South Dakota Magazine regularly sends out a column to small newspapers across South Dakota, including the De Smet News. This recent article really sang out to me as part of the grasshopper plagues that Laura Ingalls Wilder talks about experiencing in On the Banks of Plum Creek. This plague struck states all over the Midwest, not just Minnesota and this article talks about one community’s response in South Dakota. I’m republishing the part about grasshoppers here with permission. OK, they were really Rocky Mountain Locusts – now extinct – but everybody calls them grasshoppers.
The town they describe, Jefferson, South Dakota, is about 2 and a half hours from De Smet near Sioux City, Iowa. The entire article has to do with spirituality in South Dakota and where to visit. You’ll find the entire article at the link at the bottom.
Spirituality: A Unique Summer TourMay 19, 2016
Grasshoppers swarmed our fields and towns, devouring everything in their path in the 1870s. Farmers were ruined and entire communities suffered. Kampeska City, the precursor to Watertown, became a ghost town after the plague.
Father Pierre Boucher took action to protect Jefferson in the very southeast corner of today’s South Dakota. He planned a spiritual procession to ward off the hated insects. He announced his plan in Mass on a Sunday in the spring of 1876. The next morning, both Protestants and Catholics convened south of Jefferson and Boucher led them on an 11-mile procession. They ceremoniously placed crosses at four points, and another in the Jefferson cemetery. Soon after, throngs of dead grasshoppers were found nearby at the Big Sioux and Missouri Rivers. The crosses later became spiritual relics to Jefferson residents. One, outside St. Peter’s Catholic Church, was replaced in 1967. Others can be found 4 miles northwest of town on County Road 1B near the Southeast Farmers Coop Elevator and another near the corner of 330th Street and 480th Avenue west of Jefferson.
The wooden crosses are just one of many spiritual places that we recommend exploring in our May/June issue.
Find the full article here:
Learn more in the May/June 2016 issue of South Dakota Magazine.