Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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Following are some forebodings at Oconto of the approaching tragedy of the Peshtigo fire and generally on the west shores of Green Bay, taken from Frank Tilton's account of 'The Great Fires of Wisconsin", published in 1871.

Effects of the Fire on Oconto

    At Oconto, at last accounts, the whole available population are out resisting the inroads of the fire. Brunquest's barn, with a quantity of hay, was burned. "Before the great conflagration on the west shore of the bay, a large number of houses were destroyed, and scarce a settlement had altogether escaped. On the Oconto River many buildings were burned. Some were burned on the lower Pensaukee, and a considerable settlement in the town of Pensaukes, lying between that river and the Oconto, was almost completely swept away.
    On one occasion, George Hart of Oconto attempted to drive through from Oconto to Green Bay with a team of horses, but a few miles south of Pensaukee he found the roads impassable, owing to the fire and smoke and attempted to return. Meantime, a burning tree had fallen across the road. The horses dashed through the fire, breaking loose from the carriage and throwing Mr. Hart into the fire. He maintained his hold on the lines and was dragged some distance along the road, where he was found shortly afterwards in a fearfully burned condition, but has since recovered. Other incidents of like hair-breadth escapes might be enumerated.
    The stage from Stiles, Oconto County, on Monday got through to this city with great difficulty on account of the fallen timber and dense smoke. An extra from the 'Oconto Lumberman' gives particulars of the fire in that neighborhood. Sunday was a day of wild excitement. Two or three farm houses at Stiles are burned. Little River shared in the general loss. James Lucas lost his hay and grain. James A. Glynn lost his logging camp, besides sleds and camp equipment.
    South of the Oconto River, J. Dodge, W. 0. Dodge, Henry Delano and a Mr. Gardner had given up the battle against the fire and left their homes. Their houses are probably burned. Percy's farm, north of the river, is a sheet of flame. Other farms have shared the same fate, and Comstock and Simpson's mill is threatened.
    At Peshtigo, the houses of Charles Bartels, B.A. B. Berner and Mr. Albright and the barn of the latter are reported burned.
    In the same paper we find the following account of a battle with the flames at The Village Peshtigo on Sunday, the 24th day of September, just too weeks before the destruction of the village:

Peshtigo, September 27, 1871.

    Sabbath, the 24th inst., was an exciting, I might say a fearful, time in Peshtigo. For several days the fires had been raging In the timber near here between this and Oconto, and to the north and east of us. On Friday I came through from Oconto and we were compelled to run our horses some distance with fire above us and on either side of us and barely escaped being singed. Saturday the fire burned through to the river about a mile above town and Saturday night much danger was apprehended from the sparks and cinders that blew across the river Into the upper part of town near the factory. A force was stationed along the river and, although fire caught in the new dust and dry slabs several times, it was promptly extinguished. It was a grand sight, the fire, that night. It burned to the tops of the tallest trees, enveloped them in a mantle of flame, or winding itself about them like a huge serpent crept to their tops, out upon the branches and wound its huge folds about them and hissing and glaing, lapped out its myriad fiery tongues while its fierce breath swept off the green leaves and roared through the forest like a tempest. Ever and anon some tall old pine, who's huge trunk had become a column Of fire, fell with a thundering crash, filling the air with an ascending cloud of sparks and cinders, while above being a dense, black cloud of resinous smoke that, in its strong contrast to the light bsaftth, seemed to threaten death and destruction to all below.
    Thousands of birds, driven from their roost, flew about as if uncertain which way to go, and made night hideous by their startled cries. Frequently they would fly hither and thither, calling loudly for their mates, then hovering for a moment in the air would suddenly dart downward and disappear is the fiery furnace beneath. Thus the night wore away while we earnestly hoped, and many hearts fervently prayed, for rain. '
    With the going down of the sun, the wind abated and with it the fire. Timber was felled and wet with the water thrown over it - buildings were covered with wet blankets and all under the scorching heat, and in blinding, suffocating smoke that was enough to strangle one, and thus passed the night of Sunday.
    Monday the wind veered to the south and cleared away the smoke. Strange to say, not a building was burned - the town was saved. Monday the factory was shut down to give the men rest, and on Tuesday it was only partially run.



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