KS History – Group D

blogs about KS history

The 1874 Grasshopper Invasion September 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — mselby13 @ 3:36 pm

By 1874, the agricultural opportunities of the newly-founded state of Kansas had lured many settlers to the region, promising cheap land and abundant crops. The spring’s heavy rains only helped to further that notion, and by the first of July the state was eagerly looking ahead to a healthy harvest. But this particular year, a stark change in weather patterns and an unwelcome guest would soon change these settlers’ outlook.

As the month of July progressed, more and more counties began reporting an incredible invasion of locust, chinch bugs, and cut worms, until finally nearly every corner of the state had been touched. It was described as looking out into a field of summer greenery one day and waking up to a wintery desert the next. The locusts moved field to field like a black storm cloud, devastating any hope for crops in its path. 

This left the young territory in a state of panic. The government would quickly have to act, rationing bread and monetary aid to counties needing it the most – notably the western and northwestern reaches of the state. Eventually the state issued a total of $73,000 in state relief bonds, a staggering number for the time period.

– Michael Selby

information found at http://www.kshs.org/research/topics/agriculture/grassphoppers1874.htm

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12 Responses to “The 1874 Grasshopper Invasion”

  1. janae25 Says:

    This is very interesting. I didn’t realize that our precious wheat fields, and other crops, were in such jeopardy at one point in history! What I would like to know is how the little pests left Kansas. Did the usage of pesticides or something similar remove the greedy little annoyances? Something important had to of happened to rid the state of these insects- as we still produce much of the grains used today in the United States.

  2. keg29 Says:

    I never knew that this event occurred. Its crazy to think that that many insects could have invaded and inhabited the state. I too want to know how they managed to get rid of all the insects. But i also want to know what the overall effect was and how long it took for the farmers to recover.

    Kara Gerstenberger

  3. Sammy Greenberg Says:

    This topic is both interesting from a Kansas history stand point and pertinent to what I am studying in my sociology class. Agriculture and the food supply chains keep our country together. It boosts our economy and allows us to always have food to eat. What if the 1874 invasion happened today? If the “young Kansas Territory” was in a state of panic in 1874, I do not want to imagine what kind of panic would occur with a 2009 Kansas grasshopper invasion.

  4. David Johnson Says:

    This is a very interesting point and illustrates just some of the many difficulties settlers faced after moving to Kansas. Not only did they have to uproot themselves from their homes, but they were then faced with crippling circumstances that inhibited them from farming (the one thing most needed provide for their families and survive). I think that this event precludes the dust bowl and other natural disasters (droughts, etc.) that settlers were forced to rise above. It shows the determination and will to succeed these early Kansans harbored.

    David Johnson

  5. Ryan Diehl Says:

    Most people, I would have to say, have never heard of this tragedy. It is heartbreaking to see what these farmers had to put up with on this new frontier. If they were not battling a drought the settlers had to put up with other pitfalls such as the one you described. It would be interesting to see if these invaders moved on to new territories after ravishing Kansas, or did they die in the harsh winters that we often experience.
    Ryan Diehl

  6. jfinkly Says:

    This really is fascinating. As I read over your post I have to wonder if there is any historical evidence pointing to why this occurred apart from the change in weather. Often times migrations of people will bring with them non native species which the native plant life are not capable of dealing with, and since your post mentions the new settlers, I wonder if any historians have tried to track down the root causes.
    -Jeff Garfinkle

  7. cornwche Says:

    It is really crazy that such small creatures could do so much damage. I really wonder what it looked like and what the recovery process was like, and how people even began to fix the problem. I’m almost amazed that people came back to Kansas for fear that it might happen again. One has to wonder if it affected people mentally as well, I would think that a massive cloud of disgusting bugs would be slightly frightening; I know it would be for me!

  8. Kristen Epps Says:

    Great choice of topic, Michael. We will get to talk about this some in a future lecture, so stay tuned!

  9. Michael Raasch Says:

    It just goes to show how much has changed over the year. the once barren state that no one wanted was turned into a crop capital. its just hard to fathom what life must have been like for the farmers out there during this time; helpless when it came to the invasion. One day living the dream life, and the next living the nightmare of not knowing whats next..

  10. Travis Jackson Says:

    It seems that I am in the same boat as many of the comments above mine. I had heard of the dust bowl and it’s devastating effects on farm life, but never of a locust invasion. This sounds like a biblical famine or something equally large. It would be amazing to see a swarm of bugs devastate an entire farm of crops. Nice post.

    -Travis Jackson

  11. Dan Says:

    At it’s high point, how deep were the locusts in the fields as they landed in swarms? I heard more than a foot deep. Garrison Kieler in his radio show mentioned the locusts would even devour the cloths of the farmers if they were on the cloths lines.

  12. Dan Says:

    As the locusts landed in the fields during the worst invasion how deep were they. I heard over one foot deep in places and they devoured even the cloths on the cloths lines if left there. (As Per Garrison Kieler’s talk show)


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