Biography of Cyrus K. Holliday

Last Updated on October 1, 2012 by

Cyrus K. Holliday was one of the founders of Topeka, in which, for many years, he was the largest taxpayer; projected and built the first portion of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad; was one of the organizers of the republican party in Kansas, and an all-around promoter of great enterprises. Born at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, April 3, 1826, he was educated for the legal profession, but decided in early manhood in favor of a business life. His first venture was the building of a short line of railroad in his native state, in which he accumulated some $20,000, which was the foundation of his success in later life. Deeming the West a better field for the exercise of his talents, he left Pennsylvania and in October, 1854, located at Lawrence. He took an active interest in the free-state cause and was the first president of the town company that laid out Topeka.

An account of his work in connection with the founding of the great system of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, is thus given: “Mr Holliday’s greatest achievement was in projesting and building the first portion of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad. He was the first man to dream of a line of railway along the old Santa Fe trail to the Pacific coast. In 1864 he prepared a map showing the line of the proposed road and tried to interest capitalists in the scheme. Everywhere he was met by rebuffs and sneers, but nothing dauntod him, and he lived to see the realization of his dreams. He secured a charter from the Kansas legislature, and through the purchase and sale of Pottawatomie Indian lands raised money enough to built the first twenty miles of the road—from Topeka to Carbondale—an event that was celebrated with appropriate ceremonies.”

Mr. Holliday was elected state senator in 1861; served as adjutant-general during the Civil war; was chosen to the lower house of the Legislature in 1866; was nominated for Congress in 1874, but was defeated; was president of the Excelsior Coke and Gas Company and the Merchants National Bank of Topeka; served as president of the State Historical Society, and was a director of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company from the time it was organized until his death on March 29, 1900.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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