Wornall Majors House Museums

Alexander Majors & his Business

Alexander Majors was born into a farming family. Majors and his first wife Catherine had 9 children, mostly girls. Without boys to work a farm, he believed he could not support his family as a farmer. Instead he began running freight and quickly gained the reputation of being an efficient, ethical freighter.

rmw

William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell

Russell, Majors & Waddell

In the 1848, Majors began freighting goods on the western trails. In 1855, he partnered with William Russell and William Waddell and they shipped supplies to western military forts. Their firm Russell, Majors and Waddell grew to include 3,500 wagons and 40,000 oxen. By 1856, the year he built the Majors house, Majors claimed his business was worth $300,000.

Alexander Majors, as well as his business partners, were slaveholders. In 1860, 13 slaves resided on the Majors property. Russell, Majors, and Waddell most likely relied heavily on slave labor. In Missouri, enslaved men could be skilled craftsmen: blacksmiths or woodworkers. It is likely these men would have worked on the wagons. Enslaved men and women would have cared for his oxen and tended to the crops. Despite his southern heritage and his views on slavery, Majors was also a Unionist and required his employees to swear loyalty to the Union during the Civil War.

Majors had a hands-on role in the freighting company, managing the employees and the wagon trains. He was a very religious man and this informed the way he ran his business. He made his employees take an oath, promising not to drink, swear, treat animals cruelly or do anything that was not gentlemanly. He also gave all his employees a bible. Majors may have been interested in the morality of his men, but he also realized that sober, well-manner men would make for more productive workers.

First_Eastbound_Pony_Express_Apr3_1860 - Wikimedia

The first letter delivered by the Pony Express

The Pony Express

In the late 1850s, the firm bought out a stage coach company started by William Russell, which became the Central Overland California & Pike’s Peak Company. In 1860, Russell, Majors, and Waddell received the government contract to run the Pony Express. The mail route ran from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. The cost of sending mail by horse and the expansion of the telegraph ended the Pony Express after only 18 months. Russell, Majors, and Waddell went bankrupt shortly thereafter.

A True Innovator

Majors is often credited as being one of the commercial founders of Kansas City. His company created such a demand for oxen and cattle that it helped fuel the establishment of the Kansas City stockyards and livestock exchange. His ventures also allowed for a swift transfer of goods and information across the western United States that greatly contributed to the newly forming America.

 

 

Wornall Majors House Museums
©
Privacy Policy

The John Wornall House

6115 Wornall Road
Kansas City, MO. 64113

816.444.1858

The Alexander Majors House & Barn

8201 State Line Road
Kansas City, MO. 64114

816.444.1858

Facebook  Instagram  Pinterest  Trip Advisor  Twitter
Photo Credits: Jeri Adams, Sarah Bader-King, John Browning, and Bruce Mathews