Obit: Gates, James L. (1850 - 1911)

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----Source: CLARK COUNTY REPUBLICAN & PRESS (Neillsville, Wis.) 08/31/1911

Gates, James L. (22 Dec 1850 - 25 Aug 1911)

On Friday, Aug. 25, 1911, the active, energetic life of James L. Gates closed at his home in Milwaukee, the cause of his death being heart disease. Although he had been ailing some time, he had been down to his office on Wednesday, and having passed through several severe attacks, his condition was not considered immediately dangerous.

Deceased came to Neillsville, Clark County with his parents when a small boy, grew to manhood here, became one of the moving spirits of this community, and after his removal to Milwaukee, continue to exercise increased influence on the destinies of Clark County and all of Northern Wisconsin. The following sketch of his life was written some years ago by a personal friend and was found among his papers:

"By sheer force of individual capacity and aggressive consistency of purpose, Mr. James L. Gates of Milwaukee has place his name in that roll of honor which comprises the self-made men of this country. His career proves that opportunities for advancement are open to anyone who has the sagacity and the industry to avail himself of them.

Starting in life as a poor boy, with schooling limited to a period of but three months, Mr. Gates is today credited with being the largest individual holder of pine lands in the United States, his interests lying in the states of Wisconsin and Florida. He was born in the pine forests of the Adirondack Mountains, N.Y., Dec. 22, 1850. His father was a timber inspector, and as a child he followed him through the pine woods, thus instinctively acquiring a knowledge of the giant trees which were to be the basis of his subsequent prosperity.

Daniel Gates, the father, died in 1885; his mother, formerly Miss Jane Hewett, is still living. In 1856 when James was six years of age, his parents removed to Neillsville, Clark County, Wis., where the father continue to work as a lumberman and the son to follow in his footsteps. Naturally pushing and ambitious, he possessed the happy faculty of acquiring the very information which he needed at the time. When only sixteen years of age he had advanced to the position of foreman in a logging camp on the Black River. Although it was unusual that one son young should be a "boss", he not only remained the foreman, but proved himself among the most competent ones in that region. He believed that a railroad from Merrillan to Neillsville would be of great advantage, and when told that the route was impractical, surveyed the line himself, being also instrumental in the construction work. He was virtually unacquainted with banking, but in 1879 he founded the Neillsville Bank, now a most flourishing institution, and operated it successfully for three years. Whenever he took hold of anything it seemed to move right along to success.

For many years Mr. Gates was the chief promoter of the material prosperity of Neillsville. He founded the firm of Gates, Stannard & Co., which operated the largest mercantile business in that city. He erected a number of most substantial buildings, including two of its finest brick blocks, and introduced the telegraph and telephone, and caused the U.S. Signal Service to be installed. The rich natural resources and broad possibilities of the Lake Superior region early claimed his attention, and he made a large investment in its timber and mineral lands. He was one of the main movers in the enterprise which secured the franchise and built the Sault Saint Marie railroad, being a director in the company organized for that purpose.

He has carried on an extensive logging business. His logging operations have represented an amount exceed by but few operators in the Northwest, being accomplished by six hundred men, under his immediate direction, without the assistance of either clerk or bookkeeper. He now owns in the neighborhood of 800,00 acres of pine lands in Wisconsin and Florida.

In 1886, Mr. Gates removed his family to Milwaukee, and has since resided there, being one of its leading and prosperous citizens. One of his fortunate strokes of business while living there was the purchase from the government of the old Post Office building. He bought it for $256,000 and resold it to Daniel Wells, Jr., for $281,000, making $25,000 by the transaction. Another claim to distinction which he has acquried since becoming a Milwaukee resident, is that he has gradually increased the insurance upon his life, until he has now the greatest risk of any man in Wisconsin. In round numbers the amount is $500,000, and it is said he has already paid to the various insurance companies about $100,000 in premiums.

Self-made and self-educated, Mr. Gates is, nevertheless, a finished and forcible writer. He is positive in word, and in action, and yet is popular because of his evident honesty. On the question of the free coinage of silver and against the appreciation of gold, on the varied phases of the tariff question, he has written much and instructively. He is a member of the Republican Party, but is too outspoken to be a successful politician and has never striven for official position. Mr. Gates is a Congregationalist, and since living in Milwaukee has been a member of the Plymouth Church. He thoroughly believes in both practical and theoretical Christianity, and especially in the policy of helping others to help themselves, placing manhood and womanhood at the highest possible premium. Although not an active Mason, he has long affiliated with the order.

Mr. Gates has been twice married. His first wife was Lydie Eyerly of Neillsville, by whom he had two children, Robert and Edith. In July 1885, he was married to Miss Katherine Meade of New Hampshire. They have two children, Harrison Meade and Helen, the son being born the day Benjamin Harrison was nominated to the Presidents."

At his death Mr. Gates left his wife and four children mentioned above, the two sons being connected with James L. Gates Land Co., and both daughters married; one being Mrs. (Dr.) H.A. Peterson of Soldiers Grove and the other, Mrs. R.B. MacDonald of Ladysmith. He leaves also his aged mother, two brothers, Ed H. and Charles, and one sister, Mrs. R.J. MacBride, all of this city.

Funeral services were held Sunday at the Manuel Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee, the pastor Rev. Dr. Jenkins officiating. The remains were brought to Neillsville for burial, brief services being held Monday afternoon at the MacBride home, conducted by Dr. Jenkins and Rev. W.T. Hendren of Greenwood.



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