Holland, Manistee, and ninety percent of the homes in
Michigan's thumb were destroyed by a fire-- the same day Chicago burned.
Rapid population growth on the frontier, coupled with poor
urban planning created a situation ripe for devastating urban fires in
the late 19th Century. Cities throughout the Midwest such as Chicago,
Pestigo, Wisconsin, Holland, Manistee, Ontonagon, Oscoda, and Huron
City were all destroyed at least once in the period. A forty square
mile swath of land from Saginaw Bay to Lake Huron was completely wiped
out, killing over fifty people.
While there has not been an official tally of the Michigan
portion of the 1871 fire's devastation, an estimated two million acres
burned, hundreds were made homeless, and over two hundred died. When
fires returned ten years later to the same areas, the result was even
more devastating, due to the downed trees and brush left over from the
For more information about the 19th Century Michigan fires, see Michigan on Fire by Betty Sodders.