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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Anniversary Ceremony"A large crowd was present at Peshtigo City Hall Monday, Oct 8 to mark the 147th anniversary of the Great Peshtigo Fire. Peshtigo Mayor Cathi Malke, accepted proclamations and citations from state and federal officials in honor of the fire. Bev Doucette, co-chair of the program talked about the impact the Menominee Indians had at the time of the fire in 1871. Over time, history has forgotten what the Menominee's did to help out during the fire and through the efforts of Doucette that will not happen. Left Photo-left to right holding citations are Rick Sense, Jennifer Garner, Mayor Cathi Malke, Rep. John Nygren, Senator Dave Hansen and Rep. Jeff Mursau as they stand in front of the Peshtigo Fire Museum. Right Photo-Members of the Peshtigo American Legion Post 312 are shown preparing to raise the flag that was flown over the capitol in Washington, DC. Pictured left to right are Legion members Randy Ehlers, Bill Warren, Bob Ellison and Tony Matecki.

Large Crowd Attends Ceremony On Anniversary of Peshtigo Fire

Issue Date: October 11, 2018

A capacity crowd packed the City of Peshtigo council chambers Monday, Oct. 8 in honor of the 147th anniversary of the Great Peshtigo Fire of Oct. 8, 1871. The fire to this day is the most disastrous fire in terms of deaths and devastation in American history.

The program started with the presentation of colors by Peshtigo American Legion Post 312. A US flag that was flown over the capitol in Washington was presented to the city by Rick Sense, Chief of Staff for Congressman Mike Gallagher. The flag was then raised by legion members while firefighters and police officers from the City of Peshtigo and Town of Peshtigo stood as an honor guard.

The National Anthem was sung by the Peshtigo High School choir, under the direction of Jacob Hickey. Following that the pledge of allegiance was led by Jordan Cooper, a member of the Peshtigo High School Rho-Kappa history class. Invocation was given by Rev. Archer Leupp, of Faith Church in Peshtigo. Bev Doucette, gave the opening remarks and stated "the half has not been told; the whole will never be known" referencing the Great Fire. The US flag certificate was then presented to Peshtigo Mayor Cathi Malke.

Mayor Malke then welcomed everyone and said, "Honored guests, neighbors and friends, welcome to the 147th anniversary of the Peshtigo Fire.

I am grateful for the presence of so many of you here today and I want to thank you for joining us on the most solemn day of remembrance in the history of the City of Peshtigo.

We gather to pay tribute to those men, women and children who lived, and died in one of the worst fires in our Nation's history, unfortunately it happened right here in the exact spot your sitting on.

It is Peshtigo's history first and foremost that puts us in the position to reflect upon the enormity of that fire, the people who lived here on Oct. 8, 1871 and to remember it.

Most people who remember the famed "fire tornado" of Peshtigo, Wisconsin learned about it in 4th grade and it is not an event they reflect on as they go about their day, but if you live in Peshtigo you are reminded of it every day.

Maybe you do not reflect on the lives cut short, the families placed in mourning, not only for those who died, but mourning their own loses of everything in their lives, everything taken by the fire.

We reflect on the fire every time we see the church tower in the center of town, or we walk past the cemetery where a mass grave of souls lost in that fire rest nameless, and there is no getting across the Peshtigo River without the horrors that took place in it coming to mind now and then, but it will come to mind.

We are held to deliver on a promise which comes unsaid as citizens of Peshtigo; our promise to never forget, our promise to always remember those who lived and those who died and to honor those who refused to give up on Peshtigo!

Yes, we are built from the ashes of that fire, but what Peshtigo is really built on is human perseverance, courage, determination and pride!

Today it has been 147 years since the fire wiped Peshtigo off the face of the earth, yet today we are gathered right her in the center of Peshtigo, Wisconsin surrounded by a natural beauty few cities can rival.

Peshtigo residents are also held to a higher standard to continue to improve on our quality of life as we have been given a second chance; and we remain bound to an internal link of commitment to our city backed by our most precious treasure, our people, 147 years ago, our people today, and our people of our future."

Proclamations were then given to Doucette and Malke by Rick Sense, Jennifer Garner, North-East Wisconsin Regional Director for Senator Tammy Baldwin; Paul Chamberlain, Director for Senator Ron Johnson; Representative John Nygren, on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker; Wisconsin Senator Dave Hansen, and Representative Jeff Mursau.

An essay on the Menominee Indians was read by Doucette. In the essay it was stated, how much the Menominee Indians did for settlers before, during and after the fire. A citation was then presented to Rep. Jeff Mursau on behalf of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin by the City. Mursau will then present the citation Wednesday morning to the Menominee Indians in a ceremony at the capitol in Madison. Amy Schield, Peshtigo High School history teacher then read an essay on the Peshtigo Fire.

Rev. Leupp then led the crowd in a moment of silence and prayer for the victims of the inferno. The Peshtigo Fire Memorial Quilt was then dedicated as it hung in the council chambers. The quilt was created by Vicki and Bob Hermans of Combined Locks. Vicki Hermans told the story of how the quilt came in existence. The couple had never been to Peshtigo before and happened to camp at Badger Park last summer. They were told about the fire from people who knew something of it and the couple was captivated by the story. Vicki and Bob then decided they must do something to help preserve the history of the fire and thus the idea for a quilt was started.

After the ceremony at city hall people then had to the opportunity to visit the Peshtigo Fire Museum before it closed for the season Monday evening.

Bev Doucette in her closing remarks stated we must never forget what happened 147 years ago and the memory of all those that perished must live on in us.


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