Russell’s Stagecoach to Denver

The rumored and realized riches from the Rocky Mountains not only piqued the interests of gold seekers, but it captivated entrepreneurs foreseeing goods and services necessary for the emigrants’ livelihood. Denver City town promoter General William H. Larimer, Jr. aimed to attract essential enterprises to Denver City drawing business away from its larger, more established rival, Auraria Town Company, located on the opposite side of Cherry Creek. Larimer realized the leverage and influence a stage line generated to an infant communfry. He discussed a proposition of running a stage line from Leavenworth, Kansas Territory, to Denver City with William Hepburn Russell, a veteran freighter. Larimer enhanced the proposition by offering fifty-three Denver City lots to the freighting firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell express company (a freight line of which William Russell was a principal) and six lots to William H. Russell, if Russell agreed.

Additionally, Larimer gave the stage line two city lots strategically located in the heart of Denver City. William H. Russell, known to embark on “new and profitless” enterprises, joined with John S. Jones, a pioneer government contractor of the West, to organize the first passenger service from the states to Denver City. They called their stage line the Leavenworth & Pike’s Peak Express Company (L & PPE). Russell and Jones invited Alexander Majors and William Bradford Waddell to join them in the new venture. However, both Majors and Waddell agreed that engaging in a stage line was premature and risky in an undeveloped area with an unknown future. Russell, Majors and Waddell provided the L & PPE a ninety-day loan for most of its origination costs, which were nearly $79,000.