Leavenworth in Leavenworth County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Russell, Majors & Waddell
Historic Wayside Tour #6
Before you stands the manufacturer's bank building; once headquarters for the freighting firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell. Fort Leavenworth's strategic location made it the logical logistical supply center to support the U.S. Army throughout the west, but the Army did not have the capability to transport the volume of supplies needed. So in 1855, the Army awarded a two-year contract to William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell; the most experienced freighters of that time. The partnership hired 1,700 men as teamsters, purchased 7,500 head of oxen and 500 wagons. They established a field headquarters in the infant town of Leavenworth along with a blacksmith shop, wagon repair shop, lumberyard, meat processing plant and dry goods, outfitting, and grocery stores; helping the town to become firmly established in the Kansas Territory.
In the summer of 1857, 48 wagon trains carrying almost four million pounds of goods were dispatched from Fort Leavenworth. An average wagon train consisted of 25 wagons each pulled by twelve oxen. The wagonmaster, whose word was law, commanded the train and about 30 teamsters. The teamsters never rode but actually walked along side the wagons, cracking their bullwhips to encourage the oxen and to snap off the heads of thousands of rattlesnakes along the trail. The loaded wagons
Discovery of gold in the Pike's Peak region in 1858 started a flow of eager gold seekers to the area and encouraged Russell, Majors & Waddell to start a stage line between Leavenworth and the Colorado gold fields. Each stagecoach was pulled by four mules and carried six passengers. The trip took ten days to travel from Leavenworth to Denver. The passenger fare was $125 with a baggage allowance of 25 pounds. The coaches traveled day and night, stopping only for meals and to change mules.
In 1860 the firm established the Pony Express to provide weekly mail service between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, who as a 12 year old boy had tended the oxen for the wagon trains, was one of 120 riders for the Pony Express. In its 18 months of operation the riders made 308 runs in each direction carrying almost 35,000 pieces of mail.
The great freighting firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell held one of the largest single contract ever let by the Quartermaster's Department at Fort Leavenworth. The strong relationship between the freighting firm and Fort Leavenworth created a bond between the fort and the City of Leavenworth that has not lessened over time.
Erected by City of Leavenworth.
Marker series. Pony Express National Historic Trail marker series.
Location. 39° 19.094′ N, 94° 54.821′ W. Marker is in Leavenworth, Kansas, in Leavenworth County. Marker is at the intersection of Delaware Street and 4th Street, on the left when traveling east on Delaware Street. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 430 Delaware Street, Leavenworth KS 66048, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Stockton Hall (a few steps from this marker); Knights of Columbus Hall (a few steps from this marker); Site of Offices of Russell, Majors, and Waddell (a few steps from this marker); Lincoln at Stockton Hall (within shouting distance of this marker); Heritage Court / Celebration of the Midwest Family (within shouting distance of this marker); Cyclone Carry (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Leavenworth Masonic Building Association (about 300 feet away); Freedom Tree (about 400 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Leavenworth.
More about this marker. The marker is one of a series of audio historic wayside markers - push a button on the marker and the narration (transcribed above) is given.
Also see . . .
1. Russell, Majors and Waddell. (Submitted on August 31, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
2. Leavenworth Historic Wayside Tour. (Submitted on August 31, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
Categories. • Industry & Commerce • Roads & Vehicles • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page has been viewed 489 times since then and 65 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.