Sunday, February 14, 2010

Grasshoppers and Kansas

We are almost coming to the end of Uncle Josiah and the 1870s. My next post will start his letters from the 1880s. Before I forget, I mentioned a couple of posts ago about a Miss Eastman. I thought her first name might be Lucy. I am 99% certain it is Mary F. Eastman. I found reference to her visiting Grand Rapids in 1874. It appears Josiah's son was also involved in the women's suffrage movement. I wish I had access to the Grand Rapids Herald. I'm sure they covered the event.

Now on to Kansas. My last post described the letter Josiah sent to his Niece regarding his golden wedding anniversary. The last part of the letter describes the tribulations of one of his grand daughters (not named) living in Kansas. She lives in the aptly named, Grasshopper region of Kansas. The story goes something like this, around the first of July in 1874 a swarm of grasshoppers descended onto the farm of his grand daughter. They devoured everything that was green over the period of two days.

His son-in-law lost his 20 acres of corn, "eaten right down to the ground", Josiah mentions. He tells Sarah he sent his grand daughter a couple boxes of supplies and a barrel of flour as they are quite destitute. He feels the Country has forgotten these poor souls.

I went in search of newspaper articles and found among more than 175 articles listed for 1874 at, the small little clip to the right from the Chicago Tribune dated 08 Aug 1874. It describes the horrible destruction caused by the grasshoppers. Evidently, they were so bad they destroyed every green thing in sight. I also found the wonderful link at the bottom of this post. It goes to the Kansas Historical Society. They have eyewitness accounts of the plague. It seems that the grasshoppers would even eat the wool right off of the sheep and devour shirts off the backs of people! The trains couldn't run because the crushed grasshoppers on the tracks made them too slick for the train wheels to get traction. I just can't imagine that!

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