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


The George L. Dunlap has just arrived from Escanaba, having been delayed thirty hours by heavy winds and dense smoke. Her passengers bring terrible accounts of the devastation by fire. At Menominee they received accounts of the burning, last night, of nearly the entire village of Menekaunee. At the mouth of the Menominee river, on the Wisconsin side, 150 buildings were burned, including three extensive saw-mills, owned by McCartney & Hamilton, Spofford & Gilmore, and Spaulding & Porter, the latter being the largest, with one exception, on the bay shore.

The villages of Menominee and Marinette were in great danger, and many of the people fled to the bay shore for safety, remaining in the water all night. The steamer Union, lying in the river, took about 300 women and children to a place of safety in the harbor. The women and children of Menominee went on board the steamers Favorite and Dunbar and vessels lying at anchor in the roadstead. The male portion of the population of three villages lying within three miles of each other spent the whole night in fighting the fire. No lives are known to be lost, with the exception of one man, who died from fright after he had been rescued from the water, and another, who was sick in a house, which was burned before he could be rescued. At a small settlement of five or six houses, called Birch Creek, on the State-road, nine miles west of Menominee, every house was burned, and ten or twelve lives lost, only three persons escaping.

At Peshtigo Harbor they were et by a number of people from the village of Peshtigo, seven miles west, who gave a heart-rending account of the total destruction of their town. During Sunday evening a hurricane of wind from the west sprang up, which fanned the smouldering fires in the timber into a blaze and drove the flames into the village. It came rushing into the village between 9 and 10 o'clock. So great was the violence of the wind that in less than one minute after the first house took fire the whole village was in flames. There was no prospect of checking the flames, for the smouldering forest presented one mass of fire. People could only flee to the river for safety. Those living in close proximity to the water reached it and waded in to their necks. Here they remained for two to four hours, and by constant wetting of their heads were enabled to escape with their lives, although many were terribly burned. Those who lived only one or two streets from the river were struck down by the fiery fiend and burned to death. Whole families were thus destroyed. This morning the streets were strewn with burned bodies. In one case eight or nine bodies were found together. One family, consisting of father, mother, and three children, were found dead within twenty feet of the stream. It is impossible as yet to form any correct estimate of the loss of life at Peshtigo. Fully seventy-five are known to have perished by fire and water. Reports are constantly coming in of new cases of destruction of property and life. In Peshtigo not a single house remains standing. The immense wooden-ware factory and the large saw-mill of the Peshtigo Company, at the village, are burned. Stores, dwelling-houses, &c., are totally destroyed, not a vestige of property remaining. The people who were saved are in a destitute condition, being without clothing or provisions. The names of but a few of the lost could be learned. Among those who are known to have perished are JOSEPH S. BEEBE, book-keeper to the Company, wife and two children, and Mr. THOMPSON, express agent.

It is supposed that the inmates of the Company's boarding-house, 100 in number, nearly all perished in the flames. A special messenger was dispatched to this city last evening for supplies for the people of Peshtigo, and the steamer George L. Dunlap left this morning with everything necessary for their sustenance and comfort.

The New York Times, New York, NY 17 Oct 1871