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North America's deadliest recorded forest fire remembered in Peshtigo

The Great Chicago Fire happened the same night
Peshtigo, Wis. (WFRV)--October 8th is the anniversary of North America’s deadliest and largest forest fire on record and it happened right here in Northeast Wisconsin 142 years ago.

Tucked in the southern portion of Marinette County is a town that tells a story of rebirth.


“Peshtigo is the city that grew from the ashes,” said Peshtigo Fire Museum Curator, Margaret Wood.

On October 8th, 1871 North America’s largest and deadliest forest fire tore through Peshtigo—destroying 1.2 million acres of land and taking the lives of more than 1,200 people.

“That took a lot of courage for those people to stay here and rebuild after such a devastation,” said Wood.

The Peshtigo fire left the town in ruins. 

Today the museum acts as the gateway of what happened back in 1871.

A tabernacle is one of the few items that survived the fire—an item that was saved by a town Catholic Priest.

“It was a symbol of survival and a symbol of faith,” said Wood.

But October 8th 1871 is more famously known for another fire—the great Chicago Fire.  

Local 5 news caught up with one family who is originally from Chicago and traveled to Peshtigo to see the museum.

Amber Steuer said, “I think it has a lot of more personal items than many museums have.”

“All of the things that have been donated by people who live here or relatives,” said her husband, Glenn Steuer.

While Chicago’s fire is remembered in history books, Margaret says this museum is the town’s reminder of how the small logging town rebuilt.

The museum closes for the season October 9th and re-opens Memorial Day Weekend.

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