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Alexander Majors was a successful businessman involved in freight shipping shortly before the Civil War. Together with William Waddell and William Russell, he expanded his shipping empire to span the entire Santa Fe Trail and much of the western United States. Russell, Majors, and Waddell were also the minds behind the famous, though short-lived, Pony Express. His grave marker was erected by the National Pony Express Centennial Association.

The old and new grave markers of Alexander Majors, side by side.

Plant, Photograph, Cemetery, Tree

A photograph of Alexander Majors.

Hat, Beard, Collar, Facial hair

Alexander Majors was born on October 4, 1814, in Franklin, Kentucky. Four years later, his father moved the family to a farm in Jackson County, Missouri. In 1846, when he found that farming could not support his growing family, Majors traded with the Potawatomi Nation to supplement his income. Two years later, he began hauling freight down the Santa Fe Trail, setting a new time record of 92 days on his first journey. He would eventually employ over 4000 men for this endeavor, including William Cody, otherwise known as Buffalo Bill, the famous showman. In 1853, Majors received multiple federal contracts to haul supplies to numerous military bases along the Santa Fe Trail. The following year he formed a company with William Waddell and William Russell. Majors handled the freighting, Waddell focused on managerial duties, and Russell used contacts in Washington, D.C. to secure more government contracts. As the company grew, it required a second office in Nebraska City, where Majors moved in 1858. From here, Majors could more easily supply military efforts to subdue Mormons and Indigenous Peoples.

In 1860, the three men formed the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company to secure a mail-delivery contract between Missouri and California. The Company promised to deliver the mail in only 10 days, down from the 25-day delivery offered by the opposing Butterfield Overland Mail. To do this, Majors, Waddell, and Russell proposed a relay of mail carriers on horseback, which they called the Pony Express. Though their deliveries were successful, they did not secure the contract, and the trio went bankrupt when the Transcontinental Telegraph opened in 1861.

Alexander Majors is also largely responsible for the establishment of the Kansas City stockyards. From his farmhouse located on the Kansas-Missouri border, he outfitted wagons with cured pork, candles, and soap from his Westport-based meatpacking plant. This house still stands at the corner of State Line Road and 81st Street in Kansas City, Missouri, and operates as a museum. When his freight business went bankrupt, Majors attempted to revitalize it before eventually selling his business and moving his family to Salt Lake City, Utah. There he tried his hand at silver-mining, but was unsuccessful. In 1887, Majors moved to Denver, Colorado, where he was found old and destitute 4 years later by his former employee, William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Cody took Majors on as part of his traveling Wild West show. He also funded the publication of the old man’s memoirs, Seventy Years on the Frontier. Majors died in Chicago at the age of 85 on January 13, 1900. Due to his influence in the formation of Kansas City, he is buried in Union Cemetery.

Majors, Alexander. Seventy Years on the Frontier. 1893. Reprint, Rand, McNally & Company, 1985.

Weekley, Rachel Franklin. “Alexander Majors (1814–1900).” Missouri Encyclopedia. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, October 7, 1999.

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