Russell’s Freighting Expands

While Majors was expanding his freighting business in the latter 1840’s and early 1850’s Waddell and Russell were reaching out in various directions at Lexington and elsewhere. In 1850 Russell, James Brown, and John S. Jones formed a partnership, called Brown, Russell & Company, and contracted to deliver at least 600,000 pounds of military stores in Santa Fe for 14% cents per pound. This was the largest contract for the transportation of government sup-plies ever let at Fort Leavenworth up to that time. In addition Brown also sent out 30 wagons of his own loaded with military stores. From September 14 to October 2, more than three months past the usual starting time, Brown, Russell & Company put four trains of 25 wagons each and one of 15 on the road to Santa Fe. These were organized into two caravans, with Brown himself in charge of the one in the lead. In the latter part of November this train ar-rived at the old Pecos pueblo, 45 or 50 miles from Santa Fe. Here it was stalled by a heavy mountain blizzard. Since they could not travel Brown rode into Santa Fe to report the situation to the commandant of the garrison and ask permission to lay over until better conditions prevailed. Immediately after arriving he suffered a severe attack of typhoid fever and erysipelas from which he died on December 5.

When he did not return at the time he said he would, his assistant, Charles O. Jones, brother of John S. Jones, rode into Santa Fe to ascertain the cause of the delay. He made the same request that Brown did, but was refused. Moreover, the commandant delivered an ultimatum that unless the caravan moved immediately he would bring it in himself at the contractor’s expense. There being no alternative Jones returned to the camp to do his best. He forced the caravan through to Santa Fe, but with the loss of most of the oxen. Forage alone for the animals cost the firm $14,000. Russell presented to congress a claim for losses amounting to $39,800, but it was several years before it was paid. The other two trains wintered in the neighborhood of Bent’s fort and went on to their destination in the spring. In 1851 Russell and John S. Jones, under the name of Jones & Russell, got a two-year contract to deliver government stores in New Mexico. This was the first time contracts for more than one year were given.