Another York County History Clue
Historical research is so intriguing because it is all about making discoveries and solving mysteries. You just never know when that ah-ha moment is going to happen.
A friend showed me the watercolor portrait above recently. It is attributed to folk artist Jacob Maentel, who lived in York County part of the first quarter of the 19th century. The inscription says the subject is Georg Oberdorf, who was born September 1, 1781, and it was painted in 1819.
There are several entries for one or more George Oberdorf/Overdorfs in York County tax records from 1831 to 1860 in Windsor Township and Wrightsville, with occupations ranging from merchant to miller, from postmaster to cordwinder (probably cordwainer–a shoemaker). None of these occupations explain why Oberdorf was painted with a prominent bunch of grapes in his hand.
While researching local grape growing and wine making for a recent York Sunday News column, however, I came across the following note at the very end of a long article published in the York Recorder in 1823. The article is on York County viniculture. It reads:
“NOTE. Since writing the above, I have been informed that Mr. Overdorff, who has a very flourishing vine yard, raised his plants from the seed, which were sown in a bed in the garden, and after one year were transplanted. Having roots, they are not so liable to fail as the cuttings, which are joints of a vine, one end of which is stuck in the ground.”
York countians had initial success raising wine grapes, but insects and a fungus eventually took their toll. Grape growers, including Oberdorf, found other occupations. It has only been in the past 40 years or so, with newer methods of controlling disease and pests, that wine grapes have again been cultivated commercially in the area.
Click the links below for more on York County grapes and wine.
Lewis Miller’s drawing of Jacob Busser singing about wine.
George Upp’s vineyard.
Winemaking–and drinking–goes back a long way in York County.