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Mathias M'leziva

Mathias M'leziva (1816-1871) and his wife Anna (1823-1871) emigrated to the U.S. from Hluboka, Kdyne in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and settled near Brussels, WI where they began to homestead. They also came with their children, 21-year-old Anton, 24-year-old Jacob, 18-year-old Mathias, 14-year-old Franz and 8-year-old Marie. The story is that Mathias survived because he had left the home on foot to travel to Krok near West Kewaunee (either to look for a job in the lumber camps or to get to a current job there) and headed east toward Lake Michigan, barely outrunning the fire. He returned to the family homestead when it was safe to do so and found his family had perished -- badly burned and hanging over a fence. They had two little piglets in sacks on their backs.

Mathias absolutely refused to return to the area ever again in his lifetime. He spent the next several years in the vicinity of Krok as a laborer in the lumber camps until he married in 1881. He purchased land for a farm in West Kewaunee which remained in the M'leziva family until at
least the 1970s.

The Door County Advocate listed the names of 141 people who perished in that county during the fire, plus "a Bohemian family." Though the M'lezivas are not mentioned by name anywhere, we do know that they perished in the fire with the younger Mathias being the only survivor.

There was also another sister, Barbara, who had married and stayed behind in Bohemia. Her family was asked to sell everything and join the M'lezivas in the U.S. when news of the devastating fire reached them. They re-established themselves in Hluboka for a number of years, but eventually Barbara and her children did make it to the U.S. -- although they arrived at different times. Barbara was a widow when she left Bohemia with her youngest daughter. Most of the family ended up in the same vicinity in Michigan and Wisconsin, while two daughters settled on the east coast, including my great-grandmother.

Submitted by Linda Bellofatto

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