FIRES OF WISCONSIN AND MICHIGAN,
"Sunday evening, after church, for about half an hour a death-like stillness hung over the doomed town. The smoke from the fires in the region around was so thick as to be stifling, and hung like a funeral pall over every thing, and all was enveloped in Egyptian darkness. Soon light puffs of air were felt; the horizon at the south-east, south, and south-west began to be faintly illuminated; a perceptible trembling of the earth was felt, and a distant roar broke the awful silence. People began to fear that some awful calamity was impending, but as yet no one even dreamed of the danger.
"The illumination soon became intensified into a lurid glare; the roar deepened into a howl, as if all the demons of the infernal pit had been let loose, when the advance gusts of wind from the main body of the tornado struck. Chimneys were blown down, houses were unroofed, and, amid the confusion, terror, and terrible apprehensions of the moment, the fiery element, in tremendous inrolling billows and masses of sheeted flame, enveloped the devoted village. The frenzy of despair seized on all hearts; strong men bowed like reeds before the fiery blast; women and children, like frightened specters Hitting through the awful gloom, were swept away like autumn leaves. Crowds rushed for the bridge; but the bridge, like all else, was receiving its baptism of fire. Hundreds crowded into the river; cattle plunged in with them, and being huddled together in the general confusion of the moment, many who had taken to the water to avoid the flames were drowned. A great many were on the blazing bridge when it fell. The debris from the burning town was hurled over and on the heads of those who were in the water, killing many and maiming others, so that they "gave up in despair and sank to a watery grave."
The following account, by an intelligent correspondent who traveled over the burnt district after the fires, is the fullest and most circumstantial that has been furnished, and we give it entire:
PESHTIGO, WISCONSIN, November 6, 1871.
Some ten days wince, I started out for the purpose of writing up the scenes and incidents connected with the recent destruction of this section, and although so much time has elapsed, I now, for the first time, am enabled to send your readers any thing. This was not in consequence of there not being plenty to write about, but because I had previously concluded not to write a line until after personally visiting the scene of devastation, and forming my own conclusions from actual observation.
At Chicago I found the sub-committee from Cincinnati appointed to visit this section and report the condition of things generally; and as we were all bound for one point, we concluded to join forces, and, as much as possible, travel together. A night's travel brought us to Milwaukee, where the committeemen had a very interesting interview with the mayor of that city, Harrison Luddington, Esq., one of the wealthiest and most prominent business men of the North-west, who furnished very much information of importance. From Milwaukee we passed on to Green Bay, a fine city of some five thousand inhabitants, located at the head of Green Bay, a body of water some one hundred and thirty miles long and from fifteen to forty miles wide. At Green Bay your committee, by special request, met Governor Fairchild, Hon. Mr. Sawyer, member of Congress from this district, General Bailey, and other prominent persons. The governor could not find words to express, In behalf of his people, the gratitude they all felt for the solid evidences of sympathy shown for the sufferers, and assured your committee that the gifts of Cincinnati were fully as large as from any other section. The interview with the governor ended by your committee concluding to take the several car-loads of goods they had with them right on through to Peshtigo, and know for themselves that the sufferers were supplied as rapidly as possible, and not have the much-needed supplies remain in the various warehouses of different cities until all the forms of red tape could be gone through with; for if the goods were needed at all, it was to relieve the more pressing demands of the moment. Taking the good steamer Geo. L. Dunlap (I believe that is the way bills of lading read), after a very pleasant ride of sixty miles on the bay, we reached Menominee, the point from which all persons start out to visit the burnt region. Crossing over the Menominee River, we reach Marinette and Menekaune, or, rather, what is left of the latter place, as the fire almost blotted it out of existence. The fire came sweeping through the forests toward these towns, threatening destruction to every thing in its path. At this point Mr. A. C. Brown, the resident partner of one of the large mills here, ordered out all his men and teams to a point where a street had been cut through the timber a short time previously. The teams hauled water, which the men dashed on the ground and trees; thus for fourteen hours successfully keeping back the flames from Marinette, until all danger was over. While the men were working here the fire quickly passed to the left, and in a few minutes almost every house in Menekaune was In flames. These included two large mills, a fine Catholic and Methodist Churches, a school-house, and, in fact, almost every house in the town. When the flames reached the river, not finding any thing else to devour, with one bound the fire jumped over the water, which is fully as wide as the Ohio at Cincinnati, and consumed a very fine mill. The wind now abated, to which fact alone can be attributed the saving of Menominee.
SCENES IN THE HOSPITAL.
The main hospitals for the wounded are located are Marinette, and through the kindness of Dr. Wright, the surgeon in charge, I visited the premises, and saw the many sad sights to be seen. The buildings are made of rough boards, very much similar in appearance to the barracks of the army. The interior arrangements were made as comfortable as could be expected under the circumstances. The first patient on the right as you enter is an American, who has with him his wife, babe, and five other children. Three of the latter are half-breeds, by a former wife, a squaw of the Stock-bridge tribe, whose reservation is located in the burnt district. The story of this man is the same in substance as that of a score of others. The fire approached them so unexpectedly that they had to run for their lives without saving any thing but the clothes they had on. They reached a small pool of water, where they sat for many hours, or until the fury of the fire had passed, when, terribly burned as they were, they managed to reach help, and were brought to town and properly cared for. Strange as it may seem, that while the half-breed children of this family were the worst burned, they exhibited the stoical indifference to pain of their people, while the other children, all white, moaned loud enough to be heard all over the room. The next patient—an old German, seventy-six years of age—was from the lower bush country. He lost his wife, daughter, son, and eight grandchildren. The old man bore up with wonderful fortitude under all his afflictions, and would tell you, in his own quiet way, all about the fire, until he came to where his aged partner lost her life, when the tears would roll down his furrowed checks, and, with clasped hands, lie would say, "Mine Got! is my poor frau dead?" We pass on to another bed, where an aged lady is writhing in the greatest pain, undoubtedly in a dying condition. She is the only one left of a family of ten, and she, too, must go, blotting out front existence one large family which, so short time ago, had cause to feel so much promise for the future. The next three beds are occupied by the Hoyt family, or, at least, what is left of it, some half a dozen of them having perished. Those here are all badly burned, one or two past recovery. On the next bed is one of the half-breed boys before referred to. lie is burned on the abdomen until his bowels almost protrude, yet he never complains, and answers your questions as indifferently as if he was a disinterested spectator of the scene. The next is a double bed, occupied by two full grown men, former members of a Wisconsin regiment. One of them, Lovett Reed, started to run for a clearing, but finding he could not reach it, took out his pocket-knife and deliberately attempted to commit suicide by stabbing himself to the heart. After inflicting several severe, though not fatal, wounds, he accidentally dropped his weapon, which, owing, to the darkness, he could not recover, and his design was frustrated. The fire passed over, he was only slightly burned, and next day was brought into the hospital, where he is slowly recovering. The next three beds are occupied by a German family, or, at least, what is left of it, the mother and one child having died since they reached the hospital, and one more little fellow will go before many hours. These children are quite bright, polite, and intelligent, plainly showing that when their mother passed over into the dark valley they lost their best earthly friend. But why particularize the different individual cases where there are so many? There are now nearly three hundred of the burned in Marinette and Menominee. Most of them, however, are quartered in private houses. The people of these towns were very prompt in offering relief, opening wide their doors to all who came for quarters or assistance. The proprietor of the leading hotel, the 'Dunlap House ', at once vacated all his rooms, and filled his hotel with the sick and wounded, and I had the not pleasant lot of sleeping in a bed which the night before was occupied by one of the wounded, and which was still covered with blood. As these were the best quarters to be had, I was even glad to get in here. This morning, a fine team, the property of Mr. Brown, was at the door ready to take us down to Peshtigo, a town which, through its misfortunes, now has a national notoriety. A short distance out we reach the inner limit of the fire district, and from there to this place every thing is gone; nothing left, not even the soil, which was a sort of peat. The tornado took the great forests of gigantic pines and leveled them to the ground, as if they had only been blades of grass. In their fall the ground around their roots was torn up, presenting on every hand great barriers of earth, forcibly reminding an old soldier, of earthworks in the army. Along the road where, before the fire, you could only see half a rod to the right or left, you can now see for miles in either direction. The trees, uprooted and twisted by the terrible wind, in falling have so interlocked that it would cost much more to clear the charred trunks away and level the roots than the land is worth, which fact adds to the general gloom. Passing ahead, on every side witnessing as -sad sights as the human mind could picture, we finally reached Peshtigo, or, at least, where it once stood. The town was located on both banks of a river, from which it took its name; the stream being about one-half as wide as the Ohio. As you enter, on the left, ;i few pieces of charcoal, a handful of ashes, and a few bricks show all that remains of what was once a very fine church; three rods away marks the spot where Ogden, one of the millionaires of Chicago, and the president of the rich Peshtigo Lumber Company, had his country palace, where he spent his summers.
The street where
we now pass along was
lined with the best houses of the town. Here stood the fire-engine
a small frame structure just large enough to hold a steam fire engine.
The cupola was of open wood-work, but so intense was the heat that the
bell, weighing several hundred pounds, was melted up, A little further
along we are shown where a train of platform cars loaded with green
stood at the time of the fire, all of which was destroyed excepting the
iron wheels, which are partly melted. The force of the tornado was so
that one car load of the lumber was carried more than one hundred feet,
where it burned. Here to the right was the company store-house, which
an immense building. In the debris we find spoons by the dozen, all
together, stove-pipes melted into halls not larger than your fist,
china, glass and hardware all run together, showing the great intensity
of the heat. Some hundreds of feet to the right and rear of the last
stands the only house left of the once flourishing town. The house had
a gable end fronting the river, with an ell on the upper side, and was
not finished. The fire struck the ell, which was destroyed in almost
time it takes me to tell of it, but such was the velocity of the wind
after the wing was burned off the fire was actually blown off, passing
into the timber a few feet away, and the main house was saved. The
factory is also on this side of the river, and was the largest of the
in the world. It was some five hundred feet long, by half as great a
and five stories high. The section of the house in which the engine,
and machinery were located, was of heavy stones, with stone and grouted
floors, and was constructed with the idea that it was positively
remaining of it is conclusive proof that it went up in smoke, like a tinder-box. Among the ruins can be found thousands of dozens of pail and tub hoops, melted together like so much lead.
A few rods down the river from this building were a number of boards in the river, forming a platform some twelve feet square, upon which twenty-eight persons got for safety. After the fire was over, they discovered that their platform was buoyed up by seventeen barrels of benzine, which, fortunately, did not burst and ignite, or the destruction of life would have been frightful, as only a few hundred feet below, on the same side of the river, were five hundred people in the water, and the benzene on fire would have floated right down among them, and it is my judgment that every one of them would have been destroyed. The company had erected a fine bridge across the river, which was destroyed, fortunately after most of the people had crossed over safely. There is a temporary structure in its place, over which we pass, and stop at the barracks, where we find Mr. Burns, the company's -agent, who extended every favor in his power. Being a man of fine culture, his description of the fire was very interesting. I suppose that he took more trouble to describe things minutely to me, as I was the first correspondent from a distance who had personally visited the town; the other vivid descriptions in other papers having been written by writers of great imagination, while snugly stowed away in hotels at either Chicago, Milwaukee, or Green Bay. In this number, of course, are not be included the writers for the two or three weekly papers published in this section of the State. Mr., Burns, as soon as the fire commenced, put on the hose, and had the water thrown all around the factories, stores, and boarding-houses belonging to the company. This was soon abandoned, as the brass couplings of the hose were actually melting with the intense heat. Then it was the order was given for every man to look out for himself, and Burns ran down to the river's edge, and got into the water. Just before doing so he met a friend who was hat-less, and almost at the same moment Burns' dog came up with a hat in his mouth, which was given to the needy one. The strange part of this incident is the fact that the dog, a, water spaniel, had been locked up in the house, and how he escaped, or what induced Lira at this particular moment to take a hat with him, none could tell.
Burns said the fire came creeping slowly up the main street on the side of the town first reached by fire, went up the front door of the Congregational Church, hesitated a moment at the door knob, then quickly reached the spire, and in three minutes every house in town was on fire, and in one hour all that remained of the town was the unfinished house before alluded to. The feelings of the hundreds of men, women, and children during the seven fearful hours they remained in the water, watching the terrific progress of the flames, almost perishing from the heat and smoke, can better be imagined than described. When the fury of the tempest had passed by, and the heat moderated enough to allow a human being to live, it was found that almost all of those in the water were so benumbed as to be powerless, and it took the few who had nerve enough left a considerable length of time to assist the others to hind. Their situation was little better now than while they were in the water, for they were without any food or clothing, with the roads in every direction so blockaded with fallen timber that it was impossible for any of those who were able, to go out for .help. Here they remained all that night and the next day; yet still they did not lose confidence. They felt that if any had been spared they would surely come to their assistance — and their hopes were not groundless, for toward evening one of the Ladies asserted that she could hear the sound, of axes, and although none others could hear the welcome noise, still the woman with her keen sense would not give up. After awhile others heard the noise, and before an hour had elapsed a few of the more daring of the noble men of Menominee and Marinette had cut their way through the terrible six miles of devastation, carrying with them a few provisions and some clothing, and before the sun went down wagons of stores arrived with sufficient to make all comfortable. The burned were taken back to the last two towns in the empty wagons, and were as well cared for as the sudden emergency would permit. The next day the balance of the population went to the different towns on the bay, where they were kindly attended to. To-morrow I go down to the Sugar Bush country, and. you may then expect another letter.
W. L. NEWBERBY'S FARM, November 7, 1871.
My letter yesterday described the situation at Peshtigo, and today I write you from the Lower Sugar Bush country, the most desolate part of the burnt region. After a hearty lunch at Peshtigo we again started on our tour of observation, our objective point being what is known as the Lower Sugar Bush, where the loss of life was far greater than in ay other place. A few hundred yards out from the town, on the right hand side of the road, is the village graveyard, where we had the privilege of seeing an
There were quite a number of the red faces present, all of whom joined in the solemn orgies. The deceased was a leading man of the Stockbridge tribe, and had passed over to the beautiful hunting-grounds of his forefathers after a lingering illness. The body was placed in a plain box coffin, which also contained all the little articles belonging to the deceased during lifetime, such as the pipe, knife, clothes, etc. The coffin was carried by three braves and a like number of squaws, who, with heads uncovered, were constantly repeating short Catholic prayers, as all aborigines of the Stockbridge tribe belong to that church. After passing around the grave several times, the coffin was finally lowered, the grave filled up, and the spectators departed, the squaws to the left and the men in the opposite direction.
It is impossible for the most graphic writer to attempt to picture the utter desolation of the scene before us. It was our good fortune to have in company with us as our guide Mr. W. P. Newberry, one of the greatest sufferers by the fire, who, being thoroughly acquainted with every foot of the ground over which we traveled, could point out to us every object of interest, of which there are any number.
SCHWARTZ, THE HERMIT
About the first farm out from Peshtigo is owned by a one-eyed German, who is known the country round as Schwartz, the Hermit, Some twenty years since, when this region was an unbroken wilderness, occupied almost exclusively by Indians, this man Schwartz came here, built a cabin, and ever since has live:! entirely alone, apparently caring very little for the outside world, or for what other people thought of him. At that time, with the exception of the blind eye, Schwartz was a splendid-looking man, and blessed with a very superior education. The story of the cause of his abandoning the world and adopting the life of a recluse is the same as has been told thousands of times before. He fell in love with a handsome girl— the story would be spoiled if she was not beautiful — was engaged to be married, when she, like too many others of her sex, proved false, and married another fellow, a major in the Prussian army. This was too much for our hero, who forthwith fled to America, and found consolation for his blighted affections in the solitude of these pine forests. He dug, or, rather, burrowed, in the ground, where he lived with his chickens, geese, eats, hogs, and dogs, presenting as happy a family as can be found in any managerie in the country. Schwartz has been very thrifty and industrious since he came here, and was considered very wealthy, many even asserting that he had gold stored away in every corner of his filthy abode. When the fire came, Schwartz and his family ran down to Trout Brook, into which they plunged, and remained until the fire had spent its fury. The hermit has already commenced building another hut, where he will doubtless spend the balance of his days, little heeding what takes place -elsewhere.
DOWN IN THE WELL.
About half a mile beyond Schwartz, on the right, and about two hundred yards from the road, are the remains of a dwelling which was occupied by a family named Hill. The family were all in the house at evening prayers, when they were suddenly startled by a loud noise, much resembling continuous thunder. On going to the door they found themselves entirely surrounded by fire, and, as the only means of escape, the whole of them, eight in number, went down into the well. Here they remained in safety until the wooden house covering the well caught (ire, fell in, and burned the entire party to death. Another case exactly similar to the last was that of the Davis family in Peshtigo, who were all smothered to death in their well, into which they had descended in the vain hope of saving their lives. I have heard of quite a number of such cases, but as the facts were not definitely given, I make no mention of them.
THE LAMP FAMILY
A short distance on, we come to a low stone wall, the foundation of a house, the former residence of a family named Lawrence, all of whom perished. Immediately in front of this place was the iron-work of a wagon, which once belonged to Chas. Lamp. Lamp lived about a mile beyond, and when he found the fire approaching his house so rapidly, he hitched up his team, and, with his wife and five children, drove with all speed toward Peshtigo. In a very few minutes after starting he heard screams in the wagon, and looking back, found that the clothes of his wife and children were all ablaze; it was certain death to stop, and he therefore urged his horses to still greater speed; but before moving many rods one of the horses fell, and finding that he could not get him up, and seeing that all of his family were dead, Lamp started to save his life, which he did after being most horribly burned. He is now in the hospital at Green Bay, and is slowly recovering. "When at the latter place, I saw him, and had a full narrative of the bloody tragedy from himself. What little was found of the charred remains of the wife and five children were buried in a field not far off. Of the wagon not a speck was to be seen, excepting the half-melted iron-work.
We next come to the Lawrence farm, one of the best on the whole route, showing a very high state of cultivation, on which every thing had been swept away. Lawrence, with his wife and four children, ran to the center of an immense clearing, several hundred yards from any house or timber, with the idea that they would be entirely safe there. The fire came, and rushed along on every side of them, yet they remained unharmed; at this moment one of the great balloons dropped in their midst, and in an instant they were burned up, hardly any thing being left of them.
Passing on a mile or more, we reach the edge of a very small stream, on the bank of which stood the stately residence of Nathaniel May, one of the best farmers of Northern Wisconsin, a man held in the highest estimation by all. At the time of the fire a man named William Aldous, with his wife and three children, residents of Western New York, were visiting at May's. The first intimation that any of them had of the danger was the roaring of the flames in the woods, not more than five hundred feet away. .They all rushed out, but before they could reach the water, fifty feet off, the flames struck them, and they all instantly perished. Mr. Newberry, of our party, with his family, were in the water, not more than one hundred feet from May's, and all they heard was Mrs. May crying out to her daughter, Lola, come this way; come with mother." A couple of days afterward the burial party from Marinette visited the May farm, and. found the remains of them all close together, with the exception of the little girl, who was some distance off, showing that in the darkness she had accidentally been separated. I will have more to say about the brook near May's house, but will defer until I visit the Newberry farms, which are about one mile further on.
Henry Newberry, a
citizen of Connecticut,
came to Wisconsin some fifteen years ago, with his family, consisting
a wife and six children. The whole of them having the thrift and
for which the Yankees are so famous, they were very prosperous, and
acquired nearly a thousand acre's of land, a considerable portion of
they cleared, and had under cultivation. As the children grew up, they
married, and had allotted to them, for their own use, their portions of
the farm. In addition to this, they had joined forces and built a very
good mill, where ail of them were employed. The only son saved, William
P. Newberry, was one of our party, and from his own lips I had the
of the great disaster. This gentleman was formerly a teacher, for which
position, by education and habits, he is eminently fitted. Mr. Newberry
being a man of unusual nerve and sound judgment, I concluded to give
statement of the fire as most reliable.
The fire had been burning down in the swamps, some miles to the west, for two or three weeks. Bat little was thought of it, as it traveled only a few feet in a day, and all felt confident that whenever desirable it could be " fought out" in a few hours.
On Sunday night,
about 9 o'clock (the
same day and hour the Chicago fire commenced), they heard a great
and, on going out, Mr. Newberry found the smoke so suffocating as to be
almost unbearable. He started over to his brother's house, a few rods
to see what must be done, bat before he had gone far, was forced to
to his house. The noise was now of the most appalling character, like
long peal of thunder, or rapid discharge of heavy parks of artillery.
rear door was open, and it was only by the greatest exertion that it
closed, which was no sooner done than the flames blew through the
underneath, clear across the room. Mr. Newberry now knew that the only
safety was in flight, so, taking their only child in his arms, and
by his wife and her sister, they all tied, but where, they knew not. At
last, coming to the creek known as Little Trout, they found a pool of
some six inches deep, about twelve feet wide and as many long; and
totally exhausted, here they sat down, with their backs toward the
In an almost incredible short space of time the fire was on all sides
them, the flames from May's barn, and a heavy log bridge which spanned
the creek, in which they were sitting, almost reaching them. Here they
were expecting every moment to perish either by being burned to death,
or suffocated. Once in a while they would feel a, pleasant breeze from
the bay, when they would inflate their lungs to their fullest capacity,
and then breathe as little as possible while the hot air was passing.
constantly threw water over themselves to keep their clothing from
which proved effectual. Strange as it may seem, the babe, which was
in its father's arms in the water, slept the entire time, over six
that they were there. When the fire had passed, the party crawled up on
the side of the creek, and, almost chilled to death, awaited the
of daylight. A little later they heard a man calling for help, who, on
coming to them, proved to be Charles Lamp, their neighbor, mention of
family burning to death in the wagon has already been made. Lamp was
and powerless, but with help reached the creek bank. As soon aa it was
light enough, Mr. Newberry .started out to see what had become of his
brothers, and sisters. A short distance off the bank of the creek were
the bodies of two men, and a few feet further on the carcasses of
hogs and cows. Finding that he was too blind to go on, he cut off some
meat from one of the cows, and took it back to his family, when they
and ate it.
Some time during the day a wagon came out and took the family down to Peshtigo, where they received attentions from the Marinette people. The same party that helped this gentleman went to look after the other branches of the family. One brother they found near a, barn wall, a hundred yards away, curled up around a stake, dead. Two hundred yards off, to the left, in the creek, under a bridge, they found Walter Newberry, his wife, and three children, and some distance on, alongside the road, they found several other members of the family. The father was also lost, but his remains thus far have not been found, and it is not improbable that they were entirely consumed. Thus, out of a family of seventeen persons, twelve perished. The mother was on a visit to her daughter at Menominee, or she also would have been one of the number lost. Near the ruins of Walter Newberry's house could be seen the iron-work of a wagon, remnants of a trunk, with daguerreotype frames, buttons, beads, parts of breast-pins, etc., showing conclusively that when the danger was discerned the family had loaded their trunks into their wagon and started off, but had only proceeded a few feet when they were forced to abandon the wagon, and flee down the road to the spot where their bodies were found.
As we went around with Mr. Newberry, and he pointed out to us the various places on the farm—spots which now have a holy remembrance to him — we could not but feel how sad must be his thoughts. All the bodies of . his family are buried on the farm, six in one place, and ten in another, four of the latter belonging to another family. In this place I can not forbear mentioning a singular fact which our party noticed while standing and looking at the little pool of water where the Newberry family were saved. All over it were small dead trout floating, which had been boiled to death by the action of the heat on the water. We secured some of these boiled fish for the purpose of showing them to our citizens.
THE CHURCH FAMILY.
Opposite where the Newberry house stood could be seen the debris marking the spot where had stood the residence of John Church, the village blacksmith, a man respected by all. His household consisted of himself, wife, and son, the latter a young man just of age. When the hurricane of fire came, the old man and wife appeared to despair, but the son started on the race for life to save himself. He had only ran about ten rods, when, finding escape impossible, he deliberately took out his knife and slit his throat from ear to ear, dying, as was supposed, almost instantly. The only living tree or plant to be seen in all this region are two or three strawberry plants, on Mr. Newberry's farm, which, on account of the direction of the wind, or from some other cause, were not burned. Mr. Newberry, in describing the fire, said that it seemed to him that the elements were on lire with fervent heat. The flames were rolling along hundreds of feet high above the tops of the highest trees, and seemed to travel with lightning speed. I am not surprised .at any opinion, however exaggerated, but for my own part concluded that there was .not any outside influence at work. The fire, which had been burning for weeks in the marshes, suddenly fanned into power by the force of the tornado, reached the heavy pine timber, which, as is well known, contains a large percentage of resinous matter, and as it was carried along, gained such a momentum that it doubtless did appear that the very heavens were being consumed, causing many, even intelligent persons, to conclude that the day of judgment, the hour of complete, total destruction was at hand.
To the west of the Newberry settlement were many very line farms, and of all the persons who lived in that direction, for about live miles, hardly one was saved. It seemed to matter little whether they lived near the timber or in the center of large clearings, their doom was the same.
In the westerly
and southerly direction,
or the point from which the fire started, every thing is burned up for
some twelve miles in length, and as far
A PATH THROUGH THE FIRE.
In returning, about a mile to the north we came to Adnah Newton's farm, where sixteen persons were burned to death. As soon as Newton saw the fire he started out to see what was best to be done. Banning down to the road he found himself headed off by the flames. Turning back, he saw his family and workmen in the yard coming toward him, but when they noticed him turn back they also changed their course; in an instant more they were all on fire, and must have perished in a moment. Newton happened to notice on his right what proved to be a path through the flames, about fifty yards wide, for which he rushed, and continued for three-fourths of a mile, when he came to a house still occupied by several persons. They ail invited him to come into the house, but he declined, saying he would rather trust to being saved in a small pool of water close by. In another instant the house was on fire, and before the inmates could get to him they were all burned to death, while Newton escaped pretty well singed. I had a long conversation with Newton, and he declared that he bad no hankering after another such race. The second day after the fire thirty-three remains were found on these three farms.
Not far from where Newton saved himself was a field, into which two bears and several deer had fled for safety; but they exhibited very little of the instinct of self-preservation, as they all smothered to death together, the bears not even taking time to take a lunch of deer meat before their departure.
The Doyle family consisted of the husband and father, Patrick, the wife, and seven children. The fire came, and not one single trace of any of them could be found, excepting a Catholic medal, some nails out of a pair of shoes, and some hooks and eyes. Of their bodies not one single thing was left, not even the ashes of their bones. Nest to the Doyles lived the Pratt family, all of whom perished, excepting a small boy, who saved himself by jumping into the well. When the burial party arrived, they found the largo -Newfoundland dog watching by the body of his mistress, and it was only by .force that they could drive him away long enough to bury the corpse. The Hill family, consisting of ten persons, lived near by. They had working for them a half-grown Indian boy, who was ordered down to hitch up the team. The barn getting on fire, the master ordered him to return, Not coming as fast as Hill desired, the order was repeated in a more peremptory manner, when the Indian looked up, and said; "It's every body for himself now," and oft' he started with the speed of a deer. Rushing through the fire," he readied a clearing half a mile away, and was saved, while the entire Hill family perished.
THE ONLY HOUSE LEFT.
In the entire Upper Bush country there is only one house left, the home of "old man " Place. Many years ago this man settled here, soon afterward marrying a squaw, by whom lie has had many children. He has always engaged in trading with the Indians, who have had his house as their headquarters. When the fire came about twenty Indians covered his house with their blankets, which they kept wet down, thus saving the house. One great big fellow stood at the pump for nine hours, showing an endurance possessed by very few white men. Strange as it may seem, that while there are about as many Indians as whites in this section, at least one thousand of the latter perished and not a single Indian. This may seem strange, but was vouched for by the very best persons here. Whether the Indians could smell the fire sooner than their more refined white brethren and escaped in time, I know not; but I do know that they were all saved. And the only ones I heard of being injured were the half-breed children I spoke of in my last letter. To-morrow I travel in the further Bush region.
W. L. SPEARS' PLACE, WISCONSIN, November 9, 1871.
Yesterday, when I wrote from Newberry's Farm, the weather was as pleasant as could be desired, and to-day a cold ri or northwester makes a heavy overcoat very acceptable. As many of your readers may not understand why this is called the Sugar Bush country, it may e out of place to say that there not bare many Swedes and Norwegians residing in this section, who give the name "Sugar Bush" on account of the large forests of maples to be found here, while in every other direction are only pines and cedars. At Peshtigo center three roads; the left hand one leads to the Lower Sugar Bush, the center one to the Middle, and the third to the Upper Sugar Bush, and it is from the latter that I now write.
This fawn was owned by a Mr. Louis E. Spear, an excellent citizen, who, with his wife and two children, perished while attempting to escape from the fearful blast. They only reached a point a few hundred yards from their house, when they fell to rise no more, while two Indians, who were at the house when the fire commenced, saved themselves by getting into a small creek, which is to be seen a short distance off on the opposite side. They had their woolen blankets,' which they threw over their heads and kept wetted down. That this would preserve them seems very strange, as the fire in the timber was not more than twenty feet off from where they sat, and the intensity of the heat was so great that a stove in a house not more than three rods away was melted.
The Penegree farm was the next one we visited, where the destruction is fully as great as in every other quarter—every thing is gone, one total wreck— not a house, barn, fence, or tree, nay, not even the soil itself being left. The Upper Sugar Bush was not so thickly populated as the Lower, but the farms were fully as well cultivated, and as much thrift shown as elsewhere, but now all the people are gone, the scene one picture of desolation, not a shrub, not even a blade of grass growing. We, now come to a farm that was occupied by Philip Weinhardt, wife, and five children, a real good, solid, substantial German Family. The first warning any of them had, was the low, rumbling noise heretofore described. The wife went to the door, found fire on every side of them, and believing the day of judgment was at band, without an effort to save themselves, they all perished. This idea of final dissolution was entertained, not by the ignorant only, as the most intelligent thought that the noise they heard was the echo of Gabriel's trumpet. Mr. Beebe, the Peshtigo Company's Agent, as soon as he saw the fire, declared that the last hour bad come, and, although repeatedly requested to save himself, refused to do so, and perished without an effort to get away. The last seen of him, he was in his front door, with hands clasped, exclaiming: "Great God, Thy will be done; to Thee I intrust my soul." In the center of a large sandy field, hundreds of yards from any timber or house, stood a stump, which was entirely destroyed, down even into the roots, leaving the ground like just so much honey-comb.. A few rods off was the carcass of a cow, with the bell which had been around her neck lying near by, in a half-melted condition. All of your readers have undoubtedly visited houses which have been totally destroyed, and noticed the stoves and other articles of iron in the cellars, all of which were in good condition, excepting they were, perhaps, warped or discolored, but I doubt whether they ever saw such things melted—a sight to be seen here, wherever the debris of .a House is to be found, the iron of the stoves, and even the wrought-iron pipe, being melted up. In one cellar, I think that of a house formerly occupied by the Carrough family, I found three smoothing-irons melted together, so as to all lift out and adhere together; this was one of the finest specimens to be found anywhere.
We next come to a farm, the property of a real honest-looking German, who had the good fortune to save all of his family, and his team, but every thing else was gone. Leaving his wife and family to live on the roasted potatoes to he found in the cellar, after two days' extraordinary exertions, he made his way down to Menominee, where he purchased a saw, hatchet, nails, and some lumber, and made his way back home, where he arrived in one day, the road having been partially cleared by the workmen of the Peshtigo Company. He at once made a cabin about the size of a common pig-pen, where that night the good/nw gave birth to another son. This did not deter Mans from traveling on in the even tenor of his way, for he has already a good comfortable house nearly built, and with the clothing and provisions furnished by the committee, he says he can keep his head afloat until next harvest. The innocent little Teuton which last made his entry into the world, has a fiery red head, which might be attributed to the action of the heat, were it not that both the father and mother have heads as red as little Myers' face.
A LONELY FUNERAL.
Passing around the road, we come to a country cemetery, where we see a half-grown boy busily engaged in digging some graves. Going up to him, we enter into conversation, and find that he is the only survivor of a family of ten, all the rest having perished in the fire, the boy having saved himself by getting down a deep well, and covering his head with a blanket which he kept wet. The Marinette burial party had buried this family in rude boxes, on the spot where the bodies were found, but this son, with a devotion rarely equaled, disinterred the bodies, and put them into good plain coffins, which he made himself, and then carried them, one at a time, on his shoulder to the cemetery, a distance of nearly one mile. When the young fellow men turned the names of his family his eyes would fill with tears, and he would say, " What am I to do in the world all alone? "
In this Bush lived a great many French families, all of whom were in comfortable circumstances, and hardly one of them escaped from the fury of the blast. Just beyond the cemetery was a stone wall, at least one full mile from the nearest timber in the direction from which the fire came, yet so intense was the heat that the stones cracked into minute pieces, and in many places the sandstones actually melted, leaving a glazed surface, something like pottery ware. Near here the road is quite sandy, and the surface melted down, leaving a crust on the face of a glassy nature. "Wherever the 'sand was blown against the trees, the wood presented a smooth appearance, just as i f it had been covered with melted glass. As we ride along we are greeted with the sight of a fine buck which crossed the road only a short distance ahead of us, and when about five rods from the road quietly stopped, and stood eyeing us as we passed by. I did not wish the lonesome fellow any harm, but I must confess that I said to myself that I would willingly pay for the champagne if Joseph Glenn, the partner of the "truly good man," could have been with us with his pups and gun. Perhaps the deer would then have been in as little danger as he was from us.
Leaving the " hard wood " country, we enter where only a short time ago were vast forests of huge pines, fully as large as any I have ever seen excepting in Oregon. The trees are now mostly uprooted, and leveled with the ground, presenting as complete an abattis as could be desired by the most skillful military commander. I could go on and give any number of sights to be seen in this desolated country, but as they are only repetitions of what has already been written, therefore content myself by saying that after passing through many miles of barren territory, where all was once prosperous, we return to Menominee, ready to visit the Peninsula and Michigan, where the fires were fully as severe as in this section.
WHAT SUPPLIES ARE NEEDED.
I know not of any better place to speak of the supply question than the present. When the first cry for assistance went forth the people all over the , land, in their excitement, sent here whatever came first. This fact is noticeable in any of the general supply rooms, such as the one in Green Bay. When we visited them, we found some twenty of the first ladies of the town, headed by Mrs. Colonel Chas. D. Robinson, their Chairman, busily engaged assorting the clothing; and such an assortment. Did the world ever see the like? There was Horace Greeley's famous hat, without crown or rim, several cartloads of odd, worn-out shoes, an unlimited quantity of antique, used-up summer clothing, just the thing for people where the thermometer often falls to fifteen and twenty degrees below zero. One of the beautiful ladies engaged in matching the odd shoes, said that " it reminded her of playing ' Old Maid' with one of the cards gone." I wondered at the time whether the card she referred to was the wedding card.
Of such useless stuff enough has already been sent to start all the " Cheap Johns" in business to be found throughout the country. And whenever second-hand clothing is sent, it is advisable to have it washed first, as it has to be handled by ladies, who, not being accustomed to the work, are not partial to the effluvia arising from aged perspiration. "What is really needed is good, warm, serviceable underwear for the ladies and children, and gloves and underwear for the men, who have to work out in the forests chopping timber and hauling logs. So far as money is concerned, it is better to keep it home, and save it until spring time, when farming implements, provisions, seed, grain, etc., will be wanted; none of which any of the farmers now have. In fact, the real suffering is yet to come, after the first rush of sympathy has gone by and the real substantial are needed.
TOO MUCH COMMITTEE.
I have had the pleasure of meeting many of the leading citizens of all the places in the North-west where committees have been formed for the purpose of relieving the sufferers by the fire, and I must say that, after a full investigation, I have come to the conclusion that there is too much committee entirely, and that the work would have been pushed through more rapidly had fewer persons been held responsible for the task.
As it was, boxes
and bundles from every
section of the land came pouring in, directed to almost every town in
State, just as if "Wisconsin was the size of "Little Rhody," instead of
a vast State. To distribute these gifts, committees of the eminently
gentlemen were organized, who went to work in their old-fashioned,
way, while the poor sufferers were shivering with cold and empty in
The snap, the fire, the energy having long since left these gentlemen,
it was soon found that things were not working smoothly and forcibly as
desirable, and in many instances new men of undoubted
were selected, and went to work right at the marrow of the question,
red tape; and when a poor wretch came pleading for clothing to keep him
warm, at once giving it to him. This new deal has been productive of
good, and saved a vast quantity of suffering. For my part, I can not
any sense in directing any supplies for the Wisconsin sufferers to any
point south of Green Bay, which is on the southern border of the burnt
region, and whose citizens, with one will, are doing all they can to
the misfortunes of the unfortunates. They are a whole-soul people, who,
without compensation, are doing a grand work. All they need are the
and they will see that only the deserving get any tiling. As an
of the good work they are doing, it will only be necessary to see that
the noble-hearted ladies have already made preparations for the taking
care of the one hundred and seventy-five children made orphans by the
This will save these children from being cuffed about in the cold and
world, and be the means of making them good, useful, and educated
I hope that the charitable everywhere will assist these ladies in their
commendable enterprise— an undertaking of the noblest
I go over to the peninsula, and, if not too much occupied with other
may write again.
"You can imagine a beautiful and thriving village, with its immense manufactories and busy life, now a waste of sand, deserted. The carcasses of fifty horses lay in regular rows as they had stood in their stalls, with scarcely a vestige of the building remaining. The people only had ten minutes' warning of the hurricane of fire, and no time to comprehend the situation. They rushed into the streets and started for the river, but were overtaken by the storm of fire, and fell in the middle' of the streets. One man, carrying his wife, approached the river, but the blast drove him over some obstruction, and, falling, he was separated from her. He picked up a woman, supposing her to be his wife, carried her into the river and saved her. It proved to be another man's wife and his own was lost. One man was sick with the typhoid fever; a young man stopping with him took the sick man out back of the house and buried him in the sand. He was saved, and is rapidly gaining his health.
The half has not been told ; the whole will never be known. The loss of life increases every hour. On Friday last twenty-six dead bodies were found in the woods, and, on Saturday, thirty-six. The woods and fields are literally full of dead bodies, and many were burned entirely up. We found some teeth, a jack-knife and a slate pencil. It must have been all that remained of a promising boy. Truly in this case the darkness preceded the light. On Sunday night, October 9th, just after the churches were closed, for half an hour there reigned the stillness of death. The smoke settled down so thickly that the darkness, like Egyptian, could be felt. Then came light gusts of wind, and in the south was seen, through the smoke and (darkness, faint glimmers of light. The earth trembled, and the roar of the approaching tornado, and the shock of the falling trees broke the awful stillness. No one could realize the approaching danger, when, in almost a moment, the holocaust was upon them. The fire, in its maddening rage, could not keep pace with the wind, and trees, and houses, and men were blown down that they might be more rapidly consumed. Men, women, and children rose again to rush like specters through the flames, and fell separated from each other. In this terrible moment men thought the final day had come when the earth should be burnt, and they bowed themselves to offer their last prayer. More might have been saved if this conviction had not seized them.
The drouth (drought) and tornado which brought disaster to Chicago brought this also. These forest fires prevailed the most destructively in Door, Kewannee, and Oconto counties, Wisconsin, nearly all of which were so completely devastated as to leave no vestige of property remaining to Its owners except the bare land. In open fields the destruction was more complete than in the Pine forests, where the trunks of green trees are still standing, though nearly worthless. In each of a dozen or more townships from twenty to eighty dead bodies were found. Only those who had time and presence of mind enough to escape to a freshly plowed area escaped a fiery death. The fatalities were increased greatly by the suddenness with which the tornado of fire swept upon them, and the impression which it made on a majority of the people that the day of judgment had arrived, from which there was no escape. The loss of life in Wisconsin is estimated at thirteen thousand. On the east shore of Lake Michigan the City of Manista and Town of Holland were almost entirely destroyed. The same fires prevailed throughout all the pine country bordering on Lake Michigan, Green Bay, and the southern shore of Lake Huron. Governor Baldwin, of Michigan, estimates that at least 15,000 people in his state lost homes, clothing, crops, farm stock, and all their provisions by the fire. The devastation in Wisconsin was still greater. Very extensive and disastrous prairie fires occurred in Western and Central Minnesota, just before these calamities set in, thus making the first fortnight of October, A. D. 1871, a period wholly without a parallel in the history of the world for the extent of the fiery devastations which it witnessed.
It should be added
that a goodly portion
of the world's charity, which would otherwise have been bestowed upon
went to relieve the equal or greater distress in these country places,
and it poured in so bountifully on all that the Governor of Wisconsin
a proclamation, early in November, addressed to the charitable
the purport of which was, "Enough!"
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