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Cyrus K. Holliday,1826-1900

Materials relating to Cyrus K. Holliday

Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, a distinguished Kansas pioneer, founder of Topeka, successful businessman (railroads and banks), and a public spirited citizen, was born on April 3, 1826, to David and Mary (Kennedy) Holliday, near Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He attended Allegheny College, in Meadville, graduating in 1852, with the intention of entering law, but soon entered into a variety of business enterprises. He and Mary Dillon Jones were married in 1854, and after making a handsome profit on a short line railroad venture in his native state, Holliday joined the throng of westward migrants and was among Kansas Territory's first settlers. Mary Holliday permanently joined her husband in Kansas after the birth of their children, Lillie and Charles King.

Holliday settled first at Lawrence in October 1854. But not long after his arrival, he became convinced that the territory would ultimately enter the Union as a free state and that he should establish another enclave of free state citizens further up the Kansas River. Accordingly, Holliday organized a party to establish the Topeka Town Association in late December 1854, and marked off the town's streets and boundaries. I am now thirty miles above Lawrence on the Kansas River assisting in starting a new town, he wrote to Mary Holliday. 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. Governor Reeder passed through our place day before yesterday and spoke very encouragingly of our enterprise. We hope all will go well. Holliday was elected as association's first and only president, and he would soon play a principal role in the founding of the Free State Party. During the Wyandotte Constitutional convention of July 1859, Holliday served as Topeka's delegate and succeeded in having his city officially designated as the future state capital. That year he was also elected to the first of many terms as mayor of Topeka. Holliday also would help found the Kansas Republican Party and serve in both the territorial and state legislatures.

During the 1859 territorial legislature, Holliday began plans for the construction of a railroad to run from Atchison, Kansas, along the Santa Fe Trailhis most notable business venture, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. To accomplish this he wrote and secured passage of a bill through the Territorial Council creating the railroad. This, along with a land grant from the federal government permitting the purchase of territorial land at one dollar an acre, enabled the new railroad to begin construction. By 1863, he succeeded in securing congressionally authorized land grants, and the ground breaking for this enterprise took place in 1868. Holliday served as the ATSF director until his death in 1900.

Holliday received the honorary, though unofficial, title of colonelwhich he carried for the remainder of his lifewhile supervising a free-state regiment during the Wakarusa War of 1855. During the Civil War, Holliday served as the adjutant general of Kansas, in which capacity recruited soldiers and insured that supplies were sent to the front.


Barnes, Lela. Letters of Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, 1854-1859. Kansas Historical Quarterly 6 (August 1937): 241-294.

Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 9 . New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, .

Treadway, William E. Cyrus K. Holliday: A Documentary Biography . Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society, 1979.

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