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38. Walker D. Wyman, "The Military Phase of Santa Fe Freighting, 1846-1865," in
Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 1 (November, 1932), pp. 415, 416.


little trouble with the Indians, and arrived safely at their destina-

Probably at the suggestion of Q. M. Capt. L. C. Easton of Fort
Leavenworthj the experiment of contract freighting of military
supplies was made in 1848. On May 17 he signed a contract with
James Brown of Pettis county, Missouri, for the transportation of
200,000 pounds of government stores to Santa Fe, N. M., for 11%
cents per pound. So anxious was the government to try the experi-
ment that Quartermaster Easton sold him the wagons in which to
haul the goods on credit. 39 The experiment was as closely watched
by the civilian freighters of western Missouri as it was by the quar-
termaster at Fort Leavenworth and War Department officials in
Washington. When Brown returned in the fall after a highly suc-
cessful, uneventful trip a ripple of excitement ran through freighting
circles. All of them hoped that a new source of comfortable profit
had been uncovered.

Encouraged by Brown's successful venture, the authorities in
Washington instructed the quartermaster at Fort Leavenworth to
continue the experiment in 1849, probably calling for bids. Having
become convinced good money was to be made in freighting gov-
ernment supplies to military posts in the West and Southwest, Rus-
sell and James Brown formed a partnership that year, called Brown
& Russell, and contracted to deliver an unspecified amount of stores
in Santa Fe for $9.88 per 100 pounds. 40 Their surety bond of
$150,000 was signed by John S. Jones, William B. Waddell, Robert
B. Bradford, and others. The firm of Bullard & Russell, again in
partnership with E. C. McCarty in 1849 sent a train loaded with
merchant's goods to the same destination. Both undertakings were
completely successful.

Among the freighters of civilian goods to Santa Fe in 1848 was
Alexander Majors making his first trip over the Santa Fe trail with
six wagons loaded with merchandise, 41 30 or 40 oxen, and ten or
twelve men. A small beginning indeed for a man who in less than
ten years would estimate the number of great Conestoga and
Murphy prairie schooners under his command by the acre, count
his oxen by the thousands, and employ several regiments of bull-
whackers. In 1849 his business required about the same number
of wagons as in 1848. In 1850, however, it had grown until ten
wagons and 130 oxen were used. 42

39. Senate Ex. Doc. No. 26, 31st Cong., 1st Sess., p. 12.

40. Ibid., p. 24.

41. Majors, op. cit., p. 74.

42. Ibid., p. 128.


Upon returning home in the fall of 1850 Majors learned that Q. M.
Maj. E. A. Ogden at Fort Leavenworth wished to send 20 wagon
loads of supplies to Fort Mann at the Cimarron crossing on the
Arkansas river, 400 miles down the Santa Fe trail. Although the
time for starting on a journey of that kind was long past he took
the contract and reached his destination without difficulty. Before
leaving for home he hired his train at Fort Mann to the commandant
of the fort, which was under construction, to haul logs from a creek
25 miles away. He returned home in time to celebrate Christmas
with his family. 43

In 1851 Majors was again on the Santa Fe trail with 25 wagons
loaded with merchandise. When he returned he corraled his
wagons, sold his oxen to California immigrants, and remained at
home in 1852. The following year he bought a new outfit of oxen
for his train, hired some 30 bullwhackers, and freighted civilian
goods to Santa Fe. Again he returned home in time to make a
second trip to Fort Union, N. M. In 1854 he freighted no mer-
chandise, but transported 100 wagon loads of military supplies to
New Mexico. This work required 1,200 oxen and about 120 men, 44
a creditable showing indeed for a man who only six years before
owned only six wagons and employed a dozen men or so. This, in
brief, is the story of the rise of the man who became the partner of
Waddell and Russell in 1854.

While Majors was expanding his freighting business in the latter
1840's and early 1850's Waddell and Russell were reaching out in
various directions at Lexington and elsewhere. In 1850 Russell,
James Brown, and John S. Jones formed a partnership, called Brown,
Russell & Company, and contracted to deliver at least 600,000
pounds of military stores in Santa Fe for 14/s cents per pound. This
was the largest contract for the transportation of government sup-
plies ever let at Fort Leavenworth up to that time. In addition
Brown also sent out 30 wagons of his own loaded with military
stores. 45

From September 14 to October 2, more than three months past
the usual starting time, Brown, Russell & Company put four trains
of 25 wagons each and one of 15 on the road to Santa Fe. These
were organized into two caravans, with Brown himself in charge of
the one in the lead. In the latter part of November this train ar-
rived at the old Pecos pueblo, 45 or 50 miles from Santa Fe. Here

43. Ibid., p. 139.

44. Ibid., p. 140.

45. Senate Ex. Doc. No 1, 32d Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 1, p. 295; Senate Report of Com-
mittee on Military Affairs, 36 Cong., 2d Sess., p. 311.


it was stalled by a heavy mountain blizzard. Since they could not
travel Brown rode into Santa Fe to report the situation to the com-
mandant of the garrison and ask permission to lay over until better
conditions prevailed. Immediately after arriving he suffered a
severe attack of typhoid fever and erysipelas from which he died
on December 5. 46

When he did not return at the time he said he would, his assistant,
Charles O. Jones, brother of John S. Jones, rode into Santa Fe to
ascertain the cause of the delay. He made the same request that
Brown did, but was refused. Moreover, the commandant delivered
an ultimatum that unless the caravan moved immediately he would
bring it in himself at the contractor's expense. There being no
alternative Jones returned to the camp to do his best. He forced
the caravan through to Santa Fe, but with the loss of most of the
oxen. Forage alone for the animals cost the firm $14,000. Russell
presented to congress a claim for losses amounting to $39,800, but it
was several years before it was paid. The other two trains wintered
in the neighborhood of Bent's fort and went on to their destination
in the spring. In 1851 Russell and John S. Jones, under the name
of Jones & Russell, got a two-year contract to deliver government
stores in New Mexico. This was the first time contracts for more
than one year were given. 47

In 1850 both Russell and Waddell helped organize the Lexington
Mutual Fire and Marine Insurance Co., to do a general insurance
business, and became directors of it. They wrote insurance upon
houses, buildings, and steamboat cargoes. This concern was well
managed and did a profitable business for many years. In 1859 it
was announced that its average dividends amounted to 35 per cent.
Russell became the company's president in 1854. In that same year
Waddell and Robert B. Bradford formed a partnership with John
Durham, John I. Waddell, George Waddell, and William B. Brook-
shire, under which the latter four went to the gold fields of Cali-
fornia. Waddell and Bradford furnished the wagon, six mules, all
necessary equipment, provisions, etc. 48 Needless to say none of
them struck it rich.

From the earliest days of the settlement of Lafayette county the
pioneers were deeply interested in the education of their children.
Both rural and town subscription schools were common from the

46. Aull, "Letter Book V," p. 307.

47. Senate Ex. Doc. No. 1, 32d Cong., 1st Sess., p. 295.

48. William B. Waddell and Robert B. Bradford, contract with John I. Waddell, John
Durham, George G. Waddell, and William B. Brookshire, April 25, 1850. Ms., Huntington
library, San Marino, Calif.; Lexington Express, September 3, 10, 1859.


beginning. Since there was need for higher branches of learning
the people of Lexington determined to found the Lexington Col-
legiate Institute in 1850. 49 It was housed in the old county court-
house in "Old Town." Both Russell and Waddell were elected as
trustees of the infant institution. In 1855 the Baptist church of the
town took it over and renamed it Lexington Baptist Female Col-
lege. 50 Russell and Waddell were elected trustees, the one heading
the list of subscribers with $1,000 and the other with $500. Waddell
continued to serve in that office until 1871. In 1859 the two of them
subscribed $8,000 to pay the debts of the school. 51 In 1869 the
trustees bought the William B. Waddell home at 13th and South
streets and changed the name of the school to Lexington Ladies
College. It continued to operate until 1916.

In the late 1840's and early 1850's speculation in government land
in western Missouri was running at high tide. Believing money was
to be made in it, Russell, William H. Ewing, William Limrick, and
William Shields formed a partnership to buy large tracts of it in
Lafayette and Johnson counties. When they were through buying
they jointly owned 6,950 acres on equal share. In February, 1851,
Russell and Limrick were given deeds of trust to sell the land, which
they proceeded to do. 52 In October, 1852, Russell bought Ewing's
quarter share, 53 which gave him a one-half interest in the tracts.
William Shields sold his interest to Henry H. Gratz in March, 1854,
and three years later Gratz sold his one-quarter interest in the lands,
now reduced by sales to 4,961 acres, to William B. Waddell. 54

In March, 1857, Russell and Limrick, as trustees, sold the re-
mainder of the tracts, 3,881 acres, to Waddell. After holding the
lands for a short time Waddell sold them to Russell for $25,000. 55
This transaction undoubtedly made Russell one of the largest land
owners in Lafayette county. Now at the age of 45 he possessed
the credentials land, a big house, money, and slaves to admit
him into the inner fellowship of very important people in the busi-
ness and social circles of the town. This was remarkable for a
Yankee lad who had arrived in town with nothing 26 years before,
to serve as clerk in James Aull's store. He had successfully over-

49. Raymond W. Settle, The Story of Wentworth, p. 19n.

50. Lexington Baptist Female College, "Agreement Between Subscribers," June 15, 1855.

51. Young, op. cit., v. 1, pp. 211. 212; trustees Lexington Baptist Female College,
"Minutes," June 15, 1855, January 24, August 3, 1869. In records of First Baptist church,
Lexington, Mo.

52. Lafayette county, "Record Book R," pp. 9, 11.

53. Ibid., "Record Book T," p. 152.

54. Ibid., "Record Book B, No. 1," pp. 131, 132.

55. William B. Waddell and wife, warranty deed to William H. Russell, March, 1857,
in Lafayette county "Record Book B, No. 1," p. 274.


come a host of adverse circumstances, scaled the difficult heights
of success, and earned the universal respect of his fellow townsmen.
Although he never did become a frontiersman or a typical Southern
planter, he so adjusted himself that he was no longer conspicuous
as an outsider.

One of the mercantile firms doing business in Lexington early
in 1851 was Morehead, Benson & Company. It was composed of
Charles R. Morehead, Sr., brother-in-law of William H. Russell,
and John W. Waddell. Upon the death of Benson in that year
William B. Waddell bought his interest and the firm took the name
of Morehead, Waddell & Company. Early in 1853 Waddell and
Russell bought Morehead's share, and the new firm was given the
name of Waddell & Russell. 56 This concern became a part of the
copartnership in 1854 created by Russell, Majors & Waddell 57
under the name of Waddell, Russell & Co.

In 1852 William B. Waddell was a partner in the wholesale firm
of Smock & Waddell on Water street, which dealt in groceries,
hemp, and produce. 58 The extent of the business and variety of
commodities which they bought and sold is indicated in a news-
paper advertisement in the summer of 1852. They announced they
had for sale 100 barrels of Kanawha salt, 200 sacks of ground alum
salt, 100 barrels of Old Rectified whisky, 75 sacks of Rio coffee, 20
hogsheads of sugar, 20 barrels of Sugar House molasses, 21 barrels
of mackerel, five barrels of brandy, three barrels of port wine,
four barrels of Old Rye whisky, 50 boxes of raisins, and 20 boxes
of candy. In addition to these items they advertised groceries, dry
goods, hardware, and other necessities. 59 Waddell was also a
member of the firm of Moore & Waddell which operated a rope-
walk in Lexington. 60

In turning the pages of the old Lexington newspapers of that day
it is clear that members of the Waddell family, other than William
B., were all prominent in the business life of the town. As early
as 1845 W. W. Waddell was operating a steam grist and flour mill
there. 61 Later he disposed of his business and went to California
where he was engaged in the lumber business near Santa Cruz in
1861. 62 James W. Waddell was partner in the firm of Waddell,

56. Lexington Express, January 23, 1853.

57. Ibid., January 10, 1855.

58. Ibid., August 10, 1852.

59. Ibid., April 6, August 10, 1852.

60. Ibid., March 22, 1854.

61. Ibid., November 17, 1845.

62. R. W. Durham, letter to W. B. Waddell, February 3, 1861. Ms.. Huntington


Ramsay & Company, manufacturers of hemp rope and bagging. 63
It appears that John W. Waddell, eldest son of William B. was em-
ployed by Russell, Majors & Waddell as manager of the Lexington
business from 1855 on, and in the buying of oxen. Other Waddells
well known in the town where John, II, father of William B., who
died there in 1851, John I., who went to California in 1850, James
W., and John P., who was in Denver in I860. 64 The story of the
Waddells in Lexington is a long, intricate, and honorable one.

Russell's son, John W., was sent to Leavenworth in 1855 as book-
keeper in the Russell, Majors & Waddell office. Charles R. More-
head, Jr., Russell's nephew, was also sent there as manager of the
firm's store. 65 John W. Russell, became a partner in the firm of
Hensley, Russell & Company, and secretary of the Leavenworth &
Pike's Peak Express Co. in 1859. 66 He held the same office in the
Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Co. when it
was organized in the latter part of that year. 67 Webster M. Samuel,
Russell's son-in-law, was a partner in the brokerage and commission
firm of Samuel & Allen which opened in St. Louis early in 1859. 68

Following a railroad convention in St. Louis in 1849, agitation
for laying rails in western Missouri became vigorous. Other con-
ventions were held in various counties, and enthusiasm ran high.
One noteworthy thing about them was that instead of soaring off
into panegyrics concerning a road from the Mississippi river to the
Pacific Ocean a more modest plan for linking county seats and
other important towns was discussed. At that time there was no
railroad in the state, and St. Louis had no rail connection with the
East. Like the people of all other towns, those of Lexington
wanted a railroad. Their ideas took the form of a proposal to build
a 50-mile line running north and south between Daviess county and
the Missouri river opposite Lexington. In brief, it appears that
what they had in mind was to create a feeder for Missouri river
traffic. When a company, called the Lexington & Daviess County
Railroad was organized in 1852, Russell, R. C. Ewing, and William
Shields were among the directors. In a meeting at Richmond on

63. Lafayette county, "Record Book I," p. 382.

64. John W. Russell, letters to W. B. Waddell, March 30, April 2, 3, 5, 6, 13, 21,
May 1, 1858. Ms., in Huntington Library.

65. "Personal Recollections of Charles R. Morehead," in Connelley, Doniphan's Expedi-
tion, p. 602.

66. Settle and Settle, Empire on Wheels, p. 35.

67. Russell, Majors & Waddell, contract with John S. Jones, et al, October 28, 1859.

68. William H. Russell, letter to Waddell & Russell, March 26, 1858. Ms., Huntington


October 14 of that year they were instructed to open books for the
sale of stock. 69

The interest of the Lexington promoters, however, did not end
with the Lexington & Daviess County project. They were also
busy with plans to build another 30- or 40-mile line southeast to
Brownsville, now Sweet Springs. This was also intended as a
feeder line for Missouri river business. Under this arrangement the
importance of the town as a river port would be increased and it
would also become a railroad center. In April, 1853, Russell was
also elected director of this concern, called the Lexington & Browns-
ville railroad. 70 Unfortunately neither of these roads was ever
built. Later the Missouri Pacific ran a line from Sedalia, Mo., to
Lexington over the proposed route for the Lexington & Browns-
ville road. Russell's next venture in railroading was in 1855 when
he assisted in organizing the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western
railroad in Kansas and became a director of it. It was intended
that the line should run to the western boundary of the territory,
and on to the Pacific Ocean. The road was surveyed and located
from Leavenworth to Fort Riley and grading was begun. It was
never finished either. This was later known as the Union Pacific,
Eastern Division, and still later as the Kansas Pacific. 71

From the earliest days the people of Lafayette county were con-
cerned about country roads. In fact, most roads for many years
were little more than trails meandering along the ridges to take
advantage of the easiest grades. They served reasonably well in
the summer and fall, but in the winter and spring they became
almost impassable. Usually at those times of the year they were
no more than rivers of gelatinous mud, with bottomless mudholes
in low places. To alleviate this handicap as much as possible the
citizens of Lexington organized the Lexington Plank Road Co., and
elected Russell president. 72

In the dawn of 1855 Kansas territory presented a scene unique in
American history. Six months before, when its 22 million acres
were thrown open to settlers, there were few white men in it ex-
cept at Forts Leavenworth, Scott and Riley, and at Indian missions.
Neither was there a town of any size within its borders. There
were few roads, no schoolhouses or churches, and no stores or

69. Lexington Express, October 20, December 22, 1852.

70. Ibid., April 6, 1852.

71. A. T. Andreas and W. G. Cutler, History of the State of Kansas (Chicago, 1883),
p. 245; John D. Cruise, "Early Days on the Union Pacific," Kansas Historical Collections,
v. 11 (1909-1910), pp. 534, 535.

72. Lexington Express, March 15, 1854.


other business concerns necessary to develop communities, and no
newspapers. In fact, Kansas territory in the spring of 1854, so
far as civilized political, economic, commercial, and social institu-
tions were concerned, was almost a total vacuum.

When Russell, Majors & Waddell signed a copartnership agree-
ment on December 28, 1854, effective January 1, 1855, 73 creating
the great freighting firm of Waddell, Russell & Co., Majors &
Russell, Majors, Russell & Company, or Russell, Majors & Waddell,
as it was variously known, they evidently meant to assemble their
trains at Westport and drive them to Fort Leavenworth for loading.
In the meantime, however, they looked the situation in Kansas
over and decided that entirely apart from the freighting business
the new territory offered fabulous opportunities to capitalists able
to grasp them. Consequently they established field headquarters
in the infant town of Leavenworth. They opened a store under the
name of Majors, Russell & Company, 74 built a warehouse, an office,
a blacksmith and wagon shop, a packing plant to provide meat
for their trains, a sawmill on nearby Shawnee creek, a lumber yard,
and corrals for their oxen.

Although much confusion exists concerning the several names
under which the copartnership created by Russell, Majors and
Waddell operated the explanation is simple enough. The agree-
ment between them dated December 28, 1854, contained a pro-
viso that read, "which partnership shall be conducted in the city
of Lexington under the name, style, and firm of Waddell, Rus-
sell & Co., and at such other places in Jackson County as the
partners may agree upon under the name, style and firm of Majors
& Russell." The contract with the quartermaster at Fort Leaven-
worth in 1855 was signed under the latter name. A clause dated
April 10, 1855, providing for the opening of a store in Leavenworth
stipulated that it should be called Majors, Russell & Company.
This name appeared at the bottom of the first advertisement of the
concern, with the names of the three partners at the top. The con-
tract with the government for 1857 was again signed as Majors &
Russell, but in that for 1858 the name Russell, Majors & Waddell
was used. This latter name came to be also applied to the store
in Leavenworth. Therefore it is necessary to remember that no
matter which of these firm names was used the partners in all of
them was always the same. It is also often said, due no doubt to

73. William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell, copartnership agree-
ment, December 28, 1854. Ms., photographic copy in author's library.

74. Kansas Weekly Herald, Leavenworth, May 11, 1855.


the use of the name Majors & Russell in the 1855 and 1857 con-
tracts with the government, that the firm at first included only
Majors & Russell, and that Waddell joined it later. That is wholly
wrong, for as the copartnership agreement shows, he was a member
of it from the beginning.

Another error that has gained wide acceptance is that there was
a company called the Pony Express company organized for the
purpose of founding and operating that institution. Technically
and legally the company which organized and managed the Pony
Express was the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express
Co., which was incorporated, financed, and mostly owned by the
members of the firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell. There never
was an organization called "The Pony Express Company/' although
the name was sometimes loosely used in referring to the express

In Leavenworth Russell and Waddell followed much the same
pattern they had woven in Lexington when the town was young.
With Majors they formed a separate partnership, called Majors,
Russell & Co., to speculate in Kansas lands. Employees of the
freighting firm and other responsible men were told to stake out
claims and were supplied with money to buy the land when gov-
ernment sales were held. Having paid for it, and received a re-
ceipt, they signed it over to Russell, who acted for his partners.
By this method they came into possession of 5,120 acres of highly
desirable land which lay mostly upon the old Delaware Indian
reservation and in its vicinity. They also bought 53 lots in the
town itself. On March 20, 1857, Majors sold his interest in the
company to Russell and Waddell for $5,000, 75 and on September 14,
1859, Russell sold his share to Waddell. It thus came about that
Waddell, for the time being at least, was probably the largest land
owner in Kansas territory.

When Kansas was opened to settlement the organization of town
companies and the laying out of new towns naturally became
something of a mania. Russell helped promote the towns of
Tecumseh, Louisiana, and Rochester, while Majors became the god-
father to stillborn Wewoka. Waddell, however, appears to have
withstood the temptation to become involved in town building and
confined himself to speculation in land and town property.

In 1855 Russell was elected president of the Lexington Fire and

75. Majors, Russell & Co., Kansas land account, November 12 to December 16, 1856.
Ms., Huntington Library; Majors, quitclaim deed, March 20, 1857; William H. Russell,
William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors, contract, December 18, 1856. Huntington


Marine Insurance Co. 76 On March 27 of the same year he and his
partners, under the name of Majors & Russell, signed a two-year

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