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By George Richard Knight
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 George Richard Knight
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Chapter OneThe trip from Portland, Oregon on the SS Yosemite side-wheeler was pleasant and uneventful. It was mid-November, 1872, and I was not sure at the moment what lay ahead for me; but there is an excitement in the air that was catching.
Looking out onto the crowded dock as passengers were getting ready to leave the side wheeler to enter the growing city of San Francisco, my mind drifted back over the events of the past 13 years that had brought me to this point in my life.
I had been an adventurer with time in the saddle, driven wagons with either mules, oxen or horses pulling them, fought Indians, and experienced extreme cold and hot weather, wet and dry conditions. Stampedes of cattle and buffalo have tried to kick the breath from me, and I have had the reward of helping put a railroad into operation. Along the way, I have met some of life's memorable people.
While all of these past events flashed through my mind, I saw my brother, Edwin, standing on a buckboard on the dock waiting for me to walk down the gangway into the crowded mass of people. We made eye contact and he followed my progress to his buckboard.
"Jack, you dress more sophisticated as compared to when you left San Francisco almost three years ago. Looks like Ben Holladay had a heavy influence on your appearance and has added some culture to my little brother."
"You would not believe what has happened since we last spoke, Edwin. I'm sure I have changed since gaining the confidence of a successful man and no one can take that from me. My time in Oregon has been nothing but a grand ride. The accomplishment I felt was enormous and the life style as enlightening, but I probably will never live that way again. Well, big brother, how has life been treating you? Are you still putting big deals together and helping to make the world go round?"
"As a matter of fact, the world is still turning, but the economic tide is slowing as I am sure Ben told you before you left Portland. I heard he had to put the Oregon and California railroad into bankrupt status to protect his other holdings. His timber holdings are worth much more than the railroad. How far did you get the line completed before the banks shut it down?"
"We got the line to Roseburg in southern Oregon, big brother. Our next challenge would have been to get into California. Ben was over extended because of several things. He was expanding the mill outside of Milwaukie, he had purchased the western Oregon railroad and ran it to McMinnville, and the last year we spent getting to Roseburg from Eugene was much more expensive than the previous two years because of the terrain. Even though we had revenue from the route to Eugene, more men were hired for the crews and we were blasting on a daily basis. Something we had little to do with 'til we left Eugene. Ben also had bought two more steamers to add to his Columbia River fleet. He offered to keep me as an employee, but I felt he really was being kind so we parted with a good relationship."
We noticed my sea chest and saddle were on the dock now so we pulled the buckboard over, picked them up and headed for Edwin's home. It was close to the city of San Francisco but not in walking distance.
Heading away from the dock, Edwin seemed lost in thought. He started speaking with some hesitation, "Jack, before we get to the house I have to tell you something." Then quickly burst out, "Rose and I are married. I hope this doesn't go against your grain."
Being totally surprised by his manner, I responded just as quickly. "What are you talking about? I think that is great. You and Rose were meant for each other. I think she's a wonderful person. Oh, you mean because she's an Indian. You know I look at people like Father does. We are all equal regardless of our skin color though others may not feel the same. Is this marriage a problem for you in some circles?"
"Yes and no. Rose being a lawyer as well as an Indian woman is something this day's society has to become more accepting of as a woman's role is expanded beyond being a homemaker. Some people give it no thought, but we have had a couple of uncomfortable situations so we have been limiting our social life to those who are not offended. Rose and an Umpqua from Oregon have a partnership firm that is doing well. They keep busy with local Indian affairs and also have a few Negros that like their style better than some white lawyers. Rose has even argued cases in front of some judges in Sacramento and came out well. I am very proud of her."
"Well, you can be rest assured that I am proud to have Rose for my sister-in-law."
"Thanks, Jack. Rose said I shouldn't worry about you. She sure read you right. Something else you should know. We have an Indian girl for our housekeeper and cook. Her name is Little Bird, but we call her Jane. She is Shoshone and came to California from Fort Bridger. She had a club foot, and a Priest that saw her knew of a surgeon here in San Francisco that could help her. He brought her here three years ago when she was just seventeen. When we advertised for a housekeeper, the Priest called and asked if we would be interested in talking with her. She is 100% healthy now and has had three years of school at a mission just down the road from us. Watch out, Jack. She is very pretty and we don't need to find another cook for several years."
"Not to worry. I have too many trails to walk on before I'm ready to get tied down. Just like some of my friends that come to mind. One friend, Cody, has received the Medal of Honor. Art and Carl are still roaming the wagon trails that are left, and a lot of the country around Denver is still waiting to be developed. I have several options and none of them include a wife so you can rest easy."
As we arrived at Edwin's home, Rose was turning into the walk. She had heard the buckboard approaching and turned her head to see us heading for the barn. She ran across the yard and leaped over the front wheel into Edwin's lap like a little kid. She kissed him quickly and lightly on the lips and after a look into his eyes that says he was the love of her life she finally showed me some attention by exclaiming, "Hi Jack, glad you are here."
Settling into the seat between us, she turned toward me bubbling out. "Wait 'til you hear what Edwin has put together for you."
Edwin laughed and told Rose to settle down. "Rose, that can wait until after dinner, and besides, Jack has a few ideas of his own we need to hear about. I think he wants to go roam around for a little while."
Rose jumped down remarking as she went toward the house, "Okay, but I still think he'll want to hear what you've been talking to me about. You two wash up after you take care of the horses and buckboard so you'll be ready for dinner."
After putting the mare in the stall and feeding her fresh hay, we pulled my trunk and luggage off the buckboard and carried them in the house. Edwin left to wash up while I took a look at the bedroom I had used three years ago. As my eyes swept the room, a sensation of returning home filled my senses. Everything was just the same as the day I had left. A comfortable feeling of familiarity made me even more relaxed while emptying my luggage and closing the door behind me to join Edwin on his way to the dining room.
Entering the dining room, Rose greeted us with an air of excitement while presenting a 5 foot 2 inch beautiful, olive skinned girl standing beside her with, "Jack, this is Little Bird but she likes to be called Jane. Jane, this is Jack, Edwin's wandering brother."
Trying not to stare, I tried to casually carry the conversation while Edwin was pulling back a chair from the table for Rose. "Jane, I'm happy to meet you. I think you have a friend we both know. Jim Bridger was one of my most favorite and valued friends."
"Sir, Jim Bridger scratched my arm many years ago to stop the fever. I remember the day you and him left Fort Bridger with his wife and little girl along with Taw."
Looking at Jane questioningly across the table, Rose remarked, "You never told us about that. So you have seen Jack before today?"
"Yes, you cannot forget the red hair, and he used to have a whip. He would show us young children tricks using the bullwhip. You had big black dog too. You look much older now but then that was several years ago."
"Father McDougall came to the fort shortly after the blanket chief left, and I came to California with him to have my foot fixed. I spoke a little English but the nun's helped me to get more learning with much study. I plan to remain in California now and call it my home."
Edwin felt it was time to make his position clear by chiming in with, "And, Jane, this is your home as long as you want it to be."
Chapter TwoAfter dinner, Edwin and I had coffee in his home office. Pulling a couple of letters from a desk drawer, he began reading one of them to me:
My friend, Edwin,
I am now the President of the Colt Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. You did some asset adjustments for me when you were in Kansas City, and I have always remembered your attention to detail and honest answers to all my questions. I wrote to you at Abbot & Bunch in Kansas City, and they wrote me that you had moved to San Francisco as their managing partner in that city.
What I am contacting you about is my search for an agency or person that you could put me in contact with that could handle distribution of an item we manufacture at our Baxter Steam Engine Company. We produce 2 hp. to 10 hp. steam engines and have no representation west of the Mississippi River.
If you can be of service to me in this matter I wait your return correspondence.
And it's signed Mr. Richard Jarvis."
"So why are you reading that letter to me, Edwin? I am not an agency nor do I know anything about steam engines or the distribution of anything."
"Come on, Jack, you will be what ... 24 next month? You have a mechanical background with your gunsmith trade, and you could sell buffalo hides to an Indian. You would be a natural at this. You also have the air of self confidence it takes to do it."
"Anyway, I wrote Mr. Jarvis back and told him I had a prospect in mind and would get back to him shortly. This other letter is his answer to me. He said he would take my recommendation but would like to meet the person before writing a contract. All you need to do is go to Hartford, meet with Mr. Jarvis and with your charm put this plan into action. You have plenty of net worth to establish an agency and I can put that together before you leave. By the way, I have a financial report for you on your assets. You are worth more than twenty thousand dollars with all your investments. I have been lucky with the money you have sent to me to invest for you. The market is slowing, and I am going to turn a lot of yours and my investments to cash and gold as the prospects for next year look iffy to me. Too many of my banker contacts are very negative about the next year and beyond."
"Edwin, you are trying to turn me into something I am not. Do I look like a business man to you? I wear boots and a Stetson hat. My hands are soft now because of the last three years of no hard labor. My skin is wind damaged not smooth and clear like yours. Mr. Jarvis will look at me and laugh at the thought of my representing his company."
"You sell your self short, Jack. By the way, when did you loose that finger? I noticed it at dinner and forgot to say something. And, by the way, you look very stylish with your boots and big white hat. I'm sure Richard Jarvis would approve most heartily since he wants the western influence to accept his product. You don't change anything for him, Jack."
"A good story could be made up about my finger but it was a foolish mishap when two rails came together, and I ended up short one finger. So what is involved with this agency we might put together?"
"Well, you should set up a corporation so we file the paper work as a California corporation. Now you need a name. Your name is James Alburn Knight so we could call it JAK Sales Co. for a start. You need three people for a corporation so we make you President, Rose, Vice President, and list me as Secretary. You issue stock to yourself along with one share each to Rose and me. Rose and I have to pay at least one dollar for a share. You can make your corporation solvent by you buying say 2,500 shares at one dollar each. We have to hold a meeting, write the minutes of that meeting and certify the minutes with all three signatures, and you have a legal entity to work from. You can write contracts, receive contracts, employ sales people and handle all your business through the company."
"Sounds like I'll end up getting tied down and losing my freedom to roam as I please. I need to sleep on this, Edwin. I'm sure we don't have to make a decision tonight."
"Jack, this enterprise can take you places you have never been and never heard of. Don't be too quick to turn your back on what we have talked about this evening. Just imagine where a steam engine of that size could be used and what it could be used for. If you think you need a product line to make you look successful to Mr. Jarvis, I have a company that makes leather belts for industry that needs a distributor. Industrial belts go with the steam engine so you would have two products needed at some of the same locations."
Big brother has left me with a lot to think about. As the west grows and small industry moves in to support the expanding population there will be use for small steam engines all over the country. Edwin has introduced me to the cattle business and railroading. His advice has been good so far. Maybe I should listen to his proposal. I knew with his participation in the corporation he wouldn't let it fail and would continue to advise me if I took a wrong turn. Okay, I'm thinking. I might as well take the gamble and see what is ahead for me.
The next morning, I told Edwin to go ahead with the plan. He was more excited than I had ever seen him in my lifetime.
"Great, Jack, in time you'll find you have made a good decision. I don't think you will ever regret this, and I believe you'll have an enjoyable ride to boot."
Chapter ThreeOn Friday, November 15, 1872, I became President of JAK Sales Company. We had our first meeting and the minutes would be registered making us a legal corporation. My first task would be to make the trip to Hartford, Connecticut to meet with Mr. Jarvis and hope he is willing to accept my young agency to represent his company in the west. Edwin wanted to see my wardrobe to see if it fits my new position. As he looked at the ten suits that were made by Ben Holladay's personal tailor, he remarked that his tailor could use some pointers and wanted to take one of the suits to show him the quality.
"Jack, you can wear these anywhere you go. I'm not sure how your tailor gives them a western style cut, but people back east will probably ask where you have such fine clothes made."
"I had him make the jackets about three inches longer than you wear yours, Edwin, so I can carry my bullwhip and it not be seen easily. Anything else he said was his personal touch to fit my personality. Ben had a lot of parties, and he expected me to show up. I have no idea what these suits cost as Ben would not let me pay the tailor."
"First class, Jack. I told you Ben knew how to live the high life. Looks like he carried you with him. With the black boots and that white Stetson hat you will be noticed back East, although, you might want to leave the bullwhip in your room while you're in Hartford.
On Monday, Edwin had me travel with him about ten miles south of town to a large factory that belonged to Robert Peterson. This was to be my anchor for the sales company. Mr. Peterson had been in business for a year and did the selling of industrial belting himself. He was planning to expand and would be needed at the shop daily with no time for personally representing his product. This was where JAK Sales came in. With expansion, he agreed he needed a larger sales territory. When we left, JAK Sales had its first contract to represent a real business, P&P Leather Company.
During the ride back to Edwin's home, he asked if I knew anyone I would hire for my first salesman? I answered that I thought I was the salesman.
"You're going to be too busy covering all your territory, Jack. You will need help. P&P Leather Company needs someone to call on their existing customers and someone to start spreading the belt business into new areas."
Excerpted from Bullwhip Justice by George Richard Knight Copyright © 2011 by George Richard Knight. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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