The greatest number of fire deaths in United States history occurred on October 8, 1871, but the fire didn't happen in Chicago.
A little to the north in Wisconsin, Peshtigo and surrounding communities also burned that day -- at the same time as the Great Chicago Fire. Estimates of between 1,000 and 2,500 people lost their lives and almost two square miles of homes, farmland and forest. Survivors reported seeing a tornado form from the immense heat and wind generated by the huge fire.
Approximately 300 unidentified victims wound up being buried in a mass grave. You can visit the grave site today, as well as the Peshtigo Fire Museum which is nearby. The museum has a collection of artifacts from the fire, although there wasn't much that remained once the flames finally subsided. Both contemporary accounts and recent publications are also available to learn more about this horrific event that was overshadowed by Chicago's story.