Skip to main content

Wisconsin Parent

Peshtigo's "Forgotten Fire"

Jun 16, 2016 02:04PM ● Published by Jessica Witkins

Photo courtesy of Traveling with Sweeny. For more photos of the Peshtigo Fire Museum, visit their post, "The Forgotten Fire," July 11, 2012.

School history lessons often detail the legendary tragic story of a cow who kicked over a lantern, starting the famous two-day blaze that burned much of the Windy City. But did you know the deadliest and largest American fire actually took place in northern Wisconsin?

Few learn about the fire that occurred on October 8, 1871, the exact same night as the Great Chicago Fire, in the burgeoning lumber business of Peshtigo. Located in the state’s northeast county of Marinette, near Upper Michigan’s border, this natural disaster known as the “forgotten fire” remains largely unheard of.

In its heyday, Peshtigo was home to the rising industrial dream. It was said men arriving by train would step off already employed due to the booming lumber mills and farmland. But prosperity led to carelessness, and the city was overrun with large amounts of brush and sawdust. Piles were left everywhere, its streets lined with debris.

The exact origin of the Peshtigo Fire is not known. In 1871, like Chicago, Peshtigo suffered a major drought. Its waterways were receding, and that fall, hurricane-like winds made their way across the country. Most likely, the forest fire began from the mix of extreme heat with the dry climate.

When matched with 100 mph winds, the Peshtigo Fire created what survivors called “a tornado of fire.” The sky rained down balls of fire, and the tornado of flames swept wildly and madly across the northeast. Spreading down to Green Bay and up into Canada, it destroyed 2,400 square miles and everything in its path. Imagine - that’s the equivalent of twice the size of Rhode Island, and 2,400 linear miles is almost the distance between New York and Los Angeles!

It quickly knocked out the city’s one telegraph line and major roadways, making communication for help impossible. It would take two days for word of the devastation to travel to the state capital of Madison. City officials weren’t even present, as they had gone to Chicago to help.

The Peshtigo fire claimed 1,200 to 2,400 lives, nearly 10 times the fatalities of the Chicago fire’s 250. Today, the Peshtigo Fire remains the largest and most deadly firestorm in American history. 

Though tragic and destructive, the Peshtigo Fire is not forgotten. The Historical Society of Peshtigo has preserved history inside the Peshtigo Fire Museum located in a renovated, period church. With free admission, families can explore Wisconsin history and view surviving artifacts from the fire, including a melted watch, a scorched Bible, and a tabernacle rescued from a church by Father Peter Pernin.

Just reopened Memorial Day weekend, the Peshtigo Fire Museum is a true memorial to both Wisconsin and our country’s developmental past.
Adventure, Kids, Travel Peshtigo Peshtigo, Wisconsin Peshtigo Historical Society Peshtigo Fire Museum The Forgotten Fire Peshtigo Fire
  • Tour de Marsh

    01/21/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/22/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • WIRED Double Days

    01/22/2018
    07:00AM — 09:00PM

    WIRED Study Club is for 7th-12th grade students. READ, STUDY or DO HOMEWORK @ The Open Door Coffe...


  • Krafty Kids

    01/22/2018
    05:30PM — 07:30PM

    Drop off your 4 year old or older child/children for a craft time while you play Volleyball for t...


  • The Joy Hour

    01/22/2018
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Want to make a change in your life but not sure how to make it last. Join us at The Joy Hour, wit...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/23/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Mom's Unite Evening Meet Up

    01/23/2018
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • David Geschke Speaker Series

    01/23/2018
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Four part speaker series based on chapters from my upcoming book "Feed Your Angel". Those who att...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/24/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Mom's Unite Morning Meet Up

    01/24/2018
    08:30AM — 09:30AM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Annual Dinner

    01/24/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce cordially invites you to its Annual Dinner and recognition of ...


  • Krafty Kids

    01/24/2018
    05:30PM — 07:30PM

    Drop off your 4 year old or older child/children for a craft time while you play Volleyball for t...


  • Purpose Workshop

    01/24/2018
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    Research shows that people who know their purpose and can clearly articulate it can add up to sev...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/25/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Morning Play Date

    01/25/2018
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Spend the morning meeting new friends at DreamBank! While the kids enjoy interactive story time a...


  • Mom's Unite Active Play Meet Up

    01/25/2018
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Books & Beer with author Kristin Oakley

    01/25/2018
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join us as we talk with author Kristin Oakley about her novel "Carpe Diem, Illinois" and her writ...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/19/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Schedule: Each day, the tour actor/educators will rehearse with the students for three hours plus...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/20/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Purpose Workshop

    01/20/2018
    09:00AM — 11:00AM

    Research shows that people who know their purpose and can clearly articulate it can add up to sev...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Music Lab with Julie Mazer

    01/20/2018
    09:30AM — 12:00PM

    Uncover your little one’s innate musicality with music-making activities using their voice, body ...


  • Dress up like Paul Bunyan and build yourself a log cabin! Eat a mighty meal fit for lumberjacks a...


  • Schedule: Each day, the tour actor/educators will rehearse with the students for three hours plus...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/21/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/22/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • WIRED Double Days

    01/22/2018
    07:00AM — 09:00PM

    WIRED Study Club is for 7th-12th grade students. READ, STUDY or DO HOMEWORK @ The Open Door Coffe...


  • Krafty Kids

    01/22/2018
    05:30PM — 07:30PM

    Drop off your 4 year old or older child/children for a craft time while you play Volleyball for t...


  • The Joy Hour

    01/22/2018
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Want to make a change in your life but not sure how to make it last. Join us at The Joy Hour, wit...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/23/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Mom's Unite Evening Meet Up

    01/23/2018
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • David Geschke Speaker Series

    01/23/2018
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Four part speaker series based on chapters from my upcoming book "Feed Your Angel". Those who att...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/24/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Mom's Unite Morning Meet Up

    01/24/2018
    08:30AM — 09:30AM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Annual Dinner

    01/24/2018
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    The Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce cordially invites you to its Annual Dinner and recognition of ...


  • Krafty Kids

    01/24/2018
    05:30PM — 07:30PM

    Drop off your 4 year old or older child/children for a craft time while you play Volleyball for t...


  • Purpose Workshop

    01/24/2018
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    Research shows that people who know their purpose and can clearly articulate it can add up to sev...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/25/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • FAMILY EVENT: Morning Play Date

    01/25/2018
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Spend the morning meeting new friends at DreamBank! While the kids enjoy interactive story time a...


  • Mom's Unite Active Play Meet Up

    01/25/2018
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    Join us for a Mom's Group! Bring your kids or bring yourself! The choice is yours! Our Mom's g...


  • Books & Beer with author Kristin Oakley

    01/25/2018
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join us as we talk with author Kristin Oakley about her novel "Carpe Diem, Illinois" and her writ...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/26/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • BDACT: With One Voice

    01/26/2018
    07:00PM

    Many Voices share Their Words about the Impact of Opioids on Dodge County Citizens. A partner pro...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/27/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Start the New Year by promoting healthy habits for the whole family! Join staff from Happy Bambin...


  • Mine for gemstones and explore a lead mine inside the Museum! Join us for a tasting of yummy past...


  • BDACT: With One Voice

    01/27/2018
    07:00PM

    Many Voices share Their Words about the Impact of Opioids on Dodge County Citizens. A partner pro...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/28/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/29/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • WIRED Double Days

    01/29/2018
    07:00AM — 09:00PM

    WIRED Study Club is for 7th-12th grade students. READ, STUDY or DO HOMEWORK @ The Open Door Coffe...


  • Krafty Kids

    01/29/2018
    05:30PM — 07:30PM

    Drop off your 4 year old or older child/children for a craft time while you play Volleyball for t...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/30/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • David Geschke Speaker Series

    01/30/2018
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Four part speaker series based on chapters from my upcoming book "Feed Your Angel". Those who att...


  • Tour de Marsh

    01/31/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Krafty Kids

    01/31/2018
    05:30PM — 07:30PM

    Drop off your 4 year old or older child/children for a craft time while you play Volleyball for t...


  • Tour de Marsh

    02/01/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Tour de Marsh

    02/02/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Always a Bride - Never a Bridesmaid

    02/02/2018
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    Inspired by Isaiah 54... Jennifer Thoreson will be putting on a wedding...for each of YOU. Come d...


  • Tour de Marsh

    02/03/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Saturday Science at Discovery

    02/03/2018
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Learn how math & science shape athletic performance at this free event held on the first Saturday...


  • Story Saturday

    02/03/2018
    11:00AM — 12:00PM

    The first Saturday of each month is Story Saturday at the Wisconsin Historical Museum! The FREE p...


  • Guys On Ice

    02/03/2018
    02:00PM — 09:00PM

    Wisconsin’s popular “Guys on Ice” musical featuring singing and dancing ice fisherman visits Beav...


  • "I am F.A.T." with author Jaia Davis

    02/03/2018
    02:30PM — 03:30PM

    Name calling hurts and bullying is painful. Local 10-year-old author Jaia Davis was inspired to w...


  • WHEN: Saturday, February 3, 2018 5:00 pm Social Hour 6:00 pm Dinner 6:45 pm Meeting WHERE...


  • Young Adult Game Night

    02/03/2018
    06:00PM — 09:00PM

    Introducing Young Adult Game Night! Looking for something to do on Saturday nights? Join us EVERY...


  • Tour de Marsh

    02/04/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Purpose Workshop

    02/04/2018
    10:30AM — 12:30PM

    Research shows that people who know their purpose and can clearly articulate it can add up to sev...


  • Tour de Marsh

    02/05/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • WIRED Double Days

    02/05/2018
    07:00AM — 09:00PM

    WIRED Study Club is for 7th-12th grade students. READ, STUDY or DO HOMEWORK @ The Open Door Coffe...


  • Tour de Marsh

    02/06/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • David Geschke Speaker Series

    02/06/2018
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Four part speaker series based on chapters from my upcoming book "Feed Your Angel". Those who att...


  • Tour de Marsh

    02/07/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Senior Movie Matinee

    02/07/2018
    01:00PM — 03:00PM

    Introducing something new for our WISER friends (60 yrs +)! Every 1st Wednesday of every month, w...


  • Tour de Marsh

    02/08/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Tour de Marsh

    02/09/2018
    07:00AM — 10:00AM

    It is time to shake the cobwebs out of the Tour de Marsh kick-off ride and make it relevant for t...


  • Have a Heart for Charity

    02/09/2018
    04:00PM — 07:30PM

    Please join us as we offer local artisans selling their wares to help fight sex trafficking. Sho...


  • The vocal group SPOTLIGHTS is back for their sophomore performance. This time they focus on song...



Special Thanks to These Relaunch Partners


Woodman's Markets - Employee Owned
Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau