The volume of mail I receive
seriously limits my ability to reply to individual questions in
a timely manner. Please look for answers to your questions here before
contacting me directly. Thanks!
One of my ancestors was believed to have been
in Peshtigo at the time of the fire. Can you help me find about
more about her/him?
I cannot fulfill research requests. I have
done my best to list available resources on this site to help
you solve your own family mysteries. I will continue to compile
as much information as possible in the hope that this site will
continually grow and become even more useful, but this is just a
hobby for me and I can't guarantee anything. Sorry!
When did the Peshtigo Fire happen?
Peshtigo Fire started on the evening of October 8, 1871 -- the same
time as the Great Chicago Fire.
What caused the fire?
Many months of extreme drought combined
with the land-clearing practices of the time ("slash and
burn") caused many small fires to be whipped into a huge
forest fire when a cyclonic storm blew up on the night of
October 8, 1871. Click here for
a weather map.
How many people were killed in the fire, and
how does this compare to the Chicago Fire?
Between 1,200 and 2,400 people died in the
Peshtigo Fire. The death toll in Chicago was about 250.
come different sources list different numbers of fire victims?
is very difficult to determine exactly how many people died,
since the fire covered such a large area, and the population was
fluctuating constantly due to frontier settlement. No one knows
how many native peoples, itinerant lumberjacks, immigrant
homesteaders, etc. may have moved into the area since the
previous census in June 1870.
How widespread was the fire?
The "Peshtigo Fire" covered about 2,400 square
miles (1.5 million acres).
The fire burned such a large area -- why is
it called the "Peshtigo Fire"?
other villages and farm settlements were affected by the fire,
the greatest loss of life and property occurred in the village
About 800 people died there, nearly half of the official
population from the 1870 census.
does the Chicago Fire get so much more attention than the
Chicago was a much
larger city with better communication and access to the rest of
the world. Peshtigo was a rough frontier town in the woods with
a single telegraph line (which was destroyed by the fire).
couldn't the people stop the fire before the whole town burned?
Wasn't there a fire department?
Peshtigo Company had a single, horse drawn steam pumper for
fighting fires in the sawmill, but there was virtually no other
technology available for fighting structure fires, much less a
forest fire of such great magnitude. The people were essentially
trapped in the town, surrounded by by wooden buildings and
sidewalks, sawdust-strewn streets and a burning forest.
How was the fire put out?
The fire continued to burn until it reached
the waters of Green Bay, the storm winds died down, and the rain