Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

HOLLIDAY, CYRUS K. (1826-1900)

Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, founder of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, was born April 3, 1826, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He became a leading abolitionist in Kansas, established a settlement at Topeka, and battled Missouri border ru.ans before achieving lasting fame and fortune as a railroad builder.

As a young man, Holliday dreamed of building a railroad that would follow the old Santa Fe Trail to the Southwest. His involvement in the struggle over slavery in "Bleeding Kansas," however, put his railroading career on hold. In 1854, when Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Holliday moved to Kansas, joined the Free Soil Party, and resided briefly in the small settlement of Lawrence. That fall, he helped found the settlement of Topeka and became that future state capital's first mayor. Throughout the fall of 1855, Holliday, an outspoken antislavery activist, wrote extensively for the Kansas Freeman, an abolitionist newspaper. As guerrilla warfare erupted around him, he was named colonel and commanded the Second Kansas Regiment at the December siege of Lawrence. When proslavery guerrillas renewed their incursions into Kansas six weeks later, Colonel Holliday was promoted to brigadier general, and he repulsed the Missourians.

During the late 1850s, Holliday served in the legislature and once again pursued his dream of a career in railroad building. In 1859 the Kansas Territorial Legislature granted him a state charter for the Atchison and Topeka Railroad, and in 1863 President Lincoln signed an act granting Holliday's railroad 2,928,928 acres of land in Kansas and millions more over time in states farther west. On November 24, 1863, the line was renamed the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Holliday spent half a decade raising the funds needed to get this railroad started. Finally, in 1868, ground was broken at Topeka. The line was a success, soon reaching Colorado and New Mexico and eventually stretching on to Los Angeles.

In 1874, after saving the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe from bankruptcy, Thomas Nickerson, a Boston financier, replaced Holliday as the company's president. Holliday returned to serve as president of the reorganized Santa Fe rail system from July 1, 1896, until his death on March 29, 1900.

See also WAR: Bleeding Kansas.

Derrick S. Ward Ventura, California

Marshall, James. Santa Fe: The Railroad That Built an Empire. New York: Random House, 1945.

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