Today is the anniversary of the morning after the fire. The Peshtigo Fire devastated the area of Wisconsin around Peshtigo and much of NE Wisconsin on the night of Oct. 8, 1871. It’s estimated that up to 1,500 people died that night. The city of Peshtigo has a fire museum dedicated to the event. While the museum closed for the season yesterday, the cemetery beside it is open for visits. It includes a mass grave for those who could not be identified because they were so badly burned. Also included are signs beside headstones, telling stories of heroism and of loss by families and individuals.
I had never visited the site until a month ago. The cemetery alone is worth a visit. As I was leaving, a man walked up to me – asking about the site and looking dazed at the memories that still hang heavy over the site, even though the smoke is long gone. “I’ve lived in Wisconsin all my life,” he said to me. “And I never knew this was here.”
Try to visit this fall. And say a prayer for the souls who died that night. It is located at 400 Oconto Avenue.