Charles Warner Gates, biography c. 1906
[American Lumberman magazine]
  Source: American Lumberman. The Personal History and Public and Business Achievements of One Hundred Eminent Lumbermen of the United States, First Series. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1905. pp. 131-133. Original courtesy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Texas Transportation Archive
Charles W. Gates

To make a success in any business a man must not only believe in himself and have a wholesome respect for his own capabilities, but must also have confidence in the commercial value of the commodity he makes or handles.

One of the number of southern pine manufacturers who have always possessed faith in that product is Charles Warner Gates, of Fordyce, Arkansas. The Gates brothers are as well known in Arkansas lumber manufacturing operations as is Andrew Carnegie in Pennsylvania steel making, and they have won the distinction in a comparatively few years. No one of them is a better exemplar of their fitness for this particular calling than Charles Warner Gates. From the position of a bookkeeper to that of the presiding genius of plants producing 100,000,000 feet of lumber annually is no small step. It is an achievement that few men can accomplish in a lifetime, to say nothing of a dozen years, yet that is the progress Mr. Gates has made in the brief space mentioned.

Charles Warner Gates was born near Detroit, Michigan, July 11, 1860. He is one of the family of eleven children of Don C. and Cornelia Gates. Soon after his birth his parents moved to Iowa, where Mr. Gates passed his boyhood. After he finished the grammar school course he attended the Iowa State Agricultural College, located at Ames, until he decided to abandon his college life and embark on a business career. He went to the great Southwest, where he accepted a position at Waco, Texas, as bookkeeper and cashier for the wholesale grocery firm of Cameron, Castles & Story, the senior member of which was the late William Cameron. Here young Gates learned the rudiments of business and applied himself so vigorously to his vocation that he soon won the esteem and confidence of his employers. He lived for a number of years at Waco, and it was there that he first embarked in the lumber business, owning and operating a yard for himself. This first venture in lumber by young Gates proved a success and was the foundation for his subsequent career and rapid rise to his position as one of the largest manufacturers in the Southwest.

After conducting the retail yard a few years he became one of a party which purchased the Fordyce Lumber Company, at Fordyce, Arkansas, and immediately took up the duties of vice president and general manager. The mill then seemed to take on new life and soon made itself known as a shipper of splendid grades of carefully manufactured yellow pine lumber. This was early in the '9o's.

As the development of shortleaf pine in Arkansas continued, and the companies in that state began to expand, the Fordyce Lumber Company was the first to tear down and rebuild on modern lines, and in 1895 a new mill was erected which was one of the model Arkansas saw mills of the time. This plant, constructed under Mr. Gates' earlier regime as mill manager, reflects great credit upon his judgment fully as much as does the great plant of the Crossett Lumber Company, also erected under his supervision.

Mr. Gates went to Fordyce knowing nothing about manufacturing, but his natural aptitude for grappling with business problems, and a certain mechanical bent, served him well, and it was but a short time before he had the plant running like clockwork and in the neatest possible order which condition he insists shall characterize all his plants.

He possesses to a high degree the faculty for organization, and applies with the most striking advantage the universally acknowledged business principle, that in acquiring wealth a man must utilize both the brain and brawn of others better than those others can do it for themselves. The able lieutenants in charge of the various departments of the mills and the results they achieve prove that Mr. Gates is one of the men who can do this. Among his other qualifications as a manager of men, Mr. Gates has fine judgment of human nature and a happy knack of retaining in his employ those best suited to his purposes. Master of these requisites of a leader, it is not surprising that Mr. Gates has achieved so much in the operation of his lumber mills.

The Fordyce Lumber Company, of which C. W. Gates is vice president and general manager, is located at Fordyce, Arkansas, below Pine Bluff, on the St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt) railway. It is a band and gang mill in equipment. The lands owned by this company lie in Dallas and Cleveland counties, Arkansas, and are regarded as being above the average in quality. The mill manufactures 30,000,000 feet of excellent shortleaf yellow pine lumber annually and enjoys a high reputation in the general market. E. S. Crossett is president, C. W. Gates vice president and general manager, Dr. J. W. Watzek treasurer and C. V. Edgar secretary and manager.

The Crossett Lumber Company was organized in May, 1899, and Mr. Gates was made its president and general manager. Its timber, consisting of about 130,000 acres, lies in Ashley county, Arkansas, in the southeastern part of the state, bordering on the Louisiana line. The mill is at Crossett, Arkansas, on a branch of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern railway. It produces between 60,000,000 and 70,000,000 feet of shortleaf yellow pine lumber every year. The officers of this company consist of C. W. Gates, president and general manager; E. S. Crossett, vice president; Dr. J. W. Watzek, treasurer, and E. W. Gates secretary and manager.

Before beginning the construction of this great plant, and even before accepting any plans from mill builders, Mr. Gates, accompanied by others interested in this company, made a tour of every large yellow pine saw mill in the entire South in order to get ideas and suggestions. The tour included Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, and several weeks were spent in investigating the advantages of other great plants. Then the party returned home and Mr. Gates called for plans in accordance with his ideas of what a modern saw mill ought to be. The town of Crossett is owned by the company and is a model village.

One of the late transactions by Mr. Gates and his associates, E. S. Crossett and Dr. J. W. Watzek, of Davenport, Iowa, was their acquirement by purchase of a two-thirds interest in 144,000 acres of timber lands in Covington county, Alabama, and Walton county, Florida, up to that time controlled by the Jackson Lumber Company, of Washington, District of Columbia, and also of Riderville, Alabama, of which former Governor E. E. Jackson, of Maryland, was president.

The timber is of the finest quality of longleaf yellow pine. A plant with a capacity of 60,000,000 feet has been constructed on this tract.

There is an output of 160,000,000 feet annually from the Fordyce, Crossett and Jackson plants.

Mr. Gates has investments in other of the allied companies which are so closely connected. One of the most pleasant of his business affiliations came through the formation of the firm of Crossett, Watzek & Gates, in 1893, as a natural result of their many years of uniformly satisfactory business association. This partnership was entered into for the purpose of handling the mutual interests of E. S. Crossett, J. W. Watzek and C. W. Gates.

Mr. Gates has his home and office in St. Louis and keeps in touch with the mills from that city and through frequent trips to the South. He has ever been an ardent association man, having served during several terms as vice president for Arkansas of the Southern Lumber Manufacturers' Association.He was also prominent in the sometime Missouri & Arkansas Yellow Pine Company and the Arkansas association of manufacturers. He has been an association mainstay ever since he has been a mill man.

Text and images were digitized and proofread from the original source documents by Murry Hammond. Contact Murry for all corrections and contributions of new material.