Over the past two years, the students in Princeton High School teacher Wendy Fredrickson’s Foods 2 classes have used a bounty of grapes provided by Princeton’s Wick Warren to learn about the process of making jelly from vine to jar.
This year, more than 100 pounds of grapes were processed into 12½ gallons of juice that were turned into 147 pints of jelly. The bounty of grapes also yielded enough to repeat the process during the spring term, with another 120 pints expected to be made.
Although the class certainly enjoyed the jelly-making process, the story behind these grapes and how they ended up in Princeton stems all the way from the White House and the country’s founding fathers.
When the White House was constructed in 1800, President John Adams had a vegetable and fruit garden built on its ground. In 1801, under the direction of President Thomas Jefferson, the garden expanded to include a section of ornamental and fruit trees, including concord grape vines.
Warren said Thomas J. Henderson of Princeton was one of the generals who served under General Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War. After the war, Henderson became a lawyer and eventually joined the U.S. House of Representatives.
Henderson’s son, Thomas B. Henderson, who also was a lawyer in Princeton, married Charlotte Katherine Taylor, who inherited Greenwood Cottage, 543 E. Peru St. in Princeton, from her parents.
During the late 1870s, Thomas B. and Charlotte visited Thomas J. in Washington, D.C., while Grant was serving as the 18th president of the U.S.
During the Hendersons’ visit with Grant, they toured the White House gardens. They asked if they could take clippings from the concord grape vines back to Princeton, and Grant obliged.
The clippings were returned to and planted at the Greenwood Cottage.
The cottage, which is owned by Warren and Laura Kann, is designed with a series of garden beds featuring flowering plants that bloom from spring to fall. The cottage grounds also feature two rows of concord grape vines that originally came from the White House.
The front row features the original vines from the White House, and the back row comprises vines propagated from the original vines in 2015 and 2016.
Now, with these vines producing grapes annually, the PHS culinary classes have a new way to create a use for the piece of local U.S. history.