Chapter 4: Recovery

In the spring of 1872, when hope was beginning to bloom, the town was invaded by army worms. In the Sugar Bush and other agricultural areas, the tenacious worms destroyed all hope of the first planting season. The worms had burrowed deep over the winter and emerged to slither unchecked—the fire had killed or driven off the birds and beetles that would have eaten them. The worms not only destroyed vegetation but also clogged wells and streams, making the water undrinkable.

A parasitic fly began to decrease the number of worms, but the fly invasion was even worse than the worms. Worms stayed on the ground—flies invaded homes, stables, stores, and mills, swarming and buzzing and landing like a blanket.

Even if there had been no worms, there would have been no crops that year. The soil was dead, all the life burned out of it.


William Ogden, who suffered great financial loss from the fire, announced he would rebuild. Many former businesses, including the woodenware factory, were never reopened. Peshtigo never again became the center of industry it once was.