William Hepburn Russell
The names of Charles Hargen and "Buffalo" Bill Cody are names synonymous with the famous Pony Express of yesteryear. They were two of the 183 men who rode in the now legendary mail system of the past. However you hardly hear of the mastermind behind the program. William H. Russell was a St. Joseph, Missouri businessman who dreamed of the possibilities of a quick and safe way to get information to America's west coast. The service began in 1860 and stretched a distance of 1966 miles from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Most of the men who rode were said to be "young, skinny, fellows." Each rode with mailbags, and were protected by their Bibles, their rifles, and their revolvers. They traveled about 250 miles a day, and taking an average of ten days to travel the distance. The service only lasted 19 months, being replaced by the much quicker telegraph service.
Though best known for his connection to the Express, Russell was known far and wide for his business entrepenural expertise. This Vermont born businessman was connected with numerous schemes through the years. At his home in Lexington, Missouri, he, along with E.C. McCarty, dispatched the first wagon train ever to carry civilian cargo from Westport Landing to Santa Fe in 1847. The success was so great that he and McCarty repeated it again in 1848. The next year he, along with partner, William B. Waddell, added a contract with the Army to move supplies in the west with the signing of a $150,000 performance bond. So, in addition to being a mail carrier, he was one of the first cargo transporter as well, a veritable ancestor of the United Parcel Service/Federal Express concept. But cargo and mail were not the only "irons in the fire" attributed to W.H. Russell. Over the years Russell served as a president of an insurance company and a road-building company. He served as a director of two local railroads, as well a branch of the Bank Of Missouri.
Russell, in addition to being a business man, was a Christian. He married Harriet Eliot Warder, the daughter of Kentucky Baptist minister, John Warder. The Warder family was connected with early reform among the Baptist. John's younger brother, Walter Warder, was most noted as having worked with Jeremiah Vardeman, Jacob Creath, Jr., and "Raccoon" John Smith in the late 1820s.
In his sixtieth year, he was living with his son, John W., in Palmyra, Missouri. There is where he died September 10, 1872. He was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery.
William H. Russell
Pony Riders Oath
I do hereby swear before the great living God, that during my
engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors
and Weddell, or fight with any other employee of the firm,
and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly,
be faithful to my duties, and so direct my acts as to win
the confidence of my employees, so help me God.
The Pony Express
William H. Russell
January 31, 1812 - September 10, 1872
He was a member of the firm of Russell,
Majors and Waddell, Founders, Owners
And Operators Of teh Pony Express
This Marks His Grave
As This site is a Restoration Movement Website, Russell's relationship to the movement is highlighted by the fact that he is buried just across the road from the great Disciple's leader Jacob Creath, Jr. Also, see the onsight webpage of other historical locations in Palmyra, Missouri.
Special thanks to Wayne Kilpatrick and Tom Childers for travelling with your webeditor in June, 2009 to numerous places connected with American History as well as locations directly connected to the American Restoration Movement.