midwest history


The Great Locust Swarms of 1874 - 1875

.“The locusts have no king, Yet all of them go out in ranks.”

Proverbs 30:27

In 1874 and 1875, the skies of the Midwest and Great Plains darkened for days. Seen at the horizon miles away, at first people believed that some much needed rain was on the way.  However, as the cloud approached, to their horror it was realized that the cloud was a massive swarm of billions of locusts. Over the next year multiple swarms would infest the Great Plains in Biblical proportions. The swarms of Rocky Mountain Locusts (Melanoplus spretus) were driven from the foothills of the Rocky Mountains due to drought and migrated through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texa, Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Iowa, and Minnesota. A resident of Edwards County, Kansas remarked,

“I never saw such a sight before. This morning, as we looked up toward the sun, we could see millions in the air, a moving grey green screen that blotted out the sky. They looked like snowflakes.”

The locusts caused $200 million in crop damage, consumed everything that was green, and were noted to even sheer the wool off sheep and the paint off wood. Midwesterners tried to shut themselves in their houses, but the swarms were so massive that they got in through nooks and crannies regardless. Nothing could stop them. At night people had to shake their sheets clear of the insects, then wake up to find themselves covered with them in the morning. A Kansas woman named Adelheit Viets claimed,

“I was wearing a dress of white with a green stripe. The grasshoppers settled on me and ate up every bit of the green stripe in that dress before anything could be done about it.“

Many poor farming families, stripped of their livelihood and provisions returned east seeking factory work in the cities, forming a massive exodus at a time when most people were headed west. Many other poor souls died.  In that year the population of Kansas decreased by 1/3rd. Some families were so desperate that they had to resort to eating the locusts to avoid starvation. Territorial governments issued bonds to raise money for disaster relief while the Federal Government likewise devoted $30,000.  Across the country citizens donated food, clothing, and other necessary supplies, while the US Army delivered 2 million tons of rations by wagon and train.

In June of 1875 one particularly large swarm traveled through Kansas, Nebraska, then up north towards Minnesota. One witness who recorded the event in detail was a physician and meteorologist named Dr. Albert Childs from Cedar Creek.  Dr. Childs used a telescope to estimate that the swarm covered a front 110 miles wide.  He determined that the swarm was traveling at 15 miles per hour and it took five whole days to pass through the town. Thus he was able to determine that the swarm was 1,800 miles long. In total the insect horde covered an area roughly 198,000 square miles, the size of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island combined. Dr. Childs then sent messages along several telegraph lines to confirm the accuracy of his measurements. The swarm is estimated to have infested a total area of 2 million square miles by the end of its travels. In his book Paradise Found, entomologist Steven Nicholls calls the incident "The Perfect Swarm”.


L: John Norton (b: 1760s Scotland?- d: after 1826?) Adopted by the Mohawk; Iroquois Warrior during the War of 1812. R: Lee Pace. 😁

Someone sent me this “interesting” little tidbit for some reason while Mr. Pace was hanging out in Scotland of all places (which I was informed he has Scottish blood). If he has Native American (like Mr. Norton whose father it is believed was Cherokee), I think we’re looking at a relative. If for just EYE CANDY: Lee is a dead ringer for John and John is a dead ringer for Lee. I think it’s the ears, lips, nose and brows that give it away, @leepacesweetfantasy.

Indian name (Norton): Teyoninhokovrawen. Married a woman named Catherine in his 30s, a woman from one of the six Iroquois nations. Current known ancestor on the Men’s side: Peter Norton, known for Norton Antiviral Software (which, full disclosure: is my absolute favorite). I want to go on a treasure hunt now…there are times when having a Master’s Degree in History is kinda fun. ☺️ I’m interested in Catherine (and I just got a huge clue on that one–I really need to fall asleep; thought this would help) to be honest…I love a challenge. I did find my father’s Great great great grandfather, Alexander (1799). Didn’t have to use Ancestory dot com. Too expensive when most of the stuff on there is often available for free at your State Archives. 

(They don’t call me Indiana Jones for nothing).

Project for another day–and I’m looking for a history to do–after the other two (one might be animated–still thinking). Off to deal with the other long haired warrior:

No wonder he’s so good at swinging those blades, @fortunatelyclevercandy and @storytimeteller1


Marengo, Iowa
Population: 2,528

“The man that I always felt I owed as much, if not more to, than anyone else, was G. W. Williams, commonly called “Gord.” On many a time when I did not have a dollar and did not know where the food for myself and family was to come from, I have gone to Gord and a hint of my situation would prompt him to offer me any amount I wanted, and many a $5 bill did he loan to me, saying, “You can pay it back to me, Cap, whenever you get ready.” -  Judge Milo P. Smith, 1860′s


Fargo, season 2 title cards. We’re back, fellas.

  • 02x01 - “Waiting for Dutch”
  • 02x02 - “Before the Law”
  • 02x03 - “The Myth of Sisyphus”
  • 02x04 - “Fear and Trembling”
  • 02x05 - “The Gift of the Magi”
  • 02x06 - “Rhinoceros“
  • 02x07 - “Did you do this? No, you did it!“
  • 02x08 - “Loplop“
  • 02x09 - “The Castle“
  • 02x10 - “Palindrome“

Clarence, Iowa
Population: 974

“The community was originally called “Onion Grove” because of the widespread growth of wild onions along Mill Creek. The village was moved in order to be close to a railroad line and the name was changed to “Clarence” on the suggestion of Clarence, New York native L. B. Gere.”

The backdrop to the racist Right’s 1980s resurgence was a crisis in the U.S. agricultural economy, more severe than any since the 1920s.  In the 1970s, farmers were encouraged to expand their businesses.  Then inflation drove interest rates up.  Those farmers who could still pay their loans saw their land prices plummet between 1981 and 1987, while they read about Wall Street speculators becoming millionaries through insider trading and other crafty means of moving number on paper.  The magnitude of the farm crisis was staggering.  In Minnesota, the average price of an acre of land fell from $1,947 in 1981 to $628 in 1987, amounting to a loss of paper wealth of between $20 and $40 billion for that state alone.  The U.S. farm population dropped from nine million in 1975 to less than five million in 1987, as absentee investors assumed an ever greater percentage of farm ownership.  In Iowa, an estimated 30 percent of the farmers were threatened with the loss of their land.

Individual farmers saw everything they had worked for fall into the hands of bankers who foreclosed on their property.  In that context, the racist Right took advantage of a rare opportunity to spread their spurious conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the financial system.

Beginning in the 1970s, a loose network known as the Posse Comitatus (meaning ‘power of the county’) had emerged in the West Coast and MIdwest regions. A 1976 FBI estimate of seventy-eight Posse Comitatus chapters in twenty-three states placed total membership between 12,000 and 15,000, with as many as ten to twelve times that number of peripheral supporters.  From California to Wisconsin, each Posse leader developed a slightly different style.  Common to all was a belief in white supremacist Identity Christianity and variations on a few 'constitutionalist’ themes: Jewish bankers manipulate and control the Federal Reserve Board, if not the whole U.S. financial system; the income tax amendment was never legally approved by Congress and, therefore, 'sovereign citizens’ need not pay taxes; the United States is a 'republic,’ not a 'democracy’; and the only lawful authority is the county sheriff and his appointed 'posse’ of adult men who reside in his jurisdiction.

Through the Posse Comitatus’ pre-existing network of Farm Belt groups, the Midwest became fertile ground for the spread of racist and anti-Jewish propaganda during the 1980s… Had mainstream farmers not taken serious steps to educate AAM’s rank-and-file about infiltration by the far Right, the extent of the damage might have been much worse.  One AAM faction sponsored guerrilla warfare training and classes on the making of pipe bombs; another faction advocating violence formed a Farmers’ Liberation Army.

—  Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States by Sara Diamond

Effigy Mounds National Monument


Prehistoric earthworks by mound builder cultures are common in the Midwest. However, mounds in the shape of mammals, birds, or reptiles, known as effigies, only exist in southern Wisconsin, northeast Iowa, and small parts of Minnesota and Illinois. One exception to this is the great serpent mound in south-eastern Ohio and Mound A at Poverty Point, Louisiana is built up in the shape of a large soaring bird.

Effigy Mounds National Monument represents the western edge of the effigy region. The North Unit (67 mounds) and South Unit (29 mounds) are located where the counties meet along the Mississippi River. They are contiguous and easily accessible. The Sny Magill Unit (112 mounds) is approximately 11 miles (18 km) south of the other units, and offers no visitor facilities. Other mounds are located on remote parts of the Monument property. The monument contains 2,526 acres (10.22 km2) with 206 mounds of which 31 are effigies. The largest, Great Bear Mound, measures 42 meters from head to tail and rises over a meter above the original ground level.

In northeastern Iowa the Effigy Mounds area was a point of transition between the eastern hardwood forests and the central prairies. Native American and early settlers would have been able to draw on natural resources available in forests, wetlands, and prairies, making the site hospitable for humans for many centuries.

Effigy Mounds is adjacent to the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuge, the Yellow River State Forest, and a short distance to the south, Pikes Peak State Park. There are also a number of state-owned wildlife management areas, such as the one at Sny Magill Creek, where Clayton County also maintains a county park.


Cedar Falls, Iowa
Population: 39,260

“Cedar Falls was founded in 1845 by William Sturgis. It was originally named Sturgis Falls, for the first family who settled the site. The Sturgis family moved on within a few years and the city was renamed Cedar Falls because of its proximity to the Cedar River. However the city’s founders are honored each year with a three-day community-wide celebration named in their honor – the Sturgis Falls Celebration.

Because of the availability of water power, Cedar Falls developed as a milling and industrial center prior to the Civil War. The establishment of the Civil War Soldiers’ Orphans Home in Cedar Falls changed the direction in which the city developed when, following the war, it became the first building on the campus of the Iowa State Normal School (now the University of Northern Iowa).”


ATTENTION HOMESTUCK AND SNK FANDOM!!! This is a very important announcement! On July 4th 2014, two fandoms came together. The Attack on Titan fandom and the Homestuck fandom made peace. The legendary handshake ( shown above ) was made by Levi and Karkat, at Anime Midwest. Afterward there was a celebratory dance party. If anyone recalls anything or witnessed this history moment, DO NOT HESITATE TO SHARE IT WITH THE PUBLIC. This moment will go down in history.


Callender, Iowa
Population: 376

“Between 1866 and 1870 the Des Moines Valley Railroad Company constructed tracks between Des Moines and Fort Dodge. The line went from Keokuk, Iowa—an Iowa town at confluence of Des Moines and Mississippi rivers—through Des Moines, to Fort Dodge. To support the Railroad, several small towns were created by the railroad along the line to support track maintenance and to grow business. At seven to ten mile intervals there were 38 stops between the Keokuk and Fort Dodge. Kesho—town that would become Callender—was stop thirty-six.  

There, Gurmond and Thora Bean had established a store in 1867-1868. The store was operational when the Des Moines Valley Railroad made it to Kesho in December 1869; however, a November 24, 1870 newspaper article from the Iowa Northwest Newspaper reads, “The city has disappeared from the face of the earth—not like Pompeii—but it has gone off on wheels. First the horse barn fell down, then the hotel was taken to pieces and moved off, and lately the depot has been hoisted on wheels, moved 9 miles up the road and landed near the Sioux City Junction (Tara). Kesho is now inhabited by muskrats alone.”