|Death: ||Jun. 27, 1879|
Francis Marion Bates was born about 1835 or 1836, in Boston, though one source shows his birthplace as New Orleans, and another indicates he was "a Marylander." His age, at the time of his death, is also shown as 40 years of age, but there is no doubt that his actual year of birth was almost certainly about 1835, especially since the source of this information was from his own wife. He was the son of John Bates, a coach proprietor, and his wife Hannah, both parents being named especially in his death certificate. Prior to taking to the stage, about the age of eighteen, Frank had taken employment with the Revenue Department of the Public Service, but a stage manager, Mr. W.H. Fleming, had noticed his acting qualities, and gave the young man a chance to begin his stage career from the bottom rung. Young Bates continued his slow rise on stage, mainly in the west, but, a couple of years prior to the breaking out of the Civil War, he began performing in Philadelphia. The commencement of the war found him in the city of Norfolk, Virginia, where he is indicated to have enlisted in the Confederate Army, and evidence exists to show that he was almost certainly a member of company E, 3rd Georgia Infantry, and most definitely not a member of any Alabama unit during the war. As a matter of fact, his obituary clearly states that he participated in the Seven Days campaign, and the history of the 3rd Georgia Infantry shows that this unit was involved in that campaign and other battles around Richmond, whereas the Alabama units, to which he has been incorrectly aligned with, were never in Virginia during the war. Francis M. Bates, who served in company E of the 3rd Georgia was discharged on August 15, 1862, and subsequently returned to the stage, with the Richmond Daily Dispatch showing him performing on stage as early as October 13, 1862, when he performed as "Lord Fitz Arnold" in the play "Metamora, the Last of the Wampanoag." Various newspapers of the Civil War years, from cities such as Richmond, Virginia and Augusta, Georgia, show him, as well as Eliza Wren, performing mainly in the eastern states during the war years. In November, 1863, Francis Marion Bates was united in marriage with Virginia born Eliza Wren, at Wilmington, North Carolina, and the duo continued their acting careers right through the end of the war. Eliza herself was a member of a well known family of actors and theatrical performers, with other members of the Wren family often named in newspaper columns showing performances of the day. After the war the couple performed through various states, including Texas and New York, and later in California, where Francis took lease of the Metropolitan Theatre in San Francisco. Their first child, Blanche, who was later to become an actress herself, was born some years prior to their sailing to Australia in mid-1873. The family arrived in Melbourne, from San Francisco, aboard the 394 ton barque, the Cesarewitch, commanded by Alexander McFarlane, on July 22, 1873. Accompanying them was a sister of Mrs Bates, Alice Wren, also an actress, who was also to perform on the stage in Australia. The Bates' performed throughout Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, as well as making appearances in New Zealand. They even commissioned a tale of the American Civil War, titled Check and Counter Check, perhaps as a reminder of Frank's brief service during the war. It was during their residency in this region that their second daughter, Eleanor, was born, about 1876. There is an indication, in Frank's death certificate, that they had had a third child, who was deceased at the time of his death, though no details are currently known of this third child. Most of their residency was in Sydney, where they were shown, in 1879, at the time of his death later in Melbourne, as having a residence at 553 Bourke Street, in Sydney. However, Francis Bates had also been lessee and manager of the Queensland Theatre, in Brisbane in late 1877. This same theatre had been leased the year before, by another Civil War veteran residing in Australia, William True Bennett. Sometime in late June of 1879, Frank left Sydney to perform on the stage in Melbourne. However, on the morning of June 27th, his body was found in a gully on Flemington Road, Melbourne, close to the junction with Grattan Street. He had been robbed of the jewellery which he was fond of wearing, but an inquest in early July concluded that his death had come about through a possible fall from an embankment, as there were no signs of a struggle, or of his having been attacked. This despite the fact that several witnesses had indicated that, the evening prior to his body being found, he had been followed by a stranger, and was advised of this fact, but failed to heed the warnings. A man had been arrested on suspicion, but was charged with vagrancy and nothing else. The final decision, in the inquest, gave the cause of death as disease of the heart and lungs, accelerated probably by a fall. He was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery on July 2, 1879, and his funeral attended by a large throng.
Melbourne General Cemetery
Plot: Church of England, Section W, Grave #569
Created by: Terry Foenander
Record added: Jun 03, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 27306626