Mary Ann Patout
Mary Ann Patout was an important figure in the Louisiana banking and sugar industries.
Mary Ann Patout was an important figure in the late nineteenth century Louisiana banking and sugar industries. She was the central figure in the survival and growth of Enterprise Plantation at a time when the majority of sugar mills went out of business. Under her guidance, Enterprise modernized and expanded, eventually becoming a model of technological innovation in sugar production.
Born March 17, 1836, in Iberville Parish, Mary Ann Schwing Patout was the daughter of sugar plantation owners George and Christine Anselm Schwing. She was raised in a business environment. In 1852 she married Hippolyte Patout, Sr., of Enterprise Plantation, another sugar plantation, in St. Mary (later Iberia) Parish. The couple had twelve children between 1853 and 1870. Enterprise was run by her husband’s mother, Napoléone Geneviève “Appoline” Patout, who doubled the size of the operation following her husband’s death in 1847. Mary Ann undoubtedly learned a great deal about the sugar business from her mother-in-law.
Following Appoline’s death in 1879, Hippolyte and his brother, Felix, operated the plantation as a partnership. When her husband suddenly died in 1881, Mary Ann assumed his role as partner. She subsequently bought out Felix, who went into banking in New Iberia. Mary Ann recognized that only plantations with large, steam-powered mills were likely to survive a massive shakeout under way in the postbellum sugar industry. As a result, she undertook a modernization program that included the installation of a narrow-gauge rail system to haul cane from the fields and surrounding farms to the Patout mill. The following year, she bought and installed a new, steam-powered sugar mill.
Operating as M.A. Patout & Son—with her son Hippolyte, Jr.—she kept Enterprise abreast of agricultural and technological innovations in a rapidly changing industry. Profits were invested in further modernization and diversification of family holdings. Mary Ann became a founding stockholder of New Iberia National Bank and later served on that bank’s board of directors, one of the first American women to hold such a position. She died July 10, 1907. Three years after her death, her children created a family-owned corporation, M.A. Patout & Son, Ltd. This company is today the largest miller of raw sugar in Louisiana and one of the larger raw sugar producers in the country.