Part of the USA Today Network

When most vineyards in America were in York County

York County had the most vineyards in America during the early history of this nation. A March 14th, 1891 article, noting that fact, appeared in “The American Settler,” a weekly, published in London, as “a guide to emigration from Europe and settlement in North America—for all classes.” Click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustration in this post if details are cut off in the cropping of illustration.

This past week I’ve been working with a genealogist from California. Stacie Lewis has helped with research for two of my books and I returned the favor when she posed a York County question.

The ancestor of the family Stacie is researching, immigrated to America in 1892 with a wine making background. They immediately settled in York County, Pennsylvania; however stayed barely two years before moving to California. The family was heavily involved in wine making for the next 24-years and eventually got back into that business 40-years ago.

Stacie shared some details from the book “A History of Wine in America: From the Beginnings to Prohibition,” by Thomas Pinney, and published by the University of California Press in 1989. In 1818, Thomas Eichelberger, of York County, engaged a German vine dresser and started planting vineyards for wine making; effectively becoming the early center of the industry in the republic. The grapes most commonly grown were called the York Madeira, the York Claret, and the York Lisbon.

In 1823 Eichelberger’s four acres yielded thirty-one barrels of wine. He kept adding acreage to his vineyards. The profitability of Eichelberger’s winery did not go unnoticed; many others from York County quickly following him into the business. “There is land of a suitable soil enough in York County,” one writer of the day declared, “to raise wine for the consumption of all the United States.”

From those passages, Stacie understood why the family likely first settled in York County; however that book was written nearly a century after the family immigrated. Stacie asked if I could find a reason prior to 1892, why a family, interested in wine making, would settle in York County in 1892.

My find of “The American Settler” article made Stacie’s day. She imagined the patriarch of the family reading that exact article; which implanted the impression: York County, Pennsylvania, is where we’ll settle in America. Here is the text from that 1891 article, published in London:

“Professor Thomas Mechan said, at the recent meeting of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, that the progress of horticulture during the last sixty years was well illustrated by the history of grapes in America. At the beginning of that period there were only 500 acres of vineyards in the fourteen States in which any grapes were grown at all, and most of these vineyards were in York County, Pennsylvania.”

Links to a few other agricultural related posts:

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts