Wednesday, July 31

A Little Fire

By Grant Davies

On this day...okay let's start over before we even begin.

Actually the event in our story took place on October 8th, but I just couldn't wait until then to tell you about it. I have been doing research on new stories for weeks and haven't written a darn thing lately. And since it's become so hard lately to find interesting little historical tidbits that correspond to the current date, I have decided to skip that part of the plan here at Cheeky History whenever it suits me. Big time blog editors like me can do that if they feel like it. The power is dizzying.

Anyway, on that date in 1871, there was a little fire that everyone remembers to this very day. Let's just guess the question of that era was, "Where were you when you heard about the Great Chicago Fire?" A good question too, because it was a terrible tragedy. Something like 200-300 people perished and property was destroyed on an unimaginable scale.

But it was, after all, just a little fire. The real firestorm was a tad north of there in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. Somewhere between 1200 and 2500 people were incinerated or otherwise lost their lives in the conflagration. The area destroyed was huge. While the Chicago fire was measured in blocks, the Peshtigo blaze was measured in sizes of states. As in "an area twice the size of Rhode Island." Over 1875 square miles of land were destroyed.

Some have speculated that the fires that burned all over the Midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan) that day were started by a comet, Comet Biela, to be exact. And since Mrs. O'Leary's cow wasn't seen speeding northward on Interstate 94 wearing a lantern where her cowbell should have been, it might be true. But probably not.

Most people (excluding regular readers of this blog, of course) never heard of the Peshtigo fire, maybe because the newspapers were in Chicago. But now all of you have. So you can tell all your friends that you learned about it right here on Cheeky History.

To mark the day, make a reservation at the Fireside Pub for October 8th. Order a "Flaming Rum Punch" and the hot wings, but don't let the bartender tell you the Miami Heat have anything on the Milwaukee Bucks when it comes to hot streaks.


  1. A good place to find stories like the above is old Harpers magazines. I read about the Wisconsin fire doing research on the Franco-Prussian War in a bound periodical many years ago. The trick is to find a library that failed to microfilm their old bound periodicals in an effort to 'save' space.

  2. Thanks for the tip. I'm always looking for ideas.


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