BACK TO SERIOUS BUSINESS
Our grand “Wanderjahr” came to an end at last, giving us that most thrilling of all experiences – landing on the soil of Freedom, Peace and Plenty after a year spent in countries of despotism, war and poverty.
St. Louis is not Paris, but I assure you the old
town looked very good to us when we arrived home in November, 1866. Our
house was closed, so we went to your grandfather Nesbit’s house
on Olive Street, where the next January Nina was born.
In 1869 I purchased fifty acres of Dr. J. J. Clark in East Kirkwood, between the Missouri Pacific Railroad, Leffingwell and Holmes avenues. I still own thirty-eight and one-half acres of it, the rest having been condemned for right of way for the Iron Mountain and St. Louis and San Francisco railroads, except about three acres given to Mary M. Morton. I have been paying taxes on this property for forty-six years. It Henry George’s theory is right, the State would have lost forty-six years taxes, if it had bought in the land for taxes and compound interest on it. This is a sample probably of hundreds of millions of acres in the country.
In the latter part of 1869 I was going to the city on a Missouri Pacific train, with General A. G. Edwards, who was then Sub-Treasurer of the United States in St. Louis. I told him I had some idea of embarking in the real estate, banking or brokerage business. “Let us talk it over together,” he said. “We both are well and favorably known.” This resulted in the formation of the firm of Edwards & Matthews on January 31, 1870.
At that time I was worth about $100,000. But we needed little money and could easily borrow it.
Our business prospered and expanded slowly. In 1874 General Edwards retired from the firm. In the meantime, needing a clerk, at General Edward’s suggestion we engaged Edwards Whitaker, then a clerk in the Sub-Treasury, and before the retirement of General Edwards we had taken Mr. Whitaker as a partner, giving him one-fifth of the profits of the business and, after the retirement of General Edwards, one-half.
Just here I wish to relate a circumstance which
carries a lesson in psychology, and illustrates the working of a noble
mind. It would be better if the hint were carried out in business of the
present day, to remove temptation and prevent exploiting the pockets of
the poor. When General Edwards entered the brokerage business, he told
me that as he had many millions of dollars in his control at the Sub-Treasury,
he intended to have two locks put on the cash safes, requiring two keys
to unlock them. He gave one key of each safe to Sam Sneed, his head clerk.
After that no one could get money without collusion. General Edwards believed
it would be better to avoid temptation.