Alexander Majors

The Father of Western Freighting

For more than three-quarters of a century ALEXANDER MAJORS was on the frontier, and for many years was one of the most conspicuous of the Western pioneers. He was born in Kentucky in 1814, but crossed the Mississippi when a little boy, and visited St. Louis in 1818, then a city of only 4000 inhabitants. Fond of adventure, as he grew up he desired to see something of the great West and at an early age he crossed the plains and got his first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains. For years he was a member of the well-known freighting firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell, owning a vast number of oxen, mules and horses and many thousands of wagons, which were utilized in the overland traffic.

To this firm, from 1857-1859, was the largest contract ever given out by "Uncle Sam" for overland transportation by wagons from the Missouri river to the military posts in the West as far out as Salt Lake City, Utah. For the year 1858, the freight contracted by the Government aggregated 16,000,000 pounds, requiring from 3500 to 4000 wagons, near 40,000 oxen, 1000 mules, and between 4000 and 5000 men. Besides the Government freight, they transported a great deal of freight for post traders and mercantile firms in Salt Lake City and, later on, in Denver.

For years before railroads on the plains, the firm did an immense business freighting for Government from Fort Leavenworth, having transported Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston's army across the country to Utah in 1857-1858. For nearly fifty years, his name west of the Missouri river was as familiar as household words. For four decades he was a very intimate friend of Col. Wm. F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill", whom he took into his employ when a mere boy.

Mr. Majors's early association with the overland mail; the part he took in establishing the Leavenworth & Pike's Peak Express; his prominence in operating the California pony express; his connection with the great overland freighting business on the plains, and his romantic and exciting experiences in the West are interwoven with events full of thrilling interest.

It was a hazardous business--freighting--in those early days, on account of the Indians. The firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell had famous scouts of their own; such well-known men as Kit Carson, Bill Comstock and California Joe being in their employ. Mr. Majors was always a man of sterling convictions and unusual public spirit. He made many trips across the plains and the so-called "Great American Desert" long before Denver was ever dreamed of. He saw the Colorado metropolis and capital city of the Centennial state grow from a small mining camp of a few log shanties and tents to a magnificent city with a population of more than 150,000. In his last years his home was in Denver.

Majors had a natural genius for transportation. He started early on the Santa Fe trail as a freighter, and he became a pioneer in the carrying trade of Colorado and the territories beyond. The Pony Express and the Overland Stage Lines originated in his active brain, and these were the forerunners of the Union and Central Pacific roads. With the era of railroads and telegraphs Alexander Majors passed out of the public vision, but he lost none of his interest in the progress of the West. He took an honest pride in the part he had played as a pioneer. He was a man of great vigor and vitality.

Send comments, suggestions or inquiries: Overland Trail

[Overland Trail | Links ]

Created and maintained by Elizabeth Larson
Copyright 1996-2000