Cyrus Kurtz Holliday.Not infrequently it happens that the term "pioneer" is abused or misapplied. In speaking or writing of one who has been prominent in the community, or who may have attained to years beyond the average of human life, there is a natural inclination to refer to him as a leading spirit in the business or political world, and to apply to him words of praise or appreciation, not always entirely warranted by the actual facts. In the case of the distinguished Kansan of whom this article treats no such error can be committed. In the endeavor to preserve within reasonable space a suitable record of his life and achivements[sic] no fanciful elaboration of record is necessary. He has been more generous to the biographer than it is possible for the biographer to be to him, and the simple truth is ample. Cyrus Kurtz Holliday was a pioneer at the time when pioneers really existed in Kansas. He was an early settler in the best meaning of that term. He made himself known and felt, not only in Topeka, not only in Kansas, but in a much broader field. He was a business man, the master of an honorable profession, a public-spirited citizen, a worker for Kansas. He lived for a purpose, to which he was true and steadfast, and the home in which he died was built on the farm he preëmpted in 1855, when Kansas was the mere beginning of a state and Topeka the dim prospect of a city. He was born near the town of Carlisle, in Pennsylvania, April 3, 1826. With the exception of a brief residence in Wooster, Ohio, his early years were spent near the place of his birth. His education was obtained at Allegheny College, Meadville, Pa., one of his classmates being the late Senator William B. Allison of Iowa. He was educated for the legal profession, which he followed to some extent, although his natural taste seemed to be for large business undertakings, for which his knowledge of law and his talents as an orator gave him a fine equipment. His first important business venture was as a contractor for the construction of a short line of railroad in his native state, on which he realized a profit of $20,000. With this foundation, a pretentious one in those days, he decided to emigrate to the west, to enlarge his field of operation, make his home and build his fortune. He came to Kansas in the early '50s, stopping at Lawrence, where he met Gov. Charles Robinson, who became his friend and associate. His ability and energy, coupled with the enthusiasm of young manhood, at once gave him prominence and leadership, and the fort built by the citizens of the town to defend it against the attacks of pro-slavery men was called Fort Holliday, in his honor. After the adoption of the Lecompton constitution and the establishment of the Territorial capital there, it was the judgment of many of the leading citizens of Lawrence that the Territory would eventually become a free state, and, imbued with this idea, Mr. Holliday persuaded some of his friends to go further west with him in search of a site for the permanent capital of the new state. They first stopped at Tecumseh, but were unable to make terms with the owners of the town site at that point. Proceeding six miles further west an agreement was made with Enoch Chase, by which sufficient land for their purpose was obtained and preëmpted by means of a "Wyandotte float"a government warrant authorizing a Wyandotte Indian or his assignee to locate a piece of unoccupied land wherever he might select. This became the town site of Topeka, and the Topeka Town company was formed, of which Mr. Holliday was the first president. The site of the city was originally the headright of Isaiah Walker, an Indian, who deeded the land to the Topeka company. The original patent for this particular piece of property bears the date of Feb. 14, 1859, and is signed by President James Buchanan. Another patent, covering sixty-two acres on the bank of the Kansas river, bears the signature of Abraham Lincoln and was issued from the Lecompton land office to the mayor and council of Topeka. Mr. Holliday's own story of the founding of Topeka is in these words: "I arrived in Lawrence in October, 1854, and came into possession of a few shares in the Lawrence Town company, but preferring to be interested in a town of my own, started west on Nov. 21 with a party to look up a desirable town site. In that party were Governor Robinson, Rev. S. Y. Lum, Rev. Mr. Clough, a Mr. Davis, Frank Billings, Captain Bolles, John Armstrong, and myself. On Nov. 22 we arrived on the ground upon which the city of Topeka now stands, which at once impressed me as a favorable location for a great city. The selection of this town site was not an accident; it offered every advantage as a town site. Here was a great river, plenty of water, and above all, the two great trails of the continentFort Leavenworth and St. Joe to Santa Fe, and Independence to Californiacrossed at this point." Mr. Holliday wanted to call the new town Webster, in honor of Daniel Webster, but the name Topeka was adopted upon the suggestion of Rev. S. Y. Lum. In laying out the town it was upon Mr. Holliday's suggestion that sufficient ground was set apart for the present Capitol Square, and he was wholly instrumental in making Topeka the capital city. He was, in fact, the father of the city. Mr. Holliday and his associates took up homesteads adjacent to the new town, and some of the land so obtained was afterwards added to the site, Mr. Holliday's farm among the number. He continued to direct the affairs of the company until all the lots were disposed of, when the company went out of business and Mr. Holliday was made trustee, for the purpose of curing all defects of titles. Many of the lots remained in his name up to the time of his death, and for many years he was the largest individual taxpayer in the city of Topeka. It must have been a source of considerable pride to him to be able to locate and establish a city like Topeka and make it the capital of a state like Kansas; but his greatest satisfaction and his most enduring fame, no doubt, resulted from his connection with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad, of which he was the inspiration, the promoter, the builder, the first president, and a director from the date of its organization up to the date he died, within sound of its whistles and bells, the rumble of its trains and the clang and whir of its mighty shops. The idea of building a railroad across the state, in the direction of California and Mexico and following the old Santa Fe trail, came to him soon after he landed in Kansas. His dream was something marvelous, as his faith was something splendid. His associates in Topeka avoided discussing a proposition so absurd. His friends in the East ridiculed it. Everybody dismissed it from thought as being a wild feat of the imagination on the part of an otherwise amiable and level-headed man. Confronted with the suggestion of such a project, Jules Verne might have written a romance around it. But Verne lived to see his "Around the World in Eighty Days" discounted twenty-five per cent. by an up-to-date traveler, and Holliday lived to see the imaginary become the practical. As early as 1864 he caused to be printed a map of the proposed road, which is still extant, showing the lines of the great system stretching from Atchison to the Gulf of Mexico, to the city of Mexico, to Guaymas, to Los Angeles, to San Francisco, and to Denver. While a member of the Territorial council Mr. Holliday obtained from the Territorial legislature a charter for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company. His next step was to obtain a land grant from Congress. The first money for use in constructing the road came through an act of Congress authorizing the sale, at $1 per acre in gold, of the residuary lands of the Pottawatomie Indians to any land grant railroad company. By borrowing money on a mortgage Mr. Holliday came into possession of this Indian land and sold it at a sufficient profit to build his railroad from Topeka to Carbondale, a distance of twenty miles. This was the first section; and the rest of the road, from Carbondale to Newton, was built in the same fragmentary way. It was a constant struggle to enlist public interest in the road and to obtain funds with which to prosecute the work. Mr. Holliday had unbounded faith in the enterprise. He planned and worked by day and night. No obstacle daunted him. The most extraordinary difficulties seemed only to inspire him with renewed vigor. A notable gesture of his when calling attention to the possibilities of the road, or advocating an issue of bonds in its aid, was to cross his arms in front on a level with his shoulders in the form of a horizontal X. Then, turning his face to the southwest, he would say: "Fellow citizens, imagine, if you please, my right hand as Chicago, my left as St. Louis. Eventually the railroad we contemplate will reach those two cities, and, crossing at Topeka, the intersection of my arms, will extend to Galveston, the City of Mexico, and San Francisco. The incoming tides of immigration will flow along these lines of railway and like an ocean wave advance up the sides of the Rockies and dash their foaming crests down upon the Pacific Slope." At a meeting held in Wakarusa, which point the track layers had just reached. Mr. Holliday predicted that the Atchison would in the near future become one of the great transcontinental railways of the country, and years ago he saw the fulfillment of his prophecy. The faith that prompted and nerved him in the beginning was never surrendered for a day or an hour. He had inaugurated a conquest of the plains, and he firmly believed in its ultimate success. When the road was in its worst financial straits he was a bull in the market, and only sold occasional blocks of stock to meet pressing obligations, in 1879, when the stocks of all the granger roads made a slight advance in the market, he was urged to unload his large Kansas holdings. Atchison stock was then quoted at forty-eight cents. He insisted that the price would go to $1.50, and it subsequently reached that figure, thus vindicating his judgment, as a former event had vindicated his faith and courage. During the early years of his life in Topeka, Mr. Holliday took a very active interest in politics and was always a close student of public affairs. He was the first mayor of Topeka, and later was recalled to that position for several terms. He was a member of the first free state convention, held in Topeka in 1857, and also took part in the second free-state convention at the same place in 1858, at which time he was nominated for lieutenant-governor on the free-state ticket. When Horace Greeley came to Kansas, in 1859, to organize the free-state men in the Republican party, Mr. Holliday was one of the prominent factors in the movement. At the Osawatomie convention, in May of that year, he assisted in the formation of the Republican party of the state, and was a member of the committee on platform. In 1861 he was chosen to be state senator for the Sixth senatorial district, which included the counties of Shawnee, Jackson, Jefferson and Osage. Two years later he served a term as adjutant-general of the state and handled the business of the Kansas regiments during the Civil war. There were 21,086 enlisted men from Kansas, comprising all branches of military service, and the record of every man was kept with perfect order and absolute accuracy. It was this service that gave him his title of colonel, by which he was afterwards familiarly known. In 1866 he represented the Topeka district in the lower house of the legislature. In 1874 he was a candidate for Congress before the Republican convention of the Third district, but was defeated. In 1884 he was nominated for lieutenant-governor by a convention of Democrats and Republicans who favored the resubmission of the prohibitory amendment, but was defeated at the polls. For many years he was president of the Excelsior Coke and Gas company of Topeka, and later was president of the Merchants' National bank of the same city. He was president of the State Historical Society in 1890, and was, from the first, one of its most active and influential members. Colonel Holliday died March 29, 1900, lacking five days of completing his 74th year. The immediate cause of his death was an affection of the heart, from which he had suffered for a number of years. Because of advancing age the last recurrence proved to be more serious than former attacks, and early in his illness the physicians gave up all hope of his recovery, a condition so fully realized by Colonel Holliday that he was able to make due preparation for the end and to adjust his extensive business interests. His wife, who was formerly Miss Mary Jones of Meadville, Pa., died July 19, 1908. She came with him to Kansas in the early days and was his constant companion and helpmeet. Two children also survive: a daughter, Mrs. Lillie H. Kellam, and son, Charles K. Holliday, both residents of Topeka. Colonel Holliday was a familiar figure in Topeka and in Kansas, and filled many places of trust and responsibility in the private avenues of life, not easily enumerated here. He was a man of dignified, courtly and scholarly appearance, of agreeable and gracious presence, of infinite courtesy, of kindly and generous nature, and dear in the intimate relations of home, community and state. His whole life, from enthusiastic young manhood to venerable age, was interwoven with the history of the city he founded. His eyes had watched the slow unfolding of the scattered huts into the village his steady hand and tireless brain had wrought and planned, nor rested when the village merged into the town. And the same energy of brain and brawn worked on until the city, rich, prosperous and filled with high promise of the future, towered where long years before he had reared his almost solitary home. And the city is the tablet on which is graven his worth, his deeds, his merits, the power of an intellect which claimed men's admiration and the charm of a kindly heart that won their esteem and gratitude.Pages 40-44 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
TITLE PAGE / LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I
TITLE PAGE / LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
J | K | L | Mc | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z
Background and KSGenWeb logo were designed and are copyrighted by
Tom & Carolyn Ward
for the limited use of the KSGenWeb Project.
Permission is granted for use only on an official KSGenWeb page.
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project