LaMott George Bates,
If Chester Jackson was the
family's footloose adventurer, LaMott Bates was the tender of
the home hearths, rarely venturing from Elsie, where he grew up
and prospered, and then almost entirely due to necessity and
rarely for the thrill of travel -- the most exotic trip he took
was twice to San Diego.
(Richard Bates has noted
that LaMott's own spelling of his first name was "La Mott," but
since voluminous records (including our family's own writings)
consistently use "LaMott," that is the form I've adopted.)
Photographs we have of LaMott by himself:
LaMott's life is told in
daughter-in-law Nora Ruth (Holmes) Bates's
short remembrance, and in the
assembled by Richard Bates. On this page I present other
resources and recollections beyond those found in either of
Opportunities for schooling were meager
but he did attend in the winter, at first in a vacant room
of the new log house of Ralph Van Deusen and later in a new
log school house. Sister Lizzie was too young to walk the
distance in bad weather so he was provided with a wonderful
sled drawn by two young oxen fitted with a miniature yoke
fashioned by Andrew Rockwell, in which to drive her to
school. He then drove the rig back home and walked back
once more to school.
That yoke is
displayed in the Elsie Historical Society:
In 1862 LaMott, age 15,
moved temporarily to Richfield, Ohio. He went there first to continue
his schooling, living first with his aunt, Abbie Baldwin and
then moving in with Peter Allen and wife to learn the
harness-making trade, remaining there three years. His
father, George Washington Bates, Jr.,
wrote him 9-26-1864, and then his mother, Emily (Robinson)
wrote him there on New Year's Eve, 1865. The letters
are unremarkable for substance, but amazing for their unschooled
semi-literacy and for the fact they have survived over 150
years. (George's letter refers to spending time with
William Sickels, who was LaMott's eventual wife's uncle.)
The letters were written
while the Civil War engaged the attention of all across the
nation, yet receives nary a mention.
LaMott married Hannah Amanda
Sickels on May 28, 1873. The minister who officiated,
Ebenezer Nethaway, would eventually be related to LaMott by
wrote his parents on 11-15-1874, again from Richfield.
This time, however, he was in Ohio as a book salesman, and it is
about those efforts LaMott writes in this letter. Of
interest are his comments about the non-English-speaking German
immigrants of that part of Ohio and a companion probably
suffering from tuberculosis. Near the letter's end he
shows that he was already involved in financial operations.
- The monograph cited at the beginning
rightly notes the importance of J.F. Hasty's decision to sell,
and LaMott's decision to purchase, the general store in Elsie
that proved so instrumental in establishing his and the Bates
family's fortune. In the Bentley Library papers was a copy
8-7-1882 sales contract.
- After purchasing the former Hasty store,
we know LaMott made frequent payments on the contract. In
the Bentley Library papers was a
note acknowledging payment of $100 on the debt.
- As noted in the monograph, LaMott
retained a friendship with Peter Allen and his wife of
Richfield, Ohio, for all their lives. We have a
fragment of a letter from Mrs. Allen dated 10-26-1896,
otherwise unremarkable except for a short passage:
I think if anything will make us
young and nimble again, 'twill be when we hear that McKinly
has gotten the Election. We rec'd your sons graduating
card. I am so glad that your sons are trying to make a
mark in the world, for there are so many boys & girls that
are mere ciphers, with all their privileges.
It would seem some attitudes never
- Mrs. Allen wrote again on 2-8-1907, with
her recollections of LaMott's arrival in Richfield with a
letter from his father asking that he be trained in the craft of
harness making. Of interest, a brief comment responding to
LaMott apparently wishing he was in California -- he and Amanda
had visited San Diego in 1905-06, and were to return in 1909-10.
LaMott's granddaughter (my
mother), Emily Josephine Bates, was born January 23, 1911.
LaMott's son Clare wrote his brother (and Emily's father), Bion,
a congratulatory note, including the concluding sentence,
"Expect Father is delighted! and will be driving over with a
Richard Bates explains:
The statement about father driving over with
a cow refers to the event when Lamott [Fair Bates] was born to Clare, as his first grandchild,
LaMott senior brought a cow to the door as a present for the new
arrival. I have no idea how he got it to Durand from
Elsie. The later arrivals got a check for $25.
Chester Jackson, Bion
Bates's father-in-law, wrote
a note congratulating LaMott on his 80th birthday.
LaMott, who had long been
associated with the Elsie bank, resigned from its Board of
Directors, and the Board
accepted his resignation by letter dated 1-26-1928.
Superb evidence of the
foundation of the Bates fortunes is found in the "Inventory
of L.G. Bates" found in the Bentley Library papers, showing
considerable value in Notes, Contracts, Mortgages, Stocks, Bonds
and Real Estate -- $120,000, and that in 1931, during the Great
Depression. That would be over $1.7 million today.
Several letters refer to
LaMott's failing memory, which from
the letters seems to have been worse even than my grandfather's (which
we cousins remember) and much worse than Mother's, which was relatively
benign. (Dementia to one degree or another seems to be a family
occupational hazard -- a function of living long.) Here's a typical passage, in a letter from Bion Bates to
Mother dated 3-7-1934:
"If you get time,
... drop a souvenir card to Grandpa Bates [LaMott
George Bates]. He enjoys a card so much as he is so lonesome. He
can't forget, regardless of his ever-failing memory, the "good
wife and mother" he lived with 60 years. He sheds many tears
each day and we are all so sorry for him. I'm not telling mom
but I'm hoping to take him with me and drive down [to Florida]
for them when the time [comes]. It's foolish, but the cottage
must be closed and it will do father good and I can drive it in
LaMott and Amanda
celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on May 28, 1933.
His daughter-in-law Wilma (Jackson) Bates, my grandmother,
described the day in a letter to Mother:
"Now the Day is
Over" and a very lovely occasion it has been. Just wish
so much you two could have been here. If Minnie Coon had
known Barb could have come to Farmington last night &
driven home with her. Then we could have sent her to
Lansing this P.M. You two were the only grandchildren
absent. Forty-five of us sat down at the tables in the
church basement. Good dinner but not as nice as Ovid
ladies could have put on! Then papa took our pictures in
group & grandma & grandpa alone, on the lawn & we went
inside the house where the younger ones gave a little
program. Rich & Jack did themselves proud. The poem I
wrote & you recited [in 1923] was again a big Hit. R.
gave it very clearly & loud. Aunt Alice gave a history
of the wedding as she remembered it, a girl of 15. We
had the carefully preserved articles of clothing to
examine as we did ten years ago.
Grandma had on a new blue &
white tiny-checked silk dress that gave the effect of a warm
gray with organdie at the neck & looked so sweet. They bought it
at Knapp's last week. Barbara Deuel gave her a beautiful corsage
to wear of Talisman roses & swansonia. Wasn't that a lovely
gesture? The outsiders all left about 5 & just the sons & wives,
Deloss & Bessie & B. Deuel were left to visit & visit until
8:30. Had such a nice time & everyone is happy.
Photo is here.
Relatives from Durand,
Ovid, Grand Rapids, Flint and Elsie gathered at the home of
Mr. LaMott Bates on Thursday evening to help him celebrated
his ninety-first birthday anniversary. The guests were
served a birthday dinner at the Baptist Church and retired
to the Bates home for a social evening. Mr. Bates is
one of Elsie's pioneers and has been active all his life in
business, lodge and social work until his illness in recent
Mother, Emily (Bates)
wrote her father in 1939 upon her grandfather Bates's
death. Her father, Bion Bates, and his wife, Wilma,
had been visiting Emily in New York City, but news of
LaMott's turn for the worse cut short the visit, although
Bion and Wilma were unable to reach Elsie in time.
Bion replied on
9-30-1939 with an account of the sudden departure from NYC,
and arrangements. Followed by a second letter.
Mom and Unk. Clare and Aunt Lyda reached Ovid at about 8 p.m. —
all three pretty well tired out. Mom had eaten scarcely anything
since leaving N.Y., having one of her usual 3 day sicknesses.
I think their trip was uneventful except for the almost tornado
which they ran into in western Canada. Telephone poles were
across the road for a ways.
Of course, you have heard from mom's card from Niagra that
Grandpa was gone. I reached home at 4 and he died at 12:15 p.m.
Harold and Nora, Ruth and Gerter Marten [Gertie Martyn] were there. His
passing was very quiet, they said.
We made the arrangements at once. Funeral at 2:30 at the church,
Sunday. Leslie Peters & partner are the undertakers. Burial at
Mausoleum beside Grandma Bates and Clyde.
Barbara, Russ, Richard and Jack will be with us tomorrow, Jack
acting as bearer with LaMott, Deloss and the three sons. What a
shame that you could not have come home in the car.
Well, Grandpa is no more and ours is the older generation. Of
course, Grandma Jackson, Aunt Dede, Aunt Alice and Unk. Alvah
still represent a still older order than ours, but directly,
"Pop" is at the head of the procession now, in his own family.
If I could only know as much as I have always thought my
Grandfather and father knew when holding this position. One
thing very few today can claim the wonderful experiences which
they had. Our history is simply 'He was born ___ lived ___ and
died.' Chapters could be written about father Bates — it's hard
to make the obituary short."
Bion's letter was addressed to Mother's former NYC address,
so was not delivered until he sent it with a second letter dated
10-3, with a note on the returned envelope: "Dear Emily: What a
shame. No wonder you thought you were abused":
Received your fine letter of sympathy this noon and am
acknowledging it at once. It was beautifully composed and I have
to think that you came by your talent to write such letters
honestly from your mother.
I had supposed that after my spell in the hotel when mom said
there was no hope for Grandpa, I was through, but I confess I
could scarcely finish your letter for tears and when I took it
home, I wouldn't let mom read it aloud. It was a fine tribute to
a fine man from a fine child.
It is well to think of him as he was 10 years ago. I'm glad
that you can do it, and strangely enough, he looked in death
more as he did 10 years ago. We all spoke of it. Mom will write
particulars as she always does.
Last night, I went over and settled with Mrs. Munson who has
taken care of father, turned out the lights, locked the door and
drove away. I hadn't sensed it before that for the first time in
55 years, I had no home in Elsie. Time brings about many
As I am to administer father's estate, I will probably be a
busy man. But not too busy to always be thankful for having been
given such a wonderful family.
Wilma Bates wrote
an obituary; the "X"s may
indicate portions not used in the newspaper.
Many years later,
Owosso's The Argus-Press published
an appreciation on 7-2-1976.