The Self-Written Eulogy of Thomas Volney Munson, Texas’s Renaissance Man, with Words to Live By Still Today!

The photos above are T.V. Munson the younger and the older.

It can be said that if Texas ever had a Renaissance Man in its population, it was most likely Thomas Volney (T.V.) Munson (September 26, 1843 – January 21, 1913), a resident of Denison, Texas. He was a man of science, a world-class grape horticulturist driven by knowledge, but highly entrepreneurial with the goodwill of Texas farmers in mind. He was a man of religion, maybe not in the modern sense of organized religion we know, but more on a first-name basis with his God. Munson felt strongly that his talents in grape hybridization were God-given gifts bestowed by his Creator that endowed him “The Originator” of many new hybrid grape species. Munson was also a man of letters; he could write, explain and teach others from his knowledge in any of these areas, especially about his love for Texas native grapes, and often intermixing all these topics. His knowledge of native grapes and the geology of Texas and Europe eventually led to his identification of Texas native grapes that could be successfully used as rootstocks in European vineyards to overcome the devastation of the root louse Phylloxera.

Life Cycle of Phylloxera – It is the subterranean root louse that infected the vineyards of Europe.

Munson’s many talents were often melded seamlessly in his technical writings, teachings, world’s fair displays, and international friendships. Glimpses of his mindset, humanity, and knowledge of the natural sciences are documented in his classic book, Foundations of American Grape Culture. I’ve tried to capture some of this in my book, The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine; in fact, I dedicated a whole chapter to Munson titled, The Munson Spirit and Legacy. Munson’s words came alive to me through the voice of R.L. Winters, a master horticulturalist himself and owner of Fairhaven Vineyards of Hawkins, Texas, at a meet-up with him at the old Munson Mansion Vinita arranged by Roy Renfro, then at Grayson Collage. Winters opened Munson’s book, intended as a textbook, to page 129 and read Munson’s words…

“The Originator musts be enthusiastic, with an ambition to add something to the general fund of human development and have an intense love of close communication with nature causing him to admire the infinite correlated life movements… The Originator must study the loves and hates prevailing in all organic life and growth, discovering the great fundamental truth in ethics, as well as the development of organic beings, that love breeds life, and hate breeds death… Such a spirit of investigation leads the student of biology… to the contemplation of the all-binding energies and impulses belonging to and circulating through, by mutual reciprocation, influencing and controlling all objects, thus creating the best concept of the self-governing Infinite!

With the above background on what I’ve learned about Munson, please read the eulogy that was read upon his death, but written by Munson himself before his passing:

“It has ever been a delight to me to aid in the amelioration of conditions of life around me. Especially have I tried to leave a good impression upon my children and neighbors. In matters of belief, in ancient religious dogmas, my reason outran my faith and made me happier. But where I may have made mistakes, only better reason, not faith, can correct. Herein, have those who think little and know less, condemned me most. They have the same right for their opinion as I have for mine, but my opinions have grown larger and better with knowledge, and stand still only with ignorance and faith. Therefore, I have recommended knowledge as the only key that can open a broader, higher, and brighter heaven to man, than can any faith.

“It is life – a condition that is painful – not death.

“Death is not the destruction of essence. It is merely the eddy line of change among forms, the transmitter that puts to sleep the worn out, old, useless, bodies, so that they may be transformed into young, active, happier other forms, and so it is not that terrible monster that faith sees gloating over the destruction of loved ones, but is truly the twin sister of life that supplies the perfect anesthetic to pain, given by life, as a stimulant to the form to move on as long as its organization will permit useful effort.

“Death is the door to another life, not the selfish life of faith, for individual wealth and glorification in the skies, but to the lives of others, that could only come into existence, or be fuller and happier by the sacrifice of those gone before.

Munson’s recommendations to the French delegation on Texas native grape varieties for rootstock for phylloxera-devastated French vineyards.

“Now, may goodwill, peace, and good works abide among you. Mourn not for me. Only those of faith mourn disconsolately, for belief lacks knowledge, and this causes sorrow. Return to your pursuits as joyfully as though you had planted a seed that will perennially, spring up in beautiful trees and flowers, and loving birds, and you will be happy.

“If you must call Nature God, then I am a son of God, and you are all my brothers and sisters, and you must, also, be sons and daughters of God. In this sense is He our elder brother. Then, all should live as brothers and sisters, and not as hating enemies. To bless each other as brothers and sisters is, then to be blessed of God. In no other way can this blessing be had. ‘Farewell.'”

Munson Memorial Vineyard in Denison, Texas – Repository of vine stock for Munson-developed grape varieties

A copy of Munson’s self-written eulogy was provided to me by R.L. Winters, Fairhaven Vineyards, Hawkins, Texas.

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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.

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