Albert H. Gates
Brains and concentration of purpose, bulwarked by patience and self-reliance, constitute the master key which unlocks the difficulties of life or at least the difficulties of the financial world. If a man hold this sort of magical implement within his hand he is as near independence as it is given a man to be. So, when thus equipped, Albert Hawkins Gates, of Wilmar, Arkansas, began his first purposeful movements in the world of business; while not possessing wealth itself, he held within his hand the next best thing the certainty of acquiring it.
The power of concentrating energy and of driving forward continuously toward a definite end which has enabled Mr. Gates to do so much in life, never once wavered through the twenty years in which he tried his key untiringly on the door of lumber opportunity. In the end he found the right lock and the door was opened. Twenty of the best years of Mr. Gates' life were spent in this fruitful effort. But what is a decade or two decades when an end is accomplished?
A pioneer in southwestern yellow pine, Mr. Gates made a study of this particular kind of timber, in every stage of growth, production and distribution. For years it made slow progress toward the popularity he felt must eventually come to it. However, full of faith and confidence, and not regarding the difficulties which beset the promoter of any new enterprise, Mr. Gates stood determinedly by the timber of his selection and by 1899 had the satisfaction of seeing that his convictions were well founded and his predictions at last realized. The value of the timber and milling properties belonging to the Gates Lumber Company at Wilmar, Arkansas, was assured, and the company stands on a level with other powerful and firmly established lumber organizations.
Albert Gates is the eldest of a family including five brothers, all of whom are heavily interested in yellow pine operations. He went to Arkansas in 1882 to undertake the management of a saw mill. Previous to that time he had been manager of a general mining store at Rapids City, Illinois, for H. M. Gilchrist, then a large coal miner. Mr. Gilchrist was interested with Messrs. E. B. Hayward, G. W. Cable and E. S. Crossett, of Davenport, Iowa, in Arkansas timber lands, owning a considerable tract of shortleaf yellow pine tributary to the Ouchita river. They wished to develop their timber and chose Mr. Gates as the man to superintend these operations. Accordingly he selected Camden, Arkansas, on the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern and the St. Louis Southwestern railway systems as a desirable location for manufacture and erected mills at that place.
The company owning the property was a limited partnership and was called the Camden Lumber Company in which Messrs. Gates, Hayward, Cable and Gilchrist were the principals. Their enterprise was at first but moderately profitable, as the market proved as yet unripe for the new lumber product. However, in spite of discouragements, experience proved that where conditions were favorable the promise in yellow pine possibilities was of the richest. So Mr. Gates again reconnoitered with an eye to a new point of attack and found the desired field at Thornton, Arkansas, about twenty-five miles to the north, on the line of the St. Louis Southwestern railway. Here he erected a saw and planing mill plant which he conducted with success. Four years at Thornton sufficed to clean up the timber in that locality and Mr. Gates then moved to Wilmar, on the Valley branch of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern railway, where the Gates Lumber Company has been operating on a large scale ever since.
Finding the timber in that part of Arkansas of excellent quality, Mr. Gates utilized to advantage the valuable experience gained at Camden and Thornton in the production of lumber at Wilmar. He erected a first class saw and planing mill, equipped with gang and circular saws and modern wood working machines in the planer, built up-to-date dry kilns and went into the milling business with the determination to make money. The plant had an abundance of good timber behind it, which was added to each year until the company now owns ample acreage to run for many years. The timber lies chiefly in Drew county, Arkansas, and is strictly Arkansas shortleaf pine.
Albert H. Gates is a typical Arkansas lumber pioneer. He has made a handsome competence in the business and is safely removed from want for the remainder of his life. He therefore decided to retire from the active management of the mill at Wilmar, and accordingly moved to St. Louis, Missouri, with his family, where he could enjoy the pleasures of city life and be able to educate his children. He left the control of the business in the competent hands of his son, Charles C. Gates, who was chosen vice president to succeed his father, and of H. C. Rules, who has been for years the successful secretary and manager of the company. These two young men are continuing to push with energy and ability the work of A. H. Gates along the lines mapped out by him for the future conduct of the business. Mr. Gates, senior, visits the mill frequently for consultation with the young officers, but the details of the actual work have been dismissed from his mind and he is now enjoying the fruits of twenty years of labor in the Arkansas woods.
Mr. Gates is interested as a stockholder in the Grant Lumber Company, an incorporated concern of Louisiana. This company purchased a large body of longleaf yellow pine timber lands in Grant parish, that state, on the Alexandria branch of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern railway. His associates were T. H. Garrett, F. E. Sheldon and O. R. Pearson, all of St. Louis, and all prominently identified with yellow pine operations, and also his brother, Peter G. Gates. He is a stockholder in the stave company at Wilmar, a similar company at Hamburg, Arkansas, the output of which is very large, and also in the Jackson Lumber Company, at Lockhart, Alabama. The yellow pine timber in which Mr. Gates, with various associates, is interested, aggregates 479,000 acres, located in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.
During his career as a yellow pine manufacturer Mr. Gates has been an active and consistent association man. He has always been a member of the Southern Lumber Manufacturers' Association and was for many years a director of that organization from Arkansas. He has attended every annual meeting for years and his counsel has been frequently sought by the association on matters relating to the betterment of the manufacturing business. He is a conservative by nature and training and his work on the various committees has always been of a high order. He was also identified with various other yellow pine associations, such as the Arkansas & Missouri Yellow Pine Company and the association of Arkansas manufacturers, both now defunct, but once powerful organizations.
Mr. Gates has done a great deal toward building up the town of Wilmar. Mainly through his instrumentality the many attractions of the pretty little town, such as excellent water, churches and schools, beautiful homes and well shaded streets, have been doubly enhanced by the addition thereto of collegiate advantages. Through the personal efforts of Mr. Gates, Beauvoir College, now registering from two hundred to three hundred students, was located at Wilmar.
Born in Castleton, Vermont, February 3, 1854, A. H. Gates has carved out a splendid success in the southern lumber field. He married October 23, 1878, Mary A. Parsons, at Big Rock, Iowa. Three sons were born to them, the eldest now being vice president of the Gates Lumber Company. The other two are receiving their education at St. Louis.