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The Sky Was Brass, The Earth Was Ashes: The Story of the Great Peshtigo Fire

September 22 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Peshtigo Fire

Family historian and author, Karen Humiston, will present “The Sky Was Brass, The Earth Was Ashes: The Story of the Great Peshtigo Fire” on Thursday, September 22, 2022, 6:00 pm, in the Boulder Lake Room at the Boulder Junction Community Center. The program is co-sponsored by the Boulder Junction Public Library and the Northern Waters Genealogical Society.

On October 8, 1871, the deadliest wildfire in United States history swept through a large part of northeastern Wisconsin. Though it happened on the same night as the Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo Fire was a far greater natural disaster. Five times as many people died in Wisconsin as in Chicago, and vast areas of forest and farmland were reduced to ashes. This presentation will explore the circumstances of the fire and the stories of some of the families caught up in it.

Humiston has spent nearly three years researching the Peshtigo Fire. Her book, The Sky Was Brass; The Earth Was Ashes: The Story of the Great Peshtigo Fire will be released in 2022.
Growing up in the Green Bay area, Karen Vincent Humiston had a fascination for history and genealogy from an early age. She began doing genealogy research as a teenager, and that research has been a constant thread in the background of her life. She received her bachelor’s degree in Theatre and English from UW-Stevens Point and her master’s degree in Theatre (Historical and Textual Studies) from Northwestern University. After some years as an actress, waitress, and high school English teacher, she settled into full-time motherhood for four alarmingly energetic kids. In the meantime, she continued her research and contributed to the book French-Canadian Sources: A Guide for Genealogists, published by Ancestry in 2006.

In recent years, Karen has been working on raising her genealogical skills to a higher level, studying at the Genealogical Institute for Federal Records, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh, and the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. Early in 2019, she decided to put her skills to work on the subject of the Great Peshtigo Fire, a lifelong source of fascination. Since that time, she has done intensive research on all aspects of the fire, with particular emphasis on the families and individuals caught up in it.

This free program is sponsored by the Boulder Junction Public Library and the Boulder Junction Area Historical Society. Refreshments will be served. For more information, please call the library at 715-385-2050.


September 22
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Boulder Junction Community Center
5392 Park Street
Boulder Junction, WI 54512 United States
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