Walter Bates


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(1760–1842). Born in Stamford, Connecticut, he immigrated to Saint John, New Brunswick, as a Loyalist with the Spring Fleet of 1783, settling at Kingston in King's County, where he was sheriff for many years. He wrote The mysterious stranger (New Haven, 1817), a popular account of ‘Henry Moon’ (Henry More Smith), a notorious horse thief who was incarcerated in Bates' prison for a time before being pardoned and then went to the United States, where he continued his criminal activities. It was also published in England under the title Companion for Caraboo: a narrative of the conduct and adventures of Henry Frederic Moon, alias Henry Frederic More Smith, alias William Newman … now under sentence of imprisonment, in Connecticut … containing an account of his unparalleled artifices, impostures, mechanical ingenuity, &c. &c. displayed during and subsequently to his confinement in one of His Majesty's gaols in the province of New Brunswick … with an introductory description of New Brunswick; and a postscript, containing some account of Caraboo, the late female imposter, at Bristol (London, 1817)—covering the ‘dreadful doings’ of Smith since the appearance of the first edition. (Many other editions followed.) Bates describes, not without some admiration, the exploits of his ‘hero’, but explains that his book was written ‘to prevent future mischiefs’. Written in a quaint, unsophisticated style, The mysterious stranger is an intriguing oddity in early Canadian literature and provides an insight into the rough-and-ready conditions of prisons in the early nineteenth century. Bates also wrote a history of the church at Kingston, posthumously published by W.O. Raymond in Kingston and the Loyalists of the ‘Spring fleet’ of A.D. 1783, with reminiscences of early days in Connecticut: a narrative. By Walter Bates, Esq., sometime high sheriff of the county of King's. To which is appended a diary written by Sarah Frost on her voyage to St. John, N.B., with the Loyalists of 1783 (Saint John, 1889). In this work he provides an authentic picture of the Connecticut Loyalists, their sufferings at the hands of the American revolutionists, and their subsequent hardships when they were forced to confront the Canadian wilderness.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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