Lyr Req: Peshtigo song
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Lyr Req: Peshtigo song

GUEST,Stephanie Hemphill 04 Nov 02 - 10:58 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 04 Nov 02 - 11:11 AM
masato sakurai 04 Nov 02 - 11:20 AM
Jerry Rasmussen 04 Nov 02 - 01:23 PM
Bat Goddess 04 Nov 02 - 04:59 PM
Bat Goddess 04 Nov 02 - 05:04 PM
artbrooks 04 Nov 02 - 06:45 PM
GUEST,Ken Lonnquist 05 Nov 02 - 11:45 AM
artbrooks 05 Nov 02 - 12:34 PM
M.Ted 05 Nov 02 - 02:00 PM
raredance 06 Nov 02 - 12:05 AM
M.Ted 06 Nov 02 - 01:29 AM
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Subject: Peshtigo song
From: GUEST,Stephanie Hemphill
Date: 04 Nov 02 - 10:58 AM

I'm looking for a song about the Peshtigo Fire of 1871. It happened in northeastern Wisconsin on the same day as the Chicago fire, but killed many more people than that fire. Has anyone ever heard a song about this event?

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Subject: RE: Peshtigo song
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 04 Nov 02 - 11:11 AM

I'll check to see if it's in my Folk Songs Of Wisconsin book..


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From: masato sakurai
Date: 04 Nov 02 - 11:20 AM


When friends and I first began making our annual sojourn to the Peshtigo area 13 summers ago, we used to haul a guitar, an accordian and percussion instruments along to record spontaneous songs about the people we met and places we went while there.

Submitted for your approval are the words of an extemporaneous little ditty recorded by the Three Joysticks in 1984 called, "The Ballad of Peshtigo," inspired by a visit to the fire museum.

"This is the ballad of Peshtigo located in God's country, Wisconsin
There was a fire in Peshtigo, a mighty big fire
And they said it lit up the sky and could be seen all the way from the lake front of Chicago
It was the Great Peshtigo Fire!

And the blaze grew higher and higher
And the flames flew higher and higher

Peshtigo, there was a fire in Peshtigo
Now the home of the Peshtigo Fire Museum

Repeat Chorus


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Subject: RE: Peshtigo song
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 04 Nov 02 - 01:23 PM

Shoulda known Masato would have it.. Is there anything you don't have, Masato?


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Subject: RE: Peshtigo song
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 04 Nov 02 - 04:59 PM

I've got books on the Peshtigo Fire, but don't know of any songs. Always been interested in the subject -- I was born in Stambaugh, Michigan (yeah, I'm a Yupper, I guess) and reared in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Moved to New England when I was 20.

I'm interested in any songs on the subject, too


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Subject: Lyr Add: OUT OF THE FLAMES
From: Bat Goddess
Date: 04 Nov 02 - 05:04 PM

Found this at a website on the Peshtigo Fire (here)
(although the song might have been written about the Chicago Fire):


Where, oh, where's our little Nell?
My heart is full of grief;
Will not some sweet angel tell
And give my heart relief?
Our Lillie's saved, and Mary too
Will's near and our Belle;
But where is she, our dearest one,
Our darling little Nell?
But where is she, our dearest one,
Our darling little Nell?

We didn't see her wee-wee face
When we escaped the fire
The smoke had curtained all the place
The scarlet tide rose higher.
See! Lillie dear fall on her knees
And call upon God's name
"Do send kind angels, if you please,
To bear her from the flames."

Methinks I see the angels
Right in amidst the flame
Bearing away our darling Nell
And calling her by name:
So tenderly they bore her,
Ascending higher and higher,
And safely home they took her,
To swell the angel choir.

Our darling Nell whom all did love
To call her pretty name
The angels took her up above
Out of that crimson  flame.
Source: Library of Congress

Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870-1885, Library of Congress

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Subject: RE: Peshtigo song
From: artbrooks
Date: 04 Nov 02 - 06:45 PM

Ken Lonnquist from Madison wrote a song about it 15-20 years or so ago. I don't have the words (and am no good at getting them from listening), but I sent him an e-mail about the query.

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Subject: Lyr Add: PESHTIGO (Ken Lonnquist)
From: GUEST,Ken Lonnquist
Date: 05 Nov 02 - 11:45 AM


There is a town called Peshtigo
A lumberjacking town of old
And here's a tale that's seldom heard
How the great Peshtigo fire occurred
In Autumn Eighteen Seventy One
The woods dried out from the summer sun
The lumberjacks all cursed in vain:
"Oh, Lord Almighty, will it never rain?
Oh, Oh Peshtigo... Oh, Oh how it burned

They tore the pine from nature's heart
Ignored the warning that a fire might start
Carelessly their brush fires burned
Waiting for the winds to turn
October Eighth dawned still as death
The north wind whispered not a breath
A yellow sky and a blood red sun
Seemed to warn what was to come
Oh, Oh Peshtigo... Oh, Oh how it burned

As darkness fell the treetops burned
Mighty winds upon them turned
A firestorm's roar was heard
When the great Peshtigo fire occured
People ran for life and limb
But most were never seen again
Even rivers couldn't save
The ones doomed to a fiery grave
Oh, Oh Peshtigo... Oh, Oh how it burned

They jumped in waterwells to survive
But wound up being boiled alive
There wasn't any air to breathe
Wheree'er that devil fire seethed
A million acres and much more
Was burned down to the forest floor
Twelve Hundred people lost their lives
And a burning memory still survives
Oh, Oh Peshtigo... Oh, Oh how it burned

They say the logger's carelessness
Lit nature's fiery autumn dress
And burned the great northwoods that day
And sent twelve hundred to their graves
Finally, when the smoke had cleared
The skies looked down and shed their tears
Whispering o'er the black scar burned:
"Oh, Lord Almighty, will they never learn?"
Oh, Oh Peshtigo... Oh, Oh how it burned

Music/Lyrics © Ken Lonnquist 1985
From the CD "Weave", available at

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Peshtigo song
From: artbrooks
Date: 05 Nov 02 - 12:34 PM

And thanks to Ken for his RAPID response!!

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Peshtigo song
From: M.Ted
Date: 05 Nov 02 - 02:00 PM

Nice song there, Ken--and a good, detailed account, at least from what I have read, of the occurance--what is the melody?

As mentioned above, the Peshtigo Fire was overshadowed by the Chicago Fire, and has been generally forgotten--It was not a isolated incident however--that same year, there were many other fires that swept through the midwestern forests--and there were many other fire years through the last decades of the nineteenth century--Michigan's prominent "Thumb" region, now a rather stark plain, was forest that was wiped out in a single year--

These were our first eco-catastrophes, and though the old newspaper accounts are horrifying, the stories stories were soon forgotten--anyone know of any other fire ballads?

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Subject: Lyr/Chords Add: THE HINKLEY FIRE (Charlie Maguire)
From: raredance
Date: 06 Nov 02 - 12:05 AM

from The charlie Maguire Songbook at

rich r

Words & Music by Charlie Maguire © 2001 Mello-Jamin Music. All rights reserved.
The entire town of Hinkley, Minnesota burned in a giant forest fire in 1894. This song tells of James Root and his Afro-American fireman Jack McGowan in one episode of bravery that up until now was "unsung."

Play Sample (from "Harbour Lights")


E          A                   E
It was the first of September 1894
B7                                  E               E7
Jim Root left the station bound for Saint Paul, Minnesota
          A                            E
With his hand on the throttle of Engine 69
                         B7      E      
Fireman Jack McGowan was by his side
             A            E
There was no warning come over the wire
      B7                      E      E7
That they were heading into a raging fire
    A                      E
Tom Dunn was dead at his telegraph key
                            B7      E
Before he could tap out what he did see


Jim Root said "We'd better roll it Jack
      B7                      E      E7
The devil himself is burning up the track
A                         E
Shovel that coal, get some smoke in the stack
                                       B7         E
Two-hundred people from Hinkley don't want to go back"

Additional verses:

Hinkley was burning like the end of the world
In a forest fire that did jump and curl
Over the housetops and the tall white pine
Coming for Engine 69
Near town the sky turned black as night
Jack climbed the engine, and lit the big headlight
The smoke made the sun shine like the moon
At 4 O'clock in the afternoon (refrain)

Then out of the woods and running fast
Men, women, and children, stood in their path
Saying "Hinkley is gone, the fire is just behind
Let us on your train and spare our lives"
They climbed aboard, Jim gave it all he had
The skies above, turned flaming red
He started rolling and he set the pace
Back up the rails, in a deadly race (refrain)

They ran for miles to a shallow lake
Stopped there by the waters cool and safe
The passengers rushed into that stream
The fire passed over them through the trees
Jack carried his engineer from the cab
Of that train that had run its last
And there they all stayed through the night
While the fire was burning bright

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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Peshtigo song
From: M.Ted
Date: 06 Nov 02 - 01:29 AM

The Hinkley fire, and this particular incident, are decribed in vivid detail in "Holy Old Mackinaw" which is a wonderful old book, probably now out of print, about lumbering and lumberjacks--

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