In 1874, the textile industry that would define the city of Greenville for a century began with the Sampson & Hall mill on the lower Reedy falls. Two years before that mill was built, another promising industry began that held just as much potential and promise: winemaking.
The city’s first vineyard was started by the Garrauxs, a Swiss immigrant family of 11, who planted about 1 ½ acres of grapes just over a mile from downtown Greenville.
Dr. S.S. Marshall was the second to plant a vineyard here at his estate called Monte Vino on the slopes of Paris Mountain. When he started, real estate on the mountain was only $1.50 an acre. Marshall began with a modest investment of ¾ of an acre of vines. Within a decade, Marshall’s vineyard grew to 40 acres, and land values rose to $75 per acre. Production included a claret wine made from Norton’s Virginia grapes; a hybrid from Ives, Concord and other varieties of grapes; Scuppernong wine; port; sherry; and brandy.
Soon the winemaking fever caught on, and small vineyards were started up by a German immigrant, Francis Hahn, as well as others by Fagan Martin, Hugh B. Buist, J.W. Wood and A.M. Howell. H.C. Markley from the local carriage-making industry owned a vineyard on Paris Mountain, and George Putnam (who helped open the first textile mill, Sampson & Hall) grew his grapes nearby at Batesville.
By far the largest and most successful operation was the Mammoth Vineyard run by a Frenchman, A. Carpin. He was born and raised in the winemaking region of France, where his father had a vineyard. Carpin traveled throughout America to survey all areas, experimenting with growing grapes. He chose Greenville, where he settled 3 miles west of the city, planting 4,000 vines.
Guaranteeing Carpin’s success was a contract he made with a Boston establishment to purchase all the wine he could make for 10 years at $1 per gallon. His terraced vineyards grew Concord, Clinton, Martha, Pocklington, Niagara, Norton, Thomas and Ives grapes. By 1886, the Greenville News reported that Carpin had the most extensive estate in South Carolina, at 70 acres with 70,000 vines used exclusively for winemaking and not for table fruit or retail sales.
The demise of what started out as a very promising industry initially came with a severe wet season in the late 1880s, destroying half of most grapes, followed by South Carolina’s Prohibition movement in the next decade. Winemaking virtually disappeared in Greenville until more recent successful efforts like the nearby City Scape Winery run by Josh and Deb Jones. They are currently growing Muscadine grapes as well as experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonel and Black Spanish grapes on their expanding estate. People who live off Farrs Bridge Road in Berea live on Carpin’s former estate with many terraces still existing and roads like Carpin Drive, Old Homestead Road, and Old Vinland School Road carry on the heritage.
John M. Nolan is owner of Greenville History Tours (greenvillehistorytours.com) and author of
“A Guide to Historic Greenville, SC” and “Lost Restaurants of Greenville, SC.”