The Hon. W.H. Holliday

From Progressive Men of the State of Wyoming (Illustrated), published in 1903 by A.W. Bowen & Co., Publishers and Engravers, Chicago, Ill. This volume has a stamp on it with the number 74360, identifying it as being from the Carnegie Public Library, Albany County, Laramie, Wyoming. The following article begins on page 373. To make it more digestible, I have broken it into paragraphs. Whoever wrote it was evidently being paid by the word.

Note that this was written while W.H. Holliday was still alive, and before the Holliday store in Laramie burned down.


The ofttold tale of pioneer life in the great Northwest of the United States, replete with thrilling dramatic features, rugged with outlines of hardship and danger, rich in tints of poetry and romance, and filled with alternate hope and fear, never loses its interest in the narration or grows stale on the fancy. Well may we challenge the history of all the past and invoke the heroism of all peoples and periods to match the daring, equal the achievements, reach the height of endeavor or surpass the volume of good recorded to the credit of the army of axmen and trailblazers who opened the way for the march of civilization in this western world and for transforming a wilderness into a garden of the gods, laughing, clapping its hands and bringing forth in spontaneous abundance everything brilliant, fragrant and nourishing. All honor to the pioneers in every section! Whatever future generations may accomplish or create, they wrought nobly in their day and left a priceless heritage of benefaction, enduring pain and privation that others might enjoy peace and plenty, sowing in toil and tears that others might reap in gladness and smiles.

One of this number whose invading footsteps were among the first in his section, and whose achievements are among the most substantial on business lines, through civic interests and in social circles, is Hon. W. H. Holliday of Laramie, who has been a leader of men, a creator of commercial industries and an impelling force in every relation of life. He was born on May 21, 1843, in Hamilton county, Ohio, a son of Eli and Mary Annetta (Bogart) Holliday, the former also a native of Hamilton county, Ohio, and the latter of Long Island, N. Y.

The father was a prosperous farmer in his native county and in 1852 made a trip to California, going by boat to Council Bluffs, Iowa, and from there across the plains and mountains by teams to what was then the land of promise to all quarters of the globe. In 1855 he returned to his home by the Panama route and in 1858 removed to Douglas county, Ill., later making his home in Jackson couty of that state. In 1868 he made a visit to his son in Wyoming and while there prospected in Douglas Creek, now in the Keystone mining district, being among the first to become interested in mining there and the first recorder of the district. He died on November 22, 1868, near Sherman, Wyo., and two years later his family became residents of the territory. He was a gentleman of influence in business and social circles during his life and enjoyed the esteem of all who knew him.

His father, John Holliday, in 1810 took his family down the Ohio River by flatboat from Western Pennsylvania, whither he had moved from his native state, New Jersey, and settled about ten miles west of Cincinnati, which at that time was more generally known as Fort Washington. It ws on the far frontier, this family being among the early emigrants to the state. His wife, one Mary Lynn, was born in Ireland in 1772, being a woman of heroic spirit, fit companion for a hardy pioneer in a most trying period of the history of the Middle West.

William H. Holliday inherited from his parents the sterling qualities of character which have marked his long and successful career, these were developed and trained by the exigencies of frontier life, and thus fitted by nature and training for vast undertakings, it was to be expected that he would build up, wherever he might locate, enterprises of magnitude and importance. Conditions in the vast uncultivated domain of Dakota, from which four or five mighty states have since been carved, were favorable for a mastermind, and Mr. Holliday was the man for their proper concentration and development. His education in the schools had been limited, but he had a goodly store of the worldly wisdom gained only from experience.

Thus equipped for the contest, in 1865, when he was but twenty-two he boldly challenged fate into the lists against him and making his way to Denver overland with a freighting outfit he entered upon active duty according to its call and worked away cheerfully in that region until 1867, when he came to Wyoming with a sawmill outfit, and soon after it was installed in the mountains near Sherman to manufacture lumber with which to build Fort Russell and carry on construction work along the line of the Union Pacific Railroad.

He remained in the sawmill business, managing mills for contractors, and for himself in contract work until 1870, and then, in company with his brother Jethro T. Holliday and William R. Willams, he purchased an entire outfit and began independent operations on a scale of magnitude. From its inception this firm prospered and had orders for lumber often beyond their utmost capacity. A large portion of what was used in building Greeley, Colo., in its early days was here furnished by them, and all the surrounding country laid their facilities under tribute.

In 1872 Mr. Williams retired from the firm and a year later Mr. Holliday purchased his brother's interest and, leaving the mills to the care of others, he took up his residence at Laramie to manage a lumber yard that they had previously established there and to look after the general interests of a business which was rapidly expanding. Since then his many commercial and industrial enterprises have grown to almost gigantic proportions through the skill of his management and the wealth of his resources in capacity, adaptability and tireless energy.

To lumber he added contracting and building, later furniture, to furniture hardware, and to hardware groceries and other lines of merchandise, also including farm implements, wagons, harness, machinery, etc., until it was deemed best to incorporate the business to give it proper breadth, firmness of foundation and flexibility of function. Accordingly in 1886 The W. H. Holliday Co. was formed with a paid-up capital stock of $250,000, and this corporation absorbed all the lines of mercantile enterprise with which Mr. Holliday was previously connected, including business properties valued at more than $100,000 and a number of dwellings in different parts of Laramie.

In addition to its mercantile features, the company carries on a general contracting and building industry and has erected many of the finest business blocks and residences in the city. This immense commercial enterprise stands as an impressive monument to the progressive and resourceful spirit of its founder and principal conductor, for while Mr. Holliday has had intelligent and capable partners and most valuable assistants in his work , he has been and is the presiding genius, the real lord of the heritage.

The main store building of the company is a three-story and basement block, 72x132 feet in dimensions, constructed of stone and brick at a cost of $30,000. The carriage and implement repository is 96x112 feet in size and two stories high; while the lumber yard, planing mill, etc., cover an entire city block of ground. From its organization Mr. Holliday has been the president and managing head of the corporation, and to him must be attributed the remarkable expansion and continued success of its business. It is conceded that he is one of the most capable, far-seeing and prudent business men of the state, with a large sweep of vision, a knowledge of details and conditions and a readiness in resources that are not surpassed anywhere.

Yet, although his commercial interests are enormous and exacting, they have not lessened his zeal or stayed his hand in behalf of the civil affairs of his community and the proper elements of public improvement and advancement. In politics he is an unwavering Democrat, loyal to his party, through firm convictions of the wisdom of its policies and the correctness of its principles, and devoted to its welfare as the best guaranty of governmental good. Acting on such convictions, he has not hesitated to give to its counsels his best attention and to its service his best energies, and has thus been as closely identified with the political history of the state as with its fiscal and industrial development.

He was a member of the Territorial Legislature for ten years, of the lower house in 1873, and of the upper from 1875 to 1879, and again in 1884, serving as president of the body in the last term. At an election held in 1880 he and his opponent had an equal number of votes. In 1884 he was nominated for Congress, but was unable to overcome the large Republican majority in the territory. In 1888 he was again elected to the legislature, and in 1892 was chosen to the State Senate for a term of four years. He afterwards resigned the senatorship for the purpose of accepting his party's nomination for the position of governor in 1894. Again the adverse majority was too great for him to overcome, although he ran far ahead of his ticket. In 1887 he was appointed to represent Wyoming at a convention held at Philadelphia to provide for celebrating the centennial of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, and in 1890 was chosen by a meeting of public spirited citizens at Cheyenne as one of a committee of two, Judge Samuel T. Corn being the other member, to go to Washington and assist Hon. J. M. Carey, the territorial delegate to Congress, to secure the admission of Wyoming into the Union as a state.

From 1896 to 1900 he was a member of the National Democratic Committee, and in 1896 did very effective work in the campaign which carried the state for a national Democratic ticket for the first time in its history. He has been for years a conspicuous figure at all the conventions of his party, always aiding in guiding their deliberations and frequently presiding over them, being chosen with enthusiasm as president of the first Democratic state convention after the territory had donned her robes of statehood. All local interests, without regard to party have had his earnes and helpful attention. From 1876 to 1878 he was a county commissioner and the president of the board. For a long time he was on the Laramie school board and for a number of years was its treasurer. He was also appointed by Governor Warren as a member of the first board of trustees of the Wyoming University.

On May 5, 1869, at Fort Scott, Kan., Mr. Holliday was united in marriage with Miss Emily R. Coykendall, a native of Wisconsin and a daughter of Orson and Maria (Hanchett) Coykendall. Her father was a native of New York who removed from that state to Ohio and afterwards to Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and last to Kansas, where he died in 1893. Mrs. Holliday was born in 1848 and died in 1887. She was the mother of eleven children, of whom seven are living: Catherine F., married to Russell Butler, who is employed in one of the Laramie banks; Guy R. and Albert E., who have immediate charge of the hardware department of the Holliday company's business; Lois A., married to Edward E. Fitch, chief accountant of the Holliday company; Elizabeth C., married to Harry George, a newspaper man of Laramie; Ruth, a student at the Wyoming State University, and Margaret, attending the schools in Laramie.

Mr. Holliday's second marriage occurred on February 20, 1897, when Miss Sarah E. East, a native of New Bedford, Ind., became his wife. She had been a teacher in the public schools of Wyoming for several years and they have two children, Mary Ethel and Helen.

The life of Mr. Holliday has been full of activity, industry and usefulness to his kind. It has been conducted along lines of lofty rectitude, with a broad view and a considerate regard for the welfare, the rights and the enduring good of his fellow men and has been so ordered that his sterling worth and unswerving fidelity to every duty have endeared him to all classes of the people, as well as bringing him an immense measure of success in business, a high standing in public esteem and approbation and a sure place in the affectionate regard of all who have experienced the inspiration of his presence or the bounty of his liberal nature.

Last Modified: Tuesday, April 11, 2000

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