By Peter Pernin
On October 8, 1871, a massive firestorm destroyed the small village of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, in the deadliest fire in US history. It engulfed far more than the village after which it is named: 2,400 square miles burned that night, killing families and livestock and burning whole communities to the ground. Local priest Peter Pernin witnessed the devastation. In 1874, Father Pernin first published this dramatic eyewitness account of what happened that day. In no other testimony is the Great Peshtigo Fire so vividly recounted. Pernin’s words offer an invaluable and enduring record for historians, scientists, and everyday citizens alike.