By Ned Lodwick
In 1910 it was predicted that Halley’s comet was to strike the earth. As it happens when a catastrophe is seen in the future, a religious fever swept through the population. A group of biblical scholars was formed and tasked with the chore of pinpointing the location of several ancient biblical sites. They scoured the old scrolls, church records on parchment, and early editions of the Bible. They looked for information on the site of the landing of Noah’s Ark, of the hill called Calvary, of the tomb of Jesus, and of the site of the Garden of Eden among others.
This council of elders looked at topography, soil quality, available water, climate, and the history of the area. They were satisfied with the locations that they found for most of the biblical sites but they could never come to complete agreement of the location of the garden of Eden.
Eventually they chose six possible sites for the garden. The junction of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the upper reaches of the Nile River, at the mouth of the Blue Danube, along the Ganges River, and on the plains of Turkey were five of the possible location. The fifth site chosen was along the Ohio River that would today be Clermont, Adams, and Brown counties. These designations were publicized worldwide.
But why would this area be one of the chosen sites? Probably one of the reasons was that at that time this area was the largest fruit producing area in the United States. The land of Brown County had been cleared of the great forests for nearly 100 years, the soil was still rich, the climate was mild, water was in plentiful supply with the small streams and of course the Ohio River.
When the early pioneers moved into the Brown County area, one of the treasures they brought with them was a few cuttings of grape vines and a few small fruit trees. Then during the first few years they pampered these precious treasures until they began to grow. Soon these cuttings and small trees turned into vineyards and orchards. By 1900, they had become large orchards and vineyards filled with fruit.
On the north side of the Ohio River the hills of Brown County faced south into the sun. The German immigrants that moved to that area were reminded of the Rhine River Valley in Germany. They planted their precious vine clippings in the fertile soil and the vines grew strong and the grapes were sweet. Vineyards cultivated by Brown County winegrowers such as the Kautz and Baur wineries were producing wine at a rate of 20,000 gallons of wine for every 120 acres of vineyard.
The fruit from the orchards and the vineyards were one of the major sources of income for the farmers of Brown County. The fruit from the orchards was usually shipped down the Ohio River to ports like Cincinnati. The grapes from the vineyards were normally shipped as wine.
To those who looked at this area in 1910 it may well have looked like the Garden of Eden considering the cornucopia of fresh fruit that was produced each year.
Hamilton County Residents felt slighted when their county was not included in what was to be called the Garden of Eden. To make up for this dismissal of their county, the Hamilton County Commissioners built a new park in Hamilton County overlooking the Ohio River and named it Eden Park.
Then in the nineteen thirties and early forties the winters were cold and many of the fruit trees were damaged along with a blight that killed nearly all of the grape vines along the Ohio River. The great orchard and vineyards failed, and only small private fruit producers were left behind.
Today the vineyards are making a comeback with the use of hybrid grapes The many vineyards of Brown County produce an excellent quality and quantity of Ohio Valley wines.