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( Also spelled - "Dress", "Drace", "Trace", "Drefs")

contributed by : Toni Ristau

 My great-grandfather was Joseph Thomas Drees (the name is also variously spelled as "Dress", "Drace", "Trace", "Drefs", in records I have found).

As far as who died and who survived in the Great Peshtigo Fire, this is what I know from the records I have found.

Died in the Peshtigo fire:
Elizabeth, first wife of Joseph T. Drees (maiden name unknown)
John Drees (abt 4 years old)
(other children, perhaps an infant?)

Survived the Peshtigo fire:
Joseph T. Drees
Edward Drees, son of Joseph and Elizabeth (abt 2 years old at the time of the fire)
Joseph Drees' mother, Katherine (whose name is also shown as "Catherine" and "Girardin" or "Girardon"), is probably the person mentioned in the book "Embers of October" as an elderly widow, a Mrs. Dress . . .

It is not clear whether Augusta J.O Paepke Bittner Drees (surnames also spelled "Papke" and "Buettner"), who was also married before (to Bittner), was already in Peshtigo at the time of the fire (or was present in Peshtigo at the time of the fire), or if she came there shortly thereafter.  It is not known if Augusta also lost children in the fire if she was present.  And, in some records, Augusta's surname is sometimes shown as "Sak", "Saks", or "Sachs", so she may have had other prior marriages as well.

Also, there may have been a familial connection with the Drees family that predated the fire and her marriage to Joseph Drees (in other words, they may have been cousins or cousins-in-law).  Augusta and Joseph were married less than 3 months after the fire, on Dec. 24, 1871.  My grandmother, Martha Marie Drees Ristau, was probably born in about May 1872 (which might mean that her biological father was not Joseph Drees -- in the 1880 census, her relationship to the head of household, Joseph Drees, is shown as "step-daughter").

Joseph T. Drees also survived the Civil War -- he was apparently a member of the Oconto Raiders (Wisconsin Regulars) and served under Gen. Sherman in the war.

For the Drees family, nationality is also an interesting issue.  Apparently, Joseph's father and mother immigrated to Peshtigo in the 1850s.  They came from a place that has changed flags a number of times in the last 200 years, and their nationality is variously shown as French, Belgian, and/or German/Prussian.  Joseph's father's name was Thomas Drees (again, several variations of the spelling are found).  Joseph had several siblings (the last one or two which may have been born after they immigrated), all raised in Peshtigo, as follows:
Children of Thomas and Katherine Drees:
Joseph T. Drees
John Drees b. abt 1831,
Henry Drees b. abt 1835,
Edward Drees b. abt 1840,
Eugene Drees b. abt. 1846,
Emily Drees b. abt 1852.

Henry, Joseph and Eugene Drees all survived the Peshtigo Fire; am not sure what happened to the other siblings (they may also have survived, or they may have perished before the fire or as a result of the fire).

Since there are still a number of Drees family members in and around Peshtigo to this day, some of them may be able to shed some light on the foregoing as well.  My grandmother, Martha Marie Drees Ristau, died in South Dakota many years before I was born (she died in the 1920s, when my father was only about 14 years old), as did my Drees great-grandparents (who died in Peshtigo when my father was an infant), so we didn't have and don't have any direct contact or connection with those Drees cousins who are still in the Peshtigo area.

I'd love to hear from others who know more about my family history and the Peshtigo connection.