WAGONS WESTWARD! by Ralph Edgar Bailey


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The other side of the westward movement--commercial transport--and the example of a man who rebounded from the loss of a fortune give interest to what, in meticulous outline, is a worthy but not Consistently dramatic career. As he has demonstrated before (in biographies of Nathaniel Fanning, Nathanael Greene, Nelson Miles), Mr. Bailey sets his scene carefully--here the trails west after the Mexican War--and attends to the integument of his character's experiences: when Majors, shepherding his first wagon train, reaches Santa Fe, we get a good look at the folkways and festivities; likewise, on his third trip, we take in disgruntled trader Bent's abandoned fort. Invited, because of his early success, to bid on a contract to haul all of the Army's supplies to the Santa Fe-area forts, Majors reveals that he can't read or write, is advised to learn, meanwhile to take a partner; the resulting firm, first Russell & Majors, becomes the biggest in the field until Russell's overreaching (an all-weather stagecoach line to California, the Pony Express) and the government's delay in paying precipitate its fall. Relieved, Majors takes to the trail again, soon, with the encouragement of Brigham Young, settling in Salt Lake City where he hauls ties for the transcontinental railroad; it's the end of long-haul transport (and virtually the end of the book). Obviously indebted to Majors' Seventy Years on the Frontier besides a variety of related, up-to-date sources, this is responsible, highly informative history (particularly judicious re the Mormon War) rather than--except for Majors' comeback--a persuasive biography.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1969
Publisher: Morrow