The Bates Tavern, named for innkeeper Salmon Bates (1774-1858), was in Northern Oneida County, just south of Ava Corners, then part of the Town of Boonville.
Bates was born in Connecticut and had made his way there with his wife Annie Campbell and their young children, by way of New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, around 1805. They soon opened a tavern in their house; a place to rest the horses and quench the thirst.
The War of 1812 brought additional business as military columns moved past with troops and supplies headed north toward Sackets Harbor. After the war, trade and traffic continued to grow with the completion of the Erie Canal. In 1823, the Canal Turnpike Company applied to the state legislature to alter the present route of their road to the Bates tavern.
Salmon and Annie had several children before she died (ca. 1810) and Salmon remarried to Margaret Crego Terry (1788-1868). Salmon and Margaret had six more children. A humorous article in a local paper provides details of domestic life at the tavern:
To the editor of the Northern Journal:
Please give the following instance of Female dexterity an insertion in your paper:
Female Dexterity – A young lady by the name of Emeline Bates, daughter of Salmon Bates, innkeeper in the town of Boonville, spun in one day (9th of Oct. inst.) six runs or one hundred twenty feet of woolen yarn from 7 o’clock in the morning till 8 in the evening of the same day with a drop spindle. On the same day, Caroline, another daughter of same Bates, taught school six hours and made a shirt for her father in a workmanlike manner.
We cheerfully comply with the request of our correspondent and if the dexterity does not prove a bait to the young ___ in that quarter they must be a stupid set of fellows and ought to go shirtless.
Salmon became a prosperous farmer. In 1836, he bought a large parcel (originally part of Oothoudt’s Patent) near the tavern from Ambrose Spencer, a land speculator, former Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, and future U.S. Congressman. By the 1850s, Bates had built a homestead of about 355 acres almost opposite the tavern. The Bates’ farm included 100 improved acres with an acre of potatoes and an orchard capable of producing 300 bushels of apples. The farm also had substantial livestock for the time, including two horses, a team of oxen, a dozen milk cows, 57 sheep, and nine hogs.
Salmon Bates died on September 21, 1858 and was buried in West Branch Cemetery about a half mile south of the tavern. His stone stands next to that of his son who had died the year before.
Following Salmon’s death, the tavern and farm began a long decline. The Civil War caused several of family to leave the farm. Daughter Mary served as a nurse at a hospital in Washington, DC, as early as December 1861. Son Thomas joined the war effort early and was named a captain in the Union Army. In 1864, he requested leave to attend to family matters:
March 25, 1864
HdQrs Batty A 1st NY Arty
Major Jno S. Schultze
I would respectfully request a leave of absence for (30) thirty days for the following reasons: I have lost my father and he has left a farm of 300 acres of land with a large stock of horses, cattle, sheep, etc, etc, and there is no one to take care of it but my mother who is seventy six years of age. I am by his will, the executor of the estate, and I desire to go home, sell off the stocks, settle the debts, rent the farm, and provide a place for my mother to live.
The case is of such urgent necessity that unless I can have a little time to settle my father’s estate, I shall feel it a duty I owe my mother to leave the service, which I should very much regret to do. It is the time of year to dispose of stock and to rent farms, and I trust this application will be acted upon without delay….
I am, Major, very respectfully
Your Obdt Servant
Thos H. Bates (signature)
Capt. Co. A 1st NY Arty.
In 1865, Margaret Bates remarried a much younger man, John Woodcock, but Woodcock did not remain in the picture long. She died at the Bates homestead in Ava in 1868 at age 81. Her obituary described her as “Mrs. Salmon Bates” and as an “energetic, kind-hearted and benevolent woman.” The farm and tavern then passed to her children, but the following year, the Bates Tavern suffered a sad end:
Rome May 24 
About a week ago the “Bates place” in Ava was burned to the ground. The fire occurred in the night and it is said to be the work of an
incendiary. The dwelling was situated on the road from West Branch to Ava Corners and will be well remembered by all familiar with the early settlers of that town. There was no insurance upon the buildings destroyed.
Another son, Stephen L. Bates, lived at the Bates homestead with his family until his death in 1874. Management of the farm then passed to his brother Thomas, with the help of several farm laborers. Eventually, the farm was mortgaged to Amaziah D. Barber of Utica, foreclosed on, and title was transferred to Barber in 1877.
Bates Tavern was located on the west side of the Route 26, just south of Tuffy Road.
Photos, from above: Salmon Bates Gravestone, West Branch Cemetery; Caroline Bates Gravestone, West Branch Cemetery; Site of Bates Tavern (courtesy Roy Crego); 1852 Map of Ava, Newell S. Brown, Philadelphia, accessed at Oneida Co. Clerk’s office, Utica.