Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Industry in Louisiana

Below is an excerpt from The Great South: by Edward King, James Wells Champney © 1875. I'm including this in the blog because we often think of the main industry in the South as being cotton but there was so much more as this excerpt will show. Enjoy.

THE main industries of Louisiana at the present time are the growth of cotton, the production of sugar, rice, and wheat,— agriculture in general,— and cattle raising. The culture of the soil certainly offers inducements of the most astonishing character, and the immigrant who purchases a small tract— five to ten acres—of land can, during the first year of possession, make it support himself and his numerous family, and can also raise cotton enough on it to return the purchase money.
Vergennes, in his memoir on La Louisiane, printed early in this century, says: "I will again repeat what I have already many times said—that Louisiana is, without doubt, by reason of the softness of her climate and the beauty of her situation, the finest country in the universe. Every European plant, and nearly all those of America, can be successfully cultivated there." This was the verdict of one who had made a careful survey of the great province then known as Louisiana, and especially the tract now comprised in the lowlands. Rice, an important article of food, can be raised on grounds which are too low and moist for any other species of valuable vegetables, and in the Mississippi basin, rice, sugar and corn can be cultivated in close proximity. The fertility of the sugar lands is proverbial; and Louisiana is prodigal of fruit of all kinds. With but little attention orange and fig-trees prosper and bear splendid crops; apples and peaches are produced in abundance; and grape-bearing lands are to be found in all sections of the State. Sugar, cotton, rice and tobacco might all be readily cultivated on the same farm in many sections.
The cultivation of rice, introduced into Louisiana by Bienville, at the time of the founding of New Orleans, may be profitably pursued in all the "parishes," i. e., counties, on the river and Gulf coasts, and on the high pine lands of the northern part of the State. The rice raised on the irrigated lands below New Orleans, and in the immediate proximity of the Gulf, is known as "lowland rice;" that raised elsewhere as "upland."
The quality of the staple is constantly improving by cultivation. In 1860 the rice crop of Louisiana amounted to 6,500,000 pounds. There is no good reason why it should not now be 60,000,000. Barley and buckwheat flourish admirably in the State, and the attention given to the cultivation of wheat since the close of the war has accorded singularly gratifying results. The average yield in the hill portion of the State is fully equal to that of the Northern States, —about twelve bushels to the acre—and in the Red River Valley, where the planters were compelled to devote much of their old cotton land to the production of wheat, for the sake of getting the wherewithal to live, the yield was twenty bushels to the acre.
The wheat yearly gains largely in weight, size and color. It is said that wherever the cavalry of the United States camped in Louisiana during the war, immense grain fields sprang up from the seed scattered where horses were fed. In the swamps of Assumption parish wheat and rye have been known to yield forty bushels to the acre. The wheat may be planted in September, October, or November, and reaped late in April or early in May. Indian corn does not yield well, rarely giving over fifteen bushels to the acre. Marsh, Hungarian herbs, and prairie grasses grow in abundance and make excellent hay. Pasturage is perennial, and in the Attakapas the grazing regions are superb. Cotton may be cultivated throughout the entire arable portion of the State.
The cultivation of the sugar-cane in Louisiana merits especial mention. One of the most remunerative of industries under the slave system, it has been for some time languishing because of the disorganization of labor, and because also of the division of large plantations into small farms. For a whole year before the sugar crop is ready for the market, a constant outlay is required, and the small planters succeed but poorly, while the larger ones have been ruined by the war, and have allowed their sugar-houses to decay, and their splendid machinery to rust in ditches.
In 1751, two ships transporting soldiers to Louisiana, stopped at Hispaniola, and the Jesuits on that island sent some sugar-canes and some negroes, used to their cultivation, to the brothers of their order in the new colony. The Jesuits at New Orleans undertook the culture of the crop, but did not succeed; and it was only in 1795 that the seeds became thoroughly naturalized in Louisiana.
Up to 1816 the cultivation of the cane was confined to the lower parishes, but it is now raised with reasonable success in many other portions of the State. From 1828 to 1833, the sugar production in the commonwealth was about 280,000 hogsheads. The following table will show the amount of the crops of each year from 1834 to 1873 inclusive:

Totals on Hogsheads Production removed for space

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