Sugar Granulation on the Boré Plantation

Antoine Morin, a free man of color, invented a sugar granulation process that launched the greed of Étienne de Boré and the intense labor demanded from enslaved people.

In 1794, Étienne de Boré (1741-1820) forced enslaved men and women to convert his failing indigo fields into a sugar plantation. [4] This forced labor camp sat across the lower parts of today’s Audubon Park. The plantation history is memorialized through historical markers in the park depicting Étienne de Boré as the man that revolutionized sugar production in Louisiana. These markers leave out historical figures essential to Louisiana's sugar industry. 

Beginning in the 1730s, plantations around New Orleans produced mostly tobacco and indigo. [3] But by 1795, sugarcane became an enormous money-making crop around the Caribbean as the demand for sugar escalated in Europe. Beyond its use as a sweetener, people used sugar for food preservation and medicinal purposes. [1] Because the sugarcane crop grew well in the subtropical environment of Louisiana, Boré aimed to capitalize on what people of the time considered “white gold.” [2]

Before 1795, refining sugar cane into granulated sugar on a large scale had not yet been done successfully and was only done in experimentation. [3] To ensure his sugar plantation’s financial success, Boré hired Antoine Morin, a chemist and a free man of color originally from Saint-Domingue. [3] Boré heard of Morin’s engineering success through Antonio Mendez a contemporary of Boré and the owner of the Terreaux-Boeufs Plantation located in St. Bernard Parish. [7] Morin, through his work with the Terreaux-Boeufs Plantation, cultivated a reputation for having the best technical knowledge of sugar production and granulation. [4] According to historian Richard J. Follet, Antoine Morin was “an alumni of distinguished Parisian colleges” and “proved an excellent chemist and botanist who enjoyed considerable fame in New Orleans as the premier sugar maker in the colony.” [4]  Today, historians have little knowledge of Morin’s sugar making process. 

To begin his sugar industry, Boré purchased sugar cane from Antonio Mendez. In 1795, Boré commissioned Morin as his sugar maker. [5] This commission required Morin to organize the work of enslaved people to build a sugar mill and factory, as well as planting the sugar cane fields. [4] Morin innovated a new sugar-making process and produced the first granulated sugar for commercial sale in Louisiana through the Boré Plantation. [5] In 1796, Morin and Boré’s first sugar crop yielded twelve-thousand dollars profit, which is worth the equivalent of over three million dollars today. 

So how did Boré become the memorialized revolutionary of the Southern Louisiana sugar industry? During the nineteenth century, Charles Gayarre, Boré’s grandson, was a writer, historian and the Secretary of State in Louisiana. Gayarre grew up on the Boré plantation and wrote a lengthy, romanticized version of Boré’s sugar development, innovations, and industry. [6] Through Gayarre’s political and social influence and historical writings, Boré’s name lived on as master of sugar in New Orleans, with Gayarre naming Boré as the hero of a "bourgeois epic" and the "savior of Louisiana.” [4] Gayarre’s works do not include any information on Antoine Morin. 

It is clear that Antoine Morin and his work as a chemist shaped the Southern Louisiana sugar market. However, popular histories continue to memorialize Étienne de Boré as the sole contributor and maker of the Louisiana sugar boom. Without Antoine Morin or the labor of enslaved people, Boré would not have developed a successful sugar plantation.