In May of 1893, a group of Waldenses, from the Cottian Alps of Northern Italy, settled on land located near the Catawba River in eastern Burke County of North Carolina, between the towns of Morganton and Hickory. The center of this community became the town of Valdese.
The Waldenses were Pre-Reformation Christians with a religious heritage that dates back to at least the 12th century. For centuries these Waldenses were persecuted by armies from both the governments of Italy and France and the official church. This tiny religious sect was forced to take refuge in the Valleys of the Cottian Alps of Northern Italy and remained secluded in the rugged mountains until they received their religious freedom by the Edict of 1848.
With this new peace their number grew rapidly until their Alpine farms could no longer support them. They looked elsewhere and began establishing colonies in other parts of Europe, South America, and the United States. They migrated to New York City, Chicago, Missouri, Texas and Utah, as well as Valdese. The Valdese colony became the largest Waldensian colony in the world located outside of Italy.
In the beginning, the Valdese settlers tried to make their living off the land as they had in Italy, but the poor soil would not produce. They turned instead to manufacturing, and with the same spirit of survival and determination of their ancestors, began to prosper. Today, the history of the Waldensian style wines remains alive through the Waldensian Heritage Winery and Waldensian Style Wines.
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