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Historical Honors Award Recipient

Cyrus K. Holliday

1989
Railroader and Promoter of Great Enterprises
Photo of Recipient

Cyrus Holliday, described as an all-around promoter of great enterprises, was born in Carlisle, Pa., in 1826. Although educated as a lawyer, Holliday quickly found himself better suited to business. His first venture was to build a short railroad line in his native state, an endeavor he claimed was the foundation for his future success.

Regarding the West as a better opportunity to exercise his talents, Holliday left Pennsylvania for Lawrence, Kans. He took an active interest in the free-state cause and was the first president of the town company that laid out Topeka. The realization of an outrageous dream landed Holliday in the history books. He envisioned a railway running along the Old Santa Fe trail, extending to the Pacific coast. However, his initial plans were met with rebuffs and jeers as he attempted to interest capitalists in the venture.

Undaunted by rejection, Holliday finally secured a charter from the Kansas Legislature, and through the purchase and sale of Pottawatomie Indian lands, raised enough money to build the first 20 miles of the road from Topeka to Carbondale. With additional funding, Holliday finally saw the railroad emerge just as he had envisioned it.

In addition to his railroad ventures, Hollliday also was a state senator and served as adjutant general during the Civil War. Holliday was president of the Excelsior Coke and Gas Company and president of the Merchants National Bank of Topeka. In addition, he was president of the State Historical Society, and was a director of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company until his death in 1900.

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