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Below is a family biography included in History of Shawnee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens by James L. King, published by Richmond & Arnold, 1905.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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Walter L. Bates, a well-known, representative citizen of Topeka, who is known all over the State as the successful breeder of White Plymouth Rock and White Wyandotte poultry, has been a resident of this city since 1868. He was born at Alliance, Ohio, April 8, 1859, and is a son of George Pettibone and Oresta (Roberts) Bates.

The late George Pettibone Bates was a leading citizen of Shawnee County for a number of years. He was born January 10, 1825, in Southampton, Massachusetts, and was educated in the common schools. His father was a manufacturer of woolen goods in Massachusetts, and when the family subsequently migrated to Ohio, he was wont to say that the most conspicuous part of the wagon loaded with family goods was the great dye kettle used in the woolen factory.

The Bates family settled in Trumbull County, Ohio, and there George P. worked for a time at cabinet-making, but the mercantile spirit was strong within him and he gave up the trade and started out on the road with a wagon, selling Yankee notions through the rural districts. When he had accumulated enough capital, he opened a store at what was then known as Freedom, near Alliance, and later, when the first railroad, the old Pittsburg & Fort Wayne, was built through, he removed to Alliance. Here he was engaged in a mercantile business for the next 20 years. In 1868 he came to Topeka, with the intention of opening a store here, but at the outset was hampered on account of lack of store room. The bulk of the business houses were then located on Kansas avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets. Finally he obtained possession of a room on the west side of Kansas avenue, where he remained until he secured the building later occupied by Rogers Brothers, but after a season he moved back to the west side of the street and bought the property, which is now utilized by W. F. Weber as a grocery. Several years later, with Norris L. Gage, he erected a double building between Fifth street and Sixth avenue and moved his mercantile stock into it.

Mr. Bates had almost as much trouble when he came to Topeka in finding a suitable place of residence. He settled his family in the Gordon House, on Fourth street and Kansas avenue, where they remained until he finally secured the second floor of the residence of Guilford G. Gage, at No. 408 Van Buren street. He then bought a residence on Van Buren street, and a few years later purchased one on Topeka avenue and still later he erected a handsome residence on Topeka avenue, where he passed his declining years.

Mr. Bates continued in the mercantile business until his health failed and he was obliged to change his occupation. For some years he was associated with Henry Taylor in a loan business, which was transacted in a building on Kansas and Sixth avenues that they purchased of James M. Spencer. Later Mr. Bates bought Mr. Taylor’s interest and the property now belongs to the Bates estate. Although the years were beginning to weigh heavily on him physically, his faculties were vigorous and his judgment was as good as in youth. About this time he entered into a large land deal with an old Ohio friend, Bradford Miller. They had bought 40 acres east of the Santa Fe shops, and Mr. Miller platted the east one-half and Mr. Bates platted the west one-half. They retained this land for 20 years. In May, 1887, George P. Bates, C. W. Jewell, Noah C. McFarland and H. S. Fairfield, the last named of Alma, platted and laid out the town of McFarland, in Wabaunsee County, Kansas. Mr. Bates’ last business enterprise was the building of the structure which now stands on the corner of Sixth avenue and Jackson street, known as the Bates Block. During this period his health, already impaired, failed rapidly and one year later, on November 17, 1903, he passed away, at his home on Topeka avenue, aged 78 years.

The mother of our subject still survives. She was born December 26, 1826, and became the mother of three children, two of whom died in infancy. After the death of her husband, she removed to the home of her only son, our subject, and is a beloved and venerated member of the family. George P. Bates was a Master Mason, a member of Orient Lodge, No. 51, A. F. & A. M., to which his son also belongs. He was one of the leading members of the Congregational Church for years and was one of its deacons.

Walter L. Bates was educated in the public schools of Topeka, coming here with his parents when nine years of age. After completing his education, he engaged in mercantile pursuits until 1890, when he closed out his interests and entered into business with his father. Always a lover of flowers, he engaged in the florist business for some eight years and built several large greenhouses at Auburndale. This was very congenial as his tastes have always been in the direction of rural occupations, as may be seen in the great success which has attended his poultry business. With him this is a recreation, carried on with enthusiasm and ambition. In 1904 he erected a commodious home at No. 1832 Park avenue, one block from the car line, where he has five acres; a large part of the ground is given up as an ample range for his choice birds. Mr. Bates’ beautiful home, known as “Elmwold” is a very interesting place to visit, not only on account of the cordiality of its owner, but also because of the fine poultry shown here.

Mr. Bates has taken so much interest in the fascinating occupation of raising and displaying fancy poultry that there is little connected with it which has escaped his attention. Some four years since he constructed a brooder and has since, on several occasions, improved on it, and this he uses in his own yards and has put upon the market. These brooders possess every desirable quality to be expected in constructions of this kind; with one of these inventions, no poultry raiser is at the mercy of the old-fashioned, oft-times recalcitrant mother hen. Mrs. Bates is equally interested with her husband and has a distinct department of the business as her own.

On the 18th of April, 1883, Mr. Bates was married at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to May E. Merritt, who was born at St Louis, Missouri. They have four children: George Merritt, William Mortimer, Henry Pennock and Albert Jewell. The eldest son bears the name of both paternal and maternal grandparents. The second son also bears a family name, as does the third, while the youngest was named in honor of an old and beloved friend of the Bates family.

Prior to the death of his father, our subject had the main management of the latter’s business and at his decease, assumed the business responsibilities in full. Since 1888 he has been a notary public, but has not been active as a politician. The many business interests to which he succeeded and the management of his feathered pets at “Elmwold,” make up a busy life, one which brings adequate enjoyment.

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This family biography is one of 206 biographies included in History of Shawnee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens by James L. King, published by Richmond & Arnold, 1905.  For the complete description, click here: Shawnee County, Kansas History, Genealogy, and Maps

View additional Shawnee County, Kansas family biographies here: Shawnee County, Kansas

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