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Term: Peshtigo Fire

Definition:

on the night of Oct. 8-9, 1871, this fire destroyed in two hours a swath of forest 10 miles wide and 40 miles long and obliterated the towns of Peshtigo and Brussels, killing about 1,500 people.

In all, the fire burned more than 280,000 acres in Oconto, Marinette, Shawano, Brown, Kewaunee, Door, Manitowoc and Outagamie counties. The human toll was 1,152 known dead and another 350 believed dead. Another 1,500 were seriously injured and at least 3,000 made homeless. The property loss was estimated conservatively at $5,000,000 and this did not include 2,000,000 valuable trees and saplings and scores of animals.

Worst hit was the town of Peshtigo and the surrounding territory. The area had been undergoing an unparalleled drought. The citizens of Peshtigo had become used to the smell of ashes and thought nothing amiss when they retired on the night of October 8, 1871. Suddenly "all hell rode into town on the back of a wind." Many rushed toward the river, some took refuge in basements. 75 persons who remained in a boarding house perished. A considerable portion of the survivors were huddled in a low, marshy piece of ground on the east side of the river. The number of dead in the blaze in the town of Peshtigo has been variously estimated at from 500 to 800. Only two buildings still stood after the fire, and the newspapers of the day wondered how some persons came through the disaster while others were burned to ashes within ten feet of them, or how the heavy iron fire engine could be melted without scorching the paint on wood two feet away. The fire also threatened the towns of Menominee, Mich., and Marinette, Wis., and licked at the outskirts of Green Bay. In Door County, 128 lives were lost.

View articles in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 11 no. 1 (1927):  96-106. The most vivid personal account is that of Rev. Peter Pernin, who survived the blaze; the best edition is that in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol 54 no. 4 (1971): 246-272. Other eyewitness accounts are available at our digital collection, Turning Points in Wisconsin History.

View pictures related to the Peshtigo Fire at Wisconsin Historical Images.

 

[Source: Wyman, Mark. The Wisconsin Frontier (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998); WHS library reference file prepared by Margaret Gleason; sources cited above.]

115 records found

Packing-the-rigging (logging)
Packs (logging)
paczki (food)
pad (farming)
paddock (farming)
Pail and Shovel Party
Paleoindian culture (archaeology)
pallasado
panary (farming)
Panic of 1837
pantograph (railroads)
paper industry in Wisconsin
Paramount records
parfleche (Fr.)
Parkman Club
parole (military)
parroquets
parterre (farming)
pastern (farming)
pasteurization (dairy)
patent
pause
pays d'en haut (Fr.)
Pearl Fishing
Pearl-diver (logging)
Peavey (logging)
peavey (logging)
Peckatonica River
pelleterie (Fr.)
Pelée
Penah
Pendarvis
per diem (railroads)
perche (Fr.)
period revival (architecture)
Perryville, Battle of
Peshtigo Fire
Petersburg, Siege of
Peto
Petrified Man Hoax
petroglyph
Pewit's Nest
phalanx
Phoenix (shipwreck, 1847)
piastre (Fr.)
Piastre (Fr.)
pictograph
Picture(d) Rocks, Michigan
Pie-fork (logging)
piece (Fr.)
pied (Fr.)
pigeon
Pike Creek
Pike-pole (logging)
pillage (Civil War)
pilothouse (maritime)
Pine Bend
pinery
pinte (Fr.)
pirogue (Fr.)
pistole (Fr.)
piston (railroads)
plank road
plants, native
plate (maritime)
Platoon (Civil War)
pledget (farming)
plomb (Fr.)
plover
Plumb Plan
plunder (Civil War)
plus (Fr.)
Pokelogan (logging)
Pole-ax (logging)
Political Equality League
pollard (farming)
pontoon (Civil War)
pony boiler (maritime)
Poor-box (logging)
population of Wisconsin, 1820-1990
porcelain
port (maritime)
Port Gibson, Battle of
Port Hudson, Siege of
Portage City Guards (Civil War)
pot (Fr.)
potatoes
Potosi Badgers (Civil War)
Potter Law (1874)
pottery and earthenware industry in Wisconsin
Poualak
pouce (Fr.)
Pouteouatamis
Poux
Prairie du Chien, Battle of (1814)
Prairie Grove, Battle of
Prairie School (architecture)
Prairieville
Pre-exemption Law (1841)
Presidential Visits to Madison
primary elections in Wisconsin
primary rocks (mining)
prisons in Wisconsin
private (Civil War)
Prize-logs (logging)
probang (farming)
Progressive Movement
Prohibition
Project Sanguine
Puan, Puans, Puants
Puankikias
puddingstone (mining)
Punk (logging)
put about (maritime)
pyrites (mining)

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