Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lyn Cote & The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm! The Great Chicago Fire and The Great Peshtigo Fire.



I know that many of you have never heard of the Peshtigo Fire which took place on October 8, 1871, the same day as the Great Chicago Fire. My very first historical, Whispers of Love (in my Blessed Assurance series) ended with that fire. The Peshtigo fire is often overlooked--was even overshadowed at the time.  But it was more deadly and more devastating than the one in Chicago and caused the most deaths by fire in US history, with estimated deaths of around 1,500 people, possibly as many as 2,500. Survivors reported that the firestorm generated a tornado that threw rail cars and houses into the air.

Fire was a very present danger in a society that still heated and cooked with open fire. And unfortunately, the hunters and native tribes regularly left fires burning in the vast forest of Wisconsin. Today only the northern most counties are still forested in Wisconsin but in the 19th century, the state was solid forest. On the day of the Peshtigo Fire, a cold front moved in from the west, bringing strong winds, and the perfect storm hit. It fanned the fires out of control. A firestorm ensued.

The Wisconsin's governor's wife, Mrs. Lucius Fairchild, heard of the Chicago Fire first. Her husband was away, but she quickly sent supplies to Chicago and then heard of the disaster in her own state. She then led an effort to send supplies to the devastated area of Sugar Bush and Peshtigo.
It's hard for us in the information age to realize how spotty communication was in 1871. Telegraph lines connected only the largest cities so though Madison, WI could get fast news from Chicago, it couldn't from unconnected Peshtigo.

If you'd like to read more about the Peshtigo Fire, drop by The Wisconsin Historical Society website . On this page is a book trailer which includes the eye witness account of a woman who as a child survived the Perfect Storm. http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/highlights/archives/2012/11/peshtigo_fire.asphttp://www.wisconsinhistory.org/highlights/archives/2012/11/peshtigo_fire.asp


To purchase, click here. 
Heartland Courtship (Wilderness Brides)

My latest historical Heartland Courtship takes place in Wisconsin in 1871. I wonder if Rachel and Brennnan will face the perfect storm. This winter has been an unusual one. What have you see this winter you haven't seen in a while?--Lyn


6 comments:

CatMom said...

Fascinating post, Lyn---I'd not heard of that other fire, only the Chicago fire. How terrible that must've been.
This winter has been very unusual here in Georgia. In January we had snow (which seems like no big deal to folks up north, but for us in the south it was a lot!), then recently we had an ice storm, and lots of people lost power (thank the Lord we never did!). Then yesterday it felt like Springtime here!
I feel blessed that whatever our weather is, I have a nice home to live in--something I'm very thankful for.
Thanks for sharing this post! Blessings, Patti Jo

Christine Johnson said...

Hi Lyn, I've read about the Peshtigo fire and how horrifying it was. What a backdrop for a novel! Fires also raged in Michigan on that date, yet the Chicago fire has overshadowed the rest.

Patti Jo, so glad you've weathered recent storms safely. Yes, we need to count our blessings!

Lyn Cote said...

Christine,
Yes, the fire hit MI too. Those winds were POWERFUL!

Lyn Cote said...

And CatMom,
I felt sorry for you in GA. Ice is worse than snow any day of the week!

Pamela Tracy said...

You've had me since the beginning of the series. I hadn't heard of the fire either. I like how you compared it to a perfect storm.

Tracy Smith said...

I live in WI. Fourth grade Social Studies is all about WI and I remember learning about the Peshtigo fire. It was really devastating.