Probably at the suggestion of Q. M. Capt. L. C. Easton of Fort Leavenworth, the experiment of contract freighting of military supplies was made in 1848. On May 17 he signed a contract with James Brown of Pettis county, Missouri, for the transportation of 200,000 pounds of government stores to Santa Fe, N. M., for 11% cents per pound. So anxious was the government to try the experiment that Quartermaster Easton sold him the wagons in which to haul the goods on credit.The experiment was as closely watched by the civilian freighters of western Missouri as it was by the quartermaster at Fort Leavenworth and War Department officials in Washington. When Brown returned in the fall after a highly successful, uneventful trip a ripple of excitement ran through freighting circles. All of them hoped that a new source of comfortable profit had been uncovered.
Encouraged by Brown’s successful venture, the authorities in Washington instructed the quartermaster at Fort Leavenworth to continue the experiment in 1849, probably calling for bids. Having become convinced good money was to be made in freighting government supplies to military posts in the West and Southwest, Russell and James Brown formed a partnership that year, called Brown & Russell, and contracted to deliver an unspecified amount of stores in Santa Fe for $9.88 per 100 pounds. Their surety bond of $150,000 was signed by John S. Jones, William B. Waddell, Robert B. Bradford, and others. The firm of Bullard & Russell, again in partnership with E. C. McCarty in 1849 sent a train loaded with merchant’s goods to the same destination. Both undertakings were completely successful.