“this autumne I have drank wine made of the wilde grapes” : A Detailed Look at 17th Century Winemaking in Maryland
Father Andrew White wrote a letter to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore on February 20, 1638, “concerning our present estate”. In this letter Father White presented calculations on making the province profitable and sustainable. This was followed by six beneficial steps he felt Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore should engage in. After the production of bricks for building and the use of one’s own ships for transport, the fourth step involved the planting of vineyards and production of wine. Father White felt they could achieve a monopoly on wine production for during the autumn of 1637, he drank wine made from the wild grapes which he found was not inferior to the wines of Spain. He reasoned that two to three years after planting the vineyard with vines from France and Spain there would be a constant supply of wine, presumably for trade.
ffourthly itt would be uery expedient to trie what wine this land will yeld : I haue a strong prsumption that itt will prone well for this autumne I have drank wine made of the wilde grapes not inferiour in its age to any wine of Spaigne. Itt had much of muscadine grape but was a dark redd inclining to browne. I haue not scene as yett any white grape excepting the foxgrape wch hath some stayne of white but of the red grape I haue; scene much diuersity : some less some greater, some stayne, some doe not, some are aromaticall ; some not. Now if yr Lp. would cause some to plante vineyards why may not yr Lp. monopolize the wine for some yeares : to yr Lps. great pfitt especially if all sortes of vines be gotten out of Spaine and ffrance. True itt is you must haue patience for two or three yeares before the yeld wine but afterward itt is a Constant comoditye and tht a uery great one too.
This could this be the earliest documented example of winemaking in Maryland. This particular wine was a blend of mostly Muscadine. Father White was head of the Jesuit mission at St Mary’s City in Maryland until Father John Brooke arrived in 1639. During the time of concern there were four priests and one coadjutor. In the Annual Letter of 1638 it is stated that “the rulers of this colony have not yet allowed us to dwell among the savages.” Later in the same letter “one of Ours, going out of the colony, found two Frenchmen.” In the Annual Letter of 1639, the members of the mission were living outside of St. Mary’s City for “all are in places far distant”. Father Andrew White was living 120 miles away at “kittamaquund, the metropolis of Pascatoa…from the month of June, 1639.” From these statements, the implication is that Father White was residing in St Mary’s City and not traveling down in Virginia when he tasted the wine in 1637. It is further reasonable that Father White tasted a wine made in Maryland for in the 1635 Relation appears the statement, “for Wine, there is no doubt but it will be made there in plenty”. It is worth noting that Thomas Pinney quotes this passage in his appendix concerning the Fox grape but appears to not reference Father White’s experience drinking the local wine.
It was some time before a vineyard was actually planned. On September 16, 1662, Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore instructed some 200 or 300 acres of land be surveyed for a vineyard. The survey was completed on May 9, 1665. Vines were shipped to Maryland for the vineyard, presumably from England, one decade after the initial instruction. In a letter from Charles Calvert to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore dated April 24, 1672, we learn that upon arrival the hogshead of vines were not unloaded. Instead, the hogshead remained with Captain John Tully as he sailed up the Chesapeake Bay.
I humbly thanke yor Lordship for the hhd of vines, butt old Tully has been soe Crosgrained that before I could send for them hee sett saile vp the Bay, that I fear the vines may bee Spoyled afore I get them out of his vessel, Butt I haue sent a messenger for the hogshead, And doe intend to trouble the Capt about itt.
On June 2, 1673, Governor Charles Calvert wrote a lengthy letter to Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore. He wrote of his “humble thankes for the two hampers of wine yor Lopp sent me, they prove Excellently good and come safe to hand without Damage.” Unfortunately, the hogshead of vines all perished because Captain John Tully did not deliver them in time. It appears that the vineyard was not planted at all because the loss of the vines dashed hopes of sending wine from “the growth of this Province.”
That hdd of vines yor Lopp tooke so much Care to send in the last yeare by Capt Tully for want of Care in a timely Delivery are all perished and not one of them come up for which I am heartily sorry, having had greate hopes that if they had beene put into the ground in time here, that the soyle would have so well agreed with them that in a short time they would have Come to a greate pfeccon here, and that I might have beene able in some few yeares out of their produce to have sent yor Lopp a glasse of wine of the growth of this Province.
There are conflicting accounts of what happened to this vineyard and whether wine was actually produced. Thomas Pinney writes that to the original 240 acres of vineyard another 100 acres were added in 1665. For this statement, in his note #114 he cites J. R. McGrew stating, “The evidence for this vineyard is unclear, and though it seems probably that a vineyard was planned for the site, it is doubtful that it was in fact planted. The comment on its wine, then, if not wholly fanciful, are surely exaggerated.” I have contacted the American Wine Society and they will provide the referenced article later this month. Thomas Pinney then continues “Wine made from this is reported, with the uncritical optimism of all such early responses, to have been ‘as good as the best burgundy’”. For his quote, he provides note #115 which cites Hedrick History of Horticulture in American to 1860 published in 1950. I have ordered a copy of this book. Regina McCarthy writes that “There are two stories about what happened” the first being 300 acres were planted and all died. The second is that the vines never survived the journey from Europe. This confusion appears to be due to several early 20th century texts.
There are at least three early claims that Charles Calvert planted the vineyard and produced wine. In the Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York from 1908, there appears the statement “in 1662 [he] planted three hundred acres of land in St. Mary’s to vines. It is certain that he made and sold wine in considerable quantities and the old chroniclers report that it was as good as the best Burgundy.” There are no sources cited for such statements. Perhaps this document was based on other secondary sources. The Transactions of the Peninsula Horticultural Society published in 1907, states that Lord Charles Baltimore had “planted 300 acres of land in St. Mary’s to vines in the year 1662.” Edward Randolph Emerson’s The Story of the Vine published in 1901, was more expansive. Of Lord Baltimore’s instructions of 1662, the land “was to be reserved for the sole purpose of planting vines. His venture was, in the main, successful, for in a very few years they made and sold large quantities of wine that was said closely to resemble a very fair Burgundy.” These three documents appear to be erroneous variations of either each other or some other source.
Clarification, and perhaps the original source, appears to come in Gallus Thomann Liquor Laws of the United States published in 1885. He writes that the 300 acres of land “was to be reserved for the express purpose of planting vines. These and subsequent efforts must have proved more successful than the experiments made in Virginia; for before the end of the century a very palatable wine, similar in color and taste to Burgundy, was raised in the province.” Thus the Burgundy-like wine was not produced on this vineyard, rather somewhere else in Maryland. This implies there was at least one other 17th century vineyard and example of winemaking in Maryland.
Regina McCarthy writes of a “grape grower named William Hutchinson in 1689” but provides no direct citation. Another possibility lies with Augustine Herman who was born in Prague and was trained as a surveyor. He produced an accurate map of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays for Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore. In exchange Augustine Herman received a very large land grant which he named Bohemia Manor. On September 27, 1684, Augustine Herman wrote out his will in which he stated, “that my monument stone with Engraven letters of me the first Author of Bohemia Mannor, Anno 1660, shall be erected over my sepulcher, which is to be in my vineyard upon my Mannor plantation upon Bohemia Mannor in Maryland.” The monumental stone was actually engraved but in more contemporary times it was moved and converted to a door for the family vault. According to George Johnston “This vault was erected some distance from the original burying-place upon the manor plantation.” While the exact location of the vineyard may not be known, it is reasonable that it did in fact exist.
It appears that Father White’s letter describing the wine he tasted during the autumn of 1637 provides the earliest documentation of wine produced in Maryland. While Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore instructed that land be surveyed for a vineyard, the vines he sent over perished, and wine was never produced. There are no further references to vines nor the vineyard in the Calvert Papers after 1673. Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore died in November 1675 so perhaps the motivations for the vineyard expired as well. The remainder of the Calvert Papers contains descriptions of tobacco and correspondence about the Maryland and Pennsylvania border. In the final years of 17th century Maryland there appear to be two efforts at the cultivation of the vine and one attempt at the production of wine. These three efforts should be explored further.
It appears that references to colonial winemaking in Maryland are a bit scarce. There are certainly accounts suggesting that wine should be made as in one from 1711 suggesting “a great many Britains will strive to live amongst them, for the Benefit of the sweet Air and healthful Climate, which that Country affords, were it only for the Cultivating of…Wine, and other valuable Staples, which those People are fully acquainted withal.”
In 1751 it was suggested that cuttings from the Rhine and Moselle would prosper best in such colonies at Virginia and Pennsylvania. For a colony like Maryland, cuttings from Madeira were deemed best. If the colonies produced wine as good as the south of France then the importation of wine from France could be reduced “which throws the balance of trade so much against us with that kingdom”. In 1763 it was stated that Maryland produced “excellent cyder for their own drinking” but apparently not wine. There were “vast quantities of grapes, that rot upon the ground in the woods, and which it is thought, if properly cultivated, might be made into a thin wholesome wine.” Those in Maryland imported wine for drinking from “Madeira, Fyal, and France.” John Mitchell wrote in 1767 that “It is well known in Virginia and Maryland, that even that climate is too hot to make good wine of any manured grapes they can get.” The “manured vine” was long considered the cultivated Vitis Vinifera. Instead these “grapes of Europe are summer fruits there, and make nothing but a vin du pays, fit only for present drinking.”
Despite the suggested lack of winemaking, it certainly was eventually made. We know from Thomas Pinney that Colonel Benjamin Tasker, Jr. planted a vineyard in 1755 or 1756 from which he bottled the 1759 vintage. Governor Horatio Sharpe informed Lord Baltimore of his plans to cultivate the grape in 1767. Most importantly, Charles Carroll planted a vineyard in Howard County which survived from 1770 to 1796.
In 1769, an interesting and informative article appeared in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. This article described a new grape variety found by John Jones of the Indian River, Worcester County, Maryland. Colonel John Jones was a member of the American Philosophical Society and invented both a mowing machine and manure spreader. On July 14, 1767, 181 acres were surveyed for the patent Unity which was granted to him on August 31, 1770. It is possible that this is where is vineyard was located and not Unity Grove which Colonel Jones managed but was owned by General John Dagworthy. The article merits a full reproduction for it describes where the grapevine grew, provides a botanical description, an indication of yield, a description of vinification, and a brief tasting note. The wine described would have been produced in 1768. It is also relevant because it notes that Colonel Jones had a vineyard at Indian River in 1769. The vineyard survived for some years because Colonel Jones was propagating these vines. On May 24, 1777 Charles Carroll wrote to his father that “G. Cadwallader has promised to procure for me some rooted plants of Jones Vines. You remember they are mentioned in the Pena. Philosophical publication.” The Carroll vineyards are commonly described as planted in 1770 with “Rhenish, Virginia grape, Claret, and Burgundy” vines. More research is required but it is possible the “Jones Vines” were as well.
THE bark (he fays) is of a grey colour, very smooth, and the wood of a firm texture. They delight in a high sandy soil; but will thrive very well in the Cyprus swamps. The leaf is very much like that of the English grape vine, such as is propagated in the gardens near Philadelphia for table use.
The grape is much larger than the English; of an oval shape, and when quite ripe, is black, adorned with a number of pale red specks, which on handling, rub off. The pulp is a little like the Fox-grape but in taste more delicious. These grapes are ripe in October, and yield an incredible quantity of juice, which, with proper management, he doubts not, would make a valuable wine.
He employed a person to gather about three bushels and one peck of them when ripe, and immediately had them pressed; which to his surprise, yielded twelve gallons of pure juice, though a good quantity must have been lost in the pressing.
In about twelve hours after putting the juice in a keg, it began to ferment, and he suffered it to go on till it got to be so violent, that it might be heard all over a large room. It continued in that state for three days. He then checked it fearing it might turn acid, though, he says he was afterwards convinced that if he had suffered it to ferment as long again, it would have separated the vinous parts from the fleshy, and given greater fineness to the liquor.
After this it was racked off, and before cold weather buried in the garden, the top about fix inches under ground; where having continued till the summer following, he could not discover that it had in the least altered either in taste or colour. He observes farther that, after eating a quantity of them, or drinking the juice, they leave an astringency, as claret is apt to do.
There is an immense quantity of these vines growing on the beach open to the sea; and they are also found in great plenty upon the ridges, and in the swamps. Since their discovery he has transplanted a number of them into his vineyard, from which in a year or two more, he expects to make a wine much better than is commonly imported.
I have not come across many references to storing wine in the ground from this period. In 1733, Francis Bacon wrote of burying a bottle of wine, presumably four feet underground. After two weeks it “became more lively, better tasted, and clearer” and after one month “came out as fresh and lively, if not better than at first.” The English translation of Don Marcello Di Venuti’s Description of the First Discoveries of the Antient City of Herculaeneum in 1750 describes how “In order to keep the famous and brisk Wine of the Antients, it was necessary that they should have these Vessels placed underground.” John Bell noted in Derbent, Persia, that the “people of substance there keep their wine in jars, buried underground, by which method it will keep good for years.” It is not known if Colonel Jones was inspired by these books to bury his wine or improvised cellar-like conditions because his house did not have a cellar. I am curious to hear of other colonial accounts of burying wine.
Worcester County is the eastern most county in Maryland having been founded in 1742. It encompasses the shoreline of Assateague, where Giovanni di Pier Andrea di Bernardo da Verrazzano noted grape vines during his visit in the 16th century, and The Great Cypress Swamp. At the time Colonel Jones discovered the new grape variety the Indian River Hundred was considered within Worcester County, Maryland. However, the border of Maryland was in dispute with both Pennsylvania and Delaware for some time. To settle the dispute the Transpeninsular Line was surveyed in 1751, agreed upon in 1760, and ratified by King George III in 1769. The Mason-Dixon Line was surveyed in 1763 and agreed upon in 1781. The Maryland border shifted south causing Indian River Hundred transitioning from Worcester County, locally known as Old Sussex to New Sussex. Thus the vineyard and wine produced by Colonel Jones was originally made in Worcester County, Maryland but is now known as Sussex County, Delaware.
After writing about the 18th century vineyards of Washington County, Maryland I decided to take a look at the earliest accounts of winemaking in Maryland. Tenis Pale has lately been credited as first making wine in Maryland back in 1648. He was a member of the New Albion Colony which included land in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. The original petition of June 1632, which was sent to King Charles I, for the Colony of New Albion included the plan to “settle there 300 Inhabitants for making of Wine, Saulte and iron”.
There were certainly grapevines observed in what was to become Maryland during the 16th century. Giovanni di Pier Andrea di Bernardo da Verrazzano was an Italian sailing officer in the service of the French. His explorations of the east coast of America included a landing in the Chincoteague/Assateague area. Here he noted:
We saw in this country many vines growing naturally which entwine about the trees and run up upon them as they do in the plains of Lombardy These vines would doubtless produce excellent wine if they were properly cultivated and attended to as we have often seen the grapes which they produce very sweet and pleasant and not unlike our own They must be held in estimation by them as they carefully remove the shrubbery from around them wherever they grow to allow the fruit to ripen better.
On June 20, 1632, Cecil, the second Lord Baltimore, received a patent from King Charles I for the Colony of Maryland. In seeking others to join him for a September, 1633, departure the Lord Baron of Baltimore published An Account of the Colony of the Lord Baron of Baltimore. After describing the benefits and expectations of the colony, he wrote that there were “fruitful vines, from which wine can be made”.
On November 22, 1633, Leonard Calvert, the brother of Cecil, the second Lord Baltimore, departed with two ships The Ark and The Dove. Amongst the settlers was a Father Andrew White. Father Andrew White noted they had only experienced sea-sickness until their Christmas celebration aboard the ship in December 1633. He noted “for the celebrity of the daye wine being given over all the ship, it was soe immoderately taken as the next day 30 sickened of fevers, whereof about a dozen died afterwards”. Perhaps these early explorers were killed by adulterated wine. The ships landed in Virginia on February 24, 1634, then sailed to what is now St. Clement’s Island on March 25, 1634. The next year A Relation of the Sucessefull Beginnings of the Lord Baltimore’s Plantation in Maryland was published in 1635. This book presents much information gathered from Father Andrew White and other reports. It contains a chapter on the availability of commodities in which “for Wine, there is no doubt but it will be made there in plenty, for the ground doth naturally bring foorth Vines, in such aboundance, that they are as frequently there, as Brambles are here.” Despite the presence of grapevines it appears that wine had not yet been made in Maryland.
Curious about the specific wines made by Tenis Pale I read through the early narratives of New Albion. Sir Edmund Plowden received the patent for the Colony of New Albion. Wine is also mentioned in The Commodities of the Island Called Manati Ore Long Isle Wthin the Continent of Virginia which was published the same month the patent was received. The Colony of New Albion included the land of Long Isle. The first paragraph of this book details:
First thear grow naturally store of Black wilde vines wch make uerie good vergies or vinniger for to use wth meate or to dress sturgeon but by the French mens Arte being boyde and ordred is good wine and remeanes for three moneths and no longer, But replanting the vines in 2 yeares it will then be excellent wine.
Sir Edmund Plowden decided to send Beauchamp Plantagenet out to visit the territory to select the eight best seats for the knights who would be settling there. Captain Young and his nephew Robert Evelin went out in 1633 to establish a fort and wait for the arrival of Sir Edmund Plowden. According to Beauchamp Plantangenet, in 1637, both he and Robert Evelin almost simultaneously published accounts of New Albion. Robert Evelin writes of the “4 sorts of Grapes for wine, and Raisins” and specifically “the barren grounds have fower kindes of Grapes” of New Albion in 1641. It is not until Beauchamp Plantagenet published his third edition of A Description of the Province of New Albion in 1648 that the production of wine is mentioned. He notes “4 sorts of Grapes for wine, and Raisins” perhaps quoting Robert Evelin. In describing the production of wine we find it took place as Uvedale.
The fourth seat is Uvedale under Websneck, and is a valley sixe miles long, sheltred by hils from the North-west windes: below it is sixe miles a thicket of four sorts of excellent great Vines running on Mulberry and Sassafras trees; there are four sorts of Grapes, the first is the Tholouse Muscat, sweet sented, the second the great foxe and thick Grape, after five moneths reaped being boyled and salted, and well fined, it is a strong red Xeres; the third a light Claret, the fourth a white Grape creeps on the land, maketh a pure GOLD colour white wine: Tenis Pale the French man of these four made eight sorts of excellent wine, and of the Muscat acute boyled that the second draught will fox a reasonable pate four moneths old: and here may be gathered and made two hundred tun in the Vintage moneth, and re-planted will mend; two other valleys there of the same Grapes and large, above Uvedale, the hill is called Websneck, environed with three rivers round
The production of wine as described both in 1632 and 1648, includes boiling it. In 1632, the description is actually for verjus which is the unfermented juice obtained from unripe grapes. This was often boiled down and mixed with salt to help preserve it. A recipe from 1661 details how to make an artificial Greek wine involving just the boiling and salting of wine. Whether all of the eight types of wine were truly “excellent” is debatable.
The location of Uvedale is describes as “over land into Charles river, and Delaware Bay, this neck is a rare work of God, for it is 450 miles compasse to goe by sea and water, from one side to the other of this eleven miles street, and Uvedale is on one of these branches.” The land west and east of the Delaware Bay was past of New Netherlands which was under Dutch control until 1667 when it was transfered to the British. Lord Baltimore did attempt to claim the land on the western shore of the Delaware Bay for Maryland starting in 1670. But in 1685 it was established that the Maryland border ended halfway between the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay. As early as 1852 federal documents list the wine of Uvedale in documenting the history of American wine. However, Uvedale is referenced as “now in Delaware”. The placement of Uvedale in Delaware continues into the 20th century through Frank Schoonmaker in 1941. With the early wines of Tenis Pale having been made outside of Maryland, it appears the first winemaking efforts could have taken place at the vineyard in St. Mary’s County which was surveyed by Jerome White. Jerome White was the Surveyor General of Maryland. On September 16, 1662, Cecil, Lord Baltimore instructed that 200 or 300 acres of land near Jerome White’s seat at Saint John’s be assigned which were “the most convenient place for the planting of a Vineyard there under the usual rent.” The 100 acre Vineyard and 200 acre Brick Hill were surveyed for Jerome White on May 9, 1665.  I have yet to come across actual accounts of wine being produced here.
As mentioned earlier, the Colony of New Albion included the land in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and New York. An excellent description of early vineyards and winemaking in New York appears in A Description of the New Netherlands published by Adriaen Van der Donck in 1651. An entire section is dedicated to “Grape Vines and Vineyards.” Here Adriaen Van der Donck writes of “how numerous the vine stocks are in the New-Netherlands, where they grow wild throughout the country. We do not find a district or a nook of land without grape vines.” He continues his description of the wild vines then notes that these vines “with proper care and management, will produce as good grapes and as good wine as is made in Germany and France, is clear and undeniable. Proofs and examples of this fact are seen…where the Swedes reside…they make delightful wine year after year.” They made white, reddish, and dark wines. One of the pressed wines was “a dark red colour, resembling dragon’s blood more than wine.” It appears the biggest hurdle to overcome was the proper cultivation of the vine. While there were haphazard attempts several people “already have vineyards and wine hills under cultivation.” Foreign grapevines had already been introduced and several vine dressers from Heidelberg had come over. Adriaen Van der Donck believed “in a few years there will be wine in abundance in the New-Netherlands.”
The 19th Century Vineyards of Washington County, Maryland and the Earliest Documented American Ice Wine
In describing the vineyards and wines of the East Coast, Frank Schoonmaker in his 1941 American Wines, describes the Eastern Shore of Maryland as a “great wine district – perhaps the best of all.” He does not delve into the history of Maryland wine. For that we may turn to contemporary sources such as the authoritative Thomas Pinney in A History of Wine in America. He describes the 18th century efforts of Governor Horatio Sharpe, Charles Carroll, and Colonel Benjamin Tasker, Jr. His descriptions of 19th century efforts focus in on John Adlum and his vineyard at Havre de Grace. In Regina McCarthy’s Maryland Wine: A Full-Bodied History the focus is again on John Adlum, the discovery of the Catawba grape from Mrs. Schell, and the short-lived Society for the Culture of the Vine. The 1880 Report Upon Statistics of Grape Culture and Wine Production in the United States lists 599 acres of cultivated vines in Maryland producing some 21,405 gallons worth $19,151of wine annually. The major wine producing areas were Dorchester, Harford, and Caroline followed by Washington County.
Documentation on the history of the vineyards and production of wine in Maryland appear to have ignored the efforts in Washington County. Despite the relatively small production there is a documented history of cultivation of the vine and production of wine throughout the 18th century. Lost in this history is what appears to be the first documented production of ice-wine in America. Citations of the first Ice-wine made in Canada list Walter Hainle of Okanagan Valley in 1972 and in Ham Mowbray of Maryland in 1974. Just after the end of the Civil War, George Heyser produced an 1865 Catawba wine made from grapes harvested after a frost. In this post I provide an overview of the vines and wines of Washington County in the 19th century.
The Land Patents of Washington County, Maryland suggest a history of vineyards dating back to the 18th century. Joseph Chaplain finalized the 45 acres of Hills and Dales in 1751. In 1771 he finalized the Resurvey on Hills and Dales and the Vineyard for a large total of 2256 acres. This implies he either acquired or planted a vineyard by 1771. Joseph Chaplain had an extensive number of properties so it is more likely he consolidated property rather than began cultivating a 2215 acre vineyard.
Dr. George and William Stuart finalized 154 acres of The Vineyard in 1750 despite being originated in 1739. The name “Stuart” was also spelled “Steuart.” William Steuart, Benjamin Tasker Jr., and Sr finalized the 506 acre Resurvey on Vineyard in 1754. This land was located next to the Resurvey of Hills and Dales, Vineyard. In 1762 William Steuart is listed as the sole owner of the 506 acre Resurvey on Vineyard. Andrew Grim finalized 50 acres of land called Frenches Vineyard in 1753 followed by 940 acres called Frenchs Vineyard in 1759. Perhaps his interests extended beyond the grape for he finalized 50 acres next to the Resurvey Frenchs Vineyard called Red Liquor. In 1761 he resurveyed the 940 acres of Frenchs Vineyard. John Cass originated the 7 acre Vineyard in 1738, not finalizing it until 1801. Henry Betterbenner likewise finalized his 67 acres as Vineyard in 1809. This was followed by Cynthia Boyd with 134 acres named Vineyard in 1814.
The history of the vineyards and winemaking becomes concrete in the 19th century. Near Hagerstown, Maryland, the vine and wine appears linked to the early German residents. Thomas Scharf writes that these immigrants brought with them a passion for the cultivation of flowers as well as the grapevine.  The early families of the Shafers, Knodes, Schroeders, Boerstlers, Beckleys, Stonebreakers, and others participated in the cultivation of the vine in Funkstown. Funkstown is a village located 2.5 miles south of Hagerstown. Dr. Christian Boerstler, proprietor of a powder-mill, arrived in 1804 with Daniel Boerstler, a rifle, gun, and powder manufacturer, in 1808. John and Henry Shafer were merchants who arrived between 1810 and 1813 when Gerard Stonebreaker passed away. John Knode, a tavern keeper, arrived in 1820. Thomas Scharf writes that in 1809, Frederick Kehler manufactured two barrels of wine from cultivated grapes. He goes on to state this was the first wine made from cultivated grapes in Washington County.
Frederick Kehler sold his wine of the 1809 vintage at $4 per gallon. As a point of reference, Henry Miller & Son of Baltimore advertised in January 1808, the sale of “Old Madeira Wine” at $5, $4, and $3 per gallon. W. M. Norris of Market Street, Baltimore sold “Claret Wine” in demijohns at $1.25 per gallon. In February 1810, he listed “Vedonia Wine, six years imported” at $2 per gallon. The wine of Frederick Kehler was not cheap.
On October 4, 1809, an article titled “The Grape” was published in the Daily National Intelligencer. It began with that statement that there were 18 vineyards in the county sized between 0.5 to 2.5 acres. The eldest was 3.5 years indicating it was planted during the spring of 1806. The vineyards were planted with cuttings and rooted plants obtained from Peter Legaux near Philadelphia, “from Gentlemen’s Gardens in the vicinity of Baltimore”, some from seed, and “from other island gardens.” Those raised from the seeds of the white Leghorn grape had not yet born fruit but the others were flourishing. The first two vineyards suffered from the late spring frosts and summer drought of 1809. Each of these vineyards produced several barrels of wine despite the injury to the vines. The author suspected the number of vineyards would double by the spring of 1810.
There were six European “wine gardners” comprised of one Austrian with the rest Württembergs and Swiss. The Württemberg immigrants came by way of Fort Pitt with cuttings “but very few of them grew.” I wonder if these cuttings are those “from other island gardens” because Presque Isle was not far from Fort Pitt. It appears that the American Germans cultivated the remaining vineyards. The Europeans planted their vines four feet apart and tended them with the hoe. The “American Germans” planted the vines five to six feet apart to afford more air and space because “the vine grows much more rapid, strong and higher than in Europe” and with the hotter climate they “require more space and air.” This American vineyard layout allowed more work to be completed in one day with a horse and plow than with 12, presumably European, hands.
The vineyards were planted with over one dozen varieties. The best varieties were considered the Constantia, the Black, Blue, Red, and White Frontignanc, White Sweet water, the Rhine, Claret, and others all of which came from Peter Legaux. There were no new vines straight from Hungary, apparently just those already cultivated in America.
In a response to questions about planting a vineyard in Virginia on July 27, 1801, Mr. Legaux listed the following rates for October 1801. Cuttings 15 to 24 inches in length of “Champaign Bourgoyne and Bordeaux wines” at ¢5 each with rooted vines at ¢12. These rates were dropped to ¢4 and ¢20 respectively when the quantity exceeded 1,000 each. Likewise the Cape of Good Hope vine was priced at ¢9 and ¢25 dropping to ¢9 and ¢20 in quantity. It is a little suspicious that all of the best varieties in Washington County were obtained from Peter Legaux. After the heavy May frosts of 1803, only 582 of his 14,000 vines had survived. He continued to receive and plant new cuttings but survival was tough. By 1809 he decided that only the Cape of Good Hope grapevine was able to grow.
The German Jonathan Hager settled on his land in 1737. The surrounding population eventually grew and the area was named Elizabeth Town after his wine. In 1814, the population reached approximately 2,500 so the name was incorporated as Hagerstown. It was around this period that Isaac Garver had an “extensive vineyard, one of the first in the District.” sometime between his arrival in the Leitersburg District of Washington County in 1790 and his death in 1826. It was not a success. I have not found any vineyard references for the 1830s nor the 1840s.
In 1842, William Heyser III split his land in two giving it to the brothers John H. and George Heyser. John H. Heyser completed his house and “Subterranean Wine Cellar” in 1846. This implies John H. Heyser intended to produce wine from the very beginning. The brothers were cultivating grapes and producing wine by the fall of 1858. They submitted several bottle to the Wine Committee at the Annual Exhibition of the Washington County Agricultural Society. The committee was comprised of Mr. Schley, Mr. Weisel, and Mr. Motter. The committee found the “premium bottle” and other “were genuine samples of a perfectly pure Catawba wine.” While they were not to the quality of a “Johannesberger or Rudesheimer”, it would take more than the discrimination that the “unsophisticated are possessed of” to differentiate between Catawba and Rhine wines.
John H. Heyser wrote about “Grape Culture For Wine” in The Horticulturist, and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste in the fall of 1859. John H. Heyser was writing in response to an article published by David Thomas, a horticulturalist who lived in New York, who “confesses himself puzzled about some things concerning the culture of grapes.” John. H. Heyser then writes “I have been persuaded to make the attempt”, presumably to cultivate grapevines. He mentions a visit from Samuel Miller, a horticulturalist from Calmdale, Pennsylvannia who visited his property in Hagerstown. He notes that Samuel Miller saw in the Autumn of 1858, “vines that were not stump in, that have borne for four years piles of grapes, and that had good wood for another pile.” This dates the first fruit of John H. Heyser’s vineyard to the autumn of 1855 and implies it was planted around 1852.
In 1868, the correspondent A.C.P. of Baltimore spent several days in Hagerstown studying the local vineyards and winemaking. The details of his visited were published in the article “Vineyards and Wine in Washington County, MD” in The Gardeners’ Monthly and Horticulturalist. At the time, George Heyser had several acres of Concord, Clinton, and Catawba grape vines, the later of which “as usual, is badly mildewed.” George Heyser’s vineyard still existed in 1871 where he grew “grapes largely, with decided profit.” His brother John H. Heyser had some plantings of Diana, Delaware, and other varieties. In 1867, he had planted a new vineyard primarily with Concord grapevines which were already showing some fruit. The vines were located on elevated land with soils of limestone with a porous texture. The rows of vines were trained on trellises and radiated out from a central point at which there was a structure to view the vineyard. His Catawba crop was completely destroy in 1868 by mildew, despite a heavy dose of sulphur.
The author was able to taste several bottles of wine produced by the two Heyser brothers of whom he concludes, “Both gentlemen evidently have the skill and experience for making fine wines.” George Heyser’s 1866 Concord white was “clear, pure in taste and pleasant, but lacking body and aroma.” His 1866 Catawba was an “excellent wine of fine color, some aroma, fruity, [and] palatable.” Finally, came his 1865 “after frost” Catawba. This is important because Regina McCarthy writes of Ham Mowbray making “the first ever America ice wine” at Montbray Cellars, Maryland in 1974. It is also imported because his vineyard survived the Civil War. Here is the complete description of the Heyser “after frost” wine. [Please check the Wine Berserkers thread The first documented American Icewine? for more information about the weather for October 1865. I now suspect this was a late harvest rather than an ice wine.]
“finally Catawba of 1865, made of grapes after frost. On tasting this wine I almost suspected a mystification and that some choice Rudesheimer or other high grade Rhine wine had been set before us; such exquisite bouquet, such rich flavor, body and fire. I never before had discovered in American wines; all of which excellent qualities, apart, of careful preparation, Mr H. attributes to his gathering the Grapes after they had a slight frost.”
John Heyser opened a Catawba which was “very nice, pleasant wine of fruity flavor” and an interesting 1867 “beautiful ruby color” Concord wine. This was produced by “rubbing the skins, instead of fermenting on the skins.” The author felt it “was too young to show what it may be when ripe.” In April 1871, a correspondent for the Baltimore Sun noted Washington County was often called the “garden spot of Maryland.” John H. Heyser’s property of 150 acres contained 10 acres of vines and devoted “much attention to raising grapes, and to the manufacture of wine.” He averaged 1,000 gallons of mainly Catawba wine per acre for an annual total of 10,000 gallons. His wine sold for $1.50 to $2.50 per gallon depending upon age and quality. This is equivalent to 40,000 quart bottle or 3,333 cases of wine per year worth an average of $20,000! His large wine vaults were “well stored with this wine.” John H. Heyser believed that producing wine in the county “would become a vastly profitable enterprise.” John H. Heyser was listed as a “wine manuf[actuer]” in the 1875 Boyd’s Directory.
That afternoon A.C.P. visited the vineyards of Mr. Appleman. His grapevines were located on very hilly lands with poor soils of slate. The vineyard was just planted in 1867 with many different varieties. The Concord vines appeared the best since “Such poor neglected slate hills may prove a very paradise for the grape.” In Hagerstown itself an “amateur friend” of the author had at least 15 varieties of Roger’s seedlings, Martha, Black Hawk, Diana Hamburg, five hybrids from Mr. Arnold of Paris, Canada, being a cross from Black Hamburg and Clinton.
Dr. Harvey had a grapery on West Washington Street. He was noted at the 1858 Annual Exhibition of the Washington County Agricultural Society as being “an enthusiastic grape grower” who was “collecting native varieties, and cultivating them with much care and interest.” In 1870 he had “every variety known in the latitude, including ‘Rogers’ and ‘Muscats.’” Near the end of the century Henry F. Unger purchased the 90 acre farm, presumably his father’s located in the Leitersburg District, in 1893. He was “extensively engaged in grape and berry culture” through at least 1898.