Sawdust Town

from Wisconsin River by Chris Richards

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about

Late one evening in the fall of 1871, a firestorm 10 miles wide and 200 feet high bore down on the pioneer lumber town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, generating wind speeds over 100 mph and temperatures of 2,000ºF (hotter than a cremation oven). When the sun rose the next morning, the tornado of fire had incinerated 1.3 million acres of land and nearly everything on it, including 2 billion trees and as many as 2,500 men, women and children. It still ranks as the most devastating fire in American history.

Florabelle Glass was 13 years old when fire came to Peshtigo.

lyrics

It’s Sunday morning of 8 October
Mama made breakfast while we finished our chores
We all walked home from Sunday church
And you couldn’t see the sun in the sky no more

It’s been three months since the last good rain
And the forest all around us dry as hay
The smoke’s gettin’ thicker and Daddy’s worried
He’s been diggin’ ditches ‘round the house all day

Night has settled in an eerie quiet
When brother points a finger to the southwest sky
Treetops orange and red and growing
Now I see the panic in my Daddy’s eyes

“Run, Florabelle, go run to the river!
Y’ain’t got time to put your shoes back on
Run, Florabelle, run-run to the river!
Fire is coming to a sawdust town”

The wind’s whipping up, you can hear it coming
And I’m running as fast as my legs will go
Through panicked horses and deer and people
It’s chaos in the streets of Peshtigo

“Run, Florabelle, go run to the river!
You just might make it if you don’t fall down
Run, Florabelle, run-run to the river!
Fire is coming to a sawdust town”

Take a right at the corner where the church is ashes
Left at the corner where the schoolhouse burns
Balls of fire rain down around me
It’s a wild inferno everywhere I turn

“Run, Florabelle, go run to the river!”
The flames are nippin’ at your calico gown
Run, Florabelle, run-run to the river!
Fire is coming to a sawdust town”

I can’t see the water but I know I’m near it
From the splashin’ and the screamin’ and the cries of pain
Oh, my God, it’s right behind me!
It must be the arrival of the devil’s train

“Run, Florabelle, go run to the river!”
And don’t look behind you as it all burns down
Run, Florabelle, run-run to the river!
Fire is coming to a sawdust town”

“Fire is coming to a sawdust town”


© 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)

credits

from Wisconsin River, released April 22, 2021

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Chris Richards Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Chris Richards is a critically acclaimed songwriter and recording artist from Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

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