My Present Past
A genealogical experience
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Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad
While twenty years later (1880) thousands of people had learned that the prairies held great agricultural
possibilities, yet popular prejudice  still lingered east of the Mississippi where most of the capital was to be
found. The idea of building a railroad across Kansas for the purpose of colonizing the plains seemed ridiculous to
many. Some thought it barely possible to build more than a few hundred miles west of the Missouri river.
Others thought the government might some day build a road for military purposes over the 35th parallel route
through New Mexico and Arizona, hence, obviously why finance a private enterprise? The war was over and the
land grant secured but it was still necessary to convince skeptical investors that the Atchison Topeka & Santa
Fe project was not a piece of folly, but the plan of a mere visionary. It was a long and heartless task a struggle
that lasted ten years but the personality and iron will of Cyrus K. Holliday backed by his Topeka friends
triumphed in the end. The chief trouble lay in getting funds to commence the enterprise. Extending across
Kansas was the splendid land grant in which the people had dubious faith but this land grant for better or
worse, could not be liquidated into cash unless the railroad was built to and through it. Here was a case of
finding the solution of a problem by solving it and the long-sought means now seemed near at hand.
In 1867  a petition was presented to the Board of County Commissioners of Shawnee County, of which Topeka
is the county seat, requesting that a bond election be held to vote on a proposal to issue $250,000 in county
bonds to aid in the constructing the railroad through Shawnee County. This proposition was voted down.
Determined to win at all events, Holliday assisted by Judge Safford, Judge Martin  and P. I. Bonebrake
organized a house to house campaign. Enthusiastic meetings addressed by friends of the undertaking were held
in schoolhouses and churches. A new election was then called  and the bonds carried. The next task was to offer
the bonds in the financial centers of the country where they failed to attract much notice. A contract was
finally let  in 1867 to a George W. Beach of New York who agreed to build the road but he did not keep his
agreement. It appears he soon became convinced  that the venture was too uncertain to warrant any outlay of
money and effort, even with the bonded promise of local support.  The county bonds had failed to arouse
interest in the road. When the task has actually seemed possible  of fulfillment the contractor had broken
faith. Success was always slipping away yet Mr. Holliday would not fail. Warmly supported by his friend, Jacob
Safford, he renewed his efforts to get direct financial assistance outside of Kansas. Nobody knows the number
of trips he made to the money centers of the East, but there were many and the fight went on.
"Judge Safford and Col. Holliday left Topeka about the first of March last for New York to look after the
interests of this railroad. The Judge returned home on Friday last, bringing encouraging news  in regard to the
early construction of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad.
Colonel Holliday tarried at New York to arrange the preliminaries. There seems to be no doubt-if we believe
what these gentlemen write and tell us-but that the road will be put under contract and work actually
commenced previous to the first day of June, next. We are importuned daily as to what are the chances of this
road being built and we have invariably answered that we did not know. However the horizon, heretofore dark
and bright by turns, is clearing and we fully believe in the early construction of the A. T. & S. F Railroad."

April 09, 1868     The Topeka Weekly Leader
On April 30, 1868 the same paper wrote:
Daily we are asked the question, "Do you think the work will soon commence on the Topeka & Santa Fe
Railroad?" Now that Colonel Holliday has returned and having heard his statements we say to the public that the
early construction of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad is certainly flattering. That the grading will be
started within the next sixty days we verily believe
1876 Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe advertisements for the
"New Route from Kansas to Colorado".

These advertisements were printed during the era of what
would be the largest westward expansion of the United
States, west of the Missouri river.
The child is born and his name is "Success", let the capital city rejoice.
The A.T. & S. F. Railroad will be built beyond peradventure. Work will commence immediately. Please inform the
good people of Topeka and Shawnee County of the brilliant future awaiting them.
Best regards,
Col. C. K. Holliday.

October 08, 1868 Topeka State Record
What had appeared to be impossible was at last surmounted, for arrangements had been made with a strong
middle western firm, Dodge, Lord and Company of Cincinnati, who were now to start building operations in
earnest. The 400,000 acres of land that was acquired in the Pottawatomie Indian Treaty of July 28, 1868, was
liquidated into cash that aided in the early construction of the railroad. The Secretary of the Interior was to
grant certificates of purchase as soon as the A. T. & S. F. Railroad had filed a bond for the purchase and
payment of the lands. Furthermore, the Company was given five years in which to pay for the tract, with
interest at the rate of six per cent on all deferred payments until the whole purchase price was paid.
Mr. D. L. Lakin, who had been prominent in assisting Col. Holliday was appointed Land Commissioner and he at
once began the appraisal of the Pottawatomie lands with a view to their early disposal. Within a few months
these arraignments were completed and the rapid sale of the property wholly justified expectations.
On getting the defaulted Beach contract in 1868, Dodge, Lord & Company arraigned with Thomas J. Peter of
Cincinnati, one of the firm, whereby Peter became the assignee of Beach. Peter then contracted with the
members of his own firm to build the first twenty five miles of the road, from Topeka to Burlingame, Kansas.
When Thomas J. Peter first went out to Kansas to look over the initial project, he had misgivings about building
a railroad across Kansas. But after seeing vast herds of buffalo stretching across the plains, he concluded that
a soil which supported an infinite number of these animals could likewise support mankind.
Ground was broken for the first construction of the Santa Fe early in November of 1868. There was little
opening ceremony. A party of some twenty citizens assembled in Topeka at a spot where the company's shops
now stand and threw up a pile of dirt. There was some speech making  with Senator E. G. Ross as the chief
orator. Col Holliday was to have said at the ceremony that the present people would live to see the road
completed to Santa Fe, New, Mexico. Laughter greeted the remark but it was not the first nor the last time
Col. Holliday's far reaching ambitions would be ridiculed.
Thomas J. Peter was the best choice to build the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe road. He was an able engineer,
aggressive leader and was strictly temperate in his habits. He did not drink, chew or smoke but had an
extraordinary memory and discharged his business in a manner that would inspire and assure the people the job
would get done. His only drawback was he did not issue written orders to his subordinates, use normal civil
engineer methods or made use of office records. But he had a vigorous personality and when it came time to get
the job done and he produced big results.
While the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was projected southwest from Atchison through Topeka,
Emporia and out west over the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico, construction as we have seen started at Topeka
and moved south and west. It was two years before Atchison and Topeka were connected. The first plan was to
build south twenty five miles to Burlingame, Kansas. This route led through some fairly good coal deposits, the
exploitation of which could and did furnish the company with a dependable fuel supply. As the line advanced, it
opened up excellent territory which was tributary to Topeka, since the entire southern half of Kansas, south of
the Kansas Pacific was without railroad service and awaiting development. From the outset, the construction of
the Santa Fe into this region attracted capital and immigrants from the East beyond all expectations.
By the latter part of March, 1869 it was reported that ten miles of roadbed was ready for ties and rails, while
rails and fastenings for another ten miles were in transit from St. Louis. The "fine" bridge over the Kaw river
was nearly complete, which allowed a direct connection with the Kansas Pacific tracks across the river. The
work now progressed steadily and in late April an excursion was made by a party of distinguished citizens
including officials of the company to Wakarusa, a village twelve miles out and toward which the road was building.