In the middle of the 19th century, immigrants from across Europe were streaming to America's Great Lakes region to escape famine and poverty. Many of these new Americans were from the Netherlands. These Hollanders walked from their failing farms to Rotterdam, boarded overcrowded sailing ships for a month long voyage to New York. The the Erie Canal brought them to Buffalo and Lake Erie, where they boarded a steamer for the 1,000 mile journey to their new homes on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin and Michigan.
In November, 1847, the
propeller Phoenix, loaded beyond capacity with 300 passengers and
crew caught on fire when just 6 miles from their new home in Sheboygan,
Wisconsin. 250 aboard the Phoenix were forced to choose between death by fire
and jumping into the frozen water. Only two dozen immigrants survived.
A pivotal point in Wisconsin's immigration story, the Phoenix Disaster portrays the heartbreak and and triumph of some of the state's earliest European settlers. Craig Rich tells the tale of the Phoenix Disaster as no one else can in a multimedia presentation with a personal twist revealed at the end!