This is my reason for entering so much into detail in this particular case, which I am exceedingly reluctant to do, and for many years have refrained from doing.
Mr. F.M. Backus, a highly respected citizen of Cleveland and an old and personal friend of mine, had for several years prior to his death in 1874 been engaged in the lubricating oil business which was carried on after his death as a corporation known as the Backus Oil Company. In the latter part of 1878, our company purchased certain portions of the property of this company. The negotiations which led to this purchase extended over several weeks, being conducted on behalf of Mrs. Backus, as the principal stockholder, by Mr. Charles H. Marr, and on behalf of our company by Mr. Peter S. Jennings. I personally had nothing to do with the negotiations except that, when the matter first came up, Mrs. Backus requested me to call at her house, which I did, when she spoke of selling the property to our company and requested me to personally conduct the negotiations with her with reference to it. This I was obliged to decline to do, because, as I then explained to her, I was not familiar with the details of the business. In that conversation I advised her not to take any hasty action, and when she expressed fears about the future of the business, stating, for example, that she could not get cars to transport sufficient oil, I said to her that, though we were using our cars and required them in our business, yet we would loan her any number she needed, and do anything else in reason to assist her, and I did not see why she could not successfully prosecute her business in the future as in the past. I told her, however, that if after reflection she desired to pursue negotiations for the sale of her property some of our people, familiar with the lubricating oil business, would take up the question with her. As she still expressed a desire to have our company buy her property, negotiations were taken up by Mr. Jennings, and the only other thing that I had to do with the matter was that when our experts reported that in their judgment the value of the works, good will, and successorship which we had decided to buy were worth a certain sum, I asked them to add $10,000, in order to make doubly sure that she received full value. The sale was consummated, as we supposed, to the entire satisfaction of Mrs. Backus, and the purchase price which had been agreed upon was paid.
To my profound astonishment, a day or two after the transaction had been closed, I received from her a very unkind letter complaining that she had been unjustly treated. After investigating the matter I wrote her the following letter:
November 13, 1878.