1897 was part of a long drought that began in earnest in 1894 in the Plains & Midwest. At times, this major drought extended from the Plains to southeastern Canada to the southern U.S.
1897 saw an extreme dry period August-October. Some places recorded not a single drop of rainfall August 23-October 11. These locations seemed to be confined to Henderson, Webster & Hopkins counties & southwestward. However, in 1897, there was a lack of density with observation sites.
By early October 1897, widespread wildfires were reported from Minnesota to Ontario to the Kankakee Marsh area of northern Indiana to Kentucky & Tennessee. A large forest fire was reported in Decatur County, Indiana in early fall. The Kankakee Marsh fires in 1897 proceeded the massive fires of Fall 1895.
Palmer Drought Severity Index reconstructions show a massive drought with severity to “Exceptional” during this period with +8″ deficits for August to October (only 2-10% of the normal rainfall) averaged in multiple climate divisions or districts.