After the roaring flames passed through Peshtigo, and the powerful
winds died down, survivors of the 1871 blaze began putting the pieces of
their lives back together. New buildings were constructed, victims were placed
in their final resting places and any remains that could be salvaged were recovered from the rubble.
Although the town was completely destroyed, many items weathered the
fire's intense flames, and now these artifacts are preserved in the Peshtigo
Fire Museum. Within this former church building rest various articles such
as watches, books, coins and aged photographs - all antique pieces that
tell the city's history.
Nearby in the museum's cemetery lies a mass grave site where approximately
350 unidentified fire victims were laid to rest after the calamity.
The site is marked by a stone monument and a metal plaque with an inscription
that reads, "Mass grave of fire victims, Oct. 8, 1871." Other fire victims' graves dot the cemetery including those of Wilson Stitt, Charles Lawrence,
Charles Lemke and many more. They each had a name, each loved their
families and each lost their lives in the great conflagration that crimson night.
In 1997, the museum welcomed 13,739 visitors from 48 states and 26 foreign countries. Back in 1971 - the centennial of the Peshtigo Fire -
approximately 30,000 individuals visited the museum and its cemetery.
It is here where individuals can view a Bible that is believed to have been scorched in the great blaze. Also housed in the museum is the sacred
tabernacle that Rev. Peter Pernin risked his life to save from the
flames. Legend has it that when the tabernacle was found near the river, all
was burned around it, but the tabernacle itself was amazingly unharmed.
The Peshtigo Fire Museum is located in the heart of Peshtigo and is
open Memorial Day weekend through Oct. 8. Helpful guides are always available
for tours and to answer any questions. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
To learn more about the Peshtigo Fire Museum and Peshtigo's history,
order your copy of Remembering the Peshtigo Fire today.
©1998 Peshtigo Times. All Rights Reserved