Area History
Neosho Resident Saves French Wine Industry

Newton County has a rich agricultural history, but the story of its more famous grape grower is the stuff of legends. Herman Jaeger was born on March 23, 1844, in Switzerland. He came from a well known and highly educated family. In fact, his great grandfather was Pestalozzi, founder of the public school system. As a young man Jaeger took a job in a wine warehouse on Lake Geneva and then immigrated to the United States. In 1865, he settled east of Neosho in the Monark Springs area. The following year he and his brother, John, planted a vineyard and became grape growers and wine makers.

Extremely intelligent and proficient in several languages, Herman Jaeger worked to breed new varieties of grapes, many of which came from wild Ozarks grapes - grapes commonly called "possum grapes". He also communicated with other grape experts around the world, sharing information about his work and learning from the works of others. He also wrote articles for scientific and grape journals, explaining the mysteries of grapes and his work on his Newton County farm.

In the 1870s, when the vineyards of France, Spain and Portugal were struck by a deadly disease, a call went out around the world to find grapes that were resistant to the disease. After some testing, it was determined that grapes bred by Herman Jaeger proved to be a savior for the great vineyards of Europe. Working with other scholars and grape growers, Jaeger supplied cuttings from his Neosho/Monark Springs vineyards to replant those lost in Europe. For his contribution to the grape and wine industries of France, Jaeger was awarded the coveted French Legion of Honor, the highest award that nation can bestow on a civilian.

In May of 1895, Herman Jaeger disappeared and was never heard from again. His death is truly one of the great true mysteries of the Ozarks. The home which John Jaeger built still stands and has been restored. Several members of the Jaeger family are buried on the old farm or on land which once was home to Herman Jaeger, a world famous grape grower and nurseryman.