Vermont’s oldest known black sheriff, commemorated in chief | Vermont News

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VERGENNES, Vermont (AP) – Vermont’s first known black sheriff and police chief is commemorated with a historical marker.

The marker for Stephen Bates, who served as sheriff and police chief from 1879 until his death in 1907, was unveiled in Vergennes on Sunday at an event attended by at least 100 people, WCAX-TV reported.

“The life and service of Stephen Bates represents immense perseverance to overcome slavery to become a distinguished member of the Vermont community and to devote his life to serving the people of Vergennes,” Governor Phil Scott said in a proclamation from the October 3, 2021, Sheriff Stephen Bates Day in Vermont.

Bates was born in 1842, enslaved in Virginia, and gained his freedom serving with Union soldiers during the Civil War, according to the governor’s proclamation.

A team of community members and historians have been researching Bates’ life for the past year.

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“People started to join us from historic areas,” said Alicia Grangent of the Historical Marker team. “The conversations about who to contact started to happen, and people just naturally started turning to this process. “

Team members found and chatted with some of Bates’ descendants. Larry Schuyler and his brother Nicholas from Worcester, Massachusetts attended Sunday’s event in Vergennes.

“It’s very hard not to hide my emotions when this community has come together in honor of my great-grandfather,” said Larry Schuyler. “Especially in today’s divisive society, for that to happen, at a time like this, it’s a little hard not to get emotional.”

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