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History of The First Swedish Pioneers

By: C. J. Johnson, 1915


Epidemics of Diphtheria and Smallpox -- Grasshopper Plague -- Hot Winds -- Failure of Corn Crop.

During the winter of 1877 there was an epidemic of diphtheria in and around Kiron and it was followed not long after by a grasshopper plague. Nearly forty children, almost all of them between the ages of five and fourteen, died from the diphtheria epidemic, some families losing as many as three of their dear ones, as there was no board of health in those days to quarantine families and everyone was allowed to go about the community as they pleased. There seemed to be no remedy at hand to check the disease and it spread from house to house as long as there was anyone left to take it. During that time there were no undertakers nor did we use to buy coffins and the writer had all that he could do that winter making coffins of black walnut lumber, of which we had an abundance.

The grasshopper plague which came upon this country at that time, although we were not affected as much as many in other localities, is something that our young generation has never experienced, and it is our hope that they may never see it as we did, as it was a most severe trial, causing much destruction. While the grasshoppers were up in the air they darkened the sun and when they settled on the ground everything was covered, the sides of all buildings, the ground and wherever one might set his foot. The railway trains could not run as the rails were thickly covered with the hoppers and the trains crushed them under the wheels, making an oily substance on which the wheels could not turn around. One fall, when they deposited their eggs in the ground, holes were seen, looking as though an ordinary sized nail had been used and were as close together as they could be made. A great deal of the crop was destroyed also.

As we mention at this time the plagues, I will give some idea of a cyclone which we experienced in the spring of the year 1878. It appeared in the southwest on Easter Sunday and as no one of us had ever seen one before, we did not know what it was. In those early days we had not even read of cyclones, but as it drew nearer it was not long before we could realize the nature of the sight. The land was rolling and the cyclone moved along, keeping about the same distance from the ground at all times except at several times when it came a little closer, moving up and down in a funnel shape, always twisting and lifting houses up into the air and tearing them up into splinters, sometimes carrying the debris for miles. Mr. John Larson was killed and the house was carried away. Mrs. Olof Larson was injured, building were destroyed and the water in the creeks and streams was sucked up. One school house was carried away, the home of John Larson, granaries belonging to Mr. Olof Larson, Peter Weberg and John Sparfelt and two houses on the Boyer river in Sac county, South of Wall Lake were also demolished. Another cyclone followed in almost the same track in October of the same year, but did not result in so much damage. During the winter of 1881 another epidemic was felt, this time it being smallpox, which had its start at the home of Dr. Steven in Levi township, Sac county. At this time four settlers lost their lives with the dread disease.

We did not have reason for complaint of the failure of crops around Kiron during those first few years, except at the time of the grasshopper plague, a year of hot winds and a drought in the year 1894, when nearly all of the corn crop was burned up, only a fair crop of small grain and hay being produced. All of the wells went dry and the small streams as well, the water having to be carried for long distances. Trees were cut down for the use of live stock, the leaves being used for feed to keep them from starving. The following winter was a hard one, the water supply being so low that it was yet necessary to haul it from a distance. Aside from these instances mentioned no settler is able to complain of a failure of crops for forty-seven years and it is much to be thankful to God for during such a long period of time.

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