Sources of Information
Along the Gulf
In 1895, the book entitled Along the Gulf was published by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in order to promote travel along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Among other areas, one attraction was called Brown’s Vineyard. It was called “a veritable garden of beauty,” crediting Mr. Brown with having “…planted almost exclusively the famous Scuppernong Grapes [on] ninety acres of the finest land in this section of the country.”
The article then narrated that the vineyard was started 35 years before by Mr. and Mrs. F.W. Brown, who made it “a great resort for the society people, who are summering along the Gulf Coast and many are the pleasant parties and dances which take place in the large hall and dancing pavilion of the house.” Mr. Brown was said to have “…everything in the way of machinery pertaining to successful wine making, and has a wine cellar in one of the buildings on the estate, on which at the present writing, there is stored several thousand dollars of this wine….Scuppernong champagne is celebrated all over Mississippi and Louisiana and all the surrounding country for its medical qualities and orders come to him every day for his celebrated goods, some people sending from Chicago, New York, and other Northern and Eastern cities.”
Sea Coast Echo
Other information can be gleaned from early editions of the Sea Coast Echo. Some examples follow:
In an article published on September 5, 1903, the vintner was identified as Frederick W. Braun (later spelled Brown) and his wife Anna, natives of Germany, who had purchased their land in 1867.
Another article, dated August 20, 1892, told of Mrs. Ella Hoyle and a number of friends who “…gave a delightful tally-ho ride and a very enjoyable picnic to Brown’s vineyard. The entire party was from Pass Christian.”
A few days later, another article listed others who had picnicked at the vineyard. An 1893 (August 19) article described another tally-ho ride to the arbor on 85 acres and mentioned that yearly 20 to 30 barrels of wine were made.
Louisiana’s Loss, Mississippi’s Gain,
by Robert Scharff
Extracting from the Echo’s 1978 Heritage edition, the following is reported:
“In 1859, F.W. Brown settled on 90 acres now located at the southwest corner of the current intersection of Highway 90 with Waveland Avenue. By the time he had been on the property for the required five years and purchased it in 1864 under the Homestead Act, 15 acres had already been planted in Muscadine grapes.” (p. 188)
“Brown usually made about 50 barrels of wine a year.” (p. 326)
Hancock County Historical Society files
The Hancock County Historical Society has accumulated other items of interest over the years. A description in its files mentions that the vines grew in arbors “about ten feet square and eight feet high and ten feet apart….[These] allowed the visitors to walk under and pick grapes off the vines.”
Guests came from the hotels like the Pickwick, Tulane and Clifton of Bay St. Louis, about five miles away. These were folks from New Orleans, Natchez, and other places – people who vacationed at the Bay. They came to the vineyard in “tally-hos,” carts or wagons drawn by double teams of horses that would transport a number of guests together.
The Brown house contained a center hall, alongside of which were separate rooms with tables where guests were served the wine, together with homemade bread and butter. Inside the vineyard, there was also a pavilion where people would dance to tunes played on the piano, and anyone who could play was welcome to do so. A professional pianist would sometimes be called.
The wine business prospered over the years, both in local sales and mail-order business. Its demise was occasioned by the federal law called Prohibition, which was effective on midnight of January 16, 1920. Afterward, the Browns emptied the wine cellar and buried the remaining inventory. There are stories that subsequently, the revenuers came to the place, dug up the bottles and destroyed them.
The files of HCHS also contain a transcript of an interview with Mr. Charles Banderet, taken on tape on May 12, 1977 by Margaret M. Gibbens. Mr. Banderet was a regular pianist at Brown’s Vineyard, and was age 85 at the time. He was born on September 9, 1891, and died on August 21, 1984.