Once called "Schau-ins-land" (look into the country) because of its spectacular view, OakGlenn Winery stands on a site once owned by internationally renowned horticulturist George Husmann, a founding father of the American wine industry. Click here to view the original Wondrous Life of George Husmann article as a PDF.
George Husmann was born on November 4, 1827, in Meyenburg, a village near the North Sea in the Kingdom of Hanover. He immigrated with his family in 1837 to the United States, first to Pennsylvania and then further west to Missouri. While still in Germany, Husmann's father had bought shares in the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia, which had been established to found a colony in the "Far West" where German immigrants could preserve their language and culture.
Finding the land too steep and rocky to farm, Hermann settlers, began to experiment with grape culture. George Husmann planted his first vineyard on his father's farm in 1847. Although largely self-educated, he went on to become a renowned scientist, writer and educator.
After a trip to California during the Gold Rush, Husmann returned to Hermann and developed a model fruit farm. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention, he drafted "An Ordinance Abolishing Slavery in Missouri," the first to be enacted in the United States.
His first book, The Cultivation of Native Grapes and Manufacture of American Wine, was published in 1866, and in 1869 he established The American Grape Grower, the only journal of its kind in the United States at the time.
Husmann was appointed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators in 1870 and continued to work with grape growers. During the 1870s he and others shipped millions of grape cuttings to France, Germany and other European countries devastated by a deadly phylloxera infestation. Today two monuments stand in Montpelier, France, honoring Missouri grape growers for saving the French wine industry.
At the first Professor of Pomology and Superintendent of Forestry at the University of Missouri, he established a nursery, orchards, and vineyards where his son and two daughters studied agriculture and horticulture. In 1881 he accepted a position in California, where he helped develop that state's grape and wine industry.
George Husmann died on November 5, 1902, the day after his 75th birthday.