Benjamin Edward Bates (1808–1878) was a New England industrialist and philanthropist, who was the namesake and a founder of Bates College and the Bates Mill in Lewiston, Maine.
Benjamin Bates was born in Mansfield, Massachusetts in 1808 to Sarah and Elkanah Bates, a Yankee farmer, cotton manufacturer and merchant. He attended local schools and the academy in Wrentham from 1823 to 1825. After moving to Boston, Massachusetts in 1829, Bates entered the dry goods business with Barnabas T. Loring on Washington Street. At age 24, he made a public profession of Christian faith, and he was a lifelong Congregationalist and temperance supporter. Bates taught Sunday school at several churches in Boston including Park Street Church and was later an active member of Central Congregational Church in Boston. He was largely responsible for constructing the current church building, formerly the tallest building in Boston.
Bates co-founded the firm of Davis, Bates & Turner (later Bates & Turner), which existed from 1833 until 1847. After the dissolution of the firm in 1847, Bates served as president and on the board of several corporations, including several railroads, First National Bank of Commerce in Boston and the Lewiston Water Power Company in Lewiston, Maine, which built the first canal in the city. Bates was also the largest investor in the Bates Mill in Lewiston, which opened in 1854 and produced textiles into the 21st century.
Correctly anticipating that the increasing talk of secession in the Southern states might eventually lead to a shortage of cotton, Bates bought cotton prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. During the War, Bates was able to produce uniforms for the Union Army as well as other textiles.
Bates was the largest of the early donors to Bates College. He first made substantial donations to the school when it was known at the Maine State Seminary through the Lewiston Power Company. In 1862 he personally pledged $6,000 to the school. Then in 1863 the Seminary's president and founder, Oren B. Cheney renamed the College after Mr. Bates without his knowledge. Bates' donations to the College totalled over $100,000 and he pledged another $100,000 to be paid after his death, but due to the economic recession in the 1870s, his estate was substantially lessened. After his death in 1878, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts eventually ruled that Bates' heirs did not have to pay Bates College the pledged $100,000. This left the College financially burdened for several years. Benjamin Bates was buried at the Mount Auburn Cemetery on Fir Avenue. Bates College still exists today and is commonly known as one of the "Little Ivies."
- Bates College
- Bates Mill
- List of Bates College people
- Lewiston, Maine
- Oren Cheney, "Eulogy on the Life of Benjamin Edward Bates," Bates Student, June, 1878, 131-149, (Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library, Bates College) (part 2).
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