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A new “grape” history mystery needs help to solve


July 3, 2013
By Marybelle Beigh - Westfield Historian ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

A tantalizing attachment named "Thompson Pure Native Wine.PDF" caught my eye as soon as I opened a recent email from John Slater, Concord Grape Historian and Nickel Plate Rail Fan.

Having missed Slater's recent presentation "Preserving the Legacy" with vintage Nickel Plate photos at the Lake Shore Museum in North East, Pa., I was eager to read his updates regarding how it went and was not disappointed in the newsy reply.

Pleased at the standing-room only turnout, and commenting, "they seemed to enjoy my new program," Slater went on to say he'd had a good day preceding the evening talk, having done some archival work with Jeff Adams and stopping at the Grape Discovery Center and Johnson Estates Winery for sharing. And Slater was pleased to see Katherine and Rob Galbraith, proprietors of our new Station Art Gallery, at his presentation.

Article Photos

Submitted photo
An early 1900s photo-letterhead depicting “Bar-View Vineyard” barn, and “Fred R. Thompson, Grape Grower and Producer of Pure Native Wine, Westfield NY.”

Slater then went on to say, "Speaking of Jeff Adams: he discovered an interesting letterhead from Westfield that I had never seen before (nor had he). Neither of us had ever heard of Thompson Pure Native Wine, so we are not sure if it is authentic, vintage, or recent but I have attached a pdf scan of the document for your perusal. Another interesting Westfield mystery that I hope you can give me some insight on."

As is known, I like nothing better than delving into, and hopefully solving, history mysteries in Westfield, so I immediately downloaded and printed out the attachment. This showed a standard 8 by 10 inch sheet of yellowed, lined letterhead paper with a photo of a large barn with "Bar-View Vineyard" painted on the end, horses and wagon/buggy nearby, grape vineyard in the middle ground and a dirt road with a man and woman in early 1900s clothing riding bicycles. To the right of the photo was the letter header, "Fred R. Thompson - Grape Grower - and producer of Pure Native Wine - Westfield, N.Y." and a line for the date including "190_." In pale pencil handwriting on the lines below were the ingredients for a recipe.

Fran Anderson, my 96-year old mother and life-long resident of Westfield, was first asked if she recognized the name, and then we studied and pondered the printout. The name was vaguely familiar sounding, but the photo didn't "ring a bell" for either of us. The "Bar-View Vineyard" suggested "Barcelona View" but beyond that, we were stumped.

Fact Box

The office of the Westfield Historian is located at 117 Union St., in the small green building on the north side of driveway. Office hours are by appointment; call or email a request. The Westfield Historian phone number is 326-2457 and email address is

The Patterson Library obituary files were searched for Thompsons who could have been alive at the turn of the previous century. Starting at the alphabetical beginning of first names, the first one of significance was "Thompson, Anna R, husband Fred R." Interestingly, the obituary for Fred R. Thompson only said he was survived by his widow - no name - a daughter, Edith, and a nephew, R.R. Thompson, all of this village.

Additional information from Fred R. Thompson's obituary included he, "died at his home on 11 Water Street on Monday morning, January 25, 1943, aged 79 years, in the home where he was born and had spent his entire life." He was educated in our public schools, worked in his father's clothing store for 25 years, was physically handicapped, but "rose above this and for years was engaged actively in the raising and marketing of grapes, in which he was very successful."

Anna R. Thompson's obituary indicated the family was active in our First Presbyterian Church. The daughter, Edith E. Thompson, died in 1981 at age 77, and, in addition to the Presbyterian Church and living her entire life at 11 Water St., she had been a secretary at Welch Foods until her retirement in 1967.

For R. R. Thompson, there was an obituary for Rollin R. Thompson, who turned out to be the nephew named. He was, in later years, a grape farmer, retiring about three years before his death in 1969, but previously had worked in his father's clothing business. He was married to Josephine Biekert Dascomb, was a member of St. Peter's Episcopal Church and was survived by his wife and one cousin, Edith Thompson. census records confirm both Fred and Rollin Thompson as fruit farmers, as well as 11 Water St. address for Fred, Anna and Edith, and also give Rollin's address on the 1940 census as E. Main Rd., near Prospect St. The fathers for both Fred and Rollin were in the clothing business, going back into the later 1800 census records. Old advertisements from the late 1800s and early 1900s name R. H. Thompson's Clothing Store.

The 1867 and 1881 Chautauqua County Atlas Maps for Westfield both show R. H. Thompson's land at what is now 11 Water St.

Another helpful "clue" is that the centennial booklet for Westfield, 1902, has ads for producers of "Pure Native Wines" by: Chautauqua Fruit Products Co. - F.L. Davis, Manager; The Holland Wine Company; and The Lake Erie Wine Cellars.

An evening drive past 11 Water St. provided a view of a beautiful old 1800s Victorian style house. And then out E. Main to Prospect showed a farm at the junction with some large barns, at least one of which looks quite similar to the Bar-View Vineyard barn in the photo.



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