1881 Great Michigan Thumb Fire Is the Setting for Author’s Debut Novel

Debut novelist Carol Nickles announces Thumb Fire Desire’s international release, a fictional historical romance set in Parisville, the first Polish-American settlement in Michigan. The story begins in the Spring of 1881 and draws the reader through the hot, dry summer, climaxing during the Great Thumb Fire of 1881. The event is the state’s most significant natural disaster but ends with a note of optimism in the final month of the year. 

Historical Fiction Of The 1881 Thumb Fire

Though written as fiction, factual political, economic, cultural, and agronomic threads are woven throughout the story.  

In the Spring of 1881, impoverished seamstress Ginny Dahlke arrived in one of the earliest Polish American settlements—Parisville, Michigan. Deemed charmless and awkward by her mean-spirited sister-in-law, Ginny disparages her chance of securing love. But sought-after widowed farmer Peter Nickles is enamored by Ginny’s perseverance, pioneer spirit, and inclusive acceptance of Michigan’s indigenous peoples.

The Novel’s Setting in Michigan History

That summer, a frequent visitor to Port Austin, U.S. President James Garfield, was assassinated in July 1881. Cargo ships dock in Michigan Thumb peninsula ports to unload farm equipment and load beans. On Lake Huron and the Cass River, indigenous peoples fish.  In kitchens, Polish immigrants prepare sausage-stuffed pierogis and poppy-laced kolacky. 

Farmers prepare for the harvest of their fields of wheat—the foundation for apple dumplings, sap for vodka, and stalks for decorative weavings. Then, finally, women light their wash fires on Monday, September 5, and a north cyclonic wind whips the embers into the conflagration of the Great Thumb Fire, which kills two hundred and eighty-two people decimates over two thousand square miles of the Thumb peninsula.

In response to the disaster unfolding in Michigan, Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, launched the agency’s first national relief effort in response to the Great Thumb Fire of 1881. 

The seductiveness of a voluptuous heiress, a twisted story of an old-country betrothal, and the largest natural disaster in Michigan’s history—The Great Thumb Fire of September 5, 1881, challenge their fledgling attraction and ultimate committal.

About the Author Carol Nickles

Author Carol Nickles

Carol Nickles is the sixth generation in a family of textile connoisseurs from Germany. Her great-great-great-grandfather established the Yale Woolen Mill in 1881, making it the longest-running of Michigan’s once-nine woolen mills. Carol wrote a narrative thesis about the Yale Woolen Mill for her Master’s degree in Historic Clothing and Textiles at Michigan State University. She was a professor at the University of Utah and Michigan State. She likes spinning a yarn, weaving a story, and threading an irresistible hook and resides in West Michigan.

Thumb Fire Desire, published by The Wild Rose Press, is available on Amazon.  

Carol Nickles is available for speaking engagements and book events. You can contact her via her website:  https://www.carolnicklesauthor.com.

Related Reading of the Great Thumb Fire of 1881

1881 Michigan Fire Forever Changed The Thumb – The fires of September 4th through the 6th of 1881, commonly known as the Thumb Fire, took hundreds of lives and burned well over one million acres.

The Great Fires Of 1871 – The Burning Great Lakes – The situation could not be worse in Michigan’s Thumb. The prevailing winds brought embers and dense smoke from the other Michigan fires burning west. Within hours over 2,000 lives were lost, and millions of acres burned.

12 Sites Make Up This Amazing Time Capsule Of Huron City, Michigan – Huron City, Michigan, is a historic district and museum with buildings from the 1800s. The town was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. The tiny village is open for tours on Friday and Saturday during July & August.

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