Written approximately 5 May 1946
(published in a local newspaper in Peshtigo, Wisconsin area.)
John P. Kramer's many friends will remember him as one of that dwindling band of pioneers who are referred to as "survivors of the fire". To anyone who ever lived in Peshtigo, that can mean just one thing, survivors of the red night in October 1871. Their stories, collectively, make history live, and the chapter lived by John Kramer and his brother, and their family were indeed exciting.
As a boy John Kramer lived on the family farm that is now the town of Grover. The day that lived always in his memory found his parents anxiously scanning the sky, watching for winds, and worried over stifling smoke. Small fires were breaking out all over. It was finally decided, that morning, to send John, then age 7, and his 9 year old brother "Mike" to what is known today as the Herman Peshtigo farm, for safety. The safety factor was a cleared 40 acre field; certainly a big clearing for those days. At the Kramer farm only one acre had been cleared. This fact alone will give present day residents some small idea of the terrific hazard prevailing on that fire-reddened day -- - the scores of small one acre clearings in this part of the world. These were farms just beginning to emerge from the forest. All around them stood miles upon miles of trees, or slashings where trees had recently stood --- a powder keg ready for the match that was fast being applied.
The two boys were sent away in the morning. Their parents stayed behind to fight the fire which they could see menacing their home and their months of effort in building a place for themselves. This of course wasn't the main blaze that is called the "Peshtigo Fire" but one of the numerous "burns" that ran together into the mighty torrent that later in the day burned over the entire area. Before the day was far gone, the parents realized that they could do nothing to save their farm or their livelihood. They fled down the trail-like road carrying with them a feather mattress. The fire rapidly gained on them. In desperation they stopped and wet the mattress with the water from a dug well, and finally jumped down the well, holding the mattress over their heads, while a sea of flame roared overhead for hours. Next morning they cautiously poked their heads out of the pit to find their mattress covered with several inches of powdery ash, and spotted with burned spots where blazing brands had rained down on it.
In the meanwhile, little John and Mike had passed the fearsome night crouched behind a stone pile on the Prestine farm. The pile stood in the middle of the cleared 40 acres and had recently been plowed. By hugging the earth, they kept from breathing in the flame filled atmosphere with which the night was charged, and which took so many other lives, without apparently marking the bodies of the victims.
One can imagine the joy with which these children and their parents were re-united, a happiness that carried them through the days to follow, when the only food was potatoes salvaged from fields that had not been dug at the time of the fire.
In describing that awful night, John Kramer often explained to his friends "The fire was a rolling mass, the sky bright red, everything seemed on fire, and large brands that seemed to be branches or entire tree trunks flew through the air". The terrific suction of the blaze has remained in the memory of nearly all its survivors.
John Kramer was one of the living links of a past that has gone down in history; one of the strong pioneer children from which this community in its youth drew the strength and wisdom to survive.
The disceased was born in New York State July 7, 1864 and in 1870 moved with parents to a farm in the town of Grover where he resided until he retired in 1929. At that time he moved to Peshtigo. His wife preceded him in death on September 17, 1910.
Survivors are his two daughters, Caroline at home, Mrs. John Meyer of Marinette; four sons, Frank, George, and Edward of the town of Grover, and John Jr; of Peshtigo; one brother, Antone Kramer of Lena, and four grandchildren.
The remains were taken to the Harper funeral home and services were conducted on Monday morning at the St. Mary's Church with the Rev. Peter Novitski officiating.
Pallbearers were three nephews. Richard, Bernard, Anthony, and Charles Kramer, Cyril Boulac Sr. and Anthony Olive.
Attending from out of town included Lawrence Spitzer, Wallace, Mich.; Mr. and Mrs. Paul A. Kramer and family, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Kraemer, Mr. and Mrs. John Cook and family, all of Lena; Mr. and Mrs. Richard Kramer of Pound, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Galinean. Joseph Spitzer, Mrs. Elsie Bell, and Mrs. George Lemire, all of Menominee, Mr. and Mrs. Leo Spitzer, Mr. and Mrs. Antone Beyer, of Wallace, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Gignac of Menominee, Mr. August Spitzer, Mrs. Frank Spitzer, and Mrs. S. Hansen, all of Luxemburg, Mrs. (a couple of names are unreadable).