Peshtigo Fire

Fox Footprints: local history

The Appleton Public Library is very interested in preserving local history and collecting our shared stories. This blog is a place to share those stories, sometimes from Appleton, sometimes from elsewhere in Wisconsin. I hope to connect people with others who are interested in the footprints of the past. Feel free to chime in about your history.   -Karen


Fall is suddenly here.  The trees are turning and leaves are falling.  Once Halloween is here, the rest of the year goes by in a flash.  I'm going to try to slow things down a bit and pay more attention to October.  Certainly we're all familiar with the Great Chicago Fire and Mrs. O'Leary's cow.  That fire began on October 8, 1871 and burned for two days.  It destroyed 3.3 square miles of the City of Chicago.  There are volumes and volumes written about that fire.  But there was another disastrous fire that started on the same day here in Wisconsin.  It burned over 1800 square miles and took between 1500 and 2500 lives, but is largely forgotten in many quarters.  It was described as a firestorm; a wall of flame, a mile high, five miles wide, traveling 90 to 100 miles per hour.  The flames even jumped the waters of Green Bay to reach the peninsula.  There hasn't been much written about it.   William F. Steuber, Jr. used the tragedy as the basis for his prizewinning novel, The Landlooker.  What does survive is an eyewitness account from Father Peter Pernin.  He was the parish priest for Peshtigo and nearby Marinette.  His account is called "The Great Peshtigo Fire, an eyewitness account" and it can be found here at the library.  Check it out!

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