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As It Was: Prohibition Hits French Winemaker Hard in Rogue Valley

Nearly a dozen vineyards were located near Jacksonville, Ore., in the early 1900s when Prohibition put an end to most winemaking in the region.  French immigrant Auguste Petard lost his winery and nearly went to jail.

A native of the Loire Valley in France, Petard settled outside of Jacksonville in 1897, where he began growing grapes on 20 acres of fertile land.  His family joined him from France, and he and his two sons built a small winery.  All went well until 1919 when Congress passed the 18th Amendment that banned the sale and consumption of alcohol.  Prohibition was incomprehensible to a Frenchman.

The market for Petard’s grapes dried up, so he stored his wine in barrels in the winery, hoping that Prohibition was only temporary.  Authorities confiscated his wine, breaking the barrels open with an axe and draining a reported 600 gallons of wine into the ground.

The authorities fined Petard $75 and sentenced him to 30 days in jail for possessing and manufacturing “intoxicating liquor.”  The nearly 80-year-old Frenchman paid the fine and retired to his farmhouse, where he died in 1931, two years before the repeal of Prohibition.


Sources: "Auguste Petard and the Volstead Act." The Table Rock Sentinel, vol. 1, no. 8, Aug. 1981, pp. 13-16.   

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.