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Home arrow Archives   The American Surveyor     

Angle Points: Chats and Chardonnay Print E-mail
Written by Michael J. Pallamary, PS   
Friday, 02 January 2015

A 188Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

I recently had the good fortune to deliver a seminar for the benefit of the Santa Clara--San Mateo Chapter of the California Land Surveyors Association. Thanks to the tireless efforts of chapter president John Koroyan, we raised more than five thousand dollars for scholarships and other educational programs. None of this would have been possible without John's extraordinary efforts for he is one of those rare individuals, selflessly devoted to the advancement of the surveying profession.

Upon completion of my presentation, John presented me with a bottle of John Adlum Chardonnay from the Williamsburg Winery in Virginia. As John informed me, Adlum was a prominent Land Surveyor and a close friend of another early American surveyor, a gentleman named Thomas Jefferson. Adlum served his country as a Major in the Revolutionary War as well as in the Provisional Army. He later served as a Brigadier General in the Militia of Pennsylvania. While his friend Jefferson made many valuable contributions in the development of the country's political landscape, Adlum made an impressive number of important contributions as the "father of American viticulture."

Born on April 29, 1759, in York, Pennsylvania, Adlum began his career as an apprentice surveyor. When he was 25 years old, he established his own surveying practice and five years later, he won a prestigious commission to survey the area known today as Erie, Pennsylvania. He secured other important assignments including one wherein he determined the navigability of the Susquehanna River. Adlum's proficiency as a surveyor led to more engagements and eventually led to the eventual source of his prestige and wealth. So endowed, Adlum took up farming at Havre de Grace where he developed a vineyard using American grapes. He had become interested in regional grapes after encountering them on his sundry survey expeditions where, in addition to documenting the lands he encountered, he catalogued the various grapes, meticulously noting their location, growing conditions and soil. In 1809, after developing a vineyard, he began bottling wines using the Alexander Grape. Jefferson, a noted authority on French wines, thought highly of Adlum's efforts. After Adlum attempted to import some old European vines, Jefferson suggested he abandon his efforts, arguing that it would take centuries before they could adapt to America with its odd array of pests, soil, and weather conditions.

In 1814, Adlum moved to the District of Columbia where he began cultivating the Catawba Grape and for the balance of his life, he devoted himself to the cultivation of American wines. He died on March 14, 1836 and he is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. His obituary in the Georgetown Metropolitan read, in part:

He was a gentleman of great intelligence, industry and intellectual acquirement. As a scientific agriculturalist, he has few superiors, and he devoted almost the whole of his life to the acquisition and diffusion of useful practical knowledge. In early life he had been acquainted with Priestly, and the passion of chemical science which he derived from that eminent philosopher, he applied with assiduity and signal success to various agriculture operations.

In 1903, the federal government acquired Adlum's former home on "The Vineyard" and eight years later, it was torn down and replaced with the headquarters of the National Bureau of Standards, known today as the National Institute of Standards and Technology. His papers are housed at The William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

Michael Pallamary, PS, is the author of several books and numerous articles. He is a frequent lecturer at conferences and seminars and he teaches real property to attorneys and other members of the legal profession. He has been in the surveying profession since 1971.

A 188Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE

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