David S. Bates

Builder of Locks

Superintended work on Middle Division of Erie Canal

One of the first engineers

Began Work For State Under Benjamin Wright in 1817 and Served Continuously Until 1884
Built Aqueduct Over Genesee at Rochester [and] the Locks at Lockport.

(From: Memorial of Centennial Celebration of the Turning of the First Shovelful of Earth in the Construction of the Erie Canal, held at Rome, N.Y. July 4th, 1917. (Rome, NY, 1917)

David Stanhope Bates, Assistant Engineer on the Erie Canal to Benjamin Wright.

Prominent among the distinguished pioneer engineers of America stands honored and admired the name of David Stanhope Bates, who first won a reputation for his professional skill, untiring energy, indomitable perseverance, sound judgment and exemplary industry, as the principal engineer of one of the important divisions of the Erie Canal.

David Stanhope Bates was born at the homestead farm, midway between Morristown and Parsippany, on the 10th of June 1777. In the autumn of 1810 Bates accepted an offer from George Scriba, a wealthy land proprietor from Scotland, to survey and sell a large tract of land in Oneida county, New York. He accordingly removed with his family to a little settlement, now known as Constantia on the Oneida Lake.

In the summer of this year, Governor DeWitt Clinton "and his associates, the first canal commissioners, examined the valley of the Mohawk and the western part of the state of New York, for the purpose of learning the practicability of constructing a canal from the Hudson to the Lakes."

Judge Bates continued his various avocations at Rotterdam until the spring of 1817, when he applied to Judge Benjamin Wright, whom he had long assisted in surveys, for employment, and received from him the appointment of assistant engineer on the middle division of the Erie Canal.

Judge Bates continued in the employ of the state as division engineer, under Benjamin Wright, from 1817 to 1824 mainly in charge of the construction of the important work across the Irondequoit Valley, the aqueduct over the Genesee River at Rochester, and the combined locks at Lockport.

At this period American engineering was yet in its infancy. The now flourishing states were then continued forests, broken only occasionally, with rising settlements; and the canals, that were essential to their growth and to the progress of the improvement of the country, traversed sections of swampy and malarious districts. To this poisonous atmosphere the engineers were exposed, remote from home and domestic comforts. A great work was before them, the success of which depended upon their skill and rigid economy. Those were indeed years of wearisome labor to the self-denying pioneer engineers, who patiently and perseveringly gathered the knowledge and experience from which many of the profession have since won an easier way to distinction and wealth.

Personally, Judge Bates was of fine stature, with a commanding figure. His countenance was agreeable rather than handsome, hearing the type of great benevolence. His eyes were black, with a lively but gentle expression. His manner was at all times polished and refined, both in domestic and public circles. In conversation he was cheerful, witty, and often brilliant. He was endowed with a retentive memory, and possessed a happy talent in imparting to others the wealth of his vigorous mind, and became the cherished companion of the intellectual men of the day in the different states in which his professional duties called him.

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