The thing about plagues: they’ve happened before.

Beginning in 1873, the state of Minnesota fell victim to vast swarms of grasshoppers, moving east after devastating the Dakotas. Some called them locusts; they devoured crops.

As in the Biblical accounts, the skies were darkened by the clouds of insects and the people knew great fear.

They beseeched the young state’s government to save them. Two governors tried, directing their efforts to providing economic relief to the victims of the infestation. The plague continued and both governors were replaced.

The next governor was John S. Pillsbury, a New Hampshire native who had migrated to Minnesota and helped found the eponymous milling giant. His philosophy dictated fighting the grasshoppers rather than succoring their victims. In this he differed from his predecessors.

There was a case to be made for each approach; their merits were hotly debated. In the meantime, many were mobilized to destroy the eggs of the scourge. But still the menace raged.

Five hundred thousand acres of rich cropland had been destroyed.

The desperate citizens asked for a day of prayer. Gov. Pillsbury obliged. He proclaimed that April 26, 1877, would be the day set aside for Minnesotans to beseech the Lord to end the plague.

And as that day of prayer drew near, the heavens opened and Minnesota was gifted with harsh weather, snow and sleet that killed many of the ominous eggs. The grasshoppers soon left the state.

Gov. Pillsbury was given great credit for calling forth this apparent miracle. He was rewarded with re-election to two further terms. His name is still honored.

This true story comes to mind at our own time of plague. It is relevant to the fervid speculation over what impact our pandemic will have on the upcoming national elections.

Apparently, that could depend on how, whether and when deliverance comes.

 

David Lebedoff is a lawyer in Minneapolis.