1857 – Grape Production and Distribution in Western Iowa, 1921 report
Agricultural Experiment Station – Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts
- Grape growing as a commercial proposition in western Iowa, started in the vicinity of Council Bluffs as early as 1857. The Council Bluffs district has about 500 acres of bearing vines and 200 acres on non-bearing age, or a total of about 700 acres.
1869 – The Grape Culturist - A Monthly Journal devoted to Grape Culture and Wine-Making
George Husmann – Editor
July 11, 1869 Council Bluffs, Iowa Geo Husmann Esq.:
I have your work on Grape Culture and the Manufacture of American Wines, and I value it very highly indeed. And, as I have grown the grapes and want to press the juice this fall, I want to ask you a few more questions, for fear I should make a mistake. I have three acres now in bearing, the third crop, and they are fine and healthy – mostly Concord. I have set fine acres more this spring, and intend to plant five more, making thirteen acres in all; and I want to ask you if pine will answer for fermenting casks as well as oak; or would I, through you have such casks shipped from your place, or St. Louis, as you think I will need for the present crop. I would like at least one or two 500 gallon casks furnished by you of oak, the balance I could get here. If you can furnish them please give me the probable cost, delivered here by boat or rail. Please say whether I could get along without the must scale, and if not, where I can obtain them best. I also want a press, and am not able to buy any larger one than will answer my purpose; please say where I can do the best, and also what you think I can wholesale the wine at next March, if good. Please answer the above; and if you can furnish the casks I will send you the money. I would be pleased to have any suggestions you will be pleased to make.
Very truly yours,
A. S. Bohnam.
[We do not trade in casks, but you can not do better than by addressing Mr. Tobias Weigold, whose address you will find in our advertising columns. He has furnished us with casks for years, and they have always given satisfaction. Pine will not do to keep wine in for a longer time than a few days. … You can not do without the must scale. Y addressing Jacob Blattner, St. Louis, and sending $3.50, can obtain one. The press of Geiss & Brosius., Belleville, Ills., will answer your purpose, price $45. The price of new Concord wine at wholesale last fall has been from 80c to $1 at Hermann; of course we cannot tell what it may be worth with you next spring. It depends on the quality, and the market you have. – Ed.]
1886 – Report of the Iowa State Horticultural Society
For the Year 1886
Grapes – The crop of this fruit was very heavy, and of course the Concord was the variety that predominated, though Worden is considerable planted of late, and the fruit has appeared in the markets. This fruit is produced in the river counties in such quantities that the price is very low, so that even “poor people” can indulge in a basket of grapes occasionally. The Concord in at about seven cents per pound, pub were don as low as two and one half cents towards the close of the season. I have been told that Worden rated on to two cents higher than Concord as long as the crop lasted. Moore’s Early is an attractive variety, on account of the large size of the berries. The fruit of this variety sold at eight cents per pound, chiefly from the fact that comes into market about weeks before the Concord. The fruit of this variety is possibly a little better than Concord, but its chief value consists in its earliness. It is estimated that in the city of Council Bluffs alone there was five hundred baskets of grapes handled every day during the grape season, and nearly double that amount in Omaha. A large portion of those grapes handled in Omaha are grown in the border counties of Iowa. This should indicate that the grape business in the Third District is simply immense. Some of the newer varieties, such as Niagara, Empire State, Cottage, etc., grow here luxuriantly, but we fear they will need some protection in the northern part of our district. Probably in the southern tier of counties, on the Missouri line, they will be perfectly hardy.
June 30th, 1891 – The Omaha Daily Bee
The headquarters of the Council Bluffs Grape Growers association at 201 Broadway was the sight of great activity, for the association was handling all the output, and shipping direct to customers the same day the fruit was picked. The supply was great and the orders promptly filled.
1893 – Report of the Iowa State Horticultural Society
For the Year 1893
Marketing the Grape By J.P. Hess, Council Bluffs
In extending our vineyards we must look around for a market for our products. Select a location that has advantages regarding transportation facilities as well as a good home market.
These are matters of the greatest importance to the grape grower. After a market has been well established it is important that our products should be brought to the consumer with the least possible expense. And there is no way in which that can be accomplished better than by the growers uniting an organizing an association for the handling of their products.
A well managed organization has a great advantage over the commission house by concentrating the business that otherwise would be divided amount a number of rival commission firms, who, being eager to get the business, often make a sacrifice of the product without considering the interest of the grower.
Such has been our experience in by-gone days before the advent of our association. Grapes brought to the commission house, one day brought twenty cents a basket; from what was delivered the next day, of the same kind and quality, the returns were only ten cents a basket and even less.
But the Council Bluffs Grape Growers’ Shipping Association we have a new departure, a market that varies a shade from day to day, of course. But as the consumption of this fruit for different purposes increase, there is no reason we cannot sell our grapes the same as we sell our corn and hogs.
To consign at random to the commercial cities within our territory can only result in loss and confusion to the grower.
Our association, which is less than a year old, has given us satisfactory results, and it is no longer a question with us whether we can establish a market for our grapes at home, and do not have to send them five hundred or one thousand miles away from home, asking some one to give us a bid. Better dump them in vats and make wine and vinegar that follow a system that is so certain of ruinous results to the grower. The past season we shipped about thirty-three car loads of grapes through the association, and every basket was sold before it left Council Bluffs.
Grapes can be produced so cheaply that every family can afford to use them. They are a staple and a necessity, as much as the potato therefore, they should have a fixed value, regulated oly by the supply and demand. Now, when we have established the fact that we will gain by a combination for handling our crop, we will have the best results by observing strict business methods and taking the greatest care in packing and grading, so that buyers will know what they buy. We are now using nine-pound grape baskets, which seem to give general satisfaction, both to grower and dealer.
With good, ripe fruit, carefully packed and thoroughly inspected, success is assured for marketing grapes by the association method, both as to economy and by stimulating and developing the industry.
John Y Stone was asked as to the price of grapes the past season, and answered that he had made no analysis of prices, but from the beginning, with Moore’s Early, to the close of the season, prices had been fair.
M.G. Edwards said that he had expected to have prices tabulated to present to the meeting, but had not had time to verify the figures, but on the whole prices had been satisfactory to growers about Glenwood.
President Williams: Council Bluffs has a fruit shipper’ association that has been a great benefit to its members. There is a membership fee of $10.00, which entitles the members to a share of th stock of the association. We have forty odd members, making the capital stock over $400. The affairs of the association are managed by a board of directors. We did not pay them for their time this year, but we propose to pay them in the future. The manager is the principal man, and conducts the business. He is hired by the board, and gets $125 per month for about fine months. It requires a thorough business man t conduct the business successfully. He has not sent out grapes on commission, but send out price lists, and sells, mostly by the car load. Most of our grapes went to Sioux City, Minneapolis, Denver, Kansas City and Chicago.
A History of Wine in America
A report on his operations in 1896 noted that Pitz's success had stimulated "a number of German capitalists" to investigate the chances of winegrowing in Nebraska No extensive development followed, but a small industry has persisted in the region, especially on the opposite bank of the Missouri, in Iowa, around Council Bluffs.
Continued on page 402:
Meanwhile, a series of bitter schisms among the Icarians, culminating in the exile and death of their leader, Etienne Cabet, had left the Nauvoo community weak and disorganized. In the hope of making a new start, some Icarians migrated to the southwestern corner of Iowa in 1860, not far from that stretch of the Missouri River where the borders of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri approach one another between Omaha and Kansas City. Here they established a small vineyard of Concord vines expressly for winemaking and succeeded in maintaining it for many years. Even after another schism had sent the last expedition of Icarians out to California, the Icarians who remained in Iowa kept their vineyard going. The example had some effect, for as early as 1870 nearby Des Moines County had 250 acres in vines and was producing 30,000 gallons of wine from standard American varieties. It was reported in 1898 that the example of the Icarians had made grape growing a success in southwestern Iowa.
August 8th, 1898 – The Omaha Daily Bee
Member of the Council Bluffs Grape Growers’ Shipping association held a meeting in their office at 134 East Broadway to consider taking parting in “Grape Day”. The association extended an invitation to all fruit growers to attend the meeting and lend their assistance in making a display on that day at the exposition that will be a credit to Pottawattamie county. The vineyards in the vicinity of Council Bluffs were in splendid condition that year, and the prospects for a large and fine yield of grapes are of the best. The members of the association were all in favor of contributing liberally of their fruit on Grape day, so that visitors to the exposition could see and taste for themselves the quality of fruit that this section of the country can produce.
1901 – Report of the Iowa State Horticultural Society
For the Year 1901
Where are we in Grape Culture?
Before the severe winter of 1989 we would point with pride at our success in grape culture in Western Iowa and would frequently compare it with our corn crop. In fact, we went farther: we would boast o our grape crop being more sure of producing a profitable crop than our cornfields. We were justified in making these claims, as the oldest vineyards had never failed to produce profitable crops up to that time. The total destruction of fully half of our vines and weakening the balance to such an extent that it was question whether we could recuperate them to such an extent as to be considered of any value.
The committee on program no doubt had the above fact in view when they assigned the subject to me: “Where are we in Grape Culture.”
I have received the figures from the manger of the Council Bluffs Grape Growers’ Shipping Association showing the amount of grapes shipped from Council Bluffs for the years 1901, 1900, 1899, 1898 and 1897, which was the banner year for the Council Bluffs Grape-Growers. 1897, 102 cars, 1898, 50 cars; 1899, 8 cars; 1900 20 cars and 1901, 37 cars.
We learn from the above figures that we are gradually creeping up to our former prosperity, but we will take some time to regain the ground we have lost, but the experience we have gained, though costly, was not any the less valuable. We have discovered that not all soils and locations can be depended upon when these test winters come, and we shall select for our vineyards only choicest locations, south or southeast slopes. I had a vineyard, part a southeast slope and part a southwest slope nearly all lived and are bearing good grapes again.
We should tape pains to plant our plants as deep as it is possible for us to plant them, and plant only the strongest and most thrifty plants.
The outlook is encouraging. There is no other fruit that promises better and surer returns than the grape. Our markets are assured. We have a territory that can expect to supply with grapes for years to come. The country north and south of us will be only able to raise them in limited quantities, if at all, and they will look to us for their supply of grapes. Unless the unexpected happens, we will in a few more years return to our former prosperity in grape culture.
History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa
from the earliest historic times to 1907
By Homer H Field and Hon, Joseph R Reed published in 1907
Fruit raising during the early settlement of the county was not attended with much success. At first the young trees would kill out during the winters, some of which were severe, but the real cause was found to be the long distance from which they were brought.
A few of the pioneers, however, had faith, notably Mr. Terry, of Crescent; Mr. McDonald, of Kane; Mr. Cooledge, of Mills, and later, Mr. Raymond, of Garner, also Mr. Rice of Kane. Nurseries were started and fruit raising became infectious until at this time a farm without an orchard or vineyard, or both, is the exception. In a few years the crop more than supplied the home market, and steps were taken to find others.
In 1891 a number of the fruit growers incorporated for mutual benefit with a capital of $1,000. A building was rented temporarily in which to handle the crop and they began shipping. The business grew and in 1905 the company elected a warehouse 36x60 feet of two stories and basement, in which the business was conducted for two years.
In the spring of 1907 the company was reincorporated with a capital stock of $35,000 under the name of the Grape Growers' Association, with J. A. Aulabaugh, president; Alex. Wood, vice-president and chairman of the board of directors; J. J. Hess, secretary, and Charles Konigmacher, treasurer. The warehouse built, not being sufficient, an additional one has been added, 60x160 feet. This also is of brick, two stories and basement. The shipping facilities are of the best, being located on the Great Western track. The company has reliable agents in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Denver, Pueblo, Duluth and Salt Lake, besides intermediate points.
The new warehouse above mentioned is probably the strongest in the city. It is already rented, to take effect as soon as the grape season closes, for storage of 150 carloads or 7,500,000 pounds of sugar.
Among the leading fruit growers of western Pottawattamie are Rev. G. G. Rice, D. L. Royer, Robert McKinsey, A. Wood, D. J. Smith, W. T. Keeline, Harry Kingston, O. J. Smith, W. H. Kuhn, Mark L. Stageman, Chas. Konigmacher, Wm. Arnd, A. Rosner, J. W. Dorland, W. G. Rich, N. P. Dodge, Wm. Homburg, Anton Kerston, James Peterson, J. A. Alabaugh, .T. F. Gretzer, C. D. Parmale, John Johnson, M. R. Smith, Henry Sperling, G. C. Hansen, Peter Peterson, Miss Nance Avery, Dr. A. P. Hanchett, J. F. Wilcox and Charles Beno.
History of Pottawattamie County, Iowa
from the earliest historic times to 1907
By Homer H Field and Hon, Joseph R Reed published in 1907
GEORGE M. ALLINGHAM.
George M. Allingham, who died on the 6th of October, 1907, was born in Canada in 1861 and was there reared and educated. He came to the United States in 1881, locating in Council Bluffs, and after spending several years upon the road as a traveling salesman for a shoe house of Cedar Rapids he entered the employ of J. R. Snyder, a commission merchant of Council Bluffs, in 1888. Five years later he became manager here for the Grape Growers Association and so continued throughout the remainder of his life, capably controlling the business of the house.
In 1894 Mr. Allingham was married in Council Bluffs to Miss Cara L. Stimson, and they had one son, Roger S., born in 1904.
The Fruit Grower
April 1909 – Volume 90
Growing Grapes in the Central Valley States
If there is any one fruit which has been neglected in the Middle west of recent years it has been the grape.
In certain sections grapes are extensively grown, as at Hermann, Mo., where they are grown for wine, and at Council Bluffs, Iowa where the fruit is sold fresh.
We stated that enough grapes should be planted in one locality to afford carlot shipments. For the encouragement of those who are interested we want to present some figures regarding the work of the Council Bluffs (Iowa) Grape Growers’ Association, this information having been furnished by Mr. W.S. Keeline, who has been a leading working in the association. Mr. Keeline says;
“Before the organization of the Council Bluffs Grape Growers’ Association a number of growers were unable to dispose of all their fruit on the local markets, and when we attempted to consign to commission men in distant cities we found returns were not satisfactory. One car shipped to Sioux City, for instance, did not return a cent. According, we perfected our organization on December 24th, 1892. For fifteen years Mr. George Allingham was manager of the association, and when he died in 1907 he was succeeded by Mr. George Reye, who is still manager. Our association is a stock company, each member being a holder of one share of stock, at $10 a share, and every member is compelled to market all his fruits through the association. If he does not, he loses the dividends or accumulations of the association from that years business.
“As the fruit is delivered to the association each day part is sold on the local market, part is sold in Omaha, and the remainder – which is by far the larger part – is shipped out. Every day’s receipts are pooled at noon, so that the grower who delivers fruit today gets the average price of all of that kind of fruit sold today. This is absolutely necessary, for our shipping orders usually bring the best price, and yet someone’s stuff must be sold here at home and in Omaha.
“Our grapes are sold on track here, and our small fruits are shipped out to responsible dealers, mostly on standing orders, but all fruit is sold, and never consigned. Our manger buys our box material, baskets, wire for trellises, posts and commercial fertilizer in carload lots and all is sold to the members at just enough of an advance to pay for the handling. At the end of the season the profits or such part of them as the directors may set aside for dividends, are divided among the members, each one’s dividend being based on the quantity of fruit sold through the association.
“We have two large brink warehouse buildings on trackage, which cost in the neighborhood of $40,000. In the fruit season these buildings are used to handle our crops, and in the winter one of these buildings is used to store sugar of the sugar trust. This sugar is stored here in transit. Our association has been successful, and we have just signed a contract under which for the coming season we will handle the crop of the Omaha Fruit-Growers’ Association, our association acting as sales agent.”
Mr. Keeline sends us some interesting statistics regarding the work of the association, with figures received for the crop of different seasons. In 1893, the first year’s business, the total volume for the season amounted to $25,264.55. … and grapes, 94,814 baskets, at 19 1-4 cents a basket.
For about ten years the volume of business for the year was about the same, but in 1903 it reached a total of $34,262.16. In 1905 the total business for the year was $66,036.20, and in 1906, $89,009.37. In 1907 the association enlarged its work, built a new warehouse and did the banner year’s business, amounting to $120,668.11.
Here are some figures from the records of that season’s business, showing the prices received; these prices being the average price received for every king of fruit for the season:
Season of 1907:
Grapes, Niagara, per basket .13½
Grapes black, per 8-lb basket .23½
Grapes black, per 4-lb basket .22
The year 1908 was an unfavorable one. Besides the late freeze, the district suffered a severe hailstorm, which cut the crop very short. Prices were not as good as usual, caused by the fact that competing territory had good crops, and also by the fact that the Eastern Grape crop which usually does not come on the market until the Western crop is out of the way, was unusually early, and came in direct competition with the Western fruit. The following table shows the average price received for various kinds of fruits last year:
Crop of 1908:
Grapes black, per 8-lb basket .18½
Grapes black, per 4-lb basket .21
There is much encouragement in this report, for it shows that when growers are properly organized returns are satisfactory. As a result of the work of the Council Bluffs Grape Grower’s Association the growers are all in good spirits, and a constantly increasing acreage in being planted. Land values have risen until the Missouri River hill land is perhaps higher in price in the vicinity of Council Bluffs than in the neighborhood of any other town along the Missouri River – and yet there are thousands of acres from St. Louis to Council Bluffs which will grow just as good grapes, and the crop can be marketed just as profitably.
The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture
Practically all parts of the state can produce good grapes, though the centers of commercial vineyards are largely confined to the regions surrounding Council Bluffs on the west and Des Moines in the central part. Concord, Moore Early, and Worden comprise fully 90 per cent of the planting, the Concord proving most reliable, Moore Early generally most profitable an acre.
The production of grapes for 1909 was 11,708,330 pounds, valued at 330,078. The number of grape vines of bearing age in 1910 was 1,983,465; those not of bearing age, 446,126.
1921 – Grape Production and Distribution in Western Iowa, 1921 report
Agricultural Experiment Station – Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts
- The natural advantages which this district enjoys with respect to climate, soil and freedom from insects and disease, mike it a grape region of unlimited possibilities.
- The Concord grape comprises over 90 percent of the vineyard acreage.
- The acre cost of production in a commercial vineyard is estimated at $143.75 and the gross receipts at $261.40. The profits, based on these estimates, from an acre of vineyard are $117.25
- Vineyard management practice has not kept pace with the marketing organization. Closer attention on the part of growers to the improvement of cultural practices should result in higher and more economical production.
- The average acre yield varies, according to the size of the vineyard, from about 612 six pound baskets in smaller vineyards, to from 986 to 1000 baskets in the larger acreages. The small growers are not securing maximum yields and should more closely follow the management practices of the larger vineyardist.
- The Council Bluffs district has an unusually favorable location as regards transportation facilities and accessibility to a large consuming territory.
- A total of 90 percent of the district production is marketed in carload quantities.
- The method of selling all grapes f.o.b. Council Bluffs relieves the grower of all risk of a change in the demands of the consuming market while a car is en route.
- Carlot wholesalers estimate an average of 100 to 150 baskets of grapes are unfit for sale on arrival at far distance points. This loss is due largely to the crushing of the baskets because of the weight above, and shifting of the load, and may be prevented by proper loading.
- An earlier ripening season, together with the percentage of an average crop in either the Wathena or Nauvoo districts influences to a considerable extent the destination of carload shipments of grapes from Council Bluffs from year to year.
- No grapes are shipped southwest from Council Bluffs, and only a relatively few cars go east into Iowa. This is probably due to shipments from the Nauvoo district, and also to the fact that the western district has developed a demand for the Iowa grapes.
- In disposing of the present production of grapes from this region, there seems to be no very serious competition with other varieties of fruit.
- Railroad mileage is not as important in the shipping of grapes as is the attention or lack of attention given to the loading, routing, and icing of the car while in route.
- The Council Bluffs Grape Growers’ Association is a very efficient sales agency. It handles about 89 percent of the total production of the district. The selling cost to its members has averaged only 6.1 percent during the past ten years.
- The commission firms probably offer a desirable outlet of marketing for growers who desire to pact their fruit above the average or in an extra fancy way. The daily pooling method of the association permits no premium for those who pack their fruit above the standard of the association requirements. However, only a very few growers pack their grapes enough above the association requirements to entitle them to a premium in price.
- During the years 1912-1922, the date of the first grape picking has varied from August 3 in 1914, to August 29 in 1915. The closing dates have varied from September 21 in 1914, to October 14 in 1913.
The Keeline Family
William Steward Keeline
Birth: 2 Dec 1862 Bridgeport, Belmont Co. OH
Death: 12 Apr 1942, Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie Co., IA
Burial: Walnut Hill Cemetery, Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, Co., IA
Occupation: Horticulturist; Head of Grape Growers Association
The Des Moines Register
From 1940: Here's the caption from this photo, which ran in August, 1940: "Workmen at the Council Bluffs Grape Growers Association winery move one of the 18 vats recently purchased. Fifteen of the vats are being moved into the basement of the new addition to the association. ... Each vat holds 3,500 gallons of wine. Left to right are Ralph Prior, Mike Reggio and Clay McBride."
Sherbondys – The Garden Place
Grapes It is hard to believe that Council Bluffs Iowa once had a thriving grape industry. The wine of choice was named Betty Anne. We have the soil and climate to grow some good grapes. So what happened to the industry? When farmers were able to begin killing broad-leafed weeds in their corn, they sprayed up the whole state with 2,4-d. No one knew at the time that grapes cannot get rid of the toxin. Any concentration gets stored up and the net result is a stunted or dead grape vine. Today stringent laws keep farmers from spraying volatile products and must not spray on windy days. We are seeing the reemergence of the grape industry. We sell some good northern varieties. Unfortunately the seedless varieties are not real hardy around here.
Gerald Podraza donates an antique Betty Ann Wine bottle to the Western Iowa Grape Growers Association. Pictured below is Gerald Podraza presenting the Betty Ann Wine Bottle to WeIGGA president Doug Grave at the 2014 Iowa Wine Growers Association Conference in Des Moines.