Laurel Valley Sugar Plantation, Thibodaux Louisiana

Date added: July 19, 2016 Categories: Louisiana House Plantations & Farms
Mule barn looking north with windpump in foreground. 1906

Laurel Valley was one of many plantations established as the sugar cane culture expanded in Louisiana. Situated on the eastern bank of Bayou Lafourche, about two miles south of Thibodaux, in Lafourche Parish, the plantation came under the cultivation of sugar cane around 1832. Up to this time the lands nearest the bayou had been used as a family farm by petits habitants from Nova Scotia. But with the introduction of sugar cane, Laurel Valley's owners began to buy additional acreage and erect buildings to support the manufacture of sugar. Today there are more than seventy-two structures on the plantation, establishing it as the largest, nineteenth century sugar cane plantation intact in the United States.

Etienne de Bore has been called "the Savior of Louisiana." In 1794, after insects had destroyed his indigo crop, and falling prices his profits, he decided to risk what funds remained on the manufacture of sugar. He planted seed cane, directed forty slaves in the construction of a mill, irrigated his fields when dry, and hired and experienced sugar maker. He spent $4,000 that year, but in the fall De Bore's cane syrup granulated, enabling him to make a $5,000 profit from sales. The risks of this venture were great, for other attempts had failed. Louisiana planters had been trying to manufacture sugar since 1751, when a group of Jesuits from Santo Domingo had brought a package of seed cane into the French colony at New Orleans. But each time killing frosts or the mistakes of inexperienced laborers frustrated their efforts. In the aftermath of De Bore's experiments, however, many Louisiana planters began to cultivate sugar cane.

By 1849, the state could count 1,536 mills that manufactured over 130,000 tons of sugar.