Feasibility of Sugar Cane

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Source: Phase II National Register Testing of 3 Archaeological Sites

Planters had speculated about the feasibility of sugar cane since the early 1700’s, though initial climate studies indicated the plant would not thrive in Louisiana temperatures. “Sugar,” scoffed Governor Bienville in 1733, “is not at all practical;… there is no point in thinking further about it” (Blue 1990: 64). However, when indigo began to fail in the 1790’s, a number of planters once again began experimenting with cane. One such pioneer was Etienne de Bore, who had a plantation a short distance upriver from New Orleans. In the 1790’s, de Bore sought to discover a means of extracting sugar from Louisiana cane, and, as a relative recalled, his research and development activities fascinated his neighbors. On the day of his first processing attempt, a grandson remembered that “a large number of the most respectable inhabitants… gathered in and about the sugar-house to be present at the failure or success of the experiment… Suddenly the sugarmaker cried out with exultation, ‘It granulates!’… there came a shout of joy, and all flocked around” (Heitmann 1987: 10). De Bore is said to have realized a $12,000 profit from this crop, a sum that attracted widespread attention (Yakubik and Franks 1986: 71). By the early nineteenth century, sugar had become the dominant cash crop of the lower Mississippi.