A History of the Texas sugar cane industry with special reference to Brazoria County
Watts, Sandra Lee
Vandiver, Frank E.
Master of Arts
Sugar cane was a well-known crop to planters in the Texas counties of Brazoria, Fort Bend, Matagorda, and Wharton. Introduced during the 1820's, sugar cane appealed to countless planters. For a crop that demanded large of amounts of capital and labor, sugar spread rapidly. Planters through trial and error perfected the processes of cultivation and manufacturing. By planning, Texas sugar growers eliminated the obstacles of markets, transportation, and credit. By 1850, sugar was well established as an important staple of Texas The decade of the fifties witnessed the gradual decline of the Texas sugar industry. Deflated prices reduced profits while bad weather reduced output. Natural disaster struck seven times during the decade. Planters eager to regain losses abandoned sugar for cotton. The Civil War nearly obliterated the Texas cane industry. Wartime conditions prevented profitable marketing of the crop, and emancipation produced a chronic shortage of labor. Although yields were low and profits nonexistent, the industry managed to survive the postwar period. The sugar industry of the 1880's established itself along new lines. The old plantations were incorporated into large business establishments, while the Negro laborer was replaced by the convict. Incorporation and the convict labor system stimulated renewed interest and growth in the industry. The State of Texas became one of the largest producers of cane during this period. Despite these developments, the sugar cane industry failed in Texas. Capital and labor played a key role in its disintegration, but in the final analysis weather was the most decisive cause of failure.