Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Inhaling Mosquitoes

When Major Samuel Wood descended the Red River in July 1849 (the wet year), he complained while near the Sheyenne River, that his party was "made restive by the mosquitoes ... We camped on the north bank ... during the night, the mosquitoes infested our camp in clouds ... it was impossible to talk without inhaling them" (Wood 1850, 18). Later, near the Salt (Forest) River, Wood wrote, "These pests had become so much worse ... The sufferings of our horses were painful to behold, and irremediable. We made divers smokes about them, which sometimes availed, but at other times did no good" (Wood 1850, 18). The unknown sergeant accompanying Wood noted mosquitoes almost every day, from western Minnesota into North Dakota, and north along the Red River to Pembina, but he believed them worse at Pembina (Babcock 1927). Stevens reported mosquitoes (numerous, annoying, swarms, etc.) all the way from the Bois de Sioux River to the second crossing of the Sheyenne (June 28 to July 15, 1853)(Stevens 1860). Members of the first Fisk expedition also noted mosquitoes on the Sheyenne River in early July 1862 (Bond 1862), but not by the second expedition in 1863, or by any of the military expeditions of 1863 or 1864 (Fisk 1863, 1864). Captain Crossman, the commander at Fort Ransom, noted, in 1867, that the "mosquitoes were something terrific. In all my experiences in Texas, Louisiana, and other places, I never saw anything to compare with the mosquitoes of Dakota and Minnesota. They actually made life a burden" (Crossman 1895, n.p.). Mosquitoes were, like today, more common along the river bottoms and other moist areas. Wood made an attempt to avoid them by camping on a high ridge because "we were fearful of going into the bottoms, on account of the mosquitoes" (Wood 1850, 18). Early settlers also were sometimes plagued, as Arnold described circumstances in Grand Forks County, 1880, when ranchers had to "smudge the cattle" to protect them from mosquitoes (Arnold 1921, 34).