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Hartford Nelson Gates Biography


This biography appears on pages 296-299 in "History of Dakota Territory" by George W. Kingsbury, Vol. V (1915) 

Hartford Nelson Gates was well known as a representative of industrial activity in Sioux Falls, where he made his home for a quarter of a century. He had therefore been a witness of almost its entire growth and development and ever manifested a public-spirited interest in all that pertained to its welfare. His fellow townsmen, appreciative of this fact, several times called him to public office, so that his name is inseparably interwoven with the history of his city. He had just closed a service as one of the city officials when death called him and the efficiency of his work in behalf of Sioux Falls was recognized by all. 

Mr. Gates was born in Hemmingford, Canada, March 4, 1846, a son of Thomas C. and Mary Ann (Dawson) Gates. Like a number of the sterling citizens of this section off the country, he was of Scotch descent. His father was a native of Scotland, born in 1818. Leaving the land of hills and heather, he crossed the Atlantic to Canada about 1841 and his last days were spent in Village Creek, Iowa, where he passed away in 1880, after having devoted the greater part of his life to merchandising. His wife was a native of Ireland and they were married before leaving Great Britain. They had six sons and four daughters, of whom four sons and a daughter are yet living. 

Hartford N. Gates attended school at Havelock, Canada, to the age of thirteen years and then went to the Champlain (N. Y.) Academy, where he pursued his studies to the age of eighteen years. The succeeding three years were spent in Centerville, New York, and in 1866; when in the twenty-first year of his age, he went to Lansing, Iowa, where he engaged in the business of drilling wells, both artesian and farm wells. He was so engaged at that place until 1889, when he came to Sioux Falls, where he continued in the same line of business, meeting with excellent success in his undertakings because of the capability and fidelity which he displayed in executing his contracts. He also had other business interests, being president of the Sioux Falls Land Company, operating in Custer county, Montana. 

On Christmas Day of 1870, at Waukon, Iowa, Mr. Gates was married to Miss Susanna W. Aird, who was born in Albany, New York, a daughter of Ronald McDonald Aird. In her girlhood the family removed to Iowa, where the father died, but the mother afterward came to South Dakota, passing away in Sioux Falls in July, 1911, at the advanced age of nearly ninety years. Mr. and Mrs. Gates spent several years of their married life in Iowa and in 1889 came to Sioux Falls, where they afterward resided. Unto them were born two daughters, Jessie A. and Mary L., the latter the wife of C. Linton Muggah, of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The former has been a teacher in the Sioux Falls public schools for fifteen years and has been principal of the Hawthorn school since 1905. 

In religious faith the family are Baptists and in his political belief Mr. Gates was a republican. He held membership with the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks and with the Commercial Club. Several times during the period of his residence in Sioux Falls he was called to public office. He was elected alderman in 1900 for a term of two years and was twice reelected, so that his incumbency covered six years. In 1909 he was elected city commissioner for two years and in 1911 was reelected for five years, so that he was serving in that capacity at the time of his death, and the record that he made was a highly commendable and creditable one and won for him warm encomiums from his fellow townsmen. He passed away May 14, 1915. His health had been failing for several months but he faithfully performed his official duties, had completed his work and had prepared all of his papers for his successor. He had submitted them and had them approved and the last meeting had ended when his strength gave way and he was carried to his home, where he suffered for thirteen days, when death called him and he was carried to his last resting place. He had refused to become a candidate for reelection. He had served the city for thirteen consecutive years and when the new form of city government, which changed the commissioners from five to three, was installed he refused to become a nominee. His worth was widely recognized by all and his death was the occasion of deeps and widespread regret.