Devil In The North Woods
Author: Walt Shiel
Publisher: Slipdown Mountain Pubns (2005)
Binding: Paperback, 246 pages
What would you do if a wildfire swept through your area without warning?
In October 1908, a wildfire swept through northeast Michigan and consumed 900 homes and two million acres of farms and forest. Despite the valiant efforts of the farmers, lumbermen, and shopkeepers, only Lake Huron could quench the flames. With no fire watch towers, spotting aircraft, telephones, or organized firefighting and only limited telegraph, warnings were too few and too late.
Devil in the North Woods accurately depicts the fire's genesis, growth, and aftermath. The story's real-life protagonist, 10-year-old Henry Hardies, survived the fire but family did not. Relying on Henry's personal recollections and author Walt Shiel's faithful recreation of time and place, the book vividly brings Henry's ordeal to life.
Devil in the North Woods contrasts the terror of nature's destruction with a chronicle of family, love, sorrow, and recovery. The story leaves the reader buoyed by faith in the resilience of the human spirit and belief in love's ability to germinate amid the ashes of ruin.
Includes a map and six historical photos.
Walt Shiel takes his readers into another vivid turn-of-the century adventure through Devil in the North Woods. This is a historically accurate account of a 1908 fire that destroyed the town of Metz, Michigan. Tragically, many of the town’s citizens perished whether they tried to fight the fire or escape. Through their trials, Shiel highlights how different life was in the early 1900s, with horse-drawn transportation and one room schoolhouses the norm. His account of the fire provides a drama that is entertaining, but not for the squeamish. Therein lies the power of this book, Shiel’s writing is so visceral it will cause the reader to blanch, but then turn the page for more.
Reviewed by: Stephne Phillips (2011)