A Community on the Move

Today Louisiana ranks second in the nation in the harvesting of sugarcane behind Florida. Sugar was a part of nearly every resident’s livelihood in West Baton Rouge Parish at one time. Now, sugar is still grown in the parish, but the many mills that once dotted the landscape are no longer grinding cane here. Life on a plantation was a combination of man-power and mule-power before machines and computers came to the forefront.

Mills had to upgrade and expand so drastically that it was more efficient to consolidate the work at a central mill rather than to try to upgrade several smaller mills. It also became difficult to try to keep long-term employees at the mills due to the seasonality of the work. More and more mills in the region began to rely on skilled Hispanic migrant workers from South American and the Caribbean. Eventually, all of the sugar mills of West Baton Rouge Parish closed. Now, most of the cane grown here is trucked to Alma Plantation and Mill in Pointe Coupee Parish. Much of the plantation land that existed along the river has also been converted in neighborhoods or sold for business development.

As more development occurs in the parish, fewer acres are cultivated for crops and produce. Approximately 17% of the land in West Baton Rouge is farmed for commercial crops today. A small amount is also used to raise crawfish and cattle. The chart shows the approximate number of acres of land under cultivation for various crops in 2005.

The longest-running mill in West Baton Rouge was Cinclare, just north of Brusly. Its last grinding season occurred in the late fall of 2005. The buildings that remain at Cinclare are significant because they represent a rare surviving example of a South Louisiana sugar complex, as well as the associated company town from the turn of the 20th century. At the onset of the 21st century, only four such company towns in Louisiana retained their industrial component, including Cinclare. For these reasons, the Cinclare district is part of the National Register of Historic Places. After 2005, Cinclare stopped grinding and removed much of the machinery, although the exterior structure of the mill remained. The surrounding community still recalls hearing the mill’s whistle blow throughout the grinding season and smelling the pungent aroma of sugarcane being processed, memories that are missed in West Baton Rouge Parish. Cinclare is developing a master plan for future use of the mill, dependencies, and landscape.

Although the community of West Baton Rouge has changed even since the turn of the 21st century, the people of the parish still find ways to come together for community festivities; events like the annual parish fair, Kite Fest Louisiane, the museum’s SugarFest, an annual Veteran’s Day Parade, and Mardi Gras bring diverse groups together to celebrate a shared heritage.

A Mardi Gras krewe formed in the Oaks neighborhood of Port Allen in December of 1984. The Krewe of Good Friends of the Oaks is open to those who live in the Oaks, but the parade has since expanded to include families and businesses all over the parish. Images from the 1st Mardi Gras parade held by the Krewe of Good Friends of the Oaks in Port Allen in 1985 can be found here.

The first Mardi Gras parade in Addis occurred in 1963 to raise money for the newly organized Volunteer Fire Dept. The parade consisted mostly of children in the community pulling wagons decorated with moss, palmettos, and crepe paper. It has since morphed into a much larger celebration. A ball was included in the festivities for the Addis Volunteer Fireman’s Parade in 1983.