days there. Big pieces of black things floated through the air and you couldn't hardly keep clean of it."

Charlie House
"You were afraid?"

Sofronia LaFave Grandow
"I was afraid of it. I was only a little girl. It was terrible. It smelled hot and it hurt you to smell that air, it was so sharp. My daddy didn't go hunting because the smoke got in your eyes. The stuff in the air got to be like snowflakes, there were so many. And it blowed. I tell you it blowed. It blowed like anything."

Charlie House
The owners of the cabin had gone off to visit someone in Peshtigo. House asked if they came back after the fire.

Sofronia LaFave Grandow
"They never come back at all," the old woman said. "I never heard of them again, not in all these years. They was burned -- but they was never seen dead, neither."

Charlie House
She remembered that before the fire a man came out of the woods carrying a box of what she called "draw line things," presumably surveyor's instruments.

Sofronia LaFave Grandow
"He was scared. The draw line things was very important. He said to us that he would sink the draw line things in the mud and if any of us gets out without dying he will know where it is. He said he don't think he can make it.

"We prayed and prayed and prayed. And then it come. [Oct. 8, 1871] And we prayed all the time until we got into the water and we prayed. But it was too hot and we went in the cabin and covered us with wet blankets and clothes--a big pile of them, all wet."

Charlie House
"Do you remember how long you were in the cabin?"

Sofronia LaFave Grandow
"A long time. Then finally it went away. My daddy, he asked the man to look out for me and then he went off to get some help and some food because we was hungry. My daddy tried to get to Peshtigo but he come back and he sat down and cried because he wouldn't find the way out. The roads, they was all covered deep with ashes and trees and my daddy got lost so he couldn't get out. We had to stay there until somebody came and helped us."

Charlie House
"Were you or the man or your daddy burned?"

Sofronia LaFave Grandow
"Our skins was all bright red and we had burned places on us from burning things the wind blew on us. Daddy was the worst of all from going out into the hot woods."

Charlie House
"Was there something to eat in the cabin?"

Sofronia LaFave Grandow
"It was all et up when the fire came. They was some turnips in the garden and some carrots, I think. They was cooked in the ground. We ate them. We didn’t have no water. The well was dried up and so was the river. The mud was baked hard. We didn't have no water. We found a poor cow, though, and we got a little milk."

Charlie House
"Do you remember any more?"

Sofronia LaFave Grandow
"I saw some big piles of burned people -- you couldn't tell they was people.  In Peshtigo, I think. Everything had dried up from the hot."

Charlie House
"The man with the draw things--was he alright?"

Sofronia LaFave Grandow
"Well, he went away and said he would come back for the draw line things, but he never come back."

Charlie House
"And the draw things?"

Sofronia LaFave Grandow
"They must be there yet."


Back to Peshtigo Fire Home Page

Back to Oconto County Home Page