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Cyrus K. Holliday


Cyrus K. Holliday was born on April 3, 1826, near Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He attended college and received his bachelor’s degree in law. Although educated as a lawyer, Holliday found himself better suited for business. His first venture was as a contractor for the construction of a short line railroad in his native state, in which he accumulated $20,000. This cash would greatly assist him in his future ventures.

Believing the West to be more conducive to the exercise of his talents, Holliday left Pennsylvania in 1854 for Lawrence, Kansas. There he took an active interest in the free-labor movement and believed that Kansas would become a free state. Holliday and his colleagues decided on the site of Topeka to establish a new town to become the capital of the new state.

Holliday’s greatest achievement was in projecting and building the first portion of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. On February 11, 1859, Holliday obtained a charter for the Atchison and Topeka Rail Road Company, a line to go from Atchison on the Missouri River to the Kansas state capital of Topeka. In 1863, the name was changed to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Co (AT&SF) with plans for a railway running along the Old Santa Fe Trail, extending to the Pacific. Once a land grant was secured in 1868, construction started on the railway. By December 1872, the line was completed through Kansas, and in 1880, the line reached Santa Fe.

In 1893, the AT&SF began to experience hardships. Holliday was instrumental in the re-financing and reorganization of the road after its brush with bankruptcy. He held the presidency of the company until his death on March 31, 1900. The AT&SF, now part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), owes much to Holliday for its creation.

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