Alexander Majors was born on October 4, 1814, near Franklin, Simpson County, Kentucky, the eldest of the family of two boys and a girl. His father, Benjamin Majors, was a farmer born in North Carolina in 1794, and was brought when a boy by his father, Alexander Majors, to Kentucky about the year 1800. His mother’s maiden name was Laurania Kelly; her father, Beil Kelly, was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine. When Alexander was about five years of age, his father moved the family to Missouri, when the state was still a Territory. Shortly after they arrived near St. Louis, and while camping out, his mother was injured in a fall, and died of the injuries about a year and a half later when Alexander was only six years old. In his autobiography he states: “No mother ever gave birth to a son who loved her more, or whose tender recollection have been more endearing or lasting than mine. I have never encountered any difficulty so great, no matter how threatening, that I have not been able to overcome fearlessly when the recollection of my dear mother and the spirit by which she was animated came to me.”
When Alexander grew up and became a married man with daughters to be clothed and educated he found it impossible to meet his growing necessities as a struggling Cass County farmer. In desperation he turned to the freighting trade.
He had only six wagons and teams when he embarked on his new career, but that trip from Independence to Santa Fe and back was made in record time of 92 days, a feat that was to set the groundwork for a world-wide reputation as a freighting genius. Within ten years after going into partnership with William H. Russell and William B. Waddell, Majors was to find himself in command of the gigantic numbers of men and animals heretofore mentioned. It was estimated that if all were put on the trail at one time in a single file, the equipment, men and oxen would have formed a wagon train 50 miles long.
Majors ran his wagons in trains of 25 each, pulled by at least a dozen oxen. He usually rode alongside the train, communicating his instructions with pony-mounted messengers. One such runner got his start when his mother asked Majors to give her 12-year-old son a job. Majors hired him and later taught him to read and sign his name. This was little Willy Cody who became a part of American folklore as “Buffalo Bill” Cody. He became a wagon master, and later one of the most famous of the Pony Express riders.
Majors was a religious man and one his first trips over the trail to Santa Fe, he established this rule: “Man and beast must rest on the Sabboth.” This Christian practice plus the superior care given his animals no doubt largely explains why Majors’ wagon trains almost invariably came in two weeks ahead of other outfits.
Buffalo Bill had this to say about Alexander Majors: “Every man, from wagon boss and teamster down to rustler and messenger boy, seemed anxious to gain the good will of Alexander Majors and to hold it, and today he has fewer foes than anyone I know, in spite of his position as chief of what were certainly a wild and desperate lot of men.”
By 1856 the firm of Russell, Majors, and Waddell was a highly successful freighting company carrying all kinds of goods to Santa Fe and the Southwest, and Majors built a magnificent home on the Missouri Kansas border. The house was so well constructed with stout oak timbers and square headed nails that it still stands today at 8201 State Line and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The idea and plans for the Pony Express were formed in Majors. office at the house.
The growth and prosperity of Kansas City and much of the western United States can be attributed to Alexander Majors. He and his great freighting firm, Russell, Majors and Waddell, are responsible for establishing Kansas City.s commercial destiny along with the foundation and principles on which the west was built. Majors. western freighting operations were instrumental in attracting governmental and private shippers to unload goods at Westport Landing on the Missouri River. This gave Kansas City its initial thrust toward prosperity. Majors tremendous freighting business established the Kansas City stockyards. It is significant that the expansion of Majors. freighting business in the 1850′s and the phenomenal growth and development of Kansas City and the West is a drama which is perhaps unparalleled in history.