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contract with Q. M. Maj. E. S. Sibley at Fort Leavenworth to trans-
port all of the military stores to all of the army posts in the West
and Southwest. 77 This gave them a monopoly upon that class of
freighting business, which enviable position they held until 1860.

Among the first things Russell did after establishing the freighting
firm in the infant town was to organize the Leavenworth Fire and
Marine Insurance Co. with a capital of $100,000, of which he was
elected president. 78 Waddell was probably a director in this con-
cern. The company prospered from the start, and grew as the
town and country developed. During the year 1855 the population
of the town increased from 200 to over 2,000. Russell, Majors &
Waddell was the insurance company's best single customer, for the
huge amount of goods for their store, wagons, sheets, ox yokes and
chains, and supplies for the trains were insured in it for their pas-
sage from St. Louis and the East. Other businesses which quickly
sprang up also contributed heavily to the insurance company's pros-
perity. When a company was formed to build the Planter's Hotel
Russell's name headed the list of stockholders.

From the very beginning of the vicious, bloody struggle to de-
termine the status of Kansas as a free or slave state, Russell, Majors
& Waddell, being slave owners in Missouri, threw their weight as
the most influential capitalists in the territory on the side of slavery.
Majors and Waddell do not seem to have actively participated in
the battle, but Russell did. When David R. Atchison of Platte
City, Mo., former United States senator, standard bearer, and chief
rabble rouser of the Proslavery element on both sides of the border,
formed an association to make Kansas a slave state Russell became
treasurer of it. 79

He also became a member of the "Law and Order Party" when
it was organized in 1856. He and five other members of the organi-
zation were appointed to prepare a fervent appeal to the South for
Proslavery immigrants and money. 80 On July 2 of that year it was
announced the "Majors, Russell & Company will receive money
for proslavery immigrants to Kansas." In Columbia, Mo., on

76. Lexington Express, January 15, 1855.

77. House Ex. Doc. No. 17, 34th Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 9, 10.

78. Statutes of the Territory of Kansas, 1855, pp. 862-866; Paul Wallace Gates, "A
Fragment of Kansas Land History," Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 6 (August 1937)
p. 234.

79. D. W. Wilder, The Annals of Kansas (Topeka, 1886), p. 142.

80. Elmer LeRoy Craik, "Southern Interest in Territorial Kansas, 1854-1858," Kansas
Historical Collections, v. 15 (1919-1922), p. 360; Missouri Republican, St. Louis, July 11,


July 28, in a meeting called to raise money to promote the interests
of slavery in Kansas, Russell made a speech. 81 A correspondent
for the New York Tribune wrote that the Russell, Majors & Waddell
warehouse in Leavenworth was used as a depot for selling rifles,
stores, and agricultural implements which had been seized from
Free-State immigrants. In 1856 Russell and a group of Lexing-
tonians, among whom was probably Waddell, built a large, three-
deck, double-engine, side-wheel steamboat which was christened
The William H. Russell 82

The fact that Russell was appointed postmaster at Lexington in
1841 would appear to indicate he was a Whig in politics. Waddell
probably was also. When that party lost power and disintegrated,
Russell, like many other men in western Missouri and the nation,
formed ties with the Democrats. The town of Leavenworth, laid
out by a town company organized in Democratic, violently pro-
Southern Platte county, was headquarters for the proslavery faction
which was dedicated to making Kansas a slave state. When Rus-
sell, Majors & Waddell established its business there in 1855 Russell
not only identified himself with that faction, but as previously
shown, became something of a leader in it. When he went to
Washington about that time to attend to the business of the freight-
ing firm he cultivated the Southern Democratic members of the
administration from the president on down.

When Russell, Majors & Waddell moved into Leavenworth there
was no bank in the town. This situation presented Russell with
an unprecedented opportunity. On his trips to Washington he be-
came acquainted with Luther R. Smoot, partner in the banking firm
of Suter, Lea & Co., of that city. Previous to that he had served as
a clerk in the Indian Department from 1850 to 1853. In the fall of
1855 Russell and Smoot organized a bank under the name of
Smoot, Russell & Co., for the purpose of doing a general banking
business, including exchange, land warrants, uncurrent bank notes,
and gold dust. Smoot came out to Leavenworth in 1856 83 to
run the institution. Waddell does not appear to have been a
partner in it. Owing to the tremendous amount of business created
by Russell, Majors & Waddell the bank enjoyed a high degree of
prosperity from the beginning and became one of the largest
and most important private banks in the West. It continued to

81. Craik, loc. cit., p. 378.

82. New York Tribune, July 17, 1856; Lexington American Citizen, June 23, 1856;
Kansas Valley bank, $100 note, 1862.

83. House Report No. 78, 36th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 102; Sutherland & McEvoy, Leav-
enworth City Directory, . . . 1859-60, p. 36.






Corner of Main and Shawnee Sts.,





Bought and Sold.












Passenger Express Line




And also Contractors for carrying the U. 8. Mail

From St. Joseph, Mo., to Salt Lake City, Utah,

Are fully prepared to transport any number of passengers tnd express matter to tin OolJ
Regions or Salt Lake City, in their coaches from LeaTrnworth City.

HTpThc Public ar assured that this Company Intends to carry out, fully anil completely
Its engagements with Passengers and others, and may confidently rely upon the'r efforts am)
means to give entire satisfaction to all who may entrust them with their business.


Connecting at "Armor's " every Tuesday with the Salt Lake Mail Coach le ivlng St. Joseph
same day l>y way of Atchison.

TIOIS.33TS 91 S30 33 -A. Oil,

(Including board in route, and a reasonable amount of baggage, consisting of nrenrinc ap-
parel only.) far sale at this Office, and all the principal Railroad Offices, East anil \Vet.
As the Passenger Coaches will start from LeaTenworth City only, all parties holding ti< k-

further information, or passage to Salt Lake City, apply at this oflico.


Office under Planter's Hotel, Leavenworth City.

C E N E R A L A C E N T S :

St. Louis, Mo. SAMUEL & ALLEN.

No. 138 Nortb Second Street,

Now York, J. B. SIMPSON,

Continental Bank Building.

LEAVINWORTH CITY.-D R. Rlilcy, General Ticket Agent .
DENVER CITY, J. M. Fox, Ticket Agent.
B. D. WILLIAMS, Road Agent.

J. S. ROBERSON, Postal Ant t Learenw'orth City.

MARTIN HELD, Postal Agm at Denver City.

In the fall of 1855 Luther R. Smoot and William H. Russell organized the Smoot, Russell & Company
bank in Leavenworth. This was the first such institution in that city, and it soon became one of the best
known and strongest in the West.

In the winter of 1858 William H. Russell and John S. Jones organized the Leavenworth & Pike's Peak
Express Company in Washington, D. C. It began operation April 18, 1859. The company never paid
expenses, and was taken over by Russell, Majors & Waddell on October 28, 1859. It was absorbed by
the new Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Company which Russell organized in Nev
York November 23, 1859.

The above pages, considerably reduced in size, are from the Sutherland & McEvoy Leavenworth City
Directory ... /or J 859-60. . . .

8 I

i *

! *

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X ,

Q g

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iu//efm, April


operate successfully until the collapse of Russell, Majors & Waddell,
and was succeeded by J. C. Hemingray & Co. 84

Although Waddell appears not to have had an interest in the
Smoot, Russell & Co. bank he nevertheless was busy in 1856 and
1857 with a more ambitious undertaking of that nature. In associa-
tion with Russell, A. J. Isaacs, Luther R. Smoot and others, the
Kansas Valley bank of Leavenworth was planned, with capital stock
of $800,000 and branches at Atchison, Lecompton, Doniphan, Fort
Scott, and Shawnee. The capital stock of the branches was set at
$300,000 each. 85

The Atchison institution was the only one organized. Early in
1857 stock was sold and a board of directors including Russell,
Waddell, Luther R. Smoot and others was elected. Samuel C.
Pomeroy was the first president. Pomeroy resigned in 1858, and
was succeeded by Russell, who served until about 1861 when he
was succeeded by Waddell. The institution operated until 1866,
when its affairs were wound up by the stockholders. 86

Since it is not within the province of this article to follow the
activities and fortunes of Waddell and Russell to the close of their
spectacular career we take leave of them here. In other studies
by these authors the rise and fall of the great firm of Russell, Majors
& Waddell, the Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express Co., R. B.
Bradford & Co., Miller, Russell & Co., the Central Overland Cali-
fornia & Pike's Peak Express Co., the Pony Express, etc., is told
in detail. 87 The interested reader is referred to them.

In 1836, at the time Waddell located in Lexington, the western
Missouri frontier was an open door for men of ability and experi-
ence with sufficient capital to set themselves up in business. Wad-
dell possessed all those requisites, although he was not a rich man
at that time. In fact he never was as rich as some have said he
was. The oft-repeated statement that all three of the partners

84. H. Miles Moore, Early History of Leavenworth City and County (Leavenworth
1906), p. 150.

85. George W. Martin, "A Chapter From the Archives," Kansas Historical Collections,
v. 12 (1911-1912), p. 364.

86. Moore, op. cit., p. 150; Sheffield Ingalls, History of Atchison County (Lawrence,
1916), pp. 234, 235; Kansas Valley bank, $50 and $100 notes, in Kansas State Historical
Society; Martin, loc. cit., p. 366.

87. Settle and Settle, Empire on Wheels (Stanford, 1949); Settle and Settle, Saddles
and Spurs (Harrisburg, Pa., 1955); Raymond W. Settle, "The Pony Express: Heroic Be-
ginning Tragic End," in Utah Historical Quarterly, Salt Lake City, v. 27 (April, 1959),
pp. 103-126, reprinted in The American Philatelist, Federalsburg, Md., May, 1959, in
Congressional Record, August 26, 1959, in Linn's Weekly Stamp News, Columbus, Ohio,
December 7, 14, 21, 28, 1959, January 4, 11, 18, 1960; Settle and Settle "Napoleon of the
West," Annals of Wyoming, Cheyenne, v. 32 (April, 1960), pp. 5-47; and "Origin of the
Pony Express," Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Bulletin, v. 16 (April, 1960), pp.
199-212. Russell, Majors if Waddell: Military Freighters (Hesperian House, San Francisco,
1960); "Pony Express Legend vs Wells Fargo," Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Car-
son City, Nev., October, 1960.



became millionaires is pure myth. There never was a time when
their combined fortunes, minus debts, equalled that amount. Huge
sums of money, sometimes amounting to as much as $2,000,000 a
year flowed through their hands, but from 1855 on their debts
were mountainous.

Fortune favored them in 1855 and 1856, and their profits from
freighting military supplies those two years amounted to about
$300,000. 88 That was the only period of unbroken prosperity
they would ever know. The year 1857 began auspiciously. By
the time it ended, 14 entire trains, including 1,906 oxen, which
had hauled supplies to Utah for Gen. Albert S. Johnston's army
were destroyed. This disaster cost Russell, Majors & Waddell
$230,208.20. Additional cost for agents and teamsters who had
to spend the winter in Utah amounted to $35,167.15 making a
total of $265,375.35. 89 Russell prepared a claim against the United
States, which included $228,378.26 extra compensation for trans-
porting supplies to Utah over and above that for which their con-
tract called. The total amount of the claim was $493,772.61. 90
It was presented to congress in February, 1860, but none of it was
ever paid. Ah 1 the financial troubles Russell, Majors & Waddell
encountered from 1857 on had their roots in the losses in Utah
and the failure of the government to reimburse them.

Russell made many mistakes in his career, but the one which
proved fatal in the end was that instead of paying the firm's debts
he used whatever funds were available to launch new and profitless
enterprises. Chief among these were the Leavenworth & Pike's
Peak Express Co., the Central Overland California & Pike's Peak
Express Co., Miller, Russell & Co., and the Pony Express. In fact
the only concern which made a profit after 1855 was the freighting
firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell. It not only more than paid its
own way, but also financed the undertakings which proved to be
nothing more than liabilities. Waddell and Majors saw the folly of
Russell's policy and protested again and again, but he never aban-
doned it. Being inextricably bound to him by business ties, and
moved by a misguided sense of loyalty, they followed him in a
course that could only lead to ruin.

During Russell's lifetime and afterwards he was stigmatized as a
gambler. 91 It is true that he took long, sometimes fearfully long

88. Majors, op. cit., pp. 141, 142.

89. Majors & Russell, "Bill Against the United States," February, 1860. Ms., Hunt-
ington Library.

90. Ibid.; A Brief Statement of the Claim of Majors 6- Russell and the Evidence Upon
Which It Rests. Huntington library. This is the only known copy of this valuable pamphlet.

91. William H. Russell, letter to W. B. Waddell, April 12, 1859. Ms., Huntington


chances, but he possessed none of the instincts or attributes of the
devotees of Lady Luck. A confirmed, daring speculator he cer-
tainly was, from the day he helped organize the Lexington First
Addition Co., and became a partner in Allen, Russell & Co. From
the late 1830*8 to the outbreak of the Civil War, fortunes were
made, and lost, in land speculation and in business of all kinds in
western Missouri. Hundreds of other speculators of that period,
some of whom lived in Lexington, followed the same pattern
Russell did. Some won success, while others like Russell and
Waddell utterly failed.

As one cons the history of Russell and Waddell and the record
of their vast undertakings he is impressed again and again by the
fact that many of their decisions, especially those made by Russell
himself, were premature. The first and most conspicuous example
of this was the organization of the Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Ex-
press Co., in the winter of 1858. Russell and John S. Jones, the
promoters, invited Alexander Majors to join them in the under-
taking, but he declined to do so. The development of the Rocky
Mountain country at that time, he said, was such that a line of
stage coaches from Leavenworth to Denver would not be a paying
proposition. 92 Waddell agreed with him. Jones and Russell dis-
regarded their opinion and put the concern into operation at a cost
of about $79,000, most of which was borrowed money. 93 Majors &
Waddell were right, and by November 1, 1859, the new company
was in debt $525,532. 94 Russell, Majors & Waddell took over the
bankrupt concern, assumed its debts, and incorporated it in a new,
and also premature stage and express company, called the Central
Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Co. David A. Butter-
field organized a stage line to Denver six years later with no better
success. There were other mistakes in judgment and premature
investments, but these suffice to indicate one of the fundamental
reasons for their failure.

Although Waddell was by nature ultra conservative when it came
to business expansion, he allowed himself to be too easily led into
Russell's daring speculations and promotional undertakings. He
and Majors were very much alike in this respect. They often dis-
agreed with Russell and sometimes even quarreled with him, but
nevertheless in the end they yielded to his judgment and followed
him. Unfortunately they relied too much upon his wisdom, and
allowed him entirely too much latitude in making decisions in-

92. Majors, op. cit., p. 164.

93. Jones, Russell & Co., balance sheet, November, 1859. Ms., Huntington library.

94. Ibid., November 1, 1859.


volving their interests. It was Russell who got them into the
disastrous stage coach, express, and mail business, and finally into
the romantic, yet profitless Pony Express. Had he been content
with the profitable freighting business the story would be far dif-
ferent from what it is.

After nearly 20 years intimate association with Russell, worldly-
wise Robert Aull accurately characterized him when he said "Rus-
sell is generally too sanguine." 95 Having perfect confidence in his
own judgment, he was certain that everything to which he chose
to put his hand would be a success. Always, even when what he
had built was crashing to earth about him in 1860-1861, and he was
not only bankrupt but disgraced by involvement in the Indian trust
bond affair, he assured his partners everything would be adjusted
and they could go on as before. Failure of one enterprise only
spurred him to greater exertions and the organization of some new

With characteristic persistence Russell attempted a comeback
in Colorado in 1861, which also ended in dismal failure. Majors
salvaged enough out of the wreck to continue in the freighting
business for a few years, then lost everything he possessed. Wad-
dell never engaged in business again. The loss of fortune and
tragedies resulting from the Civil War seem to have utterly broken
his stern, Scotch spirit.

Today William B. Waddell, William H. Russell, and Alexander
Majors are best known, not for their great fleets of lumbering
prairie schooners drawn by thousands of oxen across the vast Great
Plains to military posts in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and
Utah, or for the swift Concord stage coaches plying between the
Missouri river and Denver, Salt Lake City, and the West Coast,
but for having conceived, organized, financed, and operated the
incredible Pony Express. Waddell and Majors did not want it, and
Russell himself apologized to them for having inaugurated it.
It cost Russell, Majors & Waddell at least $500,000, ran only about
18 months and failed to achieve the purpose for which it was

And yet despite these somber facts the thrilling story of that
fabulous organization long ago became one of the most treasured
items in American folklore. Almost every public, college, and
university library has at least one book on it, and it is included in
the approved reading lists for public schools. More than a dozen

95. Robert Aull, "Letter Book V," p. 138.


volumes devoted exclusively to it have been issued since the first
one appeared in 1908. Two of these were released late in 1959,
and others have appeared in 1960. In addition it has ap-
peared in pamphlet form, as chapters in books on other subjects,
and in magazines and newspapers hundreds of times. As the story
is told and retold by historians and writers public interest in it con-
tinues to mount.

That interest, which was building up for half a century, reached
a climax in 1960 when the centennial of the famous institution was
celebrated on a national scale. Plans to that end were made by
the National Pony Express Centennial Association in conjunction
with Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Postmaster Gen. Arthur E.
Summerfield, other members of the administration, and congress.
Many state and local groups, from St. Joseph, Mo., to San Francisco,
Calif., also helped celebrate the centennial.

The 2,000-mile, nonstop relay line of men and horses founded
and operated by Russell, Majors & Waddell was unique in the
history of communication. In detail of organization, method and
efficiency of operation, and speed of transmission it had no pred-
ecessor and no successor. Not even the famed messenger service
inaugurated by Genghis Khan is to be compared with it.

As was proper, the personalities of the three great capitalists who
had the vision, experience, organizational skill, and resources to
create and maintain this unprecedented line of horsemen should
have held the spotlight of unanimous national acclaim throughout
the centennial year of 1960. However this was not the case. From
the very beginning of the widespread public interest in the Pony
Express certain misinformed writers, publicity agents, motion pic-
ture, radio, and TV producers, who were notoriously indifferent to
historical accuracy, promoted the wholly false propaganda that the
Pony Express was in reality a Wells, Fargo & Co., institution. This
campaign was prompted by a variety of motives, none of which
were worthy. Glaring historical injustices resulted. The persistent
campaign to belittle Russell, Majors & Waddell, meanwhile mag-
nifying Wells, Fargo & Co. was so successful that many Ameri-
can people, including school children, are still unacquainted
with the names of the men to whom the honor really belongs.

It is thoroughly a documented fact that Wells, Fargo never had
any connection with the Pony Express except as agent for the
Central Overland California & Pike's Peak Express Co., in San
Francisco from April 15 to July 1, 1861. When the Overland Mail


Company took over the management of the western half of the line
on the latter date it appointed Wells, Fargo as its agent in that city.
This arrangement continued until the Pony Express stopped run-
ning on October 26, 1861. 96

It has also been said that Ben Holladay operated the Pony Ex-
press during the last months of its existence. This is obviously in-
correct because Holladay did not take over the Central Overland
California & Pikes Peak Express Co., until March 7, 1862, five
months after the Pony Express was discontinued. 97

96. San Francisco Dotty Evening Bulletin, April 15, June 26, 1861; Daily AUa Cali-
fornia, San Francisco, April 30, 1861; Sacramento Union, October 26, 1861.

97. Federal Cases, Comprising Cases Argued and Determined in Circuit and District
Courts of the Untied States, Book 21 (St. Paul, 1896).

College Days at Cooper Memorial, 1895-1898


THIS article is a section of the reminiscences of Cassie (Cath-
arine) Wiggins Porter. The author was born in Page county,
Iowa, in 1873, and the story of her first 11 years has been told in "A
Little Girl on an Iowa Forty, 1873-1880," Iowa Journal of History and
Politics, Iowa City, v. 51 (April, 1953), pp. 131-155; "Winter Eve-
nings in Iowa, 1873-1880," Journal of American Folklore? Menasha,
Wis., v. 56 (April-June, 1943), pp. 97-112; and "School Days in Coin,
Iowa, 1880-1885," Iowa Journal of History and Politics, v. 51 (Octo-
ber, 1953), pp. 301-328. She came by covered wagon with her
parents in 1885 to northwest Kansas ("By Covered Wagon to Kan-
sas," Kansas Magazine, Manhattan, 1941, pp. 76-80; "Building a Kan-
sas 'Soddy,'" ibid., 1942, pp. 17-18), where she endured three years
of hardship helping "hold down" the claim on which her father had
filed and on which he had died a year later years which have been
described in "'Holding Down* a Northwest Kansas Claim, 1885-
1888," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, Topeka, v. 22 (Autumn,
1956), pp. 220-235.

Cassie and her mother then lived for seven years in various small

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 43 of 59)