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.

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