Sunday, November 8, 2009


From a Rice County, Kansas newspaper of 1874:

"This pest, about the time of the first settlement of the county, had visited us on one or two occasions, and departed without any serious injury. But when they came in 1874, the details of the sufferings of our people at that period, in consequence of this terrible visitation, have been so freely and vividly portrayed through the press of the United States, as to render any extended repetition of them unnecessary at this time. Suffice it to say, that for five days preceding the appearance of the grasshoppers in that year, unusually hot winds from the southwest prevailed, until July 25, when the mercury stood at 106 degrees in the shade, 116 degrees in the sun, at 2 o'clock P. M. On the following day the wind suddenly shifted into the northeast, and about 2 o'clock P. M. the grasshopper storm burst upon us; and they increased in numbers until the 28th, when the climax was reached. The wind shifted on the following day to the south, and remained there until August 1, when it returned into the northeast, and on August 2, a fresh installment came from that quarter, and remained until August 7, when most of them took their departure, the wind still blowing from the northeast.

"For the first three days after their appearance, the whole heavens were darkened with their presence and the earth with their bodies. They covered every tree and plant, and every green thing -- the prairie and water courses. They flew like hail in the faces of men, dashed themselves against every object, animate and inanimate, and as they rushed through the air or near the earth, and struck an opposing object, the rattle of their contact resembled the sound of a hailstorm on the roof, or the clashing of sabres in the scabbards of a squadron of cavalry at full gallop. Like the frogs and the locusts in Pharaohs time, they were every where.

"When this scourge had fairly settled down upon us, the stoutest hearts quailed before it, and gloom was depicted on every countenance. The plow was left standing midway in the furrow, and for a while all farm labor was virtually suspended. The most gifted pen and the most eloquent tongue are inadequate for the task, for language is too poor to paint the scene of desolation wrought by the grasshoppers of 1874.

"But the silver lining soon rose above the dark cloud. Early in September, copious rains refreshed the parched earth, and thus prepared the way for the most bountiful crops the ensuing year that Kansas ever produced. Relief to the stricken people poured in from abroad, and never was aid more timely and necessary, or even more gratefully received by any people, than it was by the citizens of this county, that fall and the ensuing winter. For our people knew and felt that their destitution was not the result of slothfulness or extravagance on their part, and that no human foresight could have averted this calamity. Joyfully and without any humiliation on their part, they received the bounty of others. The scourge of 1874 was not wholly unmixed with blessings, nor without some useful lessons. Men’s hearts grew larger and beat with quicker sympathy for each other, in the presence of this wide desolation."

I say, even making allowances for the hyperbole of the day, this must have been a horrible ordeal to live through.

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