OATES THE CAPITALIST

Santa Rosa’s municipal bond passed in March, 1905, and look who walked in with over $200,000 to buy every single bond: James Wyatt Oates, the prominent lawyer who built the home that would become known as Comstock House.

As reported in the article below, competing financiers were “amazed” by Oates’ bid, which came with no strings attached and offered $4,001 over the face value of the bonds.

Oates was well-off, but couldn’t have purchased the bonds for himself -they were worth the equivalent of something over $20 million today. That he was representing a consortium was confirmed by a small item in the June 11 paper that noted the bonds were officially “turned over to the purchaser, Colonel James W. Oates, who acted for himself and other local capitalists.” The identity of these investors is unknown; Oates kept his business affairs quiet, even while making sure the newspapers were kept apprised about his social doings.

Obl. Believe-it-or-Not factoid: March 28, 1905 must have been a big day for Oates. Not only did Santa Rosa voters approve this bond, but the Santa Rosa Republican also published its announcement that Comstock House was completed, including a remarkable 3-column sketch of the house.

CITY IMPROVEMENT BONDS BRING LARGE PREMIUM
Colonel James W. Oates Is Successful Bidder, Giving a Bonus of $400

The meeting of the City Council last evening was honored by the presence of many men of finance. These were drawn by the opening of bids for the purchase of the bonds for $200,000 recently voted for municipal improvements.

The bonds were purchased by Judge James W. Oates. His bid was a premium of $4001 in addition to the par value of the bond issue. Other financial men present were amazed at the amount of premium offered by Colonel Oates, and one buyer’s representative who ventured to inquire into the matter and asked for an interpretation of the high bid, was promptly “sat upon” by the genial Colonel.

The bidders for the bonds were E. H. Rollins & Son, President E. F. Woodward of the Union Trust-Savings Bank, James W. Oates, President J. H. Brush of the Santa Rosa National Bank and A. W. Halsey & Co. of San Francisco.

E. H. Rollins & Son bid par value, accrued interest and a premium of $786, conditioned on the furnishings of a certified copy of the proceedings leading up to the bond issue satisfactory to the firm’s attorneys.

President E. F. Woodward’s bid was par, secured interest and $107.5 premium. The bidder stated that if the proposal was accepted his bank would be willing that there would be delay in delivering bonds until the money was actually needed by the city, for the period of six months if necessary, without interest being charged. Fifteen days notice to be given when money was required.

Colonel James W. Oates’ bid was clear cut and offered $204,001 for the bond issue.

[Details on other bids]

…[T]he bid of Colonel Oates was accepted. In seconding the motion Councilman Brown called attention to the fact that there was no strings on the bid of Colonel Oates, such as furnishing a certified copy of proceedings for an attorney’s inspection, and there would be no delay and no excuses found for refusing to take the bonds. He declared the bid was the most businesslike proposition made to the Council.

The motion to accept the bid was unanimous…

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 17, 1905

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