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100 N. 5th St.
Leavenworth, KS 66048
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Russell, Majors & Waddell (#6)


From 4th Street (7 Hwy), turn east on Shawnee. The wayside is located just east of the intersection of 4th and Delaware Streets.

About This Location

Historic Wayside Tour #6
Russell, Majors & Waddell
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 moved at a rate of 10 to 15 miles per day. Unloaded, they traveled about 20 miles per day.

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.


  • Wayside

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