Posts Tagged ‘Colonial Williamsburg’

“…has produced two bunches of grapes; a fact which would not be believed…” September 09, 1775

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Colonel Robert Bolling, Jr passed away in July 1775.  Two months later an unsigned article appeared in the Virginia Gazette describing the successful growth of Colonel Bolling’s slips.  It also mentioned finding promising wild grapes, which would have certainly pleased Andrew Estave.  The vineyard in Albermarle was not properly tended to thus ending the dispute between Colonel Robert Bolling Jr. and Andrew Estave.

From the Virginia Gazette, Dixon and Hunter, September 09, 1775, Page 2 (

Circumstances of intelligence, proving the excellence of the soil and climate of Virginia, which, to the astonishment of those who came from the best parts of Europe, have been, by many, thought to be bad.

 Of 184 plants of oranges, citrons, lemons, &c. put into boxes in Italy, in the month of October, landed in Virginia in June last (when of course they would have but small remains of life) and set in the earth in Albermarle about the latter end of the same month, there are now an hundred and thirty odd which have put out new and luxuriant shoots.  Two thirds of the vines which were planted under the same disadvantages have likewise put out new shoots.  The olive plants are all living.

The vines planted by Mr. Bolling in the county of Buckingham, although managed according to the directions of the French writes of the 48th and 49th degrees of latitude, are in a condition to yield wine the ensuring year, if well attended to.  The slips planted by that Gentleman the last year, after the method of the vignerons of Europe inhabiting a climate similar to our own, have now the appearance of vines 3 to 4 years old.  A slip planted by him in the spring of the present year has produced two bunches of grapes; a fact which would not be believed in the wine countries of the old world.

Two kinds of wild grapes have been discovered, of the most promising quality for making good wine when they shall be improved by cultivation, and doubtless more may be discovered.

The olive trees planted in Albermarle, under the Blue Ridge of mountains, about two months before the remarkable fruit of the

From the Virginia Gazette, Dixon and Hunter, September 09, 1775, Page 3 (

5th of May 1774, are now in a more thriving condition than it is thought they would have been under the like circumstance in any of the old countries of Europe.

This country is certainly calculated to produce, in perfection, every thing of the growth of the temperate zones; and may, by industry, be rendered abundant, happy, and rich, if it’s inhabitants can be persuaded to bet the better of their diffidence of it’s climate as to things which it will most readily yield.

“RUN away…” October 13, 1774

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Andrew Estave continues to advertise for run away slaves, with no mention of the state of his experiment at The Vineyard.

From the Virginia Gazette, Pinkney, October 13,1774, Page3

RUN away, about the middle of September, a negro fellow named JACK, about 35 years old, and about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high; clothed as negroes generally are.  TEN SHILLINGS will be given to any person that will bring him to me, near Williamsburg.


“…a melancholy Description to the Injury done by the late Frost…” May 12, 1774

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

The dialog between Colonel Robert Bolling, Jr. and Andrew Estave quieted down throughout the Fall and Winter of 1773.  In the Spring of 1774 it was Mother-Nature who offered no shelter from a devastating late frost.

From the Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, May 12, 1774, Page 4


ACCOUNTS from various Parts of the Country give a melancholy Description to the Injury done by the late Frost, which was the severest, at this Season of the Year, ever remembered.  The forward Wheat is greatly injured every Where, and in some Places ruined; the same may be said of the Tobacco Plants.  The Corn, which was generally come up, is demolished in such a Manner that it is feared it will never shoot out again, but may be all replanted.  The Fruit, of all Sorts, is destroyed ever Where but upon the Rivers; Vines, of all Kinds, are killed; and many of the Forest Trees have received such Injury that their Leaves are turned black and withering, so that there is but a bad Prospect of any Mast this Year. 

The Brilliant, Miller ( with Servants) and Martin, Clark, from London, the York, Rose, and ____, Benson, from Whitehave, are arrived in York River; and the Donald, Ramsay, from Glasgow, In James River.

“RUN away from the Subscriber…” November 18, 1773

November 15, 2011 Leave a comment

The only publications from Andrew Estave in the Virginia Gazette during the Fall of 1773 and Spring of 1774 consists of runaway slave advertisements.

From the Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, November 18, 1773, Page 2

RUN away from the Subscriber, near Williamsburg, about a Fortnight ago, a Negro Man named JACK, of a very small size, about forty Years old, and lost his left Eye.  Whoever delivers him to me shall have 10 S.  Rewards, besides what the Law allows.


From the Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, March 24, 1774, Page 3

RUN away from the Vineyard, three Weeks ago, a new Negro Man named SUNDAY, about five Feet five Inches high, 25 Years old, well made, and very black; had on a Mommouth Cap, a white Cotton Waistcoat and Breeches, and a green Waistcoat under the Cotton one.  I will give a Reward of 10 S. to any Person that will deliver him to me.  ANDREW ESTAVE.

“…they want Fire, their Juices are not spirituous enough…” August 02, 1773

October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Only a few days later Andrew Estave publishes a response to Colonel Bolling, Jr’s request for vigor in his continuing campaign in support of foreign vines.  With this response Andrew Estave hopes to “remove a Part of the prejudice entertained, without any good Reason, against our native Grapes.”

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, August 02, 1773, Page 3


THE Essay on Vines, which appeared in a former Gazette with the Signature of R. BOLLLING, is entitled to the Approbation of the Publick.  It had its Source, without Doubt, in that holy Zeal which warms the Breast of every true Patriot in Matters that concern the Happiness of his Country; but this Zeal is sometimes destructive of its own Purpose;  and may have fatal Consequences when not accompanied with a thorough Knowledge of the Affair in Agitation.

 I shall be permitted, I hope, without incurring the Charge of Fondess for Dispute, or Inclination to give Offence, briefly to examine a favourite Doctrine of Mr. Bolling’s.  He seems to have condemned all the native Grapes of this Country, to the Fate of never producing any other than a mean Wine, “for (says he) they want Fire, their Juices are not spirituous enough to furnish the Wine obtained from them with a sufficient Body.”  This is certainly true with Respect to the Grapes which grow wild in the Woods, or wherever Chance has scattered their Seeds.  But, has Experience ascertained the Degree of Improvement of which these Grapes are capable?  Has any one transplanted the Vines, enclosed, cultivated, and dressed them, after the Manner practiced in the most celebrated Wine Countries?  If all this has been done, and yet their Product has appeared not superior to that of the wild unmanaged Vine, I yield, and acknowledge myself deceived in my Attempt; but no one, I imagine, has a Right to condemn it until the Experiment has been fairly made.

 To develop a little my Notion by Example, I shall suppose that a Vine Stock of an Inch Diameter, growing wild, may produce ten or twelve Branches, and about three Hundred Bunches of Grapes.  A Stock of the same Sort and Size, being cultivated, and properly managed, will have only one or two small Branches left.  With two Eyes each, which may produce at the next Shoot three or four Branches, and eight or ten Bunches of Fruit.  Now the same Quantity of Spirit a Substance which in the first Instance is diffused through about three Hundred Bunches seems in the second to be concentred in eight or ten, from which one may form an Idea of the Difference that will be found in the Wine obtained from these different Stocks.  The native Vines which I planted about two Years since have from four to ten Bunches each; and their Grapes are as big again as the wild, although they do not ripen until the End of September, or the Beginning of October.  What I have said, if it meets with the Credit at Merits, may serve to remove a Part of the prejudice entertained, without any good Reason, against our native Grapes.

 I agree, with all the experienced Cultivators of Vines, that the Grapes which ripen latest are the best; and more than one Half of the seventy Species, which we have in this Country, become ripe between the Middle of September and the 15th of October.

 Had Colonel Bolling ever been in Canada, he must have been convinced, as I was by my own Eyes, that the unfruitful Vines of that Country differ too much from those we have here to make their ill Fate an Argument against the Cultivation of our own Grapes.  Upon the Whole, we ought not to blame his Endeavours to introduce amongst us a better Sort of Plants than we at present enjoy; but I doubt exceedingly their

Success. I am the Publick’s
Obedient Servant,
A.      ESTAVE.

“…will certainly, and the Lachryma very probably, answer in Virginia.” July 29, 1773

October 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Two months after Andrew Estave readied for his apprentices, Colonel Bolling, Jr. publishes an article re-asserting the importance of importing and cultivating foreign vines for Virginia.  In his address he quotes both Philip Miller and Nicolas Bidet.  Philip Miller, born 1691, was a Scottish botanist who was head gardner of the Chelsea Physic Garden. He published The Gardeners Dictionary in 1731.  Nicolas Bidet, born 1709 in Riems, was an agronomist and wine grower.  He first published Traité sur la nature et sur la culture de la vigne in 1752 with a second edition in 1759. 

With these two supporting references Colonel Bolling, Jr. feels confident that the Lachryma vine would be best for Virginia.  He rallies the readers by stating, “But all the Reflexions in the World are unavailing, unless you, Gentlemen, who conceive the Utility of the Measure contribute a little Vigour to its Execution.” In the end he provides instructions for anyone who wants to furnish him with little slips of foreign vines.

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, July 29, 1773, Page 3



It is much to be regretted, that at a Time when the Country appears to have an earnest Desire to see a fair Experiment of the Practicability of making Wine in Virginia, some small Effort is note made at least to procure Vines proper for the Purpose.  Whatever Grape [unreadable] to Cultivation in Countries like the North of France and in the South of Britain (whose Summers are cooler than ours) will not come to the same in this Country.  Miller, that Excellent Naturalist, says, “that he believes it will be found true in all Fruits (therefore in Grapes) that where the natural Heat of the Sun ripens and prepares their Juices, so as to render them palatable (and, you may say, proper for Wine) whatever Degree of Heat those Juices may have more will render them weaker, less spirituous (and more improper for Wine).”  An Austere Grape, from those Countries (as the Treffau) would be far more eligible than their [unreadable] Grapes; the same Miller observing, “that rough austere Fruits transplanted from a cold to a warmer Climate, have been so altered by the greater Heat of the Sun as to excel the very finest Fruits of the Country, whence they were taken.”  By Parity of Reason, whatever Fruit comes to entire Perfection in warm Countries, will lose of its Perfection by Transplantation in colder; but such as are too sweet and luscious or produce Liquors that are so, will receive an Improvement.  The Lachryma at Naples, wich requires Years before it gain an agreeable Dryness, would probably be improved by the Diminuation of Sweetness it would obtain by Cultivation in Virginia.  But what might not be expected from the Vines which produce the Tuscan Verdea and the Montepulciano?  These are excellent, in the Grand Dutchy, and would hence scare perceive a Change of Climate.

The Gardeners Dictionary, Philip Miller, London ,1732, Image from Google Books

It is not enough that Grapes come to a fine Maturity in Virginia to make Wine.  The Time of that Maturity is of the utmost Consequence.  If it arrive before the 25th of August, the Wine (unless in Cellars uncommonly deep) is liable to be injured by too hasty a Fermentation.  If between that Time and the 10th of September r(besides the above mentioned Inconvenience, if the Weather be fair) let is be remembered that almost all the great Gusts  have happened in that Interval, and that, when no Gusts happen, we seldom fail of a Season of eastwardly Winds and wet Weather.  Of the ripening Grapes, which would resist the Violence of the Winds, many would burst, and the Remainder be greatly hurt in Quality by a Superfluity of Water, which the Sun would not have Time to concot.  Upon the Whole, it seems that the best Season for the Maturity of the Grape is from the 10th of September (as Gusts seldom happen to late) until the first Frosts of Autumn, towards the last of October, when the Vicissitudes of Heat and Cold are not to great nor sudden.  In Europe the Vintage of Lagadica, in the Country of the Grifons, is in July; at Naples, in the last Days of October and Beginning of November; in other Places, at all intervening Times.  Why must we render Success, in an important Enterprise, altogether uncertain, rather than be at the trifling Expense of importing Vines proper for our Climate?

Traite Sur La Nature et Sur La Culture de la Vigne, Nicolas Bidet, Paris, 1759, Image from Google Books

It is true that Vineyards of a fine early Grape may produce Raisins, an Article in Commerce far from despicable; but our Object is Wine.  I cannot hear of a single Vine whose Grapes may be expected to produce it, in any Degree of Excellence, without Precautions that cannot generally be taken.  White Grapes, according to Bidet, Author of a valuable Treastise on Viticulture, are greatly inferior to black ones.  We have none that are black; and our Purple are all early, because imported from Countries whose moderate Summers can only bring such to Maturity.  A grape, which ripens in England in September, will, like Wheat, ripen here in July.  I have very respectable Authority for saying that Burgundy Grapes have failed upon fair Experiment in Maryland; a contrary Even had been surprising.  That Grape (the Auvergnac) is the same precisely which Miller recommends as the best for England.  It cannot be supposed (if any Reliance may be had on Miller’s Reasoning) that a Grape, the best calculated for England, can be, in any Respect, calculated for Virginia or Maryland.  After every Inquiry, possible for me, I am persuaded the Vines of Upper Italy will certainly, and the Lachryma very probably, answer in Virginia.  But not to neglect whatever Change, and not Design, may have furnished, I think it a Duty to request whoever, among the Wellwishers to Vineyards, may have a late Grape and can spare me Cuttings, to advise in Time for me to receive them on the first of November.  The Country has unhappily a great Partiality for native Vines, the only native Production to which it was ever partial.  Whoever attempts a Vineyard of those and miscarries, may indeed incur, but not deserve, Censure.  Bidet, after enumerating the several Vines in Frances, concludes with an account of the Virginvine.  “these are (says he) various Sorts of them used in Courts and Gardens to cover such high Walls as are not exposed to the Sun, and where fructiferous Plants cannot produce.  The Wild Vine is called, in Latin, Labrusca, in French, Vignes-vierge. It comes to us from Canada, and bears Fruit neither palatable nor proper for Wine.  It wants Fire (il n’a point de Feu) it comes well from the seed.”  The Want of Fire, mentioned by Bidet (derived from that of a sufficient saccharine Substance, if I rightly understand the Term) I am feasible, from Experiment,

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, July 29, 1773, Page 3

is chargeable on our native Summer Grapes.  Indeed, it is scarce to be doubted but those Canada Grapes are the very same.  We must, like the different People of Europe who make Wine, import foreign Vines, and expect Success from a judicious Choice.  What shall prevent it, it is hard to imagine.  Never was greater Temptation to a publick Exertion; but we seem to study our own Disappointment by superadding to the Difficulties, peculiar to a new Enterprise, whatever is likely to tender its Success precarious.  Having Occasion to apply to you, Gentlemen, for your Assistance in furnishing Slips for my Vineyard, I thought it not impertinent to add the above Reflexions; which, inasmuch as they are drawn from Miller, deserve to be considered.  But all the Reflexions in the World are unavailing, unless you, Gentlemen, who conceive the Utility of the Measure contribute a little Vigour to its Execution.

I am, Gentleman, your most obedient Servant,

June 20, 1773. ROBERT BOLLING, Junior.

P.S. Boxes of Slips, covered in Earth, and sent up James River, by Water, to the Care of Mr. Richard Crump, Merchant, Rocky Ridge, would have a quick Conveyance to the Vineyard in Buckingham.


“…to teach them the art of cultivating vines, and making wine.” May 27, 1773

October 26, 2011 2 comments

Andrew Estave was finally ready for his three apprentices almost four years after the General Assembly approved his funding.  This left two years for him to provide their instruction.

From Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, May 27, 1773, Page 2

The trustees appointed by an act of Assembly, for encouraging the making WINE in this colony, give notice that they, according to the directions of the said act, are ready to receive THREE POOR BOYS, to be bound apprentices to Andrew Estave, who is to teach them the art of cultivating vines, and making wine.