During many years, since his father passes away, Ernest Smithers as been the most efficient servant (and almost the most quiet) under Coronel Wainwright Montgomery Burns' orders. Of course he only received orders during his life, but then one day he got an idea for save his master from bankruptcy.
The coronel was losing his fortune due to overspending in the plantation but getting few manpower (he didn't want use his money for food and medicine for his employees). The gain decreased and risked losing the mansion. Then in 1948, in the middle of that crisis, Ernest come with a newspaper, saying about the discovery of gold in California.
Said that surely is the only way for save the fortune and everything. His master agreed with that, so both leave the manor (in the hands of other servants) for travel in train to arrive in California before the other travelers come.
How they was few of the people who arrive first, the coronel hired some workers for to get as much gold as possible.
Some days later, with a significant amount of gold; the coronel and his servant come back to Springfield (leaving the workers behind without anything). Used their fortune for get more manpower and slaves, saving the manor and gain more wealth... started once more, the gold age for Coronel Burns (becoming the richer man in the city).
And since the day, he trust on his servant Smithers even more; requesting advice and get close in confidence.
Coronel Wainwright Montgomery Burns and Ernest Kenneth Smithers (c) Matt Groening