Thursday, February 28, 2013

Great French Wine Blight

Beautiful, wonderful, glorious Montegut. We miss you again.

Our plan this year for May and June is to complete just one project, Josephs' bedroom.  Cousin Joseph called Montegut home for all of his 87 years. This is where he and all his siblings were born. Where his mother Francine was born and where her cousin Octave Dargeles was born. 

Octave is the link between France and California, that bridge on which we traveled to connect with Montegut. I have re-doubled my genealogical effort in hopes of finding some missing links to Octaves story. So far I have found dates and locations, but what I am searching for is the Story. Piecing the journey together has been helped along by our special friend and cousin Georgette Darees. Every letter sent from the Dargles brother was saved lovingly to chronicle the family's loss.

What made a young man and his brother even consider travelling half way around the world?

Where they courageous or desperate? Frightened? Adventurous? Those two young men may not have known but they were remembered every single day since their departure. The proof hangs in the Grandparents Room... we sometimes refer to it as the museum or the shrine jokingly, but the room is nearly the same as when the two  brothers left.

Here, cousin Therese shows me photographs of Octave, his wife Victorine and 3 of their 7 children. The photo was sent near the turn of the century to show the family in France how successful he had become in America. Photos this size were rare, taken in studios, expensive to produce and ship. Octave seems to have been a proud man, he worked very hard. He owned a successful Bakery in a growing city, he had a sweet, hardworking wife and a growing family. Well respected in the business community he even appears in a sort-of Who's Who of the county. We learned later that he wrote his own entry, probably not uncommon, it was full of self accolades and bravado.

Very early one morning Octave, Jean Marie and their father Raymond Dargeles drove the cow and cart to the nearby village of Rabastens to meet the train that would deliver them to Bordeaux to board the ship to New Orleans. 

I can imagine this scene (minus the rear-view mirror) on a nearby road might have been similar to the traffic Octave and Jean Marie encountered as they left Montegut  for the last time. 

The story is told that Octave and Jean Marie made the decision to leave Montegut as the result of the devastation of the vineyard in the mid-19th century. The tiny aphid known as Grape Phylloxera was probably introduced to France about the same time as steamship travel became popular. There is talk that this pest came from the USA. But it is tempered by the fact the solution also came from the USA. 
On our first visit to Montegut in 2003 we were warned "whatever you do, do not - DO NOT drink Josephs wine". Joseph coddle a few rows of wine grapes planted in the late 1960's and made "wine". We were caught off guard and a small glass of Josephs Wine was poured.... pure vinegar!! So a few years later we again were offered wine, luckily a cousin interceded on our behalf and asked "... is this your wine, Joseph?". He answered "oui... I bought it"... yes, it is a old joke, but this wine was at least drinkable!

There are no longer vineyards in Montegut or on any of the surrounding farms. We have a dream to one day reintroduce vineyards again to Montegut. 

But first we'll need to finish the renovations, the bedroom, the kitchen, the immediate gardens and the list goes on and on. Perhaps one day our children or even our grandchildren will take up the battle of returning Montegut to her previous vineyard glory.

And if you have, thanks for reading...

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