After four years of grasshopper plagues, this chapel was erected as a plea to God to make them end.
Throughout the 1800s, the United States dealt with repeated scourges of Rocky Mountain locusts. They would come and go periodically, but in 1873 they descended with a vengeance upon much of the upper Midwest. Every summer, the grasshoppers hatched from eggs laid the previous year and the plagues started all over again. This went on for four years.
The grasshoppers consumed pretty much anything they came into contact with, including crops, fruit, wood, and even clothes. Citizens of the midwest tried to fight back, but the swarms of grasshoppers were so large that humans couldn’t compete with them.
In April, 1877, Minnesota governor John Pillsbury enacted a statewide day of prayer, but this still did not dent the grasshoppers. Believing perhaps something more was needed, Father Leo Winter suggested his two Stearns County congregations should petition the Virgin Mary for relief from the grasshoppers. His parishioners agreed, and in July, construction began on a hilltop chapel overlooking Cold Spring.
Mysteriously, around the same time that construction began, the swarms of grasshoppers flew away. By the time the church was complete and Masses began, not a single grasshopper could be found. Since the grasshoppers did not remain long enough that summer to lay eggs, they did not return the next year. Furthermore, they did not return any other year and the species went on to become extinct less than 30 years later, making North America the only continent, besides Antarctica, to lack a major locust species.
In 1894, the original chapel was destroyed by a tornado and the hilltop stood empty for decades. In 1952, a new chapel was built to replace the original. It has no pews inside, only an altar and four stained glass windows. Displayed prominently near the altar is the statue of the Virgin Mary from the original chapel. Over the entryway to the church is a relief of the Virgin Mary with two grasshoppers, kneeling on each side of her. Outside of the chapel, the Stations of the Cross can be found.
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