Home History The Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871

The Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871

by Jan Schroder

Oct. 8 marked 152 years since Barbara Englebert Chisholm’s great grandparents spent the night underground in a hand-dug well on their property while the most destructive forest fire in American history consumed their home, barn and cattle.

Nearly 1,200 people died and 2 billion trees burned after railroad workers – clearing land for tracks following an unusually dry summer – inadvertently started a brush fire-cum-inferno that obliterated the Wisconsin towns of Peshtigo and Brussels.


Each year, Chisholm makes an appearance at the Belgian Heritage Center in Brussels for their annual Great Fire Remembrance – to keep her family’s story, and local history, alive.


– Hannah Van Sickle, The Wisconsin 100

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The Wisconsin 100