RIBRISTO-L ArchivesArchiver > RIBRISTO > 2005-02 > 1109654747
Subject: Sugar Refiners in Bristol, R.I. in 1860
Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2005 00:25:47 EST
I have an ancestor who immigrated to Bristol, RI from Hannover, Germany about
1855. In 1859, Christian Intemann married in Bristol a Northern Irish
immigrant, Martha McCaw.
I doubt that I have family in Bristol today.
Christian Intemann's occupation in the 1860 census was Sugar Refiner. Some of
his family later became famous confectioners (candy-makers, chocolatiers and
bakers) in New York.
Just out of curiousity, I did a page-by-page examination of the Federal
Census for Bristol in 1860. By late this afternoon I had browsed 118 pages out of
134 images at Ancestry.com.
(by the way, my ancestor is listed as "Christian Antemon" [sic] on image 29).
I was amazed to note how many people were of the occupation described as
"sugar refiners"--out of the first 118 pages I counted 77 individuals!
This indicates that sugar-refining was a major occupation of this town of
around 4500 people (the other two were factory workers in a cotton mill,
employees of Mr.Jacob Babbett [image 58 on the 1860 census]; and the traditional
Can anyone here comment on this? Was it a refinery, or was it a candy
industry? Was it one large mill, or were there several?
Who ran these operations? Could they have been foreign-owned?
The city of Bristol, England, by the way, was the center for sugar-refining
in Britain in the 1850s and 1860s. Might British capital have financed these
Rhode Island operations, importing raw sugar from their plantations in the
[There are Intemann family immigrants working in the English sugar industry
at this time, also! By 1880, 60 per cent of all Intemanns in the United States
were in some way connected with confectionery and candy making (source:
By far the largest number in the 1860 Federal Census for Bristol in this
occupation were Irish immigrants, with a large number of Germans from Hannover.
Only a few were native New Englanders.
Glancing at the surnames, I reckon that many of these Irish were from Ulster.
And nearly all were employed in sugar! Hardly any Irishmen were sailmakers,
seamen, or the other traditional occupations of Bristol.
Nearly all were in their late 20s or early 30s and in the early years of
marriage. Many of the Germans had married Irish women.
Oddly, most came to be employed in Bristol only a year or two before---as
evidenced by the fact that their children over the age of 2 were born somewhere
else (Isn't genealogical detective work neat??).
So, you historians of Bristol---what can you tell me about this major
industry in your town at that time?
I also note that by the 1870 census, employment in sugar refining had fallen
off dramatically. Could that be the result of the Civil War, and the
interruption of some kinds of trade with Britain's West Indian colonies? Remember
that 70 per cent of US exports to Britain in 1860 was cotton---and that was under
a blockade of the Confederate states.
Although it may be only a footnote to Bristol, RI's history, I consider this
topic very important for the understanding of mid-19th immigration patterns to
Rhode Island --- and to the descendants who live there today.
Thanks for any light you can shed on the subject!
Napa Valley, California