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Christopher Yates Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: --
Date: 2001-01-01

Biographical History

Christopher Yates (1737-1785), a member of the prominent Yates family of Schenectady in colonial New York, was a surveyor by trade. He served as a captain under Sir William Johnson in the French and Indian War, taking part in the attack on Fort Ticonderoga and in the capture of Fort Niagara. At the outbreak of the Revolution, Yates offered his services in the Continental Army and received a commission. He fought at the Battle of Saratoga.

Most of Christopher Yates' service was spent as quartermaster general at Saratoga and at other posts. As quartermaster, Yates served beneath Philip Schuyler, Morgan Lewis and Timothy Pickering. His duties were to obtain and transport all types of supplies for the Continental forces in his area. Yates seems to have served well in this difficult post, for he is said to have been highly respected by both his superiors and his men. Nor did he turn his position to personal profit, for he returned home to Schenectady at the end of the war nearly penniless. Christopher Yates married Jane Bradt in 1760, and they had ten children.

Members of the Yates family who are represented by only a few items in these papers include Christopher's father, Joseph Yates, a wealthy landowner in Schenectady; Jellis Yates, brother of Christopher, who served as a private and lieutenant of the line all through the Revolution; Christopher's eldest son, Joseph C., the Governor of New York State from 1823 to 1825; Andrew, another son of Christopher Yates, who graduated from Yale and became a professor at Union College; and a third son, John B., who served in the War of 1812 and became a member of Congress. Other families mentioned in the papers include the Bradts, Fondas and De Lanceys. The genealogical chart, though incomplete, should help to clarify these family relationships.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Christopher Yates Papers are organized in five sections: correspondence, financial records, legal records, military records, and miscellany. The materials date from 1677 to 1936, with the bulk falling between 1750 and 1800. Most of the papers are in English, though a few, relating to the Van Benthuysen family and dating from early provincial New York, are in Dutch.

Correspondence (boxes 1-2), which dates from 1728 to 1848, is arranged chronologically. In addition, an alphabetical index of correspondence appears at the end of this finding aid. There are also three letterbooks, which have been placed at the end of the correspondence section.

The bulk of the letters date from Christopher Yates' service as quartermaster general during the Revolutionary War. Yates' letters were frequently an informal conveyance of orders, and many letters deal with specific needs for lumber, wagons and various other supplies. His notable correspondents included Philip Schuyler, Morgan Lewis, Walter Livingston and Timothy Pickering. Christopher Yates' correspondence also contained news of the progress of the war. There is a copy of a letter from General Washington to General Gates which describes the Battle of Monmouth, and one letter of September, 1775 which gives an account of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The correspondence in Christopher Yates' letterbook (1780-1781) is similar to his individual letters and has been included in the index.

There is a small amount of correspondence in the 1800's consisting mostly of incoming letters to Elizabeth (De Lancey) Yates, wife of New York Governor Joseph C. Yates. These letters contain local and family news. Two letterbooks, dating from 1805 to 1829, belonged to John De Lancey. De Lancey had extensive correspondence with Joseph C. Yates and Judge Robert Morris of New Jersey. Most of De Lancey's letters deal with business and legal affairs.

Financial records, which date from 1732 to 1841, include papers of several members of the Yates family, John Butler, Peter Van Benthuysen and the Morris Canal Co. The folders are arranged alphabetically, and the items include bills and receipts, statements of account, bids, estimates, account books and receipt books.

Legal records comprise individually listed legal documents arranged alphabetically by the name of the chief person involved. These papers range from 1677 to 1898, with most from the 1700's. There are numerous items relating to members of Christopher Yates' family, as well as documents of the Bradt and Fonda families. The materials include deeds, bills of sale, apprenticeship papers, complaints, wills, affidavits, notes of recognizance, bonds, warrants, stock assignments, quitclaims, and certificates of appointment and election.

Documents of land transactions in Albany County, N.Y., are numerous. Items of special interest include a brief for Onondaga Nation v. Thacher (ca. 1898), known as "the Wampum Case," which contains accounts of Iroquois beliefs and customs in the use of wampum. Also, there are five records of sales or bequests of slaves, mostly in New York State.

Military records are divided into three sections: records of the British Colonial Army, the American Continental Army and the U.S. Army. The British Colonial Army material includes a few receipts, and a journal of Captain Thomas Butler, dated April and May of 1756. Sir William Johnson ordered Captain Butler to command an expedition to Oswego to guard that outpost against attack by the French. The Journal is probably unpublished, but references to the Butler expedition may be found in the Sir William Johnson Papers (Albany 1922), IX, 429. In this journal, Butler describes the course of his journey, noting all the reports of his Indian scouts, particularly with regard to the activities of the French. Butler's journal also contains detailed accounts of his expenses, consisting largely of pay given to the Indians of the Six Nations who accompanied him.

The records of the American Continental Army are divided into two groups: quartermaster papers and resolutions of Congress. The quartermaster papers (1777-1781) comprise a large body of material related to Christopher Yates' service as quartermaster general. In this position, Yates was responsible not only for transport and distribution of supplies in his area, but also for some manufacture of needed goods. At Saratoga he had charge of a sawmill producing lumber for buildings and boats. The papers, reflecting his activities in obtaining all types of supplies and labor for the Continental Army, include receipts, notes, contracts and agreements, orders, payrolls, reports, and account books. There are four copies of resolutions passed by Congress between 1779 and 1781. They concern appointments, debts, loyalists and soldiers.

The U.S. Army material, dating from the 1800's, includes several commissions of descendants of Christopher Yates, and some records of a company in the 2d Regiment of Light Dragoons.

Miscellany includes some biographical material on the Yates and Fonda families. There is a paper on the Yates family which was read in 1936 before the Schenectady County Historical Society. Another item of interest is a printed copy of Sermons to Assess, dated 1770. Other materials include a surveyor's field book, maps, music books, sermons, verse and miscellaneous printed matter.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

A few items in the collection are restricted due to their fragile condition. These items are noted in the inventory below and are accessible with special permission only.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Butler, Thomas, 1748-1805.
De Lancey, John, ca. 1741-1829.
Lewis, Morgan, 1754-1844.
Quackenbush, Nicholas.
Van Benthuysen, Peter.
Yates, Christopher, 1737-1785.
Yates, Elizabeth De Lancey.


United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783.
United States. -- Continental Army.

Genres and Forms

Public records.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Christopher Yates Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchased, 1970.

Table of Contents


Financial records

Legal records

Military records


Restricted material

Selected index to correspondence


Selected index to correspondence

All letters are incoming to Christopher Yates, unless otherwise indicated