The Stephen Bates Collection

The Stephen Bates Collection

Stephen Bates Historic Marker, Vergennes, VT

Beginning October 5, 2021, visitors to the Bixby Library can view the new Stephen Bates exhibit in the Community Room. This exhibit details the life of Stephen Bates, Vermont’s earliest known Black Sheriff and Chief of Police. Bates was a well-respected resident of Vergennes who was very involved in the community.

In 2019-20, Sheriff Bates’ great-grandsons, Larry Schuyler and Nick Schuyler of Massachusetts teamed up with a group of historians and community members to research Sheriff Bates’ story and create a permanent roadside
historic marker in Vergennes. Through these collective efforts, a historic marker commemorating Sheriff Bates was unveiled on October 3, 2021, at Vergennes City Park. The footage of the historic marker dedication can be viewed on Media Factory’s website here.

The short documentary, The Life of Stephen Bates, by Vergennes filmmaker, Chris Spencer, captures key moments from the dedication and unveiling of the historic marker for Sheriff Stephen Bates, the first known Black sheriff of Vermont. It includes interviews with two great-grandsons as well as other historic marker team members directly involved in the research and planning of the event, which occurred in Vergennes on October 3, 2021. Stephen Bates was sheriff of Vergennes for 25 years, during the period from 1879 to 1907.

We encourage everyone who is interested to watch the documentary to learn more about the history of this remarkable man who was elected Sheriff fourteen years after the end of the Civil War, and who continued to be elected for 25 years, all the while serving the predominantly white citizenry of Vergennes.

Stephen Bates: From Slave to Sheriff (Online Panel Presentation) – Saturday, February 26, 2022, 1-2:30 pm