Events Commemorate the Fires of 1871


Bailey Koepsel, executive director of the Door County Historical Society, will be a keynote speaker at the Oct. 7-9 Forest History Conference commemorating the Peshtigo Fire. It will take place at the Embers 1871 restaurant, W3529 Cty B in Peshtigo. Koepsel will speak about the Williamsonville Fire, which ravaged southern Door County and killed 59 people. 

Oct. 7 featured a dinner-theater performance, Stories from the Ashes … Chronicles from the Coals: Depicted Recollection, when members of the Marinette Genealogy Group blended articles from the 1871 local newspaper, the Marinette Peshtigo Eagle, with survivors’ stories.

Oct. 8 features a slate of six speakers following the disaster-planning construct of “mitigate, prepare, respond, recover.” Presentations will feature the efforts of a Milwaukee weather forecaster at the time to warn of impending danger, Peshtigo and Door peninsula survivors’ stories, efforts by the Menominee Tribe to assist burn survivors, and work to promote recovery of the forested landscape.

The program will end with conferees participating in the community-sponsored Memory Walk, which covers the path taken 150 years ago when Peshtigo residents responded to church bells tolling at 8 pm, calling them to move to the river to save themselves.

Oct. 9 features tours of the Peshtigo Fire Museum and Harmony Hardwoods: a Marinette County Park that remained partially unburned at the time of the fire.

Belgian Heritage Center

The Belgian Heritage Center will mark the 150th anniversary of the Great Fire of 1871 with three days of events, beginning with a solemn remembrance vigil. The center will toll its bells at the conclusion of the vigil at 6:30 pm on Friday, Oct. 8, to honor the lives lost and the challenges that survivors faced. Area churches that were affected by the fire have been invited to do the same. A similar bell ringing will occur in Peshtigo at 8 pm the same evening.

On Saturday, Oct. 9, a video about the Great Fire will have a premiere screening, and Barb (Englebert) Chisholm will reenact the survival story of her great-grandmother, Emmerence (Gaspard) Englebert. 

Also on Saturday, David Siegel, a captain with the Green Bay Metro Fire Department, will present “Understanding the Realities of the Great Fires of 1871,” and author Virginia Feld Johnson will discuss her new book, When the Night Rained Fire: October 8, 1871, Kewaunee County and the Great Fire

See a full event schedule and more details at  

Our Lady of Good Help

On Friday, Oct. 8, a service will take place at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, 4047 Chapel Dr. in Champion, to mark the anniversary. 

The Miracle of the Fire observance will begin at 7 pm with the reading of the “Story of the Miracle of the Fire.” At 7:20 pm, a Rosary will be prayed as part of a Eucharistic Rosary Procession, followed by all-night Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel, concluding with the Benediction at 8 am Saturday. Every hour overnight, a group will pray the Rosary along the Rosary Path, which outlines the approximate area spared from the 1871 fire. 

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