Cyrus K. Holliday

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Cyrus K. Holliday
Born April 3, 1826
Kidderminster, Pennsylvania
Died 1900

Colonel Cyrus Kurtz Holliday ( April 3, 1826 – 1900) was one of the founders of Topeka, Kansas. He was also the first president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, as well as one of the railroad's directors for nearly 40 years.

Education and early career

He was born on April 3, 1826, to David and Mary (Kennedy) Holliday, in Kidderminster, Pennsylvania (near Carlisle). The younger Holliday received a public school education, graduating from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he studied law, in 1852. Although he moved to Kansas in 1854, Allegheny College's alumni records show Holliday receiving a Master's Degree in 1855.

While he was still in Meadville, he was asked to prepare legal documentation for a new railroad that would connect to the city. The proposed railroad (likely the Pittsburgh and Erie Railroad which was sometimes known as "The Meadville Line") would almost connect with a larger nearby system (the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad), which meant that it could become a feeder route to the larger railroad. Holliday saw the potential of the line and instead of asking for a standard fee to create the documents, he asked for and was granted a partnership in the new railroad. When this railroad was purchased by the larger system, Holliday earned $20,000 from the sale.

After the sale was completed, he married Mary Dillon Jones. He soon followed the many others making the migration to settle land west of the Mississippi River, but Mary stayed behind in Pennsylvania. The two were reunited later in Kansas after the births of their children, Lillie and Charles King.

Founding Topeka and military service

In 1854 he moved to Kansas, leaving his wife behind in Pennsylvania to follow later. He first settled in Lawrence in October 1854. On December 10, 1854, after helping to find a location for the new townsite of Topeka, he wrote a letter to his wife saying:

"I am now thirty miles above Lawrence on the Kansas River assisting in starting a new town. We are just about in the central portion of the "settled" Territory and with perhaps the best landing and the most eligible site for a city in the entire country. ... So I think it must be, and in a few years when civilization by its magic influence shall have transformed this glorious country from what it is now to the brilliant destiny awaiting it, the Sun in all his course will visit no land more truly lovely and desirable than this. Here, Mary, with God's kind permission, we will make our home; and I have every reason to believe a home it will truly be."

In 1855 Holliday received the honorary title of Colonel for supervising a regiment during the Wakarusa War. He also served as Adjutant General of Kansas during the American Civil War in following decade. Although his Colonel title was only honorary, he continued to use it long after his military service.

The Santa Fe Railroad

Once Topeka was founded, it needed transportation to connect it to the rest of the country. Holliday's legal skills were called on again to create the paperwork for a new railroad. In 1859 he wrote the charter for the Atchison and Topeka Railroad Company, which would connect the two cities by rail following the route of the Santa Fe Trail. Kansas Territory governor Andrew Horatio Reeder approved the charter on February 11, 1859. Holliday was named a director and president of the new railroad on September 17, 1860, which was renamed in 1863 to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. During his tenure as president, Holliday secured land grants from the federal government that would soon be used by the railroad to populate the western portion of Kansas in order to build a customer base for the railroad. He stepped down from the presidency at the end of 1863, but remained on the board of directors until July 27, 1865. He rejoined the board on September 24, 1868, this time serving until March 29, 1900.


Holliday is buried in Topeka Cemetery, Topeka, Kansas. He is memorialized for his contributions to Kansas and the Santa Fe Railroad:

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