Prejudice and humility

Abram Place, originally from Vermont, was the second largest landowner in the area. He also worked at the Peshtigo Company. Yet people looked down him because he had married a Native American woman. He regularly welcomed Native Americans to his home—they warned him that fire was coming.

To prepare, Abram and his sons created a firebreak around their large, two-story house, as well as the barns. They removed dried leaves and branches around the buildings, then dug trenches three feet deep, down to the moist soil devoid of fuel for a potential fire. Most people dismissed his actions as those of a crazy man who had married a Native American.

When the fire approached, Mrs. Place’s relatives came to help save the house. They spent hours wetting and re-wetting blankets and putting them on the roof.

It was probably a combination of preparedness and luck that saved the Place home; it was one of the few buildings still standing in the three settlements in the Sugar Bush. Plowed fields and wet blankets were not universally effective in the firestorm.

After the fire, the Place home became a field hospital. Over 50 victims walked, staggered, or were carried to the homestead. After the fire, the prejudiced neighbors didn’t let their qualms about Mrs. Place keep them from seeking help at her home.