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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 contributions  are welcome for posting. RITA
Stitt Family Contacts:
Jennifer M. Lyons
Jill DeBauche
Diane Moorhead 
Larry Stitt
Doug Stitt
Scott Fisher

Stitt Family of Peshtigo and the Fire

Father Wilson Stitt had died the year before the fire, leaving his widow Caroline and 7 children on the homestead when it was struck by fire.

Researched in part by Pat Drees

Wilson Stitt was born June 28, 1821 in Ireland according to the 1870 US Census for Peshtigo. He came with his parents and 12 siblings, immigrating first to English Canada (Ottawa). There in 1853, thirty-four year old Wilson Stitt married seventeen year old, Canadian born, Caroline and the couple had all but the youngest of their children. 

 In 1866 Wilson and Caroline, along with children
Robert age 12, Phebe/Phoebe age 9, William age 8, Eliza age 7, James age 5 and Delia age 1 left Ottawa, Canada and boarded a boat for immigration to the US. After landing in the Port of Chicago they traveled north, settling in town of Peshtigo, which was then Oconto County, Wisconsin (now Marinette County). Little Caroline, the youngest, was born October 31, 1868 in town of Peshtigo.

The following is local oral history passed down in the area among survivors' families.

 In the late Sunday evening the winds became strong and very warm. There had been heat and smoke for weeks but this was more intense. An orange glow in the distance turned rapidly to red. At first the people of the village and immediate surrounding area had thoughts of burying their valuables and trying to wait out the night in or near their homes.  It wasn't long before many knew that the river was their only hope of survival.

Traveling preachers had been giving hell fire and damnation sermons about this being the end of time. An unknown number of people accepted this fate and stayed in their quarters awaiting the inevitable, seen through the windows of their homes or in their yards reading from the bibles or in prayer. However, a large number chose to try survival. Among these were the Stitt family, who joined countless others in their blind struggle across the
flaming bridge and down the very high, steep bank to the mud flats along one side of the greatly diminished trickling river.  The only people in this area of the fire to survive were the ones who made it to the flats and managed to stay mostly submerged and unexposed during the most intense part of the flaming tornadic fury.

Nearby neighbors who were also in the blaze and in the rush for, and chaos at, the mud flats along the Peshtigo River that ran through the village included surnames Mellen, Armstrong and Oaks.
All 7 of the Stitt children were in the night time fire of Sunday, October 8, 1871. Mother Caroline and 3 year old daughter little Caroline went missing during the blaze. The rest were with their father Wilson. Caroline was identified by her wedding band only; her remains were otherwise not recognizable.  Little Caroline was thought to be with her mother and the remains, mostly ashes, were unidentifiable, so she was presumed dead. There was nothing of little Caroline that could be found after the intense heat, since she was so small, and the rain and wind after the fire scattered much of the ash remains before recovery was able to be made.

Wilson Stitts' date of death was August 14, 1870 at age 56 years old. H
e is buried at Peshtigo Cemetery near his wife Caroline and daughter Delia who died in 1873. The surviving Stitt children remained in town of Peshtigo with their father Wilson until his death which was attributed, in part, to the damage of his lungs and extremities he had suffered in the fire.

Eldest son Robert M. Stitt moved and in
1880 married Paulina Winslow in Taylor County, Wisconsin.  By 1900 the couple was living with three children in Duluth, Minnesota where Robert was a lumberman. The couple were living in Duluth in 1910 where Robert was listed as a retire lumberman. He had fathered 6 births but only 2 children survived; daughter Jane born 1891 in Wisconsin and son Arthur born 1898 in Minnesota. Robert had passed away by 1920 and his widow Pauline was living with their son and 8 year old grand daughter Mary Stitt in Duluth, where they took in roomers. Pauline and granddaughter Mary Stitt were on the Duluth census of 1930 running the boarding house.

Phebe Stitt married Hiram Sutherland in 1874 and lived in Peshtigo. for a number of years. Hiram had immigrated from Canada in 1870 and worked as a lumberman into his late 70's.  By 1900 Phoebe had given birth to 10 children all in Wisconsin, with 9 living;  Emma born 1875, James born March 1877, Cora: born March 1880,  Della born October 1883, \  Stella born October 1883, Nellie born December 1884, John born March 1890,  Hiram born October 1893 and Beatrice born July 1896. The couple was living in Peshtigo in 1920 with their youngest daughter. Hiram Sutherland was born 11 May 1849 in Canada and died 30 July 1931 in Peshtigo, WI. He was the son of Isaac Sutherland and Althea Warner.  Phoebe Stitt Sutherland died 17 May 1934 in Peshtigo, WI. 

William Stitt was 14 years old at the time of the Peshtigo fire. He married Margaret Laura in 1879 and they had three children; Robert L. born June 1880 in Wisconsin, Bessie born July 1887 in Wisconsin and William John born October 1890 in Wisconsin.  The family lived in city of Marinette, Wisconsin, in 1900 where William was a lumber manufacturer.
Between 1905 and 1910 he and his wife Margaret Laura and their three children, moved west and are found in Orting, Pierce County, Washington. William had passed away by 1930 and his widowed wife Margaret had taken in a boarder at her home in King, Washington.

Eliza (Helen) Stitt married Samuel S. Hamilton in Peshtigo. Samuel was born in Illinois and both his parents were born in Kentucky.  Their children were all born in Wisconsin.  Their children included Carrie M. born 1876, Edna born 1877, Lucille born November 1879,  Nellie C. born April 1878,  Henry C. born July 1880, Frank F. born July 1883,  Daisy B. born October 1885,
Ray S. born October 1887 and Howard born September 1891.  Samuel was a widowed farmer by 1900 and living in town of Ellsworth, Pierce County, Wisconsin, with 6 of their children. The widowed Samuel S. Hamilton was in Stanley, South Dakota in 1910 with three of their children.

James did not die in the fire, as some researchers have reported.  He filled out and filed a Del. of Intention on December 21, 1918 in Seattle, Washington State. James was a laborer, and was described as white; medium complexion, height 5 feet 11 inches, weight 165 pounds, hair grey, eyes brown, scar on chin and index finger of right hand, born in Canada April 17, 1862. He was single and lived at 5223 Russel Ave., Seattle, Washington. James was single and living in Seattle, Washington in 1920.

Anella Matilda (Delia) survived the fire and lived until November 7, 1873. She was 9 years and 9 days old. She is buried in Peshtigo Cemetery along with her parents.

Youngest child Caroline was lost in the Peshtigo Fire, Sunday, October 8, 1871. Her remains were never identified for burial.

Wilson Stitt 
    born: June 28, 1821 in Ireland
died: March  14, 1870 in Peshtigo, Oconto County, Wisconsin - Aged 56 years, 9 months, 16 days
Caroline Stitt (maiden name unknown)
    born: June 1840 in English Canada
    married:  1853 in English Canada - to Wilson Stitt
    died: October  8, 1871 in Peshtigo, Oconto County, Wisconsin - Aged 34 years,  2 months

Children of Wilson and Caroline Stitt:
        Robert M. Stitt
            born: 1854 in English
married: 1880 Paulina Wilson in Taylor County, Wisconsin
            died: between 1910 and 1920 probably in Duluth, Minnesota
        Phebe Stitt
            born: 1857 in English Canada 
            married: Hiram Sutherland

            died:  May 17, 1934 in Peshtigo, WI
        William Stitt
1858 in English Canada
            married: 1979 and lived in Wisconsin until 1905 - 1910, then moved to Washington.
            died: between 1910 and 1930 probably in Washington
        Eliza (Helen) Stitt
            born: 1859 in English Canada
            married: Samuel Hamilton on June 29, 1874 in Peshtigo, WI
between 1891 and 1900 in Wisconsin
        James Stitt
            born: 1861 in English Canada moved to Seattle, Washington, single in 1920.
            died: after 1920 probably in Seattle, Washington
        Delia (Anella Matilda) Stitt  
            born: 1865 in English Canada
            died; Nov. 7 1873 in Peshtigo, Oconto County, age 9 years. & 9 days 
        Caroline Stitt
            born:  1868 in Peshtigo, Wisconsin
            died:  October 8, 1871 in Peshtigo, Wisconsin

Extended Wilson Stitt Family of Ireland and Canada

Map Source: Atlas of Canada

"Farms and Families - Reflections from the changing countryside:, Stittsville Women's Institute, Tuidsmuir History Committee (1969). McMaster University Library.
Lineage of the Wilson Stitt Family Of Peshtigo

John Stitt and Martha Jackson were paternal grandparents of Wilson Stitt.
James Stitt and Colborn Eliza Steele were the parents of Wilson Stitt who was one of 13 children. 
The record lists the 13 children:
 1. William (b. 1797 d. 1824)
 2. John (b. 1800, d. NY 1829)
 3. Martha (b. 1802, died 1838, married Jackson; 3 children: Luke, Matilda & James)
 4. James (b 1804, d. Goulborn 1867)
 5. Jackson Stitt (b. 1806 d. Colborne Nov 25, 1859 (buried at Dungannon Churchyard, Wawanosh Twp., Huron Co Founder of Stittsville, Carleston County, Canada.)
 6. Luke (b 1808, d infant)
 7. Daniel (b 1810, d. Baltimore 1833)
 8. Luke (b 1812, d infant)
 9. Joseph (b 1814)
10. Eliza and twin
11. David died infants
12. Wilson (b 1821, d. Peshtigo) - {born in Ireland; died in Wisconsin 1870}
13. William (b 1824).

"Before Bytown was thought of -- a road was opened through the long swamp (near Richmond) to Jackson Stitt's and the word was prolonged as
the Third Line of Huntley" - quoted in this book as being from page 141 of Rev J.L. Gourlay's book "History of the Ottawa Valley"
- On early maps it was "Stitt's Corners", on the C.P.R. station "Stittville" and to todays residents its "Stittsville".

This map of Stittsville in 1879. Source: Belden's Atlas of Carleton County
Map of Stittsville in 1879
The initials "J.S." on the edge of the Pack farmon the upper left corner, stands for Jackson Stitt, the founder of Stittsville.

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