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Peshtigo, Wisconsin

Peshtigo Fire Museum

A museum devoted to the victims and the survivors of the most catastrophic fire in American history. 

Peshtigo is the site of The Great Peshtigo Fire, the most lethal natural fire in U.S. history.

On Oct. 8, 1871, dry conditions and strong winds invited a deadly inferno that swept through the community of Peshtigo as well as neighboring settlements, claiming at least 1,200 lives and over one million acres of land unfortunate enough to be in its path. A bustling lumber town and home to the world’s largest woodenware factory, Peshtigo was devoured by the firestorm. 

Opened in 1963, the museum stands not only as a memorial to lives lost, but also as a testament to the tenacity of a town that rose from the ashes. Displays include bits and pieces of a charred past, letters recounting cleanup and survival, and a mural depicting the town pre and post disaster. A mass grave containing the remains of 350 of the unidentified as well as marked graves of other victims holds the sad distinction of being the very first historical marker in Wisconsin history, reading:

“On the night of October 8, 1871, Peshtigo, a booming town of 1700 people was wiped out of existence in the greatest fire disaster in American history.”