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Contact me at Mom25dogs@gmail.com

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Firestorm At Peshtigo by Denise Gess and William Lutz

This was a sad and gripping story. Sometimes the writing was confusing so I don't think it was the best written book. But the story kept me rivetted. I even read parts of it to Stan and it kept his interest. I learned a lot and applaud the authors for doing the research and presenting it in an interesting book.

This is about a little known fire, the "deadliest fire in American history", that occurred in Wisconsin and Illinois on 10/8/1871. It was eclipsed by the Chicago fire. It was an unusual fire and tornado combination that began in Chicago and swept south nearly all the way to Green Bay. There had been a terrible drought that year and fires had started in the Sugar Bush logging area and in Chicago. A storm barrelled down and a tornado started. The fire fed the wind and vice versa. It was so fast and so horrible. It made a moonscape of Peshtigo and surounding towns. So many people died there was no way to count them. Many were reduced to nothing but ashes, others burned beyond recognition, many just missing and never found. They estimate 2500 died but it could be more or less as there was no way to do an accurate count. The authors told a lot of personal stories which really makes the book and they did a good job of tying the personal stories to the survivor stories at the end. Even the survivors suffered horribly having lost everything, lost their families, many terribly burned themselves and there was no medical help for the burn survivors back then. Those who survived the fire died later of complications and it was a slow, painful death. Others suffered mental problems for the rest of their lives because of what they had seen. After the fire, the next spring, Army worms came out of the ground and ate every green thing that struggled to come alive. The fire had driven the birds and other natural controllers from the area so the worms became an unbelievable problem. They clogged wells and creeks making the water undrinkable. They had to use shovels and buckets to clear a path through the millions of worms. Then, it was flies. A plague of flies that made life miserable. And the ground was so arid, after the fire, that crops were unable to survive even after the worms were gone. They didn't know about fertilizer back then and had to let the ground remain fallow for a time before anything would grow.

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