Etienne de Bore

1741 - 1820

Etienne de Bore is credited with developing the process of making granulated sugar.  Of noble Norman descent, de Bore was born in the Illinois district of the Louisiana province on December 27, 1741.  Members of his family had been high in the service of French kings for generations.  His great-grandfather was conseiller de roi and postal official under Louis XIV.  When Bore was four, his parents took him to France where he received his education.

On coming of age he joined the king’s household troops in which only the nobility could qualify.  In the tenth year of his service he accepted the command of a company of cavalry.  Prompted no doubt by his marriage to the daughter of Destrehan, former royal treasurer of the Louisiana colony under the French, he returned to the land of his birth where his wife had inherited much property.

De Bore settled on a plantation six miles above New Orleans where Audubon Park is now located and planted indigo, which the insects repeatedly destroyed, while his slaves sickened of fever and died.

Historically, the production of sugar had been a failure in Louisiana.  However, a number of expert sugar-makers were among the refugees who had escaped from Santo Domingo in the bloody massacres of 1791 and arrived in the province.  De Bore determined to risk what there was left of his modes savings on sugar.  After turning his crops to cane and the crops were harvested, the kettles were put to boil.  With a dubious audience gathered around, the sugar-maker’s technique proved that sugar could be granulated, and de Bore’s industry took off.

As he prospered in his undertaking, his fame and his fortune expanded.  His great house, surrounded by a moat and ramparts, opened its doors with equal hospitality to the exiled brothers of Louis XIV and to the officers who served under General Jackson.  In 1798 three princes of the royal blood found refuge from France’s reign of terror on his estate.

When Louisiana was transferred from Spain to France in 1803, de Bore was appointed mayor of New Orleans and served in that capacity into the American period.  He was then appointed a member of the first legislative Council, but, consistent with his opposition to the form of government imposed, he refused to serve and repaired to his plantation.

He died at the age of seventy-nine, requesting that his funeral be conducted in simplicity so that the money saved might be given to the Charity Hospital of New Orleans.  To the manor born, Etienne de Bore was a gentleman of character and culture.  During his lifetime he was revered as the agricultural savior of his people, and his plantation was the social center of Louisiana.

The plantation system of his day was a comprehensive, self-sustaining unit and he presided over its operations with a discipline and benevolence that won the love and respect of his humblest slave.  De Bore pioneered in both agriculture and industry and balanced the two in the creation of an enterprise that lifted the hopes of a people crushed by economic despair.  His discovery changed the economy of Louisiana as completely as Eli Whitney’s cotton gin transformed the Deep South.