The award represented a victory of sorts for Mouton, who had stubbornly gone his own way in building a syrup factory in Lafayette. But it was a short-lived victory because a fire undid it all just at the time when it appeared that he was about to make his fortune.
Mouton was an experienced mechanical engineer and had built and operated sugar and syrup mills for others. Most of them were successful, but Mouton thought he knew a better way.
As he explained in an unpublished memoir, "I will in as few words as possible make clear how wide of the mark these syrup makers were in claiming only they had the right way. They take the cane juice directly from the cane mill and put it in an open pan and subject to violent heat, hoping to skim off the impurities as they come to the surface of the boiling juice, before the juice reaches syrup density. This method removes only the bodies that can be seen with the naked eye. There still remain in the syrup other invisible ones that will cause the syrup to ferment or turn sour."
Mouton devised a sweeter, gentler way: "The cane juice is taken from under the crushing cane rollers and pumped to a fixed elevation ... and ... [as it] moves down by gravitation ... is cleansed of mud, dirt, etc, kept at an even temperature and then by heat granulated into syrup."
But he could find no backers for his ideas, not even among his brothers, who were owners of the Mouton Brothers Mercantile Company.
So he built the factory himself. And it worked.
"The syrup I made at my plant I sent to be exhibited at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis," he wrote. "There it got into the hands of the congress of judges and awards of the exposition, which classed it the highest grade of sugar cane syrup exhibited there; and awarded me the gold medal.
"The syrup I exhibited was two years old and the award was based in part on its keeping qualities. I thus became known as the noted maker of the highest grade cane syrup in the world. ... The syrup was known in the market as an absolutely pure cane syrup with pronounced keeping qualities."
But his success came to a flaming end when the plant burned in November 1905 and there was no insurance to cover the loss.
"What was the real cause of its destruction ... has never been determined," he wrote. "The plant had stopped at the close of the day the fire took place. Everything was shut down and all the fires put out. Then early in the night all was afire and no water at hand to extinguish the flames. I shall never forget how I did feel, standing at no distance, unable to put a stop to the destruction of my work. I say my work, for I had put hands to every piece that composed its construction from the very beginning of its existence.
" Nothing was left the next day to tell what had existed at that particular spot but the ashes and pieces of iron that could not be consumed."
Mouton drew new plans for a bigger plant but still found no backers. Potential investors thought it was too big.
So he designed a smaller one. They thought it was too small.
"After ... explaining to them that the Gold Medal Syrup, having been classed the highest grade made by ... authorities of the world's fair [and that it was] an unqualified success, all my efforts ... were fruitless," he wrote.
The drawings for another Gold Medal Syrup plant were still in his file when Mouton died in 1938 at the age of 85.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.