Wisconsin’s Culture - Peshtigo Fire Museum

I was on my way to Marinette and found myself in Peshtigo. Not only did I happen across Peshtigo, but I came upon the Peshtigo Fire Museum. That it was in a church building attracted my interest. Then I noted the sign in front saying it was the Peshtigo Fire Museum. I was in a school fire in fourth grade, so I had to stop. I am delighted I did. This is one heckuva museum, worth the stop and change I’m my schedule.

I’ll comment that Cities, towns, and villages across the state have fallen victim to terrible fires, often more than once. This museum is located on the site of a Catholic church lost in a fire. The Peshtigo Historical Society tells us,

“The building is the first church rebuilt in Peshtigo after the fire and is the former Congregational church …. It became home to the Peshtigo Fire Museum in 1963.”

One of the first points I noticed when I walked in was the massive mural on the far wall. It depicts the story of the massive fire that swept through Peshtigo on October 8, 1871. The Peshtigo Historical Society explains it,

“On October 8, 1871—the same night as the Chicago Fire—the Peshtigo Fire roared into infamy as the deadliest fire in US history. It killed more than 2,000 people and burned over 2,400 acres, most of it timber, thereby destroying the local economy. Heat, drought, logging practices, and atmospheric conditions combined to create a firestorm that completely destroyed the community of Peshtigo.”

The mural has three panes.

This pane on the left shows people enjoying life in the town before the fire.

The middle pane shows what it was like during the fire.

Then the pane on the right depicts life after the fire, not very good at all.

There is some debris, in this case, from the fire discovered in 1905. A burned and blackened bible was open to Psalms 106-107 when found.

The sections of the museum devoted to the 1871 fire are profound. This is the tabernacle taken to the river by Catholic Priest Father Pernin. It was found three days after the fire.

Other displays are fun to view and ponder. The museum is well-appointed. Your curiosity can take you off in many directions. I do not usually enjoy museums, but I spent a lot of time in this one.

I’ll walk you through some of the displays.

The bed looks small, a tough sell if you’re tall! The chest at the foot of the bed seems marvelous. Note the heater there as well.

Ah, yes, when schools were law and order!

Ha, where’s the groom?

Soup’s on!

This is a boat built by Thompson Boats. She’s a beauty. The company was founded in 1904. It became a distinguished boat manufacturer. Wikipedia has a good write-up on the company.

This is a Thompson’s canoe built in 1914. Look at the sleek lines on her!

The old-time switchboard!