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locust

A jumping orthopterous insect, like the grasshopper, from which it is distinguished by the shortness of its antennæ, and by having only thre joints in each foot, as seen from above. The locust generally has a greater power of flight than the grasshopper. The migratory locust (Locutsa migratoria) is the most injurious European species. These insects are at times so numerous in Africa and the south of Asia as to fecour every green thing; and when they migrate, they fly in an immense cloud. In the United States the harvest-fly (Cicada) is improperly called locust. — Webster, 1882

If you haven’t read Jeffrey Lockwood’s LOCUST: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier, I’ll be right here when you get back from ordering it or putting it on hold at your library.

     
If you’re a fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s On the Banks of Plum Creek (and who isn’t?), you really should read up on the locust. Lockwood’s Locust is one of the few books I’ve read in my decades of research that I finished reading and then immediately started reading again. Yes, he mentions Little House, albeit briefly. It’s not my intention to make a book report today, but there’s a really interesting Little House connection to the locust plague; other than the fact that locusts repeatedly ate all of Charles Ingalls’ crops, I mean. And it’s not my intention to point out that Charles Ingalls settled on his Plum Creek preemption claim after the “grasshoppers” had already done damage in Redwood County. It wasn’t like Pa was quick on the ground to get a bargain purchasing the claim of some “he’s no farmer” with a thin, poor wheat crop. His land was a preemption, and since it was close to the railroad, it cost him way more than other claims he might have purchased.

Anyway. The man at the bottom of the grouping at right isn’t Jeffrey Lockwood. It’s Samuel Aughey, Jr. , and you can read about him in Lockwood’s book. Born in Pennsylvania in 1832, Aughey was fascinated with geology and natural history as a youth, and he trained as a teacher and surveyor in school. He then entered seminary and was ordained as a Lutheran minister. He served a church in rural Pennsylvania until joining the army as a chaplain during the Civil War.

Aughey was perhaps more skilled at promoting himself than accomplishing any legitimate work, however. After moving to Nebraska after the war, he convinced the University of Nebraska to hire him as a natural science professor, claiming to have once worked for the Smithsonian. He wasn’t a very successful professor, spending more time working to collect specimens for the Nebraska State Museum and studying the insect-eating habits of birds – specifically – the locust-eating habits of birds. Although his scientific methods were sketchy and his findings were largely falsified, his reports on the vast number of insects that could be destroyed by birds did bring Aughey to the attention of the United States Entomological Commission, appointed to study and report on the Rocky Mountain Locust and other insects causing widespread plant damage at the time. Aughey’s “work” is quoted widely in the committee’s first report, published in 1877. You can read it online HERE.

I’ve never seen Aughey’s connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder mentioned before, so here you are. Samuel Aughey had a sister named Mary Jane Aughey, born in Pennsylvania in 1841. Mary Jane married Jacob Albert Heikes in 1858 and the couple briefly lived in Pierce County, Wisconsin, in the 1860s. Their son, Samuel Aughey Heikes, was born in Rock Elm Township, Pierce County, on August 16, 1863.

Ring any bells? Samuel Heikes? Samuel Heikes married Laura Ingalls Wilder’s cousin, Lena Waldvogel, on August 29, 1888, in Sioux City, Iowa. They moved to Dakota County, Nebraska, where they lived the rest of their lives. Samuel Aughey Heikes’s uncle was Samuel H. Aughey, Jr. The locust guy.

     


     

BIBLICAL PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS.
Exodus 10: 1-20. (King James Version)

1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:
2 And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.
3 And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORDGod of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me.
4 Else if thou refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring the locusts into thy coast:
5 and they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which growth for you out of the field:
6 and they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day. And he turned himself, and went out from Pharaoh.
7 And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?
8 And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the LORD your God: but who are they that shall go?
9 And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the Lord.
10 And he said unto them, Let the LORD be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you.
11 Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the LORD; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.
12 And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail hath left.
13 And Moses stretched forth his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day, and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.
14 And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the coasts of Egypt: very grievous were they; before them there were no such locusts as they, neither after them shall be such.
15 For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt.
16 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you.
17 Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and entreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only.
18 And he went out from Pharaoh, and entreated the LORD.
19 And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.
20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

     

locust (BPC 27), see also grasshopper
     Biblical plague of locusts (BPC 27)