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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 submission’s are from the family members and are welcome for posting.

Researched and contributed by: Pat Drees

Fred Smith was 16 years old when the Peshtigo Fire roared through their homestead.
John Schmidt, his wife Sophia Knuts Schmidt and their seven children, Frederick, Christian, Charles, Mary Catherine, John F., William F. and Anna Dora fled the fire in the Lower Sugar Bush. They lived near the Abe Place home where many of their neighbors took refuge and were treated after the fire for injuries, or cared for until they died. Mother Sophia died in 1871 in town of Peshtigo, the same year as the fire. 

Fred Smith (Schmidt) was born 1855 on a family farm in town of Peshtigo, Oconto County (now town of Grover, Marinette County), Wisconsin, to John (July 16, 1824 Raduhn - October 11, 1915 Marinette, WI) and Sophia
Knuts Schmidt (1832 - 1871 in Peshtigo), both immigrants born and married (1854) in Mechlenburg (now part of Germany). Fred was the oldest and followed three years later by:
Christian/Christiana (female on 1860 census)1858 - 1911; Charles in 1860 - 1926,
Mary Catherine (married Peter Theisen) in 1862 - 1907,
John F.(married Augusta Gutzmann) in 1864 - 1947,
William F. (married Amelia Kamradt) in 1867 - 1944,
Anna Dora (married Charles Gifford Eggleston) in 1869 - 1949.

There was one last child of John Smith, born after the Peshtigo Fire of 1871, recorded on the 1880 census; Edwin (Edward) born in 1878 to John Schmidt and his second wife (1874) Johanna Wilhelmine Christina Hanneman of Milwaukee. John's wife was not listed on the 1880 census in the household. 

In that year of 1880, Fred had married Bertha Rockoff and they were living and working on the John Smith (Schmidt) farm with daughter-in-law Bertie keeping house.

Fred Smith married Bertha Rockoff (1856 - 1938) of Manitowoc, Wisconsin in 1880 and the couple gave birth in Grover to 10 children, with 7 surviving to adulthood:
A. Smith, born March 1881 - 1955
Smith, born December 1883 - July 3, 1901 in town of Peshtigo
Smith (Hayling), born August 1884
C. Smith, born July 1887   - 1972
Smith, born July 1889 (Veteran of World War I, died 1934)
Smith (Weinke), born April 1891  
Smith (Schoenfeldt), born October 1895

Peshtigo Times

February 22, 1935


Fred, Smith, estimable pioneer | resident passed away at 1 o'clock Friday afternoon at his  home on Emery avenue, following a brief illness, having been taken suddenly ill on Wednesday morning due  to his first stroke of paralysis. Deceased, who would have attained I the age of eighty years next June,  was born in Grover (town of Peshtigo, Oconto County in 1855) and resided  there until he retired, eighteen  years ago, being a survivor of the Peshtigo fire.   He bought a home in Peshtigo which was destroyed by fire a few years ago and since then he and his wife had been living at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Emma Hayling.

Mr. Smith is survived by his widow (Bertha Rockoff), daughters, Mrs. Hayling, Mrs. William Weinke, of Peshtigo, Mrs. Bertha Schoenfeldt and Mrs, Arthur Thurrow of Grover, two sons, Charles of Grover and August of Peshtigo, twenty-seven grand children and eighteen great grand children. The death of a son, George, a World War Veteran, occurred nearly a year ago. Two sisters, Mrs. John Gustafson and Mrs. Anna Eggleston of Marinette and four brothers, Henry and Edward Smith of Milwaukee and John and William Smith of Marinette also survive.

The remains were removed to; the Harper Funeral   Home   and ; taken to the family home on Sunday from where the funeral services were held at 1:30 o'clock on Monday afternoon and at 2 o'clock from   the   Zion   Ev.   Lutheran Church, with the Rev. Kurt Geyer officiating. Mrs. Geyer and daughter, Mrs. Arthur Pare, with Mrs. Geyer as accompanist at the pipe organ, sang three hymns, "In the 1 Hour of Trial", "One Sweetly Solemn Thought" and "Fact to Face".

The floral array was in charge of the following grand daughters, Misses Eleanor Smith, Verona and Pearl Thurrow, Mrs. Russel Smith, Mrs. Carl Finger, Mrs. Edward Weinke and Mrs. Herman Dahl.

The casket was carried to and from the funeral car by the grandsons, Leland, Vernon and Russel Smith, Fred Schroeder, Edwin Weinke, Edwin Smith, Herman Dahl, Harold Thurrow and Carl Finger. (Riverside Cemetery, Peshtigo, Wisconsin)

A long cortege followed the funeral car to'the Riverside cemetery where the remains were placed in the Mausoleum until spring when interment will be held in the family   plot.     The obsequies which Were largely attended by sorrowing relatives and friends, included a large number from out-of-town, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Dahl, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Smith, Miss Eleanor Smith, Mrs. Anna Gustafson, Mrs. John Eggleston, son Leslie,, Mr. and Mrs. John Smith, Mr. and Mrs. William Smith, son Donald, Mr. and 'Mrs. Vernon Smith, Mr. aifid Mrs. Irvin Smith, Mrs. Alfred Chevalier and others from Marinette; Mr. and Mrs. Russel Smith of Menominee,   Mich.,   Mr. and Mrs. Walter Carrevian of Oconto and many rural   residents   from Grover and the entire surrounding vicinity.   Many others had planned to attend but were unable to come owing to the heavy snowfall and drifted roads. 

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