My methods of attending to business matters differed from those of most well-conducted merchants of my time and allowed me more freedom. Even after the chief affairs of the Standard Oil Company were moved to New York, I spent most of my summers at our home in Cleveland, and I do still. I would come to New York when my presence seemed necessary, but for the most part I kept in touch with the business through our own telegraph wires, and was left free to attend to many things which interested me—among others, the making of paths, the planting of trees, and the setting out of little forests of seedlings.
Of all the profitable things which develop quickly under the hand, I have thought my young nurseries show the greatest yield. We keep a set of account books for each place, and I was amazed not long ago at the increase in value that a few years make in growing things, when we came to remove some young trees from Westchester County to Lakewood, New Jersey. We plant our young trees, especially evergreens, by the thousand—I think we have put in as many as ten thousand at once, and let them develop, to be used later in some of our planting schemes. If we transfer young trees from Pocantico to our home in Lakewood, we charge one place and credit the other for these trees at the market rate. We are our own best customers, and we make a small fortune out of ourselves by selling to our New Jersey place at $1.50 or $2.00 each, trees which originally cost us only five or ten cents at Pocantico.
In nursery stock, as in other things, the advantage of doing things on a large scale reveals itself. The pleasure and satisfaction of saving and moving large trees—trees, say, from ten to twenty inches in diameter, or even more in some cases—has been for years a source of great interest. We build our movers ourselves, and work with our own men, and it is truly surprising what liberties you can take with trees, if you once learn how to handle these monsters. We have moved trees ninety feet high, and many seventy or eighty feet. And they naturally are by no means young. At one time or another we have tried almost all kinds of trees, including some which the authorities said could not be moved with success. Perhaps the most daring experiments were with horse-chestnuts. We took up large trees, transported them considerable distances, some of them after they were actually in flower, all at a cost of twenty dollars per tree, and lost very few. We were so successful that we became rather reckless, trying experiments out of season, but when we worked on plans we had already tried, our results were remarkably satisfactory.