The Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871


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Peshtigo, Wisconsin, October 8, 1871. America's most disastrous forest fire.


... to the most comprehensive source on the World Wide Web for information about the great forest fires of October 1871.

On the evening of October 8, 1871 the worst recorded forest fire in North American history raged through Northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, destroying millions of dollars worth of property and timberland, and taking between 1,200 and 2,400 lives.

The great Midwestern city of Chicago also happened to endure a terrible fire that same fateful night, and for whatever reasons -- an irresistibly charming legend about a cow and a lantern among them -- the Chicago Fire became part of the national consciousness while the Peshtigo tragedy gradually slipped into obscurity, eventually remembered primarily by scholars, local "old-timers" and Wisconsin school children (who are required to study their state's history in the 4th grade).

In recent years America's "forgotten fire" has proven to be anything but. The tragedy is a subject of inquiry and debate among meteorologists, astronomers and conservationists. It has been dramatized by novelists and playwrights. It continues to fascinate history buffs and frustrate genealogists.

The purpose of this site is to gather and organize all the information about this historical event into one comprehensive reference source. There's something here for everyone.




Cite as: Deana C. Hipke. The Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871. <>
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