Grasshoppers in the 1870s
That the grasshoppers (locusters) have been a plague and an admonitions rod in the Lords hand, that everybody have to admit. It is, however, not many who fully understand, what plague they were, except for those who lived here in this settlement the years the grasshoppers ravaged here, that is in 1872-75 and partly '76. They who lived here then, in full experienced the effects of the grasshoppers ravaging. It is always difficult to start in a new settlement, where everybody is poor, and the one has nothing to give the other for help. And in addition the grasshoppers took all of what one had in the fall, it became worse to get through. One bought wheat for seed in Lake Park and from some Dutchmen , who farmed in a large scale and lived near Lake Park, and paid 1 Dollar for a bushel, and sometimes more than 1 dollar to get Seed in the soil. And when the autumn came, the grasshoppers took all of it, mostly they did not even left the seed.
Haven't those Dutchmen been farming at a large scale so there was possibilities for work for everybody who wanted to come, and construction of a sawmill and so on on the White Earth Reservation, it had been even worse for people to fight their way through. In addition, the price for the butter was fairly good those years, and in the fall one obtained from 20 - 25 Cts pr. pound; this was a good help for the settlers too. And it was the blessing at that time, none had debts.
Everybody owned the little he had; to be in debt to someone, could not be taken in consideration. Many times it was sad to see the small fields one had, just as they stood so excellent and graceful as possible, were taken by the grasshoppers during a days time, and there were nothing left to harvest. And sometimes the grasshoppers came that suddenly and unexpected, that in a few hours there were nothing to harvest.
Accordingly John Narum tells about the grasshoppers arrival the last year, he was here, that is in 1876, the following : " In 1875 the grasshoppers did not lay eggs and we started to hope that we now should be without them. And in the spring of '76 we did not see them before the beginning of July, and everything were growing, oats, barley and wheat, so all of us had the best hopes. A Sunday morning, probably July 9th, I went with Kristian Olson and John Grønøen, who lived on Fossum at that time, westwards the sections 6 and 8 in Home Lake, because Mr. Grønøen wanted to look for land there. After we had been looking at the land, we went north to Peter Skjægruds to rest a bit and to have a chat, we did not have many neighbors to visit at that time, what one can understand.
It was nice pretty sunshine and everything looked nice and pleasant. We arrived at Skægruds some minutes after 12 o'clock. Mrs. Skjærgud immediately started to make dinner also for us. When the dinner was ready we sat down to table, but we were scarcely seated, when Mrs. Skjægrud, looking out the door, cried out : " Indeed, it is snowing ! " We ran from the table and out to have a look, and quite right, the snow falls so white and soft and thick on fields and trees, as in February. And the sky was so thick that we hardly could see the sun. What kind of snow it was, we soon knew; it was nothing else but the grasshoppers. And they came so thick that within an hour the field and meadows completely were covered by them. When we some time later left from Skjægruds, he followed us a part of the distance to see the effect the arrival of the grasshoppers had. Then they were laying thick on the ground, and every step we took showed our footprints. I took off my sweater, tied up the sleeves by the hands, and I took one side and Mr. Skjægrud the other, and so we ran towards the wind, to see how many grasshoppers we could catch.
And we did not ran too far before the arms were so full that there was no space fore more. So one can understand that there was enough of them. And this way the grasshoppers laid on the ground to Thursday Morning, then there was a fresh wind from west, so they started to get up one by one, and after some hours there were none left but a few here and there.
But by then they had done their work. The barley was so completely gone, that only the empty peduncle was left. From the wheat they had not been taking anything but the loose leaves; the spikes was safe, so we got a good harvest all the same. I had 4 acres and got about 80 bushels.
When the grasshoppers came Sunday evening, many of the settlers became discouraged and decided to leave the Settlement. We all started to harvest the hay because we feared that the hay would be taken too.
However, we cheered up they who wanted to go, and when the grasshoppers disappeared on Thursday, nobody wanted to leave. Later we did not see the grasshoppers anymore, at least not on the ground, and it is to hope, we never again will be seeing them. "
Translated by Håkon Skaugvoll
From the book "Nogle Optegnelser om Settling m.m. indenfor de fire Towns Fossum, Wild Rice, Home Lake og Flom i Norman County, Minn".
Collected by R. Grutle, Lars Aamoth, John Narum, O.S. Bently and John Hommelvig.