Forest History Association Of Wisconsin

Educating the citizens of Wisconsin on the history and importance of our forests in the continued growth of our state.

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2021 FHAW Pre Conference Webinars

City of Peshtigo Hosts FHAW 46th Annual Fall Conference : Oct. 7th & 8th

Registration ends September 22, 2021

Registration Closed / Provision for Live Feed

While registration for physical attendance at the Conference is now closed, provision has been made for on-line participation by "live feed" for Forest History Association of Wisconsin members. We're aware of the concerns for travel and participation in group events posed in this era of "Covid".

The Conference speaker presentations scheduled for October 8, 2021, from 9am to 5 pm CDT will be live streamed. Those joining the live stream will be able to pose questions and get answers during the scheduled offerings.

If you are among those with interest in the program, but are not yet a member, you might consider joining the Association.

FHAW Members receive a print copy of Conference Proceedings and series of newsletters throughout the year.

The 46th Annual Fall Conference starts with a general membership meeting, dinner and theater performance on Thursday, October 7th, at the Embers 1871 Restaurant in Peshtigo.

The membership meeting begins at 5 pm. On the agenda, is affirmation of the Association’s Bylaws, activity reports, election of directors and awards presentation.

That will be followed, or accompanied by cocktails until dinner is served at 6:30 pm.  On the menu is a family-style chicken and beef-tips dinner served with potatoes, vegetables and coffee.

Following dinner members of the Marinette Genealogy Group will provide a presentation intertwining actual 1871 newspaper articles from the Marinette Peshtigo Eagle, with survivor stories.

The production is a moving testimonial of those that lived through the horrific Peshtigo Fire of 1871 and the writer’s descriptive words of the local happenings at that time. You’ll gain an understanding of circumstances leading up to the fire, and the devastation citizens endured during and after the fire. With that understanding you’ll recognize the community’s rightful pride in Peshtigo’s forefathers and their determination to rebuild the community giving it it’s motto today;“The City Rebuilt from Ashes.”

The conference continues Friday morning at 8:30 am with coffee and donuts offered as a welcome to the Peshtigo Community Center. The morning program begins at 9 am.

  • The first lecture, Before and After the Fires: Increase Lapham on Deforestation, Climate, and the Fires will be presented by Martha Bergland and Paul G. Hayes, co-authors of the book Studying Wisconsin: The Life of Increase Lapham, early chronicler of plants, rocks, rivers, mounds, and all things Wisconsin. Lapham is renowned for much applied science across Wisconsin. More than anyone and earlier than most in Wisconsin, Increase Lapham understood the effects of removing the forests and of prevailing winds. He wrote the first national scientific report about the 1871 fires for the forerunner of the National Weather Service.

    Bergland taught English at Milwaukee Area Technical College. After her retirement, she studied Increase Lapham for five years. She has also written two novels and is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. Her coauthor, Hayes, is a former science, energy and environmental reporter for "The Milwaukee Journal from 1962 to 1995.

  • The Great Peshtigo Fire was a catastrophe on a grand scale, but for its thousands of victims, it was a very personal trauma. The second presentation, A Stricken People; The Victims of the Peshtigo Fire, presented by Karen Vincent Humiston, will look at the fire through the perspective of a few of the families and individuals involved. It will also touch on precautions taken by some before the fire, and how the experience shaped their personal preparedness afterwards.

    Karen Vincent Humiston has had a lifelong fascination with family history and the Peshtigo Fire. With more than forty years of experience as a genealogy researcher, Karen spent the past two years intensively researching the fire and the many families and individuals caught up in it. Her book, The Sky Was Brass; The Earth Was Ashes: The Story of the Great Peshtigo Fire,will be released later this year.

  • The final morning presentation, Father Pernin’s Personal Account of the Peshtigo Fire - “revisited” is based on Father Pernin’s book, The Great Peshtigo Fire: An Eyewitness Account. That book has provided historians with the most realistic and unembellished facts based on what he witnessed that night as he struggled for his own survival. Cole Couvillion will narrate Pernin’s experiences on behalf of his father, Robert Couvillion. They will inject facts about the fire, the lives of citizens at that time, and how learning from that event brought about societal change.

    Robert Couvillion retired from the US Postal Service in 1980. He has a comprehensive knowledge of local history, including Native American, early European settlement, and the logging era of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He is a charter member of the Peshtigo Historical Society where he served terms as president and vice-president and remains the organization’s historian.

    Cole Couvillion is a recently retired WDNR forester/ranger, with over 30 years of service. During his career, he worked on wildfire suppression throughout the state and nation, along with a professional commitment to directing sustainable forestry on county, state, and private lands.

A break at midday includes a soup and sandwich wrap luncheon with beverages.

  • When the afternoon presentations begin, Bailey Kopesel, executive director of the Door County Historical Society will take the podium with her talk, The Night of Hell.

    On the evening of October 8, 1871, at the same time Chicago and Peshtigo were burning, a fire tore through southern Door County and completely devastated the small but thriving village of Williamsonville. This fire, which spawned a “fire tornado”, originated near New Franken in Brown County, and burned through Brown, Kewaunee and into Door County. Today, this fire area is included in what everyone simply calls, “The Peshtigo Fire.”

  • Our next presentation, Menominee Connections: Perspectives on the Peshtigo Fire of 1871 and Indigenous Forestry will be delivered by Gary Besaw. He will tell of the Tribe’s association with settlers in the 1871 period, and especially work done by them in preparation for what was about to occur on October 8th, and their contribution to the recovery immediately afterward, for which they have recently been recognized.

    Gary Besaw is Director of the Menominee Tribal Department of Agriculture and Food Systems. He served 15 years on the Menominee Tribal Legislature, including two terms as Tribal Chairman. Gary has served on or presented at multiple tribal, state, and national committees regarding Native policy, the environment, and various other areas.  He holds an MS in Education Administration from UW-Madison, and a BS in K-12 Art Education from UW-Stout.

  • The final afternoon presentation is, Ruins to Recovery: The Birth of the County Forest. The fire that devastated the area in 1871 transformed the landscape and had lasting effects. The foresightedness to realize the importance of growing trees lead to the creation of the County Forest as we know it today.

    The presenter, Pete Villas, obtained a B.S. in Forestry from Michigan Technological University in 1997. He has served as the Marinette County Forester since 2013.

The speaker programs will end by 5 pm when beer, wine or soft drinks will be offered to accompany a lite ‘Fish Fry Dinner’ and socialization between the time of close of speakers until transportation to join “the walk.”

Conference attendees are invited to join the Peshtigo community’s “Memory Walk” at 8 pm. The "walk" between the Fire Museum and a Monument along the bank of the Peshtigo River will cover 3 city blocks. On October 8, 1871 the church bell in Peshtigo began to toll, alerting residents to imminent danger, with a call to move toward the Peshtigo River to save themselves—this walk commemorates that event. Bus transportation will be available to accommodate participants.

Tours are arranged for Saturday to round out the conference schedule. Plans are to offer tours beginning at 9 am for both the Peshtigo Fire Museum and Harmony Hardwoods—Marinette County Park and Arboretum. Our group will split and tour both sites concurrently. Tours are approximately one hour each. Participants visit one site, and then switch to the other site, for another tour to begin at 10:30 am.

During the noon break, attendees are encouraged to visit a local restaurant at Peshtigo or Marinette for their lunch. A Dutch treat.

The Marinette Logging Museum on Stephenson Island, will be open from 1 to 3 pm to welcome conference attendees.

New Membership Special

The Association offers a special half price individual membership fee for new members – just an additional $10 with your conference registration.

Upcoming Webinars

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Featured Collection

Menominee Logging Camp

The whole family will enjoy a trip through the largest and most complete logging museum in the United States. Guides are available to explain the many old logging artifacts as you tour the bunk-house, cook shanty, wood butcher’s shop, blacksmith shop, saw filer’s shack, horse barn, and old time camp office. Located on the Wild Wolf River at Grignon Rapids just below the famous Keshena Falls, the seven log buildings of the complex will bring back the roaring times of the earliest days of Wisconsin’s first industry , logging. Located in Keshena , Wisconsin.