Grasshopper Plagues and a Sense of Humor

It was not uncommon for Missouri newspapers to carry letters from other states that told about the challenges faced by farmers during the plagues. Here is a letter from an unknown author that appeared in the September 23, 1876, St. Louis Dispatch. The letter is unique in that it not only demontrates the helplessness felt by farmers, but it also shows one who could maintain a sense of humor even under great stress:


A Bloomington Farm Devastated in an Hour

An Original Account of the Occurrence

Saline County, Kan., Sept. 8, 1876

Dear Father: No man can successfully fight against nature. The contest is unequal - nature caring no more for a man than for a grasshopper. Ah! the "hopper," Today, I lost sixty acres of wheat, eaten into the ground in less than an hour. I thought I had seen locusts two years ago, but I was mistaken. At about ten o'clock this morning, I noticed a heavy smoke rising in the West. I said to myself, "this is strange looking smoke. What causes it?" Rapidly it arose, smoke rising to the south, to the north, to the northeast. In a few minutes the column of smoke extended from the south around by the west to the northeast - to the extreme limit of vision. While I was saying to myself, "Yes, I understand you now, " my heart slowly sank. Unhitching my team, I put my fall wheat sacks in the wagon, hitched to it, and drove to the granary, unloaded, drove to the house, got my gun , and went prairie chicken shooting. Soon the low hum, as of a distant threshing machine, filled the air - the advance of the locusts. Louder, louder, even louder the hum, till in a roar the countless billions of devourers were on us, all around us. The air was stiff with them. I could look at the sun without blinking. They settled constantly. The earth was covered with them, yet not one in a thousand stopped. To the east they went in a vast cloud. A west wind, a gale, blew them. For six hours, they flew, a solid cloud; and tonight there is not a wheat plant left in any of the counties about here. I sat on a hill and watched them, and smiled as I saw hundreds tackle a sunflower, and laughed as I saw that sunflower vanish. How thick they were! How harmless they looked, but great Jove, how they ate! Ah! what appetites they have. It would make a dyspeptic turn green with envy to see the way they fasten to anything and everything edible. The characteristic of a grasshopper's appetite is, that all he eats runs to appetite. Sixty acres of my wheat was up. Now it is down - the gullets of the locusts. I have joy in saying that I have 80 acres of corn that will try their teeth somewhat. It is as hard as corn can be. I walked down this afternoon to see how they were making out with it. They had the stalks all stripped of leaves and were sawing at the corn. But I could see that it was no go. Their teeth slipped over the bright yellow surface. Our garden is perfectly cleared; beans, cabbages, tomatoes, melons, everything utterly gone. The vines to the potatoes are gone, and I am expecting a boss hopper up here at any minutes to request the loan of a spade to dig up my pototatoes with. I shall refuse his request with scorn.


For many years, midwesterners were still fearful of grasshoppers and remembered their effects. Here are two exaggeration postcards from the early 1900's that must have represented the fears of some.

 grasshopper exaggeration

grasshopper exaggeration

  Visit our other pages to learn more about the Grasshopper Plagues: 

Rocky Mountain Locust Natural History
Grasshopper Gathering Equipment
Actual Missouri Accounts
Grasshoppers and a Sense of Humor
Destitute Settlers
Were they all bad?
Grasshoppers and Trains
Do we still have Grasshopper Plagues?
Missouri Legislation
What can we learn from the Grasshopper Plagues?
Damage Estimates and Restitution
Grasshopper Plague links

This page was designed and is maintained by Lyndon N. Irwin.