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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, July 21, 1901, Image 1

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She twns forty hors&a and ten wagens, •
has a pay roll of - $600 & month for men
• regularly, employed;, besides ; furnishing _J
work almost constantly to five or el* e**
tra men and teams. . Blacksmlthlng fop
ten four-horse teams and as many wagons j
is something of an' item, and Mrs. Sum. •
mers has her own blacksmith shop, doing ¦
custom work on the side. ' '
All .told, Mrs. Summers has sunk - 1 c»ur- '
teen wells, and each one has been a payer, "
Three times she has gone into new. terrL .
tory to bore for oil. and her uuccess in
striking it every time lias led others - t»j
profit. by her Judgment. For. obvious re>n*
eons her last wells have been sunk unde?
other names than her own.
. No one knows, not even th# oil queen*
herself, how. much she is worth. Oneo
long ago, when she was $10,000 in dtebt and
did not know whether Sap £r>r weir waa '
evening attends to the booko and eorre«
spondencc. , ; V-v...
i * bu t . tiecauso she ha ,/ tne \i-afls Instinct.
•.¦:', f Becaus"e. she "loved. It. she studied muslo"
¦ and . fas 'sept ; to -to finish her
Vmusicar education:' . '
; V' Wlth;a.rfch. and •Indulgent 'father, there
, r> 4 was jnV thought -of tuinlngrher mtslcal
-, gift to" account;- "It. was' cultivated merely
¦•' as an aceompllshment.^But'no sooner had
> the iyoung ; % woman* taken her 'place in so
";;; cI * t y; ..than : ehe- wris '.': offered -¦ the position
; * of. musical, instructor in'the public schools
}> of :.ai.Tennes«ee., town, -where she was
'-v spending ; the' gay. ; season * with ' her uncle's
¦family/5.' ;,'*-;-. '/e^Sti '>:>•¦'' ''i- :
:^..-.Perhaps the. offer; flattered her; perhaps
* i t> was * the;;buslness \ instinct • again. At
any,rate\she> accepted. ;her, father giving- a
, reluctant -to gratify, as he
-' thousht,;a- whim: •..-.¦¦
. • .'.Teaching, wag harder 'work than being a
.'society. belle;,but part of this woman's re
; llgton Is doing vw hat. she undertakes and
¦phevheldithe position- until she married
8 Then, trup , tp^her; Southern nature and
>. trainlr.gr. lipme'seenneda big enough world
; t >for her. ¦¦••%;.-;¦;: v. - v
t'<Z "Presently,'- however, .reverses came, and
|o; quote 1 Mrs.i Summers,. Tennessee- Is no
. place, tq live without money. So the Sum
; mers inovedas far 'ay-ay from Tennessee
all the oil that passes through her hands,
buys all her tools and supplies, keeps her
own books and writes her own letters.
She works every day from 8 to 6 as regu
larly as if she were on salary, and in the *
Mrs. Summers attends to every dc-tafl
of the business personally. She hires u'l
her men down to the last teamster, testa
transactions. No man goes to her. for
a check when money Is due him and fails
to receive It, and when she borrows from
the bank she pays when her note matures
— always. On the other hand, she con
fesses herself to be a little chicken-heart
ed when it comes to pressing a creditor,"
especially if he has a wife and children.
This could hardly be called a fault,
though strict principles usually work both
There ¦was a time when she spent the
hours from daylight to dark out in the
forest of derricks, where smoky engines
and wheezy pumps fill the air with dis
mal noises, where the only pleasant sight
or sound, even. to an oil man! is the tiny
stream of greenish oil that flows from
pipe to tank. But that was in the begin
ning when she had more time for prac
tical details and when she needed prac
tical knowledge and a market.
To-day every detail of this intricate
business is at her fingers' ends. Ehe Is
expert in testing oil and knows the qual
ity of oil produced by every well In th«j
field and she has yearly contracts with
the largest consumers of fuel oil In Lo»
Angeles, contracts renewed from year to
year. She has learned, too, what men to
trust when they tell her their oil run*
thus and bo, and Ehe knows when to b<i
on her guard. From end to end of th«
field she Is known and respected and In
the market she can compete with th«
best of the men.
At first consumers were Inclined to look
askance at her when she offered to «up.
ply them with oIL They gave her only
a part of their orders, by way of experi
ment and because she was a woman. In
time, however, when she had proved to
them her ability to handle their business,
they showed their confidence by giving
her their entire orders and' recommend
ing her to their friends.
This was the result of strict business
methods and absolute honesty. Mrs. Sum
mers stands by every word of a promise
to the last letter and such is the reliance
placed In her promises that she has never
been asked for .bond even in the largest
Sitting: quietly at her, -desk in her own
home she conducts by telephone the werk
of boring wells, pumping oil, buying the
product of other wells and marketing it
by the thousand barrels — yes, and buying
and Belling stocks, too — for this woman
Is a keen, far-sighted speculator. And
she makes as much money in real estate
as In oiL She is a born financier. A busi
ness proposition is to her -what the
thought of a new gown is to the average
A man In her place would- en joy success
better with all the world looking on, but
Mrs. Summers hides away from the lime- ¦
light and shrinks from the gaze of the
public «ye. The names of men Who have
made fortunes since a sea of oil was dis
covered under California's crust -are :
known the length and breadth of the.
State and beyond: but this woman who
handles a good fourth of the output of
the Los Angeles. field is .scarce -known as
an operator except by those with whom
ehe deals and her own personal friends.
And such a modest, shy and very
womanly woman Is this California oil
Cueen! . . . ...
«^"T WOMAN with a genius for af.
f I fairs — It may sound paradoxical.
I I but the fact exists. -.--.-•
V I If Mrs. Emma A. Summers were
JL less than a genius she could not,
as she does to-day, control the Los' An
geles oil markets. . ¦
r "' fi! t ?^f coul<L ' California was very far In
i £ the '7P,*s and early *80's. x •
, In Los Angeles they built a small home.
. and with the pluck and coura?o that la
J stowed away somewhere In tho soul of
- every Southern woman, and which neces
> any, always uncovers, thi3 woman stepped
i cut .to take a place beside her husband aa
¦£salu sbe gave musio lessons. Pupils
c.-^me in plenty and the woman was happy.
/Pianos were scarce in Los Angeles then,
, -*nd most cf the pupils went to Mrs. Sum
_ raers home to practice. When the num
„ .ber outgrew the possibilities of one piano
\ "«»5L « ght a 3«cond, then a third, fourth,
¦» | nfth, sixth and seventh. When it came to
• .having a piano in the kitchen she decided
& to build a house bis enough for the
I Pianos, and this she did, with only about
half the money in sight to pay for it.
"It has been this way all my life. Every
thing has run away with me. I had so
ma ]*y P^Pils I *'as giving lessons all day
? n £ *J a l f the ,?i ght - J got so mauy pianos
I had to build a house to put them in.
Then I saw a chance in the oil business
and sunk a well, and this has carried me
on and on, till I don't know where it will
When the oil craze broke out In Los
Angeles some twenty years ago Mrs. Sum
mers was one cf the first to try her for
tune in oil. She had saved just $700 from
.per teaching, and this she decided to put
:lnto an oil well, some one agreeing to fur
nish a like amount. And 3he did put It in.
too— so deep that • she thought it would
never come out. With It went $1900 more,
for Mrs. Summers' credit was good.
Boring oil wells then was not what it is
now. The equipment was meager, and
the experience of those who drilled wells
more meager still.
Bad luck followed bad luck, and the
climax came when first the casing and
then the tools went crashing into the well.
-Only the man who had drilled the hole
. was left on top.
Day after day Mrs. Summers stood by
that hole. Night after night she hovered
iJver it as she would watch a babe that
.'had swallowed a tack and three pins. The
-..prospect was dreary, but Mr3. Summers
jiever ?ays dlt». and sh« fenew there was
oil in the well.
When ihe hardware was finaliy fished
out the plucky woman went on boring,
not only the one well, but another, and
another and another. It was this whole
!i a 0.000 S SnTe!t. Of We " 3 ttat ier
. - Meanwhile Mrs. Summers was teaching
music to ,help pay the hardware bills.
-Even after she was out of debt and had
reached her ten thousand dollar mark, the
music lessons continued, chiefly because
Jier pupils would not quit coming. In
t deed, it is less than a year since the last
one was induced to go elsewhere for in
•Gradually, as Mrs. Summers found more
market than she could supply with her
own she began -to buy from
others, _ sometimes so many barrels a
rncr.th, sometimes, as a matter of specu
lation.the*year's output of a well. -And
. so, -without" realizing it. this woman be
came a power in the local oil world.
But - such ups and ' downs as she • had !
".There have been times when It seemed
she could not win out. that everything
must go. but the woman's unerring judg
ment, indomitable will and perseverance
always bring things to the right about.
Even now the streaks of good and bad
run like streaks of lean and fat In bacon,
but Mrs. Summers has learned to take
both as they come. Taking-, for example,
a day when one of her houses was partly
destroyed by fire, one of her wagons broka
dewn In the field, with a big contract to
till, and "her horse gave her arm a bad^
wrench, all within a few hours, any one
would grant her the right to cry— but she
didn't, because the telephone rang Just
then, or a man called to talk over soma
She hasn't time for tears any more than
she." has time for society. Once a week
regularly she goes to the theater for men
tal relaxation, but dlnings, receptions and
the rest of femininity's pet functions ara
anything but recreation. They bore her,
and she escapes them when she can.
With no children of her own, Mrs. Sum
mers is not without maternal cares. Sha
Is thfe best of mothers to tho three or
phaned children of a friend. On her death
bed the mother of these little onea. whose
-father had died some time before, was
burdened with the thought of her.chil
dren's future. "What will become of
them?" she sighed to the friend of her
girlhood. And Mrs. Summers gave- her
-word that they, should be well cared for
How faithfully the promise has been kept
can be guessed when one knows that Mrs.
Summers has refused to allow them to
be adopted into good homes, feeling that
she has no right to give them away. She. ¦
has them under the care of a worthy wo
man, gives them a house, to live in and
provides for them as If they were her own
— and loves them. ' ..
In business Mrs. Summers is every inch,
the man. Away from business she is
every, inch the woman, barring her dis
like for society.
She can cook, embroider and sew and
has all the accomplishments considered
necessary for women one generation back
If necessity had not come to develop her
wonderful - capacity for affairs she would
be the happiest and most contented of
home bodies. As It Is now, she loves her
home as well as she loves her business.
"I wouldn'± have an office downtown for
anything," She i asserts with upraised
hands and a look of terror at the very
thought. "And I couldn't go on the oh
exchange with all those men — not for any
thing. I never was on 'change In my
life." And yet she has managed to buy .
and sell many a block of stock, and with
out the aid of a broker. There are ways
of : hiding one's light tinder a bushel if
one cares to. and still keep it burning.
"My husband is, awfully nice," Mr3.
Summers Is wont to say with truly femi
nine pride. • "But we never talk about
business unless it Is to tell some little In
cident that comes up." No doubt thla is
one reason she and her husband are such S
good friends. Each goes his own way,
having. perfect confidence In the other. "
.When the first venture was made In borl
Ing for oil, it was Mrs. Summers' scheme,
but her husband stood back of her— or, bf- •
side her. But Mr. Summers is conserva
tive and less aggressive in business mat
ter's than his wife, and when she vras «
fairly started In her speculative and un
certain career as an oil producer, he
turned his attention again to his cwn
business. VThat he has every confidence
in his wife Is evidenced, by the fact ihat
she holds always, whether he is at home
building houses or in Cape Nome lookincr
after his mining properties, a power of
attorney which authorizes her to sell any
thing he has. "
: .And . here Is nomething that smacks of
Inconsistency. Mrs;: Summers never ad-,
vises, any woman to go into business.
,.."So' many women come to me and ask
my advice, and I always tell them to go
back and attend -to their housekeeping.
"I love business \ myself ." she admits.
"I can't . help being . a business woman,
but it, is. too strenuous a life for every
woman. There are * too many difficulties
to ¦ sunnount, too many trials to undergo
before "success is attained. The success
ful business woman is stronger, more
helpful and has a broader sympathy with
the world, but it is doubtful whether, she
is as happy with the vivid impression that
p, world struggle leaves upon her. If she
is 'unsuccessful, a woman has lost some
thing of her womanlye sweetness and
gained in , Ha stead an unwholesome un
rest. It istoo greata. risk for me to ad
vise any woman to "undertake the ' strus-'
gle.V . v ,
¦ Strarnger. perhaps, than this verdict. Is
the fact that Mrs. Summers Is the* one
person who does 1 not think she has done
anything out of the ordinary, anything
worth talking about, * .
years there were no boys, she wa3 very
close ._ to" her father, a • banker and large
land . owner - in Hickman, Ky. With him
she often rode about the plantation when
he went to " give orders to his men. The
tiny . seed thus"> planted was one day to
make Its way to the surface despite a
womanly reserve . bordering on timidity,
and prove the daughter. ..equal to the
father.' -/ '-"','
* In - the days 'of dolls and playhouses,
there were always stores and merchan
dise, buying' and selling; and first thing
the "'sisters knew it .was Emma who
Jiad all the stock, iiaver toy- unfair means,
$ « a ; dry » hole ; or ¦< an * endless -, stream . of oil ,
rag Mrs. Summers decided- that' when ski
% could write her check for 510,000 she would
be ready to "quit. : But she' is I so'/f ar j past
'the" ten. thousand mark that It is only, a
i, tiny speck in the; distance*" and "she is no
nearer, quitting!, than i'"she : was-when she'
- VeachM-lt^ !;She has -never set another'
'. limit! % Meanwhile she has been careful to
' **lt: down, a', goodly .share of her earnings,
in > valuable estate •.'which; she turns
over-to advantage . from', time; to 'time. .,
:',. That she' has- neveryet;made a. loss is
one of Mrs. "Summers'/! boasts, and one of
any financier of - s tho -, man kind
""might be proud.'', -A . ¦• ' " . : _¦ o T •
-¦¦ • .'.This % Is Uhe* 1 woman ',who,: years : ago. - in
•'the -mountains of Tennessee; was one day:
"'nanded r a" roll "of 'greenbacks in payment
for some property.'". Although assured, by ';
i her' husband that the rh6hey vias all. right.;
Bhe" hi"! serious- 5 - doubts -• on the subject,
and. rode_ four mllfid
/to haWan uncle examine and pass on the
,. money. ;. :'.- ¦¦'¦'¦ , • ¦:./? ' ; >V- '¦;'- "•'•• 'V'.'
, Mrs." Summers •; Is 1 a •Southern,, woman.
.-That Is, 1 shelwas '.born'in 'the : South. s She
has 1 the charming^ personality, of , the'.
' Southerns-woman. vyet> there Sis a. strong ¦
I flavor of the^West^bout- her/. the self-re- ¦}
', HantUndeperidence,': the ifreedom," the>ner- v
| vous,' restless' energy; typical '; of the -West. |
' Sho is<quick?to: think,. quick to speak,
' quick to 1 do.' 'She,- is 'shrewd, ? but ,. her
shrewdness Is' tempered by« absolute fair-;
¦.: ness \ and. she " never,. takes advantage j of ;
any'oneMn : her.' dealings.-.' .;-¦-. .--
As ¦ a . young girl - she ;< was S fond - of : rid
ing rowing— anything-, that took
her* out of doors. From; her,; father, she
Inherited this talent for a business.; Astho
.i«iut-i't .Ol.A."ianiiI^ in which '.for -many
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