Who is Alexander Majors?
January 16, 2013
Alexander Majors was born in 1814 in Kentucky. He came to Missouri with his family at the age of five. Shortly after moving to Missouri, his mother was injured in a fall; she died a year and a half later.
Majors became a Cass County farmer and married Katherine Stallcup. They had five daughters and two sons. Because he felt the farm wasn’t supporting them, he went into the freight trading business in 1848.
He only had six wagons with their teams, but his first trip from Independence to Santa Fe was done in a record 92 days. This feat earned him quite a reputation. In 1854, he went into business with William H. Russell and William B. Waddell. They eventually owned 4,000 wagons, 50,000 oxen, 1000 mules, and employed 5000 men.
Majors rode alongside his trains of 25 wagons with a dozen oxen for each wagon. He communicated his instructions via pony-mounted messengers. One such rider was Will Cody, who grew up to be "Buffalo Bill" Cody. Cody eventually became a wagon master and later a Pony Express Rider.
Majors took great care of his animals and insisted that everyone rest on the Sabbath. He read his Bible, never swore, and did not drink. He made his men take an oath of good conduct when they were hired. His men worked hard to impress him. His wagon trains usually came in two weeks ahead of other trains.
In Westport, the freighting company owned and operated a lumberyard, sawmill, and a meat-packing plant. The meat packing plant supplied his wagon trains with cured pork, soap, and candles. Majors loaded his trains in Westport, rather than Independence. Many other freight companies followed in his footsteps. He is attributed with starting the growth of Kansas City.
In 1856, his freight company was so successful that he built a house in the Missouri - Kansas Border. The house was so well constructed that it still stands at 8201 State Line.
It was in this house that his company formulated a plan for the Pony Express in 1860. Russell, Majors, and Waddell vied for a federal contract to deliver mail between Missouri and California. Even though they succeeded in the deliveries, they did not get the contract. In October 1861, the Transcontinental Telegraph started, eliminating the need for some of the mail services.
The railroad went through not long after that, thus the need for a lot of his freight services were no longer needed. Instead, he took to grading roadbeds and furnishing ties and telegraph poles to the railroad. He was there at the setting of the golden spike when the railroad from the East and the West met in Promontory, Utah.
Eventually, he moved to Colorado. Later, "Buffalo Bill" found him old, ill, and penniless. Bill helped him publish a memoir that he was writing, Seventy Years on the Frontier. After the publication of his memoirs, he went on a tour of speaking engagements. In 1900, Majors died at the age of 86 in Chicago.
You can read more about him:
- Seventy Years on the Frontier by Alexander Majors
- Frontier Freighter: Alexander Majors by J. L. Wilkerson
Blue Ridge Branch