North Carolina Wine Pioneer Sidney Weller

Scuppernong grape arbor beside a dwelling in northeastern North Carolina as depicted in an 1859. Image courtesy of North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill

Scuppernong grape arbor beside a dwelling in northeastern North Carolina as depicted in an 1859. Image courtesy of North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill

On March 1, 1854, Sidney Weller, who introduced the American style of grape culture, died. Weller was born in 1791 in New York. He moved to Virginia in 1828 and then further south to Halifax County, North Carolina.

In 1829 Weller purchased about three hundred acres of farm land for $1.50 per acre. Although the land was of poor quality, Weller was a self-proclaimed “book farmer” who read about and experimented with new farming methods. He subscribed to various farm journals and wrote many articles for them. His methods were revolutionary at a time when throngs of North Carolinians were moving southwest in search of better lands. Weller was an advocate of crop rotation, plant propagation and enriching soil through creative plantings and waste matter.

Among his innovative ventures, Weller established a vineyard which by 1840 was the state’s largest. At the time, North Carolina was the leading wine producer in America. In 1850 Weller boasted of cultivating more than 200 types of grapes, although he concentrated on Scuppernong and other native varieties. Weller’s property is now Medoc Mountain State Park. Weller named the area Medoc Mountain after a province in Bordeaux, France, famous for its vineyards.

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