With the Flowers and Trees in California, by Charles Francis Saunders, 1914

“The father of modern grape culture in California was a Frenchman, Jean Louis Vignes, who turned up in Los Angeles about 1830, liked the place, settled, lived and died there. He enjoys the doubtful immortality that comes to a man from having a street named for him — poor stuff, for not one person in ten thousand who walks along Vignes Street to-day knows why it has such a queer name.

Vignes saw there was a future in California grapes and soon supplemented the old Mission stock by importations of other varieties of Vitis vinifera from France. The scions were shipped from France to Boston, I am told, and thence around the Horn in sailing vessels — hide droghers, doubtless, such as Dana tells about in his ‘Two Years Before the Mast,’ which traded up and down the Coast in those days.

Vignes was a popular citizen in his time and lived in a house near the Los Angeles River with a fine old sycamore tree before it, of which he bragged as much as he did of his grape vines. The Spanish-American word for sycamore is aliso, and so he was nicknamed Don Luis del Aliso.

The tree is long since swallowed up in the growth of the city, but its memory is preserved in the name of an important business thoroughfare, Aliso Street. Vignes believed in oranges, too, but the man who gave the first impetus to orange culture in California was a Kentuckian named William Wolfskill, who landed in Los Angeles about the same time as Vignes. He was a trapper and had come across the deserts, arriving in the City of Angels dead-broke.

Trying to raise money to get away, he finally realized California was a good enough place to stay in, and turned his attention to horticulture, particularly oranges, starting in where the Padres left off. He originated a budded seedling that was as famous in its day as the Washington Navel is now.

He also went in for grapes, and not long after the gold discovery he set out a vineyard in the Napa Valley as nearer the crack market of those days than Los Angeles, and began selling his crop in San Francisco at $25 a cental wholesale.

He told Major Horace Bell, ‘I am now realizing a boyhood dream of a country where money grows on bushes. Selling grapes at two bits a pound is as near picking money from bushes as any business I know of.'”

-Excerpt and images courtesy of Archive,org, University of California Libraries, “With the flowers and trees in California,” by Charles Francis Saunders, 1914

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