In the dawn of 1855 Kansas territory presented a scene unique in American history. Six months before, when its 22 million acres were thrown open to settlers, there were few white men in it ex-cept at Forts Leavenworth, Scott and Riley, and at Indian missions. Neither was there a town of any size within its borders. There were few roads, no schoolhouses or churches, and no stores or other business concerns necessary to develop communities, and no newspapers. In fact, Kansas territory in the spring of 1854, so far as civilized political, economic, commercial, and social institu-tions were concerned, was almost a total vacuum.
When Russell, Majors & Waddell signed a copartnership agreement on December 28, 1854, effective January 1, 1855, creating the great freighting firm of Waddell, Russell & Co., Majors & Russell, Majors, Russell & Company, or Russell, Majors & Waddell, as it was variously known, they evidently meant to assemble their trains at Westport and drive them to Fort Leavenworth for loading. In the meantime, however, they looked the situation in Kansas over and decided that entirely apart from the freighting business the new territory offered fabulous opportunities to capitalists able to grasp them. Consequently they established field headquarters in the infant town of Leavenworth. They opened a store under the name of Majors, Russell & Company, built a warehouse, an office, a blacksmith and wagon shop, a packing plant to provide meat for their trains, a sawmill on nearby Shawnee creek, a lumber yard, and corrals for their oxen.