Jarred Wall Street Old Operators Hardly Know What to Make of John "W. Gates. Since the days of the spectacular operations of Jay Gould and "Jim" Fisk no man has created such a commotion in Wall street as John W. Gates has aroused by his recent operations. The manner In which, at a single stroke, the stock of the American Steel and Wire company was made to slump twenty points inevitably suggested the methods of the former 'Wizard." The coup took the speculators entirely by surprise, with the result that what is known as "the talent received an unusually hard squeeze. Among ,the speculative element Mr. Gates is as cordially hated just at present as a man well can be. It Is not likely that Mr. Gates himself is wasting any sleep over this fact, for, according to report, the transaction has brought him substantial balm in the form of some thing like a million and three-quarters of profits This la not the first time that the financial operations of Mr. Gates have displayed a meteoric character. His whole career since he came into prominence in the business world has abounded in surprises for his business associates as well.
John Warne Gates
JOHN W. GATES, as for his financial opponents. His fortune, which is estimated at present at something between $10,000,000 and $15,000.00, has grown by a series of leaps and bounds, rather than by the slow accumulation of dollar on dollar. The financial operations of Mr. Gates have attracted the more attention because he is a newcomer in "the street." It is only within the last two years that he has taken a hand in the game of finance as it is played in the money center of the country. Wall Street had heard of him before that when he won a legal victory over Washburn & Moen and secured the right to manufacture wire. But the New York Herald says it was in St. Louis and Chicago that Mr. Gates performed his earlier exploits and accumulated the fortune which he is now using to heap up further millions In his stock operations. Mr. Gates is a Westerner by birth. He grew up on an Illinois farm and received a good education, being graduated from Northwestern college, at Naperville, IL. It is not recorded that he displayed especially remarkable qualities as a boy, but an event that occurred just as he reached manhood showed, in its sequel, the determination and indomitable will that has made him a successful business man. This was the murder of his elder brother, Charles Gilbert Gates.
The latter was engaged to a young woman in Warrensburg, Mo., and for some reason the match was opposed by the young woman's brother, Alexander Jester. His enmity became so acute that he finally killed Gates in cold blood. He was at once arrested, but while being conveyed from the local prison to Mexico, Mo., he escaped. Young Gates remarked that he would hunt the murderer of his brother to the gallows or to the grave, and during all the active and exciting years of his business career he never lost sight of this determination. As he be came wealthy he spent thousands of dollars in employing detectives to trace out the missing man.
At length, a year ago, the murderer, who was living in Tecumseh, Okla., ventured to write to his sister, asking her not to reveal his whereabouts, but to communicate with him. It was twenty-eight years after the murder, and no doubt Jester felt that at last he was safe. But the sister, like Gates himself, had never forgiven the death of her lover. She informed Mr. Gates' attorneys that Alexander Jester, the murderer of Charles Gates, was living in Oklahoma under the assumed name of W. A. Hill. Mr. Gates was at the Oriental hotel, Manhattan Beach, when he received this news. He immediately took train for the West, and as soon as he could reach Oklahoma he confronted Jester, picking him out from a number of prisoners, and positively identifying him as the man he had sought for so long.
The same energy and determination that Mr. Gates displayed in this area have characterized his business affairs. For a time his sphere of operations was a restricted one. He was a clerk in Chicago, then a grain merchant, and later the proprietor of a hardware store in Warrensburg, Mo. In 1881 he moved to St. Louis and became the agent of a Cleveland mill, selling iron and steel manufactures.
This was really the beginning of Mr. Gates' business career. He was then just past thirty, and his previous success had been of a very modest kind, in fact, it is doubtful if he ever had anticipated 'the possession of half the number of millions he masters now. But in his familiarity with the iron and steel trade, and the rapidly increasing demand for its products he found his opportunity. At that time barbed wire was a new product on the market. There was an enormous demand for it for fencing,
especially throughout the Western States. The manufacture of the wire was confined practically to one firm, the Washburn & Moen company, now members of the steel wire trust, which Mr. Gates organized. This firm controlled the business through very broad patents which it held. Prices were high, and the industry yielded big profits. Mr. Gates came to the conclusion that these patents would not hold If put to the test of law. Accordingly he quietly embarked in the manufacture of barbed wire on his own account, opening a small mill in St. Louis. Immediately he began
to make money more rapidly than he ever had done before. For a time he was unmolested, but as his business increased the larger company heard of his operations and at once started in to drive him out of business.
Then began a struggle between the Washburn & Moen company and Gates. In the matter of capital, influence and command of the trade, there was no comparison between the two, but Gates was fighting for his business existence, and he refused to be beaten. On one occasion It seemed that the battle had gone against him. His opponents secured an injunction from a Missouri judge commanding him to cease the manufacture of wire. But Gates was equal to the emergency. He packed all his machinery and supplies upon wagons one night and moved across the river into the state of Illinois, where he continued his business until the case was decided.
In 1888 the contest ended in a victory for Gates. The United States circuit court handed down a decision declaring the Washburn & Moen patents invalid. The young manufacturer knew that this would be the signal for the opening of a number of new mills, and he determined to secure as large a share of the trade as possible. He enlarged his establishment in St. Louis and secured an interest in another one in Pittsburg. As fast as his capital permitted he started other mills. In 1889 he systematically began the absorption of all the barbed wire plants in the country, and within tho next three years he gathered twenty-five mills—practically all the important ones in the country except that of his old rival, the "Washburn & Moen company—into the organization that was known familiarly as "the Barbed Wire Trust".
In 1893 John W. Gates, who had started in the steel wire business only ten years as President of two great companies Consolidated Steel and Wire company and the Illinois Steel company.
In a dozen years Mr. Gates had made a great fortune, and had carried out schemes of vast proportions. At fifty years of age he was several times a millionaire, and his interests were in such form that they did not require his personal attention. He decided to retire from business, and resigned the presidency of the Illinois Steel company, intending to go to Europe for two years or more. All his plans were laid with this object in view, when, this one day taking luncheon the suggestion was made that the reorganization of the Steel and Wire interests would be a good thing.
"Well do it!" exclaimed Mr. Gates.
The two men hurried from Chicago to Pittsburg, and within a few days had secured control of enough, plants to assure the success of the plan. The American Steel and Wire company, with its capitalization of 190,000.000). was the result. It is said that the rapidity with which this
trust was organized breaks the record in this particular.
Mr. Gates' trip to Europe was abandoned, but it was said that he cleared something like, $5,000,000 out of his stroke of organization. Before the reorganization of this great corporation Mr. Gales' name has been prominent many times in connection with one or another great stock operation.
None of these affairs, however, created the sensation that has been caused by the latest coup of the Chicago financier who has acquired the reputation of juggling with millions as a magician might with individual coins. It is said that this scheme, like the formation of the Steel
and Wire company, originated during a luncheon discussion. At any rate the business world was startled by the announcement that twelve of the trust's mills were to shut down, throwing 4,000 men out of employment. "Overproduction was the reason advanced. It has been a fact of common knowledge for some time that in nearly every branch of the iron and steel trade mills have been overcrowded with orders and have been running night and day. There fore the statement given out by Mr. Gates in explanation of the action, for which he admits responsibility, came as a decided shock to investors and speculators. They were startled and surprised. One thing only was clear. The closing of mills meant a depreciation in the stock of the concern. They made haste to unload and the quotations on the company's preferred stock, which a few months ago had been quoted around par. dropped to 1o, while the common, which had a record of 12. went below. Some of the suffers by the slump were unkind enough to say that Mr. Gates had "beared" big own stock and reaped a big profit thereby. A storm of protest was launched at him both from without and within the ranks of Steel and Wire shareholders. The end is not yet. but Mr. Gates answers that time will prove the practical wisdom of his course. In his tastes Mr. Gates is distinctively
American. Besides his"fondness for what has been called the game" he is fond of horses and enjoys a good race. He was formerly one of the best amateur trap and wing shots in the West, and he is an expert with the billiard cue. To his friends he is known as a jolly, companionable man, who is always ready to appreciate and repay a favor for a friend. He is thoroughly devoted to his family, and gives most of his time outside of his business affairs to them. For several years Mr. Gates has been a political power in the state of Illinois, which is still his official residence. It is said that he was offered the portfolio of the interior department in President Harrison's cabinet. He also has been credited with the desire of representing Illinois m the senate or of becoming governor of the state. Thus far he has preferred to further the ambitions of his political friends rather than to indulge his own. Mr. Gates is now at the age which is for most men the height of their business activity. It is by no means likely that the concluding chapters of his biography are being written now. At all events he has demonstrated to the speculators of the street that he can teach them some things at their own game. It is reported that Mr. Gates is again planning a trip to Europe. Whether this presages another financial coup, like the formation of the Steel and Wire Company remains to be seen, but Wall street will watch out" for Mr. Gates for some time to come.
The Guthrie Daily Leader
Thursday, June 22, 1899
Submitted by: Bob Chada
MURDER WON OUT. A Sister, After 29 Years of Silence, Accuses Her Brother of a Crime.
Paris, Mo. Word was received here yesterday stating that Sheriff Simmons, of Wichita, Kansas, had received a letter from Mrs. Cornelia Street, of Shawnee, Oklahoma, accusing her brother, Alexander Jester of a murder committed in this county in 1871, a crime which has been one of the unsolved mysteries. The letter which Sheriff Simmons received reads as follows:
"I wish to make a statement to you in regard to my brother, whose name is Alexander Jester, who was arrested near Valley Center, Kansas, in the year of 1871, May 2, for killing a young man for his team, watch and clothing. The murder was committed in Missouri, near Warrensburg. My brother was arrested for murdering this young man and I know of my own personal knowledge that he is guilty of the charge.
He was given a preliminary hearing in Wichita and was sent to Missouri, near where the crime was committed, and broke jail. He is my own brother, and I want him punished for that crime, hoping you can and will find on the dockets his preliminary hearing, and will notify officers of the county where the murder was committed. My brother is living here in Shawnee, and is known by the name W. H. Hill. Hoping to here from you in reply, very respectfully, Cornelia Street."
Story of the Crime
The letter is in error regarding the place of its committal, the name of the murdered man, or boy, as he was then, and the place where Jester was confined in jail. The crime was committed or is supposed to have been committed, near Middle Grove, this county, about fourteen miles southwest of here, and an indictment against Jester, bearing date of November 16, 1871, is still on the records of this county.
In the fall of 1870 Gilbert Gates, a young man, started from south western Kansas for his home near Alton, Ill. He wrote his parents that he was in company with a man named Alexander Jester, and that he had with him a buffalo calf, a deer and an antelope. His parents heard from him regularly until he reached Middle Grove, this county, on the old Hannibal and Glasgow road. Here all track of him was lost.
His father came here and spent a great deal of money investigating the case and finally captured Jester. When Jester was caught, he had the young man's watch and the antelope skin vest. He had sold the wagon and team in Illinois and was making his way back up the Missouri river to Kansas. He was brought back to Paris for trial and placed in jail and a chain of circumstantial evidence wrought about him by F. L. Pitts, now state treasurer, then sheriff of this county, that almost insured a death penalty.
He was given a preliminary hearing and indicted for murder in the first degree. A. M. Alexander, who was afterwards a member of congress from this district, was then prosecuting attorney for this county. A change of venue was secured to Mexico, Mo. A lynching party of several hundred men was organized, but the officials getting wind of it, hurried the prisoner off in the night to Mexico, where he subsequently broke jail and escaped, nothing having ever been heard of him from that time until this.
Body Was Never Found
The young man's body was never found. It is supposed by many that Jester cut a hole in the ice and put him in the creek, now known as Allen's creek, near Middle Grove. The night on which the murder was committed was a very cold one, in January, 1871, and there was snow on the ground two feet deep.
Blood was found at different places where the wagon stopped. Many think that the body of the dead boy was covered up in the wagon and left at Wetmore & Cisseli's livery barn on the night that Jester passed through Paris. Search was made for the body but to no avail. The parents of Gates spent almost a fortune in the search and plowed up acres of ground in futile attempts to find the body. There was no motive known for the murder except robbery.
Some of the county's most prominent men were summoned as witnesses and jurors. Many of the older citizens recall the details of this ghastly crime as though it happened yesterday.
Jester, who is not 80 years of age, is known in Shawnee as W. H. Hill. Sheriff Simmons, it is understood, has requested the Oklahoma officers to arrest Jester.
Hannibal history: Attorney Harry Carstarphen recalls area murder trial of Alexander Jester
October 6, 2014
Originally published in the Hannibal Courier-Post Feb. 23, 1980 By Mary Lou Montgomery
Harry Carstarphen, a local attorney, was a schoolboy in New London, Mo., during 1900 and remembers witnessing one of the most publicized events ever to be held in the Ralls County Courthouse.
It was the murder trial of Alexander Jester, alias William A. Hill, who was charged with the murder of a young man named Gates. The murder occurred in the late 1850s, or the “Gold Rush Era,” Carstarphen remembers, and Jester was finally brought to trial when he was in his 80s.
The 49ers were young men of the decade who decided to go west to California in search of gold in the mountains. They traveled by covered wagons drawn by oxen or horses, and many young men pursued the heroic endeavor. Alexander Jester was reportedly one of the 49ers.
The murder in question was alleged to have occurred on Salt River Ford in Monroe County where the trail crossed Salt River, Carstarphen says. Jester was arrested for the murder in Indiana and brought back to Monroe County for trial. He escaped, however, before the trial began.
The murder victim was the younger brother of a Chicago citizen who thereafter became known as “Bet a Million Gates.” The elder Gates was a prosperous man who searched unsuccessfully for Jester more than 40 years. Jester, then using the name of Hill, signed up for a land drawing during the Oklahoma land rush, when the government surveyed the Indian Territory land and provided for deeding the land in a drawing. Carstarphen recalls that his uncle, Thomas Carstarphen, also participated in the drawing.
Jester went to the drawing but thereafter fell out with his sister. The sister later identified him to “Bet a Million Gates” who then located him and arranged to have him arrested and returned to Monroe County for trial. The case was later moved to Ralls County, where the trial lasted from July 9 to Aug. 1, 1900 – 40 years after the murder.
Criminal lawyers came from Chicago to prosecute Jester. The jail and court house in Ralls County were only a block from the school and the students attended the trial.
The prosecuting attorney for Ralls County was J.W. Hays, who later practiced in Hannibal. He and the Chicago lawyers prosecuted the case with local defense lawyers P.H. Cullen and J.S. McIntyre.
Carstarphen describes Jester as a man over 6 feet tall who wore a white beard which extended down to his waistline, and he was bent forward with age. The sheriff, the father of Judge Harry Weaver, and Landale Wittamore escorted him back and forth from the court to the jail and back. The Ralls County Record reveals that there were 80 jurors called in for qualification and the 12 selected are the great-grandfathers of hundreds of residents now in the area.
The jurors were: Henry W. Bramblett, John T. Elzea, John Northcutt, J.E. Willis, Joseph F. Barry, who was the foreman, C.A. Jones, Henry L. Leake, Porter S. Fischer, James W. Phillips, Alfred W. Menefee, H.L. Jarman and Berry W. Saunders.
The three-week trial ended with the jury’s verdict of not guilty.
McCook tribune., July 20, 1900. Alexander Jester Trial
Barbed wire salesman, manufacturer, gambler, investor, John Warne "Bet-a-Million" Gates was born in Turner Junction, DuPage County, Illinois, to Asel and Mary (Warne) Gates. His father was a farmer. His two older brothers were killed before they reached 20 years of age, leaving him an only child at fifteen. Gates' first business venture was in hardware. After little success, he went to work selling barbed wire in Texas for the Washburn-Moen Company. On his arrival in San Antonio in 1876, Gates set up a barbed wire corral in a rented plaza and invited ranchers to bring in their meanest fence-busters to prove the slim wires would hold them. The demonstration was a success, and Gates returned to Illinois with more orders than the company could fill. When he was refused a partnership, Gates quit Washburn-Moen and moved to St. Louis, where he began manufacturing and distributing unlicensed and un-patented barbed wire. When court orders couldn't beat him, his competition joined him and Gates became legal once again. Gates went on to form a string of companies to produce barbed wire: Consolidated Steel and Wire Company, American Steel and Wire Company, Illinois Steel Company, and Republic Steel Company. Gates was also a canny investor in other people's businesses. He invested in the Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railroad, at Arthur Stilwell's request, and later took over, renaming it the Kansas City and Southern Railroad. He also invested in the Spindletop oil field, an investment which resulted in the Texas Company, now Texaco. This investment earned Gates millions. Gates contributed much to the city of Port Arthur following his initial investment in Stilwell's scheme. He constructed new docks, the First National Bank, the city's first light, power, and ice company, the area's first rice mill, and the Plaza Hotel. He contributed money to build Port Arthur Business College and St. Mary Hospital. He was instrumental in having Port Arthur declared an international port of entry.