Was 2020 the worst year ever for Colorado Springs? History shows the city is resilient

Insect invasions, massive floods made for bad years
Was 2020 the worst year ever? City of Colorado Springs has a history of resilience
In 1898 Colorado Springs suffered a grasshopper invasion
Posted at 5:21 AM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-12 15:54:36-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Was 2020 the worst year ever? For many people that answer might be yes, but historians say the City of Colorado Springs has a history of overcoming difficult years. News5 spoke to a city historian at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum about what we can learn from our past.

The history books will show 2020 was a year full of incredible challenges and loss, but was it the worst year ever for Colorado Springs? I posed that question to the director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum who shared some of the history of the most difficult years in the city's history.

That includes pictures from 1918 of a Colorado Springs family wearing masks during the Spanish Flu pandemic. He says we can learn a lot from our history and how Colorado Springs took on and overcame challenges.

Going back to the very start of Colorado Springs in 1871 not too many years were as difficult as 2020, but at least last year the city wasn't taken over by insects. You read that right, in the late 1800s grasshoppers invaded Colorado Springs and stacked up on top of each other two feet high in some locations having to be cleared out in carts and trailers.

History expert and Director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum Matt Mayberry says these insects would cling to gardens, fence posts, and would fly into anything, or anyone who was outside during one of these invasions.

The Pioneers Museum has a display recognizing just how bad the situation was and Mayberry says maybe we can draw some inspiration knowing the city prevailed through this challenging time.

"It was almost like a cloud that would travel often times from north to south. Just the sound of the grasshoppers was overwhelming it would drown out everything," said Mayberry. "It really impacted your ability to eat, your ability to survive, it was a direct threat. In addition to that, these grasshoppers and the carcasses they left behind would fill up in the water system, irrigation system, fresh water system and so it really was a threat to life."

While the city managed to move on from the grasshopper invasions, a few decades later the entire city would face one of the most devastating natural disasters in its history. The Memorial Day flood of 1935.

The flood killed several people, hospitalized even more, and destroyed most of the City of Colorado Springs. Historians say a storm settled over an area we know today as the Air Force Academy and dumped a ton of rain leading to major flooding that overwhelmed the city.

"Ultimately that wall of water hit downtown Colorado Springs and it blew out bridges, it destroyed Monument Valley Park which was there at the time. It killed residents of the community who were caught off guard," said Mayberry. "So it was a catastrophic moment and you have to remember this catastrophic moment happened in the middle of the great depression."

Mayberry says it took decades to rebuild after the flood and there are still areas of Monument Valley Park that were never quite rebuilt the same because of the impact of the Memorial Day flood of 1935.

So whether it was the grasshopper invasion of the late 1800s, or rebuilding after a massive flood, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum has plenty of examples of how Colorado Springs residents overcame shared challenges.

Museum leaders tell News5 they collected photos and items to preserve from 2020 hoping one day we can look back at the events of last year and remember how far we've come.