Stories from the Archives: The Great Peshtigo Fire event is Sept. 29, 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Green Bay, Wis.—In recognition of the 150th Anniversary of the Peshtigo Fire, the UW-Green Bay Archives and Area Research Center is hosting the program, Stories from the Archives: The Great Peshtigo Fire. The free program will be held on Wednesday, September 29, 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Christie Theater in the University Union on the UW-Green Bay campus.

On October 8, 1871, the deadliest fire in United States history engulfed much of northeastern and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Collectively known as the Peshtigo Fire, the fire destroyed approximately 1.2 million acres with the number of deaths estimated between 1,500 and 2,000. The story of the Peshtigo Fire is often overshadowed by another fire that happened on the same day, the Chicago Fire, famously attributed to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.

Through archival research, Karen Humiston uncovered the rich stories of individual survivors as well as those who perished. As a family historian, Karen often found herself wondering about the lives of the individuals caught up in the fire. She noted, “it has been a labor of love to uncover and tell the stories of the individuals who suffered at the hands of this calamity.”

The program will provide a sneak peek at her research presented in her forthcoming book, The Sky Was Brass, The Earth Was Ashes: The Story of the Great Peshtigo Fire. Humiston used immigrant letters, tax records, Wisconsin Goveror’s disaster files, probate records, and Green Bay Relief Committee documents from the UW-Green Bay Archives Department to capture individual stories and bring a unique perspective to the existing accounts of the Peshtigo Fire.

Humiston remarked, “the University of Wisconsin Green Bay’s Archives and Area Research Center, and its staff, have been indispensable to the success of this research.”

The UW-Green Bay Archives provides research assistance to scholars on a wide variety of topics and is witness to many unique projects that stem from its vast array of historical collections. To showcase these research efforts the Archives Department of Cofrin Library offers free programs with authors and researchers. Deb Anderson, director of the Archives, explained “Stories from the Archives” is a wonderful opportunity to share with others amazing research efforts and projects.”

The Brown County Historical Society will have copies of its newly released book, The Great Fires in Wisconsin in 1871available for purchase. Bay Maps, a local innovative company creating historic maps, will have newly produced maps regarding the Peshtigo Fire also available for purchase.

For more information about the program contact the Archives Department at 920-465-2539 or

About the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
Established in 1965, UW-Green Bay is a public institution serving 8,970 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students and 79,604 continuing education enrollees each year across all campus locations. We educate students from pre-college through retirement and offer 200+ degrees, programs and certificates. UW-Green Bay graduates are resilient, inclusive, sustaining and engaged members of their communities, ready to rise to fearlessly face challenges, solve problems and embrace diverse ideas and people. With four campus locations, the University welcomes students from every corner of the world. In 2020, UW-Green Bay was the fastest growing UW school in Wisconsin. For more information, visit


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