Bernard A. Drew: Land deals of Bates and Elder Pick

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Civil engineer Linden W. Bates Sr. (1858-1924) was head of Bates Engineering & Construction, whose projects included construction of the Panama Canal. He and his wife, Josephine White Bates (1859-1934), lived in Manhattan but summered with their sons Linden Jr. (1883-1915) and Lindell T. (1894-1937) on Lebanon Mountain west of Hancock Shaker Village.

My friend Jim Dodge of Worthington shared information about Bates. His great-grandfather James C. Dodge built a cottage for the Bateses in 1923 and both Jim's grandfather Oscar and father Harold were caretakers for the property. Harold Dodge at the Bates family's request retrieved family papers, photos and books after the place was vandalized. Jim held onto a large box of Bates papers and they tell several fascinating stories, including exchanges with Elder Ernest Pick of the New Lebanon Second Family Shakers, which owned considerable land.

The senior Bates wrote Elder Pick on Dec. 20, 1913: "Mrs. Bates and I have arrived back in New York after our trip abroad, and I have been trying to make time to come up and visit the farm but haven't yet found an opportunity to do so...

"It occurs to me that you might care to exchange for the remainder of the sheep-pasture a block of $2,500.00 of the General Petroleum Company of California Six per Cent Gold Bonds. Kindly let me know your disposition in the matter.

European link

One might at first glance think it a bit braggish, Bates describing his trip to Europe. However, Pick (1859-1940) was literally a Bohemian, born in that country and completing four years of college. He joined the North Family at Mount Lebanon in 1886, and after 1903 became elder at Second Family, which was largely engaged in agriculture, soon to add chairmaking. Pick was dismissed from the ministry in 1909 in a scandal (Eldress Catherine Allen claimed she saw him holding the hand of Sister Lillian Barlow), but after a brief exile during which he visited relatives in Bohemia, he came back to Second Family in 1910.

Pick wrote Bates on Dec. 23, 1913, to say Shaker officials would have to make a decision about the sheep pasture. He then put in a good word for George Haskell, Bates' caretaker, who was getting restless. "You probably learned about his inclination to leave your place. Acting in your interest, and for that matter in his and all concerned, I would like to inform you that he is practically satisfied with all things. His sense of responsibility, however, is somewhat exaggerated and makes him restless. Thinking it might be somewhat difficult to find a caretaker of equal loyalty and honesty to your place and interest in general, I take the liberty to suggest that a few words from you, which would ease his mind in that respect, would be sufficient to settle him comfortably and save you the inconvenience of finding and establishing a new party, who might not do as well."

Bates responded Dec. 26, 1913, in part: "I will take pains to make George as easy in his mind as possible, for I have great appreciation of his devotion."

In a letter of April 17, 1916, Bates reported to Pick that he had taken chain and rod to the field and measured a rectangle of land 3 and 6/10 acres that he hope to purchase from the Shakers for $90. "We have yet to set the monuments mentioned in the Pasture deed which stipulates a monument to be marked 12A on the road two rods north of the Pasture Brook bridge and opposite the Butternut tree. Now we have to place monument 12B at the corner just north of where the wood road easterly across your cornfield enters the wood-land and 12C at the big tree "

Bates added, "I am sending you a Memorial volume," in reference to a hardcover book issued in tribute to Bates' oldest son, who died on the Lusitania in 1915.

Pick wrote April 19, 1916, to say the price for the pasture "is entirely satisfactory and on receipt of a check for $90.00 will complete the transaction . If the Second Family could be of service to you outside of business matters our pleasure would be as great as our good-will."

Fountain survives

There's a letter from James C. Dodge & Son of Pittsfield, agreeing to build a the cottage mentioned earlier, the Sea Gull model from the Artcraft Homes catalogue, "at the rear of your Bungalow at Lebanon Summit for the sum of Five Hundred Seventy (570.00) dollars. Cartage of material from State road to Job to be extra."

That cottage was constructed not far from a marble fountain on the Bates property. The Bateses eventually lost interest in the country manor. The land in Hancock is part of Pittsfield State Forest today. After the Bates house burned, Oscar Dodge moved the fountain to 600 Holmes Road in Pittsfield.

The Second Family disbanded in 1934. Pick took another trip to Bohemia (by then part of Czechoslovakia) and to Palestine (he had Jewish roots) before returning to Pittsfield. Pick, too, was generous in his death, leaving $500 to the Berkshire Museum and $8,000 to Geulath Ha-aretz of the Jewish National Fund.

Bernard A. Drew is a regular Eagle contributor.


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