Peshtigo to celebrate “rebirth from the ashes”

A mural inside the Peshtigo Fire Museum depicts the horror of what survivors described as a...
A mural inside the Peshtigo Fire Museum depicts the horror of what survivors described as a fire tornado.(WBAY)
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 2:34 PM CDT
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PESHTIGO, Wis. (WBAY) - NOTE: This event already took place.

Peshtigo’s annual Historical Days will take on added significance this year as the city marks the sesquicentennial of the deadliest forest fire in U.S. history.

The community plans to celebrate its rebirth from the ashes in 1871.

150 years ago this fall, an unusually hot, dry summer had left Peshtigo vulnerable to a perfect storm.

“Homesteaders were clearing the land and they’d burn the stumps and the bushes and just it go, and on October 8th a weather system came in and it swirled up and it’s suspected it caught all those little embers and formed into one big one and by the time it reached Peshtigo, it was monumental, it was literally a fire storm,” explains Wendy Kahl, Peshtigo Fire Museum curator.

It’s estimated between 1,500 and 2,000 people died in the Peshtigo Fire.

The city burned to the ground.

“It doesn’t get the recognition because the Chicago Fire happened on the same day and all the supplies and help went there, the telegraph lines had burned in the fire, or a week before the fire, and so the word didn’t get out for several days,” says Kahl.

“A lot of people don’t know about the Peshtigo fire and as a city and as a group we just want to make everybody aware and just celebrate what we’ve become from the ashes,” adds Joe Nystrom, a member of the Peshtigo Historical Days Committee.

Beginning Friday night and running through Sunday, the city is hosting a number of events to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Peshtigo Fire.

A run/walk and a parade kick off a jam-packed day Saturday.

“We got a lumberjack show, there’s three shows, we have a car show, arts and crafts, tons of food, bands all day, lots of stuff for the kids and then fireworks to end it off. This is the place to be, everybody should come out, people are proud of their heritage and Peshtigo makes people proud,” says Nystrom.

On Sunday the city will host tours at the Peshtigo Fire Museum, along with a cemetery walk and ice cream social outside the museum.

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