"Remembering the Great Fire of Peshtigo" Peshtigo by yooperprof

Peshtigo Travel Guide: 3 reviews and 6 photos

The Northwood Inferno of 1871

Peshtigo Fire Cemetery

On the night of October 8, 1871, Peshtigo, a booming town of 1700 people was wiped out of existence in the greatest forest fire disaster in American history.

Loss of life and even property in the great fire occurring the same night in Chicago did not match the death toll and destruction visited upon northeastern Wisconsin during the same dreadful hours.

The town of Peshtigo was centered around a woodenware factory, the largest in the country. Every building in the community was lost. The tornado of fire claimed at least 800 lives in this area. Many of the victims lie here. The memory of 350 unidentified men, women and children is preserved in a nearby mass grave.

Remembering that terrible night

Today Pestigo is a town of about 3000 people in far northeastern Wisconsin. It's about 40 miles north of Green Bay, on US 41 and in between Oconto and Marinette.

The Pestigo Fire Museum is open only during the summer months, but it is free, and contains an interesting assortment of memorabilia associated with the 1871 fire. It was an odd peculiarity that the Peshtigo disaster occurred on exactly the same night as the famous Chicago Fire. What happened here is certainly not as well known - but many more people died here, and the calamity - probably caused by a lightning strike - deserves to be remembered nationally. There were many terrible fires in the Northwoods; the Peshtigo fire is simply the worst. It reminds us that life on the northern frontier in the late nineteenth was in many ways just as challenging as life on the western frontier.

  • Last visit to Peshtigo: Jul 2004
  • Intro Updated Aug 18, 2004
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