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Blake Pontchartrain: Etienne de Bore 

From sugar maker to the first mayor of New Orleans

click to enlarge Jean Etienne de Bore made granulating sugar from cane syrup a viable industry in Louisiana.

Jean Etienne de Bore made granulating sugar from cane syrup a viable industry in Louisiana.

Hey Blake,

Can you give me more history about Etienne de Bore? I know he was the first mayor of New Orleans and is known as the father of the sugar industry, but he was born in Illinois. Why did he come to New Orleans?

Donna

Dear Donna,

  As with many New Orleanians, it was family that brought Jean Etienne de Bore, our city's first mayor, to the Crescent City in 1776. Born into French nobility at Kaskaskia in the Illinois territory of Louisiana in 1740, he returned to France for his early education, as was the custom of the day.

  In Paris in 1771, he married Marie Marguerite d'Estrehan, a member of the well-known Destrehan family, whose father had been royal treasurer of Louisiana under French rule. De Bore's wife inherited a large amount of property from her family and the couple settled in New Orleans. De Bore took over a large indigo plantation on land near what now is Audubon Park. He spent two decades cultivating that crop before entering the sugar trade.

  Though he is known as a father of the commercial sugar industry, he was not the first to granulate sugar, as many people believe. Most experts do give him credit for being the first to plant and process sugar on a large scale, beginning in 1773. According to Lawrence Powell's book The Accidental City, it took 20 years for de Bore to sow a large amount of seed cane and then harvest and granulate it. According to historian Pie Dufour, when de Bore's 1796 crop brought in $12,000 with a profit of $5,000, the sugar industry in Louisiana was born. Powell called it "an economic game changer."

  De Bore was selected as the first mayor of the city following the Louisiana Purchase. He served only one year, however, from 1803 to 1804, resigning to take care of his private affairs. Some surmised de Bore actually harbored some animosity toward the Americans who were then in power. He died in 1820.

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