Cyrus K. Holliday

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Cyrus K. Holliday
Mayor of Topeka
In office
Preceded byOrin T. Welch
Succeeded byRev. J. B. McAfee
In office
Preceded byRoss Burns
Succeeded byOrin T. Welch
In office
Preceded byLorenzo Dow
Succeeded byHiram W. Farnsworth
Personal details
Cyrus Kurtz Holliday

(1826-04-03)April 3, 1826
Kidderminster, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedMarch 29, 1900(1900-03-29) (aged 73)
Topeka, Kansas, U.S.
SpouseMary Dillon Jones
ChildrenLillie Holliday
Charles King Holliday
Parent(s)David Holliday
Mary (Kennedy) Holliday
OccupationRailroad executive

Colonel Cyrus Kurtz Holliday (April 3, 1826 – March 29, 1900) was an American railroad executive who was one of the founders of the township of Topeka, Kansas, in the mid 19th century;[1] and was Adjutant General of Kansas during the American Civil War. The title Colonel, however, was honorary. He was the first president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, as well as one of the railroad's directors for nearly 40 years, up to 1900. A number of railway locomotives have been named after him, as well as the former town of Holliday, Kansas. He was also the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Kansas. As a Freemason, he was a member of Topeka Lodge #17 and was highly influential in the decision of moving the State Capitol to the city of Topeka.[2]

Education and early career[edit]

He was born on April 3, 1826, to David and Mary (Kennedy) Holliday, in Kidderminster, Pennsylvania (near Carlisle).[1][3][4] 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.[3]

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.[1]

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[edit]

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.[5]

In 1855 Holliday received the honorary title of Colonel for supervising a regiment during the Wakarusa War. He also served as the Adjutant General of Kansas during the Civil War from May 2, 1864, to March 31, 1865. Although his Colonel title was only honorary, he continued to use it long after his military service.[4]

In 1861, Holliday served in the Kansas State Senate, and although he ran for Congress in 1874, he was defeated in that election. He was a Republican.[1]

Holliday had broad interests in developing the natural resources of Kansas. In the 1890s he became mistakenly convinced that Ellis and Trego counties in central Kansas contained mineral deposits of tin, zinc, and gold. In 1899 his son Charles K. Holliday founded Smoky Hill City, Kansas, near the supposed mineral deposits.[6]

Santa Fe Railroad[edit]

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 singlehandedly 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.[7][8][9] Kansas Territory governor Samuel Medary approved the charter on February 11, 1859.[10] Holliday was named a director and president of the new railroad on September 17, 1860,[3][11] 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,[11] but remained on the board of directors until July 27, 1865. He rejoined the board on September 24, 1868, this time serving until his death on March 29, 1900.[9][11][12]


Officials of the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe, on the line's Cyrus K. Holliday Locomotive No. 1

Holliday is memorialized for his contributions to Kansas and the Santa Fe:


  1. ^ a b c d Connelly, William E. (1997) [1918]. "Cyrus K. Holliday". A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans (transcribed ed.). Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company.
  3. ^ a b c Waters 1950, p. 24.
  4. ^ a b "Cyrus K. Holliday, 1826-1900". Territorial Kansas Online. September 16, 2003. Retrieved March 27, 2007.
  5. ^ "Cyrus K. Holliday -- A letter home". The Capital-Journal. March 8, 2003. Archived from the original on February 23, 2004. Retrieved July 4, 2005.
  6. ^ Plazak, Dan (2007). "The imaginary gold mines of Kansas". Mining History Journal. 14: 11–22.
  7. ^ Waters 1950, p. 26.
  8. ^ Bradley, Glenn D. (1920). The story of the Santa Fe. Boston: The Gorham Press. p. 56. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Blackmar, Frank W., ed. (1912). Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc. Vol. II. Chicago: Standard Publishing Company. pp. 863–864. ISBN 9780722249055. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  10. ^ Waters 1950, p. 487.
  11. ^ a b c "Santa Fe Officials Past and Present". Santa Fe Employes' Magazine. IV (2). Santa Fe Magazine: 63. January 1910. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  12. ^ Waters, p. 346.
  13. ^ "Liberty Ships built by the United States Maritime Commission in World War II". American Merchant Marine at War. Retrieved March 27, 2007.
  14. ^ Henderson, Harold J. (May 1947). "Ships in World War II Bearing Kansas Names". KanColl: The Kansas Historical Quarterlies. Kansas State Historical Society. Archived from the original on January 28, 2003. Retrieved March 27, 2007.
  15. ^ "C.K. Holliday - Engine No. 1". The Happiest Place on Earth: The Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad. Archived from the original on April 23, 2001.
  16. ^ "Hall of Great Westerners". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved November 22, 2019.


  • Waters, Lawrence Leslie (1950). Steel Trails to Santa Fe. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, Kansas.
New title President of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
1860 – 1863
Succeeded by