Wood Workings.ca - Download the EBook WoodworkingsInformational Site Network Informational
   Home - Wine Making - On Beer Making - Whiskey Making - Grape Growing

Remarks On Its History In America Especially At The West--its Progress And Its Future

In an old chronicle, entitled, "The Discovery of America in the Tenth
Century," by CHARLES C. PRASTA, published at Stralsund, we find the
following legend:

"LEIF, son of ERIC the Red, bought BYARNES' vessel, and manned it with
thirty-five men, among whom was also a German, TYRKER by name, who had
lived a long time with LEIF'S father, who had become very much attached
to him in youth. And they left port at Iceland, in the year of our Lord

But, when they had been at sea several days, a tremendous storm arose,
whose wild fury made the waves swell mountain high, and threatened to
destroy the frail vessel. And the storm continued for several days, and
increased in fury, so that even the stoutest heart quaked with fear;
they believed that their hour had come, and drifted along at the mercy
of wind and waves. Only LEIF, who had lately been converted to CHRIST
our Lord, stood calmly at the helm and did not fear; but called on Him
who had walked the water and quieted the billows, with firm faith, that
He also had power to deliver them, if they but trusted in Him. And,
behold! while he still spoke to them of the wonderful deeds of the
Lord, the clouds cleared away, the storm lulled; and after a few hours
the sea, calmed down, and rocked the tired and exhausted men into a
deep and calm sleep. And when they awoke, the next morning, they could
hardly trust their eyes. A beautiful country lay before them, green
hills, covered with beautiful forests--a majestic stream rolled its
billows into the ocean; and they cast the anchor, and thanked the Lord,
who had delivered them from death.

A delightful country it seemed, full of game, and birds of beautiful
plumage; and when they went ashore, they could not resist the
temptation to explore it. When they returned, after several hours,
TYRKER alone was missing. After waiting some time for his return, LEIF,
with twelve of his men, went in search of him. But they had not gone
far, when they met him, laden down with grapes. Upon their enquiry,
where he had stayed so long, he answered: "I did not go far, when I
found the trees all covered with grapes; and as I was born in a
country, whose hills are covered with vineyards, it seemed so much like
home to me, that I stayed a while and gathered them." They had now a
twofold occupation, to cut timber, and gather grapes; with the latter,
they loaded the boat. And Leif gave a name to the country, and called
it Vinland, or Wineland."

So far the tradition. It is said that coming events cast their shadows
before them. If this is so, may we not recognize one of those shadows
in the old Norman legend of events which transpired more than eight
hundred years ago? Is it not the foreshadowing of the destiny of this
great continent, to become, in truth and verity, a _Wineland_. Truly,
the results of to-day would certainly justify us in the assertion, that
there is as much, nay more, truth than fiction in it. Let us take a
glance at the first commencement of grape culture, and see what has
been the progress in this comparatively new branch of horticulture.

From the very first settlement of America, the vine seems to have
attracted the attention of the colonists, and it is said that as early
as 1564, wine was made from the native grape in Florida. The earliest
attempt to establish a vineyard in the British North American Colonies
was by the London Company in Virginia, about the year 1620; and by
1630, the prospect seems to have been encouraging enough to warrant the
importation of several French vine-dressers, who, it is said, ruined
the vines by bad treatment. Wine was also made in Virginia in 1647, and
in 1651 premiums were offered for its production. BEVERLY even
mentions, that prior to 1722, there were vineyards in that colony,
producing seven hundred and fifty gallons per year. In 1664, Colonel
RICHARD NICOLL, Governor of New York, granted to PAUL RICHARDS, a
privilege of making and selling wine free of all duty, he having been
the first to enter upon the cultivation of the vine on a large scale.
BEAUCHAMP PLANTAGENET, in his description of the province of New
Albion, published in London, in 1648, states "that the English settlers
in Uvedale, now Delaware, had vines running on mulberry and sassafras
trees; and enumerates four kinds of grapes, namely: Thoulouse Muscat,
Sweet Scented, Great Fox, and Thick Grape; the first two, after five
months, being boiled and salted and well fined, make a strong red
Xeres; the third, a light claret; the fourth, a white grape which
creeps on the land, makes a pure, gold colored wine. TENNIS PALE, a
Frenchman, out of these four, made eight sorts of excellent wine; and
says of the Muscat, after it had been long boiled, that the second
draught will intoxicate after four months old; and that here may be
gathered and made two hundred tuns in the vintage months, and that the
vines with good cultivation will mend." In 1633, WILLIAM PENN attempted
to establish a vineyard near Philadelphia, but without success. After
some years, however, Mr. TASKER, of Maryland, and Mr. ANTIL, of
Shrewsbury, N.J., seem to have succeeded to a certain extent. It seems,
however, from an article which Mr. ANTIL wrote of the culture of the
grape, and the manufacture of wine, that he cultivated only foreign

In 1796, the French settlers in Illinois made one hundred and ten
hogsheads of strong wine from native grapes. At Harmony, near
Pittsburgh, a vineyard of ten acres was planted by FREDERIC RAPP, and
his associates from Germany; and they continued to cultivate grapes and
silk, after their removal to another Harmony in Indiana.

In 1790, a Swiss colony was founded, and a fund of ten thousand dollars
raised in Jessamine county, Kentucky, for the purpose of establishing a
vineyard, but failed, as they attempted to plant the foreign vine. In
1801, they removed to a spot, which they called Vevay, in Switzerland
County, Indiana, on the Ohio, forty-five miles below Cincinnati. Here
they planted native vines, especially the Cape, or Schuylkill Muscadel,
and met with better success. But, after about forty years' experience,
they seem to have become discouraged, and their vineyards have now
almost disappeared.

These were the first crude experiments in American grape culture; and
from some cause or another, they seem not to have been encouraging
enough to warrant their continuation. But a new impetus was given to
this branch of industry, by the introduction of the Catawba, by Major
ADLUM, of Georgetown, D.C., who thought, that by so doing, he conferred
a greater benefit upon the nation than he would have done, had he paid
the national debt. It seems to have been planted first on an extensive
scale by NICHOLAS LONGWORTH, near Cincinnati, whom we may justly call
one of the founders of American grape culture. He adopted the system of
leasing parcels of unimproved land to poor Germans, to plant with
vines; for a share, I believe, of one-half of the proceeds. It was his
ambition to make the Ohio the Rhine of America, and he has certainly
done a good deal to effect it. In 1858, the whole number of acres
planted in grapes around Cincinnati, was estimated, by a committee
appointed for that purpose, at twelve hundred acres, of which Mr.
LONGWORTH owned one hundred and twenty-two and a half acres, under
charge of twenty-seven tenants. The annual produce was estimated by the
committee at no less than two hundred and forty thousand gallons, worth
about as many dollars then. We may safely estimate the number of acres
in cultivation there now, at two thousand. Among the principal grape
growers there, I will mention Messrs. ROBERT BUCHANAN, author of an
excellent work on grape culture, MOTTIER, BOGEN, WERK, REHFUSS, DR.
MOSHER, etc.

Well do I remember, when I was a boy, some fourteen years old, how
often my father would enter into conversation with vintners from the
old country, about the feasibility of grape culture in Missouri. He
always contended that grapes should succeed well here, as the woods
were full of wild grapes, some of very fair quality, and that this
would indicate a soil and climate favorable to the vine. They would
ridicule the idea, and assert that labor was too high here, even if the
vines would succeed, to make it pay; but they could not shake his faith
in the ultimate success of grape culture. Alas! he lived only long
enough to see the first dawnings of that glorious future which he had
so often anticipated, and none entered with more genuine zeal upon the
occupation than he, when an untimely death took him from the labor he
loved so well, and did not even allow him to taste the first fruits of
the vines he had planted and fostered. Had he been spared until now,
his most sanguine hopes would be verified.

I also well remember the first cultivated grape vine which produced
fruit in Hermann. It was an Isabella, planted by a Mr. FUGGER, on the
corner of Main and Schiller streets, and trained over an arbor. It
produced the first crop in 1845, twenty years ago, and so plentifully
did it bear, that several persons were encouraged by this apparent
success, to plant vines. In 1846, the first wine was made here, and
agreeably surprised all who tried it, by its good quality. The Catawba
had during that time, been imported from Cincinnati, and the first
partial crop from it, in 1848, was so plentiful, that every body,
almost, commenced planting vines, and often in very unfavorable
localities. This, of course, had a bad influence on so capricious a
variety as the Catawba; rot and mildew appeared, and many became
discouraged, because they did not realize what they had anticipated. A
number of unfavorable seasons brought grape growing almost to a stand
still here. Some of our most enterprising grape growers still
persevered, and succeeded by careful treatment, in making even the
Catawba pay very handsome returns.

It was about this time, that the attention of some of our grape-growers
was drawn towards a small, insignificant looking grape, which had been
obtained by a Mr. WIEDERSPRECKER from Mr. HEINRICHS, who had brought it
from Cincinnati, and, almost at the same time, by Dr. KEHR, who had
brought it with him from Virginia. The vine seemed a rough customer,
and its fruit very insignificant when compared with the large bunch and
berry of the Catawba, but we soon observed that it kept its foliage
bright and green when that of the Catawba became sickly and dropped;
and also, that no rot or mildew damaged the fruit, when that of the
Catawba was nearly destroyed by it. A few tried to propagate it by
cuttings, but generally failed to make it grow. They then resorted to
grafting and layering, with much better success. After a few years a
few bottles of wine were made from it, and found to be very good. But
at this time it almost received its death-blow, by a very unfavorable
letter from Mr. LONGWORTH, who had been asked his opinion of it, and
pronounced it worthless. Of course, with the majority, the fiat of Mr.
LONGWORTH, the father of American grape-culture, was conclusive
evidence, and they abandoned it. Not all, however; a few persevered,
myself. We thought Mr. LONGWORTH was human, and might be mistaken; and
trusted as much to the evidence of our senses as to his verdict,
therefore increased it as fast as we could, and the sequel proved that
we were right. After a few years more wine was made from it in larger
quantities, found to be much better than the first imperfect samples;
and now that despised and condemned grape is _the_ great variety for
red wine, equal, if not superior to, the best Burgundy and Port; a wine
of which good judges, heavy importers of the best European wines too,
will tell you that it has not its equal among all the foreign red
wines; which has already saved the lives of thousands of suffering
children, men, and women, and therefore one of the greatest blessings
an all-merciful God has ever bestowed upon suffering humanity. This
despised grape is now the rage, and 500,000 of the plants could have
been sold from this place alone the last fall, if they could have been
obtained. Need I name it? it is the Norton's Virginia. Truly, "great
oaks from little acorns grow!" and I boldly prophecy to-day that the
time is not far distant when thousands upon thousands of our hillsides
will be covered with its luxuriant foliage, and its purple juice become
one of the exports to Europe; provided, always, that we do not grow so
fond of it as to drink it all. I think that this is pre-eminently a
Missouri grape. Here it seems to have found the soil in which it
flourishes best. I have seen it in Ohio, but it does not look there as
if it was the same grape. And why should it? They drove it from them
and discarded it in its youth; we fostered it, and do you not think,
dear reader, there sometimes is gratitude in plants as well as in men?
Other States may plant it and succeed with it, too, to a certain
extent, but it will cling with the truest devotion to those localities
where it was cared for in its youth. Have we not also found, during the
late war, that the Germans, the adopted citizens of this great country,
clung with a heartier devotion to our noble flag, and shed their blood
more freely for it, than thousands upon thousands of native-born
Americans? And why? Because here they found protection, equal rights
for all, and that freedom which had been the idol of their hearts, and
haunted their dreams by night; because they had been oppressed so long
they more fully appreciated the blessings of a free government than
those who had enjoyed it from their birth. But you may call me
fantastical for comparing plants to human beings, and will say, plants
have no appreciation of such things. Brother Skeptic, have you, or has
any body, divined _all_ the secrets of Nature's workshop? Truly we may
say that we have not, and we meet with facts every day which are
stranger than fiction.

The Concord had as small a beginning with us. In the winter of 1855 a
few eyes of its wood were sent me by Mr. JAS. G. SOULARD, of Galena,
Ill. I grafted them upon old Catawba vines, and one of them grew. The
next year I distributed some of the scions to our vine-growers, who
grafted them also. When my vine commenced to bear I was astonished,
after what I had heard of the poor quality of the fruit from the East,
to find it so fine, and so luxurious and healthy; and we propagated it
as fast as possible. Now, scarcely nine years from the time when I
received the first scions, hundreds of acres are being planted with it
here, and one-third of an acre of it, planted five years ago, has
produced for me, in fruit, wine, layers, cuttings, and plants, the
round sum of ten thousand dollars during that time. Its wine, if
pressed as soon as the grapes are mashed, is eminently one of those
which "maketh glad the heart of man," and is evidently destined to
become one of the common drinks of our laboring classes. It is light,
agreeable to the palate, has a very enlivening and invigorating effect,
and can be grown as cheap as good cider. I am satisfied that an acre
will, with good cultivation, produce from 1,000 to 1,500 gallons per
year. My vines produced this season at the rate of 2,500 gallons to the
acre, but this may be called an extra-large crop. I have cited the
history of these two varieties in our neighborhood merely as examples
of progress. It would lead too far here, to follow the history of all
our leading varieties, though many a goodly story might be told of
them. Our friends in the East claim as much for the Delaware and
others, with which we have not been able to succeed. And here let me
say that the sooner we divest ourselves of the idea that one grape
should be _the_ grape for this immense country of ours; the sooner we
try to adapt the variety to the locality--not the locality to the
variety--the sooner we will succeed. The idea is absurd, and unworthy
of a thinking people, that one variety should succeed equally well or
ill in such a diversity of soil and climate as we have in this broad
land of ours. It is in direct conflict with the laws of vegetable
physiology, as well as with common sense and experience. In planting
our vineyards we should first go to one already established, which we
think has the same soil and location, or nearly so, as the one we are
going to plant. Of those varieties which succeed there we should plant
the largest number, and plant a limited number also of all those
varieties which come recommended by good authority. A few seasons will
show which variety suits our soil, and what we ought to plant in
preference to all others. Thus the Herbemont, the Cynthiana, Delaware,
Taylor, Cunningham, Rulander, Martha, and even the Iona, may all find
their proper location, where each will richly reward their cultivator;
and certainly they are all too good not to be tried.

Now, let us see what progress the country at large has made in
grape-growing during, say, the last ten years. _Then_, I think I may
safely assert, that the vineyards throughout the whole country did not
comprise more than three to four thousand acres. _Now_ I think I may
safely call them over two millions of acres. _Then_, our whole list
embraced about ten varieties, all told, of which only the Catawba and
Isabella were considered worthy of general cultivation; _now_ we count
our native varieties by the hundreds, and the Catawba and Isabella will
soon number among the things which have been. Public taste has become
educated, and they are laid aside in disgust, when such varieties as
the Herbemont, Delaware, Clara, Allen's Hybrid, Iona, Adirondac, and
others can be had. _Then_, grape-growing was confined to only a few
small settlements; _now_ there is not a State in the Union, from Maine
to California, but has its vineyards; and especially our Western States
have entered upon a race which shall excel the other in the good work.
Our brethren in Illinois bid fair to outdo us, and vineyards spring up
as if by magic, even on the prairies. Nay, grape-culture bids fair to
extend into Minnesota, a country which was considered too cold for
almost anything except oats, pines, wolves, bears, and specimens of
daring humanity encased in triple wool. We begin to find out that we
have varieties which will stand almost anything if they are only
somewhat protected in winter. It was formerly believed that only
certain favored locations and soils in each State would produce good
grapes--for instance, sunny hillsides along large streams; now we begin
to see that we can grow some varieties of grape on almost any soil. One
of the most flourishing vineyards I have ever seen is on one of the
islands in the Missouri river, where all the varieties planted
there--some six or seven--seemed perfectly at home in the rich, sandy
mould, where it needs no trenching to loosen the soil. _Then_,
grape-growing, with the varieties then in cultivation, was a problem to
be solved; _now_, with the varieties we have proved, it is a certainty
that it is one of the most profitable branches of horticulture, paying
thousands of dollars to the acre every year. _Then_, wine went begging
at a dollar a gallon; _now_ it sells as fast as made at from two
dollars to six dollars a gallon. Instead of the only wine then
considered fit to drink, we number our wine-producing varieties by the
dozen, all better than the Catawba; among the most prominent of which I
will name--of varieties producing white wine, the Herbemont, Delaware,
Cassidy, Taylor, Rulander, Cunningham, and Louisiana; of light-red
wines, the Concord; of dark-red wines, the Norton's Virginia,
Cynthiana, Arkansas and Clinton; so that every palate can be suited.
And California bids fair to outdo us all; for there, I am told, several
kinds of wine are made from the same grape, in the same vineyard, and
in fabulous quantities. To cite an example of the increase in planting:
in 1854 the whole number of vines grown and sold in Hermann did not
exceed two thousand. This season two millions of plants have been grown
and sold, and not half enough to meet the demand. It is said that the
tone of the press is a fair indication of public sentiment. If this is
true what does it prove? Take one of our horticultural periodicals, and
nine-tenths of the advertisements will be "Grape-vines for sale," in
any quantity and at any price, from five dollars to one hundred dollars
per 100, raised North, East, South, and West. Turn to the reading
matter, and you can hardly turn over a leaf but the subject of grapes
stares you in the face, with a quiet impunity, which plainly says, "The
nation is affected with grape fever; and while our readers have grape
on the brain there is no fear of overdosing." Why, the best proof I can
give my readers that grape fever does exist to an alarming degree, is
this very book itself. Were not I and they affected with the disease, I
should never have presumed to try their patience.

But, fortunately, the remedy is within easy reach. Plant grapes, every
one of you who is thus afflicted, until our hillsides are covered with
them, and we have made our barren spots blossom as the rose.

Truly, the results we have already obtained, are cheering enough. And
yet all this has been principally achieved in the last few years, while
the nation was involved in one of the most stupendous struggles the
world ever saw, while its very existence was endangered, and thousands
upon thousands of her patriotic sons poured out their blood like water,
and the husbandman left his home; the vintner his vineyard, to fight
the battles of his country. What then shall we become now, when peace
has smiled once more upon our beloved country; and the thousands of
brave arms, who brandished the sword, sabre, or musket, have come home
once more; and their weapons have been turned into ploughshares, and
their swords into pruning hooks? When all the strong and willing hands
will clear our hillsides, and God's sun shines upon _one_ great and
united people; greater and more glorious than ever; because now they
are _truly free_. Truly the future lies before us, rich in glorious
promise; and ere long the words and the prophecy contained in the old
legend will become sober truth, and America will be, from the Atlantic
to the Pacific _one_ smiling and happy _Wineland_; where each laborer
shall sit under his own vine, and none will be too poor to enjoy the
purest and most wholesome of all stimulants, good, cheap, native
_wine_. Then drunkenness, now the curse of the nation, will disappear,
and peace and good will towards all will rule our actions. And we,
brother grape growers? Ours is this great and glorious task; let us
work unceasingly, with hand, heart, and mind; truly the object is
worthy of our best endeavors. Let those who begin to-day, remember how
easy their task with the achievements and experiments of others before
them, compared with the labors of those who were the pioneers in the
cultivation of the vine.

Next: Propagation Of The Vine

Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 1996