Just up the hillside on Route 20 in Hancock lies this small plot, the final resting place of several members of the Bates family who owned the land on this side of Mount Lebanon a century ago.
At one time, plans were drawn for a 115 foot granite obelisk on this hill, a “Monument to Sacrifice” to honor the 1,960 victims of the sinking of the Lusitania, among them Lindon Wallace Bates, Jr.
Captain William Wallace Bates, who at 25 built “The Challenge” the first clipper ship on the Great Lakes. (A replica is on display at Discovery World)
Their daughter Mary was among the very first crop of accredited female doctors in the U.S., a prominent suffragette and crusader for human rights
In a corner lies Lindon Wallace Bates, Sr the engineer who raised the Galveston flood plain, enlarged the Suez Canal, fixed the port of Shanghai and changed the history of the western hemisphere with the Panama Canal
Lindon Jr was also an engineer who wrote several books on scientific and technical topics, but was best known as a gifted statesman and humanitarian. In the New York legislature, he forged support for a rigorous progressive platform that would influence the nation, getting legislation passed for Workmans Compensation, civil service merit systems, and various kinds of aid for widows, orphans and the unemployed.
Even in his 20s, some saw Lindon Jr. as a potential future President. Even one of his political adversaries said of him, “He wanted the right thing done, and he did not care whether he or someone else did it.”
He sought no plaques or credit; he genuinely appears to have believed in the concept of Noblesse Oblige (and this alone makes this stranger lore than any ghost or cryptid I’ve covered).
When the Great War broke out, Lindon Jr devoted all his time and efforts to refugee relief efforts in Europe. Against advice of family and friends, he set out personally on the Lusitania to aid relief efforts in Belgium. Like the thousands of other civilian passengers, he had no idea that U.S. and British governments had packed the ship with munitions, in order to bait a German attack so they could enter the war.
Presidents and poets wept at his funeral. One eulogist wrote,
“Thus it stands forever. The bravest are the tenderest; the loving are the daring. Lindon Wallace Bates. Son of America. Friend of the helpless and destitute. The life that he lived and the death that he died endure in the judgment of an unforgetting God.”
Lindell, younger son of Lindon Bates Sr, along with a few others successfully lobbied the government to expand the search for the Lusitania’s victims. He crossed a war zone and was briefly detained as a suspected German spy in order to retrieve his brother’s remains 230 miles from his death and bring them here to his beloved Mount Lebanon.
Designs for the “Monument to Sacrifice” called for a permanent light at the top of the obelisk that could be seen from Pittsfield to Albany. Plan were postponed until after the war, and then postponed again. Lindon Jr’s loss took a terrible toll on the Bates family, and its fortunes, which became increasingly over-invested in schemes for improving naval ship armor against torpedoes. A century later, all that remains is this small plot set within the 224 acres of former Bates land now belonging to the state park system.