Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Fire a Nation Forgot

The summer of 1871 was dry, around Peshtigo, Wisconsin. It was then a small lumber town on Lake Michigan's Green Bay; a booming town, but choaking dry. It had rained once in five months.

         Residents were unconcerned. Logging continued. Wood products were milled and made into barrels and broom sticks. The raw product was plentiful. Thousands of acres of pine and spruce grew to the towns edge.

         In early September fires began to break out close to Peshtigo. No wonder. It was parched. The land was hard and dry. By the end of the month some cabins and a lumber mill had burned.

         On October 8th another blaze. It seem like everything within miles burst into chewing flames. Peshtigo started to burn fed by the lumber at the mills, the wood products in the warehouses and the arid saw-dust that coated the town.

         Residents tried to run, but walls of fire attacked from all directions. Six villages were destroyed. A quarter of a million acres charred. 12-hundred people died in 25 hours of fire.

         There is little memory today of one of the worst fires in United States History. On the same day, October 8th, 1871, the nation learned of another fire. The great fire of Chicago happened on the same day. It nearly burned the city to the ground and Peshtigo was forgotton.

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