While the unthinking are prone to ascribe to chance many of the marked successes of life, it is not necessary to ascribe either to luck or to occult influences the position of the ordinary successful American. In most cases, a study of the career of such an individual reveals nothing more than the possession of an active mind and body, an unfaltering purpose, and, for the best successes, the possession of a rugged and direct type of honesty. Thus, simply, is explained the success which has been gained by Robert Fullerton, of Des Moines, Iowa.
He comes of Scotch ancestry, of that sturdy type of men that has given much toward the development of civilization, of orderly government and of industrial and commercial development. He is not a native born citizen of the United States, but his business life has been spent in the country of his adoption.
Robert Fullerton is the son of Captain Samuel and Anna (Holmes) Fullerton. His grandparents were natives of Scotland who emigrated to Ireland. It was in Kilcown, Antrim County, in the Emerald Isle, that Robert Fullerton was born, October 3, 1845. There he spent his boyhood, gaining what education he could at the few schools of that locality and as the means of his parents would permit. He grew into a strong youth, hopeful and ambitious, yet without prospect of accomplishing anything that seemed to him likely to be really worth the while, for that country oflfered little of promise to one of his birth and station in life. But there was another land, a land of golden promise, whither had gone thousands of his fellow countrymen. From those who had gone to the United States came news of the position and fortune to be won there. It stirred the Scotch blood of young Fullerton and he determined in that country to make his venture for fortune.
Bidding good-by to the country of his birth, in July, 1867, Robert Fullerton crossed the ocean and reached America, going to Ottawa, Illinois, where he had friends. For three months he worked on a farm, then returned to the city, gaining a knowledge of the carpenter's trade and followed this vocation for three years in the employ of Caldwell, Clark & Stebbins. He developed into a skillful worker, and with his unquestioned honesty and willingness he was soon on the road toward prosperity. For three years he remained in the vicinity of Ottawa and then went to Lacygne, Kansas, in the spring of 1870, where he followed the contracting and building business. While engaged in this pursuit he made the acquaintance of M. T. Greene, a Chicago lumberman. Mr. Greene took an interest in the young man, admired his thoroughness and respected his ability, with the result that he offered the carpenter a position as manager of the Greene yard at Lacygne during Mr. Greene's absence on a wedding trip. Mr. Fullerton was not a novice at the lumber trade, for he had acquired a familiarity with lumber in doing carpentering, and he did not disappoint his employer in the display of executive force.
So forcibly had he demonstrated his ability that he was transferred for a short time to Tecumseh, Nebraska, and subsequently to Clay Center, Kansas, and thence to Des Moines, where he had charge of the yard. In addition to this managership, he had general supervision of the other Greene yards in Iowa, operated by Mr. Greene as the Chicago Lumber Company. Gradually, his services with the company became so valuable that he was given an interest in the concern, as was his brother, Samuel H. Fullerton, who was in charge of a yard at Tecumseh, Nebraska, which was operated under the name of Fullerton Brothers. In 1873 the Chicago Lumber Company started a chain of retail yards in northeastern Kansas, and to Robert Fullerton was intrusted the labor of establishing these branches. With the opening of the first of these yards, conducted as the Chicago Lumber Company, in April of the same year, Mr. Fullerton moved to Clay Center. Yards were put in through the Mississippi and Missouri River valleys and with the inrush of immigration exceedingly heavy demand for lumber was created by the settlers. In 1875 Mr. Fullerton moved to Des Moines and was succeeded at Clay Center by his brother as general manager at that point. Prosperity, however, was not to continue, and a few years later the failure of successive crops resulted in a financial panic which brought ruin to many of the lumbermen who were unprepared to meet the disastrous business depression. Through the careful management of the Chicago Lumber Company by Mr. Greene, Mr. Fullerton and the latter's brother, the line yard business was not swept away.
In 1891 Mr. Fullerton and his brother bought the interest of Mr. Greene in the business of the several yards operated by him and continued alone under the style of the Chicago Lumber Company, a partnership. This business was carried on until 1895 with much success, when the Chicago Lumber & Coal Company was incorporated by Robert Fullerton, Samuel H. Fullerton, Frank Goepel and C. I. Millard, for the purpose of engaging in the manufacture, as well as the distribution, of lumber. The partnership was taken over by the corporation and Samuel H. Fullerton became president of the company and Robert Fullerton vice president. The business was reorganized on more substantial grounds and extended so as to include yards in Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri.
One of the reasons for engaging in the sawmill business was the growing demand in Kansas and other western states for yellow pine to take the place of white pine, because of its increasing scarcity and rising value. A sawmill at Logansport, Louisiana, located in a shortleaf yellow pine belt, was bought by the company. This mill was equipped with circular and gang saws, and a ready market was found for its product. With the growth of the demand for longleaf pine, other mills were acquired from time to time, and of recent years the company has controlled a daily output of more than 500,000 feet.
At least a third of the total output of the yellow pine of the company is distributed through the company's own yards, in addition to millions of feet of white pine and Pacific Coast woods. The company manufactures lumber in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and seventy retail yards are maintained. Besides the retail and manufacturing, the company does a wholesale business extending into practically every northern state from one coast to the other.
In an inventive way Mr. Fullerton has had much success and is stated to have devised the best lumber skidder ever erected. He has also invented a crosscut saw, operated by compressed air, for cutting down trees, and this device is now being developed.
Mr. Fullerton married Miss Fannie Parsons, a daughter of Galacia Parsons, of Des Moines, Iowa, March lo, 1885. Of this union have been born three sons and a daughter -- Robert, Junior, Lawrence, Philip and Catherine Fullerton. The eldest son has recently completed a course at a military academy and will probably follow in the footsteps of his father as a lumberman.
During the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, Mr. Fullerton was disbursing agent for the Government and $9,600,000 passed through his hands. Mr. Fullerton is a believer in the Presbyterian faith and has given generously to its charities. He is a writer of no mean ability and a frequent contributor to newspapers and other publications. He is a member of the Des Moines Country Club and is an enthusiastic golfer. He is president of the Civic League, of Des Moines, and his work in behalf of that organization is of the self-sacrificing kind, directed toward the well-being of the community, and an indication of his character and aspirations.