The organization that would become known as the Red Cross met for the first time – led by Clara Barton - in Washington D.C. at the home of a Michigan senator, Omar Conger in 1881.

CLARA BARTON FAST FACTS (from Stockbridge Community News):
1) Born in 1821, Oxford, Massachusetts
2) Job as a teacher at age 15
3) Founded a New Jersey free school at age 27
4) Worked in Washington D.C. in the U.S. Patent Office
5) When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Clara provided medical help and provisions for wounded soldiers.
6) In 1869, she got the idea for an American Red Cross from the International Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland.

The first relief case for the Red Cross was right here in Michigan. The Great Michigan Thumb Fire of 1881 spread through a number of counties including Huron and St. Clair, with the worst affected being Lapeer, Sanilac, and Tuscola, between Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay. They still don’t know what caused this massive fire, as there were others at the same time that broke out in Illinois and Wisconsin. Some theorize that small fires were fueled by strong winds and carried across the thumb, igniting others during that excessively dry summer. Other believe meteors hit the Thumb, Illinois, and Wisconsin, causing widespread blazes. The fires were believed to be spread to an even greater extent, caused by drought and piles of debris left by lumber companies: sawdust, discarded dry timber, fallen trees, and dried pulp.

THE MICHIGAN THUMB FIRE:
1) Devastated approximately one million acres of Michigan land
2) Destroyed 3,400 buildings
3) Killed 282 people (possibly others, like lumbermen and other isolated workers)
4) Left 15,000 residents homeless

The American Red Cross took their first challenge and supplied necessities to those who were injured or left homeless, with food, clothing, and shelter.

Clara, nicknamed “The Angel of the Battlefield”, accumulated and systematized the available procedures for emergency and first aid, many of which are used to this day.

She passed away from pneumonia on April 12, 1912 at the age of 90.

Clara Barton & The Red Cross in Michigan

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