Most of these properties I had not even seen, having relied upon the investigation of others respecting their worth; indeed, it has never been my custom to rely alone upon my own knowledge of the value of such plants. I have found other people who knew much better than I how to investigate such enterprises.
Even at this time I had been planning to relieve myself of business cares, and the panic only caused me to postpone taking the long holiday to which I had been looking forward. I was fortunate in making the acquaintance of Mr. Frederick T. Gates, who was then engaged in some work in connection with the American Baptist Education Society, which required him to travel extensively over the country, north, south, east, and west.
It occurred to me that Mr. Gates, who had a great store of common sense, though no especial technical information about factories and mills, might aid me in securing some first-hand information as to how these concerns were actually prospering. Once, as he was going South, I suggested that he look over an iron mill in which I had some interest which happened to be on his route.
His report was a model of what such a report should be. It stated the facts, and in this case they were almost all unfavourable. A little later he happened to be going West, and I gave him the name and address of property in that region in which I held a minority interest. I felt quite sure that this particular property was doing well, and it was somewhat of a shock to me to learn through his clear and definite account that it was only a question of time before this enterprise, too, which had been represented as rolling in money, would get into trouble if things kept on as they were going.
I then arranged with Mr. Gates to accept a position whereby he could help me unravel these tangled affairs, and become, like myself, a man of business, but it was agreed between us that he should not abandon his larger and more important plans for working out some philanthropic aspirations that he had.
Right here I may stop to give credit to Mr. Gates for possessing a combination of rare business ability, very highly developed and very honourably exercised, overshadowed by a passion to accomplish some great and far-reaching benefits to mankind, the influence of which will last. He is the chairman of the General Education Board and active in many other boards, and for years he has helped in the various plans that we have been interested in where money was given in the hope that it would do something more than temporary service.