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CPT William Wallace Bates

CPT William Wallace Bates

Hants County, Nova Scotia, Canada
Death 26 Dec 1911 (aged 84)
Denver, Denver County, Colorado, USA
Burial Hancock, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA
Memorial ID 83758149 · View Source
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William Wallace Bates is credited with establishing it as the definitive shipbuilding center on the Great Lakes at Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

Once United States Commissioner of Navigation, William Wallace Bates, President of the Shipping Society of America (appointed by President Harrison)

Stephen Bates, and Elizabeth Wallace, parents of Capt. William W. Bates, were from Shubenacadie, Rawdon, Nova Scotia. Stephen Bates moved the family later to New Brunswick, on the 30th of October 1833 when Stephen Bates sold his Shubenacadie, Hants Co., Nova Scotia land to John Withrow, and moved to New Brunswick. [-Leonard Praught's notes]. It was here Stephen taught William to be an accomplished established master shipwright.

William's mother, Elizabeth Wallace, was born at Shubenacadie, Rawdon, Nova Scotia. It is thought that William Wallace Bates was also born in Nova Scotia. When he was still a small boy, the family moved across the border from New Brunswick to Calais, Maine. The elder Bates and William Wallace Bates established themselves as a ship-builders in Robbinston, near Calais.

"Robbinston is a town near Calais and Eastport, Maine, situated at the mouth of the St. Croix River where it empties into Passamaquoddy Bay, across from the resort town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada. During the 19th century, Robbinston was a shipbuilding center. William Wallace Bates and his father Stephen built ships there or near there before leaving for Wisconsin around the 1850s, where their Maine and Maritime designs revolutionized shipbuilding techniques on the Great Lakes."
[source: "" ]

William Wallace Bates was educated in Calais, Maine, but learned ship-building in various towns of Washington County, in nearly all of which along the coast building was an ancient and profitable industry. In 1845, at the age of eighteen, he went west to Detroit, but spent the winter of 1845 in Huron and Sandusky. Returning to Maine, he modelled and helped his father build several vessels, in the mean-time devoting all his leisure to the study of naval architecture.

Driven by depressed economic conditions, he made a number of trips on behalf of his family to scope out the potential for establishing a shipyard with more economic promise. First in 1845 to Detroit, then in 1848 to New Orleans where he spent the winter of 1849 rebuilding a steamer. By 1849 he traveled to Manitowoc, Wisconsin where he settled and built a number of now well known vessels. The 'Challenge', the first clipper on the Lakes, an the 'Mary Stockton', ..." the fastest sailer of her time."

By 1851 his father and his brothers followed him to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Where Bates and his father, Stephan Bates, established two shipbuilding yards at Manitowoc between 1851 and 1861.

"From the character of Captain Bates's vessels, Manitowoc was dubbed the "Clipper City." Meantime he continued his study of naval architecture, and made some original experiments upon buovancy and resistance, especially analyzing the forms of fast-swimming fishes, and studying the formulas derived from their shapes. He often sailed on his own and other vessels. Nearly every one he built tested one or more scientific points. He wrote many articles for the press, and soon became known as a critic and authority on vessel matters. "

An extremely active person, in 1851, he reported the section of naval architecture and ship-building, of the World's Fair, in New York, for a Chicago paper.

William Wallace Bates married Marie Cole in 1851 in Saratoga, New York, USA

In 1852, he began letter-writing to public men, by addressing Senator Douglass, of Illinois, on reforming our tonnage admeasurement rules and improving the methods of vessels of all kinds.

From 1854 to about 1857, he collaborated with John W. Griffiths, of New York on the publication "The Nautical Magazine an Naval Journal', living in New York. The magazine was suspended as a result of the financial hardship of the times.

By 1857, the economic conditions for building ships was also again quite depressed and the Bates family began to look for buyers for their yard. Although they had established their reputation solidly by 1860, by 1864, they sold their yard to Greenleaf S. Rand and moved to Chicago.

"One of the most diligent and untiring of students in the intricate problems connected with shipping, Captain Bates soon became well known as a writer on shipping subjects and an authority on ship-building. Different papers and magazines of the time printed his contributions, sometimes as editorials. He designed and modelled many vessels, among others a steam sloop-of-war, for a Boston builder, a bidder for the U.S. S. " Brooklyn." He also designed a fleet for the government of Chili. He returned to Wisconsin, and was building steamers for the "Goodrich Line," when the war broke out. Finishing them, and obtaining a commission, Captain Bates joined the Fifty-sixth Illinois Volunteers with Company A,' many of the members being shipwrights of his employ. This regiment, raised for "extra duty," with companies from several States, was mustered out, and Captain Bates raised Company K, for the Nineteenth Wisconsin Volunteers. This regiment was thirteen months on guard duty at Norfolk. From the effects of fever, Captain Bates was obliged to resign. Then, with returning health, he went back to his old field of ship-building, and moving to Chicago in 1864, leased a dry-dock, and for many years carried on the building and repairing of all classes of Lake vessels."

William Wallace Bates and his wife, Marie Cole and family relocated to Chicago where William again established himself in the shipbuilding and shipyard businesses.

The Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the dry dock business along with all his savings. He rebuilt the dry-dock and continued his business but was unable to make up for his losses.

Bates subsequently established himself in Chicago as a national authority on the merchant marine 'world'. He was successful as a naval architect - ship builder - businessman. He was acknowledged as a national expert on shipbuilding and on shipping on the Great Lakes.

In 1881 he was invited to visit the West Coast. In Oregon he undertook the building of a dry-dock at Portland, which at that time, was large enough to accommodate the largest steamers that were working on the West Coast. In San Francisco, he studied the performances of wooden and iron ships that were used for the grain trade to Europe with the goal of discovering which hull shapes were most likely to be safe, fast and efficient.

In 1884, Bates spent some time working in New York with William H. Webb, a well-known shipbuilder on their common interests. He took part in the formation of the Shipping League (Merchant Shipping). He then was employed as chief inspector and manager (Buffalo) of the "Inland Lloyds Register", (marine insurance underwriters)

He was appointed United States Commissioner of Navigation from 1889 to 1892) by the U.S. Govt.

Their children were Lindon Wallace Bates and Mary Elizabeth Bates, both of whom were equally people of outstanding skill. Lindon went on to be a distinguished engineer and Mary Elizabeth a medical doctor.

He spent his last ten years sharing a home with his daughter Dr. Mary Elizabeth who lived and worked in Denver, Colorado.

William Wallace Bates died at his daughter's home and the funeral was arranged by the George Washington Post #83, of the G.A.R. Until recently it was not known for certain whether or not his ashes were included in the family plot in Manitowoc.

Civil War Service:

Commissioned as a Captain - Company A, Illinois 56th Infantry Regiment on 28 Jan 1862. Mustered out on 05 Feb 1862. (Fifty-sixth Illinois Volunteers with Company A,' many of the members being shipwrights of his employ.).

"This regiment, raised for 'extra duty,' with companies from several States, was mustered out, and Captain Bates raised Company K, for the Nineteenth Wisconsin Volunteers."

- Company K, Wisconsin 19th Infantry Regiment on 03 Mar 1862.Mustered out on 29 Sep 1862. Resigned 09/29/62 disability.

Wisconsin Roster. [p. 23, Wisconsin Adjutant General's Office - Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Vol II];

Official Army Register of the Volunteer Force 1861-1865;
Report of the International Maritime Exhibition, Boston 1889-90, edited by John W. Hickman, Rockwell and Churchill, 1890, pp.54-59

There is some on-line suggestion that he shared his brother, G. A. Bates', grave location. According to this, he was buried in the family plot at Evergreen Cemetery, "Manitowoc Co., Wisconsin, USA. Plot: Lot #3 block #19 section E1/2. No military headstone, family stone only. --
[source for this - search on BATES, WILLIAM W.]

However, at sometime after the funeral in Denver his ashes were moved to Massachusetts to be with his son's family.

Stephen Bates (1804 - )
Elizabeth WALLACE (1808–1852)

Rachel M. Bates
William Wallace Bates (1827–1911)
Benjamin Bates (1827– )
Mary Ann Bates (1828– )
John W Bates (1829– )

Step-mother: Mary Esther Bates (1821 – )

George A. Bates (1845– )
James Stephen Bates (1847– )
Robert H. Bates (1850– )
Thomas W. Bates
Charles A. Bates (1853– )
Emma R Bates (1857– )
Willard C. Bates (1859– )

Marie Cole (1826–1898)

William Fremont Bates (1852–1855)
Lindon Wallace Bates (1858–1924)
Mary Elizabeth Bates Dr. (1861– )

Family Members

Gravesite Details Ashes - Cremated at Riverside Cemetery in Denver, Colorado - The funeral arranged by the George Washinton Post #83, of the G.A.R. Moved to Mass.




  • Created by: Jean Colson
  • Added: 20 Jan 2012
  • Find A Grave Memorial 83758149
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for CPT William Wallace Bates (15 Feb 1827–26 Dec 1911), Find A Grave Memorial no. 83758149, citing Bates Family Cemetery, Hancock, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA ; Maintained by Jean Colson (contributor 47187337) .