Another side to Benjamin Bates


In response to the article (March 15) extolling the virtues of the late Benjamin Bates, please consider the report of an interview with Capt. Albert H. Kelsey, published in the Lewiston Evening Journal of March 4, 1901.

Capt. Kelsey was the general manager of the Franklin Company from 1850 until some time in the late1870s, and was described by the Journal as “the builder of Lewiston.” At that time, the Franklin Company owned most of the land between the river and (what is now) Russell Street.

The Journal article describes how the owners of the Franklin Company (of which Mr. Bates was a leader) ordered Capt. Kelsey to offer, as a gift, a suitable lot of land for each Protestant denomination that was interested in building a church in Lewiston.

After the building that served as the first Catholic church in Lewiston was burned by an anti-Catholic mob in 1854, Capt. Kelsey approached the directors of the Franklin Company about giving a lot to the Catholics, where they could build a new church.

“President Nichols and Director Bates … declared that they would not vote for such a gift, and for their part would do everything they could to keep the Catholics from having a lot.”

Eventually, Capt. Kelsey managed to get the necessary signature on a deed and sold a lot of land on Main Street to the Catholic Church, without the knowledge of directors Nichols and Bates. On that lot St. Joseph’s Church was constructed.

Michael R. Poulin, Lewiston