In the following years, Gates associated with two gentlemen from DeKalb, Illinois with whom he made his first fortune selling barbed wire. Their fortune began with the need to isolated thousands of cattle on ranges in the West. It was cheap, fast, and fairly maintenance free; an ideal fencing material for large tracks of land. Gatesí business ventures did not stop at barbed wire, however. Using his financial wizardry, Gates invested money in Texas land. By 1902, his land struck oil. He subsequently founded Texas Oil Company, later known as Texaco.
Tragically, Gates and his immediate family did not live long enough to enjoy their vast wealth. Not long after Gatesí death in 1911, his wife and son died as well. By 1918, the entire fortune was split between the two closest living relatives, Edward Baker, a brother-in-law of Gates, and Dellora Angell, a niece of Edward Baker and Dellora Gates. Young Dellora Angell was the daughter of Vernie (sister to Dellora Gates) and R. F. Angell of St. Charles. Although John "Bet-a-million" Gates was never a resident of St. Charles, his 38 million-dollar fortune played a major role in the development of the town.
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