Stockemer Farm

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Prairie Hill Vineyard
Prairie Hill Vineyard is located 1½ miles west and 1 mile north of the small community of St. Mark, home to the first Catholic church in Sedgwick County, and the center of an area just west of Wichita settled by hardy German Catholic settlers in the 1880’s. This gently rolling prairie has some of the best soil in the state of Kansas and produces a variety of row crops including wheat, sorghum, and alfalfa. At the turn of the century, it also hosted numerous vineyards that were later destroyed during Prohibition. Today our vineyard produces a number of different varietals including Norton (the original American varietal and the state grape of Missouri), Chambourcin (a French hybrid), Corot Noir, Noiret, and Crimson Cabernet, and a small number of Marquis and Concord. Our fruit is sold to Grace Hill Winery near Whitewater, one of the premier wineries in the state of Kansas, where it is used in a number of their wines. Adjoining the vineyard is a garden and fountain pouring into a lovely pond surrounded by flowering bushes and trees. Scores of roses complement the vineyard ambiance creating a special place of wine and roses. The Harvesters of the Prairie The land just west of Wichita was part of the vast rolling prairie which was home to the great herds of buffalo and antelope prior to its settlement by white European settlers in the 1860’s and 1870’s. In 1825, this area became part of the Osage Indian Reserve in a treaty signed by the United States government. Other Indian tribes including the Washita, Fox, Kickapoo, and Miami, shared the land, while hunting, fishing and farming. In 1854, the territory of Kansas was organized and migration into the state began culminating Kansas being admitted as a state into the Union on January 29, 1861, shortly before the Civil War began. The Homestead Law of 1862, signed by President Lincoln, allowed up to 160 acres of the government-owned land, to be homesteaded and to be claimed by any person at least 21 years old for small filing fee who would occupy and improve the land for five years. Shortly after the war, settlement of this area began in earnest and government officials met with representatives of the Apache, Arapahoe, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, and Washita tribes from October 14th-18th, 1865, near the Arkansas River, at the site of present day Wichita. A new treaty was singed under which the Indians agreed to move to the Oklahoma reservation along the Washita river, after their summer harvest of 1867. Jesse Chisholm, an early Indian trader, would lead them on the trail he had helped to form. During this trek to Oklahoma Territory, an epidemic of cholera struck the tribes, which combined with a vast prairie fire during their trip killed many of the Indians. The territory west of the Arkansas River was surveyed in 1868 and the Osage Trust Land was officially opened to settlement in August 1869, over a year earlier than had been promised in the treaty with the Indians. Hundreds of claims began being filed. The city of Wichita was founded by July 21, 1870, three months before the Osage lands were to be opened for settlement. Of the 1,095 residents in the county, 607 lived in Wichita. Cowboys, businessmen and farmers built Wichita. In 1872, 240,000 cattle were driven into the town, with an average herd size of 1,200. Buffalo were still present in the country, but soon most would be slaughtered. In 1876 the state agricultural board advertised the wonders of Kansas in Germany. Soon, a trickle, then later a flood of German immigrants came to Kansas. Friends in Europe would join their neighbors and relatives who had made the move, and soon, the rolling farmland west of Wichita was home to the German Catholic communities of St. Mark, Colwich, Andale, and Garden Plain. Another early community, Germania, faded away in the late 1880’s after the railroad passed through Colwich and Andale, bypassing the communities of St. Mark and Germania. The Catholic church was built in the town of St. Mark survives to this day. Through the subsequent decades, the hardworking families in these communities grew and prospered, building a vast network of interconnected families. Today the area is home to lovely homes, family farms, and even several vineyards, of which Prairie Hill is one. Time has moved on, blurring the names and memories of those early pioneers. They struggled to survive, working the land while braving the harsh elements to raise their families and settle the Kansas prairie. The love of the land drew them and the love of the land kept them here. They have given us an example of how a strong faith in God, hard work, and dogged determination can overcome all obstacles. Prairie Hill Vineyard is dedicated to those hardworking pioneers. They lived the motto of our wonderful state Ad Astra per Aspera, 
“To the Stars Through Difficulties.”