Frankenmuth & The Great Thumb Fire of 1881

Chart of the Burnt District of Michigan, The Great Thumb Fire of 1881.[1]
“Chart of the Burnt District of Michigan,” The Great Thumb Fire of 1881.[1]
134 years ago this month, the Great Thumb Fire swept through Michigan’s Thumb region. Hundreds perished in the fire. It destroyed over 3,000 buildings. The valuation of losses was over $2,000,000 in 1881 dollars.[2] The Great Thumb Fire of 1881 was the first major disaster response of the newly formed American Red Cross.[3]

The conflagration was centered mainly in the Thumb region counties of Huron, Sanilac, Tuscola, and Lapeer.[4] Largely forgotten to time, the fire extended as far west as Frankenmuth Township in Saginaw County. An article from The Saginaw Evening News provides the following details:

“The fires are spreading rapidly in the vicinity of Frankenmuth, and considerable damage has already been done. Three barns with their contents of hay and grain have been destroyed, and Martin Messner [Mossner] has lost 125 cords of wood and all his fences. Several houses are now in danger, and the fire is gaining.”[5]

Reference Notes:

[1] “Chart of the Burnt District of Michigan,” digital image, State of Michigan, Michigan.gov (http://www.michigan.gov/images/FIRE1881_22139_7.jpg : accessed 11 September 2015).

[2] William O. Bailey, Report on the Michigan Forest Fires of 1881 (Washington D.C.: Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1882), 16; digital images, Google Books (http://books.google.com : accessed 10 September 2015).

[3] “How Has Red Cross Fire Response Changed Over the Years?,” American Red Cross, News, 8 April 2015 (http://www.redcross.org/news/article/How-Has-Red-Cross-Fire-Response-Changed-Over-the-Years : accessed 11 September 2015).

[4] Bailey, Report on the Michigan Forest Fires of 1881, 13-16.

[5] “Red Ruin: At Frankenmuth,” The Saginaw (Michigan) Evening News, 6 September 1881, p. 2, col. 3; digital images, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 10 September 2015).

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