Peshtigo, WI "The Great Peshtigo Fire," Oct 1871 - Frightful Number of Deaths

The Sugar Bush was a thrifty farming settlement seven or eight miles long by four or five miles wide, and contained about 300 families. It was estimated by competent judges on Tuesday that eight-tenths of its inhabitants were dead, and up to 4 P. M. Tuesday they had reported the following dead in the Sugar Bush:

L. H. HILL, wife and boy, and forty-two bodies picked up in front of their house; T. KELLY and one child (wife and two children saved;) daughter, twelve years old, of FRED BARTEL'S; four families of NEWBERRYS, all gone but one boy; JOHN CHURCH, wife and two grown children; wife and five children of CHAS. LEMBK; JOHN SMITH, wife and five children; JOHN ALSWEIGER, wife and six children; CHAS. LAWRENCE, wife and three children; N. MAY, wife and two children; wife of PETER LEECH, and two hired men; father, mother, wife, and child of WM. PENRY; CHAS. CHAPMAN, wife and one child; HENRY HAYS, wife and two children; JOHN PRATT, wife and four children; widow AYMER and two grown up boys. Mr. WOODWARD gives us the following addition to the list of dead in Peshtigo village: JOHN TANNER, wife and two children; eldest daughter of P. J. MARSHAL; A. A. PRATT, wife and one child; wife and five children of DONALD McDONALD.

G. J. TISDALE makes the following statement in regard to the calamity at Peshtigo:

"During the day - Sabbath - the air was filled with smoke, which grew dense toward evening, and it was noticed that the air, which was quite chilly during the day, grew quite warm, and hot puffs were quite frequent in the evening. About 8 1/2 o'clock we could see that there was a heavy fire to the southwest of the town, and a dull roaring sound, like that of a heavy wind, came up from that quarter. At 9 o'clock the wind was blowing very fresh, and by 9 1/2 a perfect gale. The roar of the approaching tornado grew more terrible at 10. When the fire struck the town it seemed to swallow up and literally drown everything. The fire came on swifter than a race-horse, and within twenty minutes of the time it struck the outskirts of the town, everything was in flames. What follows beggars all description. About the time the fire reached the Peshtigo House, I ran out the east door, and as I stepped on the platform the wind caught me and hurled me some distance on my head and shoulders several times on going to the river. Then came a fierce, devouring, pitiless rain of fire and sand, so as to ignite everything it touched. I ran into the water, protrated myself, and put my face in the water; and threw water over my back and head. The heat was so intense that I could keep my head out of water but a few seconds at a time for the space of nearly an hour. Saw longs in the river caught fire and burned. A cow came to me and rubbed her neck against me and bawled piteously. I heard men, women, and children crying for help, but was utterly powerless to help any one. What was my experience was the experience of others. Within three hours of the time the fire struck the town the site of Peshtigo was literally a sand desert, dotted over with smoking ruins. Not a hen-coop or even a dry-goods box was left. Through the sugar-bush the case seems to be even worse than in the town, as the chances for escape were much less than near the river. I estimate the loss of life to be at least 300 in the town and sugar-bush. Great numbers were drowned in the river. Cattle and horses were burned in the stalls. The Peshtigo Company's barn burned with over fifty horses in the stable. A great many women and children and men were burned in the streets, and in places so far from any thing combustible that it would seem impossible they should burn. They were burned to a crisp. Whole families, heads of families, children, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, were burned, and remnants of families were running hither and thither, wildly calling and looking for their relatives after the fire."

Continued