This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
We have for some time been engaged in tracing the history of our native grapes, sifting the testimony and collating the facts. Some of these we are now prepared to lay before our readers. We shall begin with the Norton, in regard to which we have reliable testimony tracing it back to a certain point. The following extract from F. W. Lemosy, Esq., gives the facts in a most interesting form.
"What is known as the Norton grape was discovered in the year '35 or '36, by my father, (Dr. F. A. Lemosy, of Richmond, Va.) Father was, during his life-time, very fond of ducking, and the waters of James River furnished ample means for the gratification of his desires, which he indulged in during the fall months whenever he could leave his practice for a few hours to do so. His resort for shooting ducks was an island in James River about four miles above Rich' mond, and known as Cedar Island. It is about four hundred yards long and about fifty yards wide, composed of large rocks, which hold the soil in its place, that supports a growth of cedars, oaks, and many wild vines.
" During one of father's rambles over this island, and while eating wild grapes, he chanced to discover a grape much superior to any other he had found there; so on his return home he carried a few bunches to my mother, who, on eating them, recognized a great resemblance to a grape much used for wine purposes in the south of France, the place of her nativity.
" This grape thus became known to us, and brother and I called at Cedar Island every fall for many years thereafter to gather those grapes, and indulge our boyish propensities for fruit. About this time Dr. Norton (one of father's companions) was establishing a small farm and vineyard near our city, and solicited all the information father could give him relative to the cultivation of the vine. It was during one of these conversations on the subject that father mentioned the existence of this wild grape on Cedar Island, and ventured the suggestion that it would make a good wine grape. The same idea was advanced to Mr. John Carter, who at that time produced wine from the Catawba. Well, it turned out that Mr. Carter reached Cedar Island first, and took away nearly the whole vine in cuttings. Dr. Norton arriving there after him, took the remaining stump, together with its roots.
"It is needless here to mention the fact, that brother and I never visited Cedar Island after the above facts were known to us.
" After a few years Dr. Norton developed this grape, and produced a very fine wine; and as he took more interest in it than any one else, we universally called it Norton's Grape, and subsequently Norton's Seedling; by which name I speak of it to this day from mere habit.
" It is proper to say that Dr. N. never claimed any credit for it as a seedling, but only as a wild grape of his adoption. It is a little paradoxical to me to find myself writing the history of an old grape vine that afforded me so much gratification during my youth.
" So much for reading the Horticulturist.
"Refer to Horticulturist, 1857, page 461. Report Pomological Society Of Georgia, says: ' Being totally unlike its reputed parents, and agreeing sufficiently well in character with the species AEstivalis.'
" Very true, but not as respects its worthlessness.
"It is not generally known that the first and second crop of the Norton's Grape is always far inferior to what follows, and by cultivating to a single stake and spur pruning, bunches can be made to weigh a pound and a half and the fruit wonderfully improved".
The Norton Grape has been supposed by many to be a hybrid between the Bland and Miller's Burgundy; but it bears no internal evidence of the fact, as well stated by Mr. White; and Mr. Lemosy's account may be regarded as decisive of this point. Dr. Norton never claimed to have originated it But we shall present more testimony on this subject hereafter.