The Great Peshtigo Fire


Reverend Peter Pernin was the parish priest for Peshtigo and nearby Marinette, whose churches burned to the ground. He published his account of the fire in 1874. The late William Converse Haygood served as editor of the “Wisconsin Magazine of History” from 1957 to 1975. He prepared this version of Father Pernin’s account on the occasion of the Peshtigo Fire’s centennial in 1971. Foreword writer Stephen J. Pyne is a professor at Arizona State University in Tempe and author of numerous books on wildland fire, including “Fire in America.””

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This account of the calamitous Pestigo Fire of 1871 — the deadliest in American history — is now available in a newly designed, expanded edition. Added to the original eye-witness account of Reverend Peter Pernin are new archival photographs of Peshtigo, before and after the fire, and an updated introduction by Stephen J. Pyne that gives readers a fresh perspective on the fire that burned 2400 square miles and killed more than 700 people. Occurring on the same day as the famous Chicago fire, the Peshtigo fire resulted from similar causes: a prolonged drought, a concentration of wooden structures and rubble, and human carelessness. Readers of all ages will learn that from the scorched earth of Peshtigo came decisions about land and forest management that remain a part of Wisconsin and American history today.


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