Peshtigo Historical Society

The Peshtigo Historical Society staffs and maintains the Peshtigo Fire Museum and Cemetery. The Historical Society meets the first Monday of the month from May through December at 6:30 pm in the Drees Center, 600 Pine Street, Peshtigo. The public is invited, and new members are welcome. Annual membership is $5.

More about the Peshtigo Historical Society

Peshtigo Fire Museum sign

Peshtigo Fire Museum

The Peshtigo Fire Museum is located on the site of the Catholic church that Father Pernin lost in the fire. The building is the first church rebuilt in Peshtigo after the fire and is actually the former Congregational church. The building was moved to this location after the Catholic church on that corner was destroyed by fire (again) in 1927. When St. Mary Parish built a new church a few blocks away, the Congregational church building was acquired by the Peshtigo Historical Society. It became home to the Peshtigo Fire Museum in 1963.

The memorial marker for fire victims located in the  Peshtigo Fire Cemetery is the first official Wisconsin state historical marker. It was erected by the citizens of Peshtigo in 1951.

Visitors are welcome to explore on their own or hear stories about the fire from the museum guides. Guided group tours of five or more can be scheduled—just call 715-923-5854 or fill out the tour request form

Historic structures and outside areas provide challenges that make it difficult to provide complete access to all visitors. Please contact us with specific questions and concerns.

photo of Congregational church being moved across the river

Congregational church, the first church built after the fire, being moved across river to current museum site

Photo courtesy Peshtigo Times

Gift Shop

The gift shop, located inside the museum, offers postcards, t-shirts, and other mementos for sale. The following books are also available for purchase:

  • The Great Peshtigo Fire: An Eyewitness Account by Reverend Peter Pernin
  • Firestorm at Peshtigo by Denise Gess and William Lutz
  • Embers of October by Robert Wells
  • I Lived at Peshtigo Harbor by F. C. Burke
  • The Great Peshtigo Fire: Stories and Science from America’s Deadliest Firestorm by Scott Knickelbine
  • Carrie and the Crazy Quilt (and other Carrie books) by Nelda Johnson Liebig

Fire Cemetery

The  memorial marker for fire victims located in the  Peshtigo Fire Cemetery is the first official Wisconsin state historical marker. It was erected by the citizens of Peshtigo in 1951.

The cemetery has a Mass Grave for 350 victims of the fire who could not be identified. Many of the gravestones have a corresponding story of the deceased. A map of the cemetery can be found at the museum as well as here.

First state historical marker at Peshtigo Fire Museum

Peshtigo

Peshtigo is a city of 3,500 people in northeast Wisconsin, located about 50 miles north of Green Bay. For more information, visit the city website

 

town map

The Fire

On October 8, 1871—the same night as the Chicago Fire—the Peshtigo Fire roared into infamy as the deadliest fire in US history. It killed more than 2,000 people and burned over 2,400 acres, most of it timber, thereby destroying the local economy. Heat, drought, logging practices, and atmospheric conditions combined to create a firestorm that completely destroyed the community of Peshtigo.

Learn more about the Great Peshtigo Fire

Resources

The following books were used to compile this site’s narrative of the Peshtigo Fire:

Pernin, Peter. The Great Peshtigo Fire: An Eyewitness Account. State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1999.

Knickelbine, Scott. The Great Peshtigo Fire: Stories and Science from America’s Deadliest Firestorm. Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2012.

Wells, Robert W. Fire at Peshtigo. Prentice-Hall, 1968.

Sandler, Martin W. Lost to Time: Unforgettable Stories That History Forgot. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2010.