Ben Holladay (1819-1887) – Born in Kentucky on October 19, 1819 and raised in Weston, Missouri, Holladay would grown up to become known as the “Stagecoach King.” Helping his father to lead wagon trains through the Cumberland Gap, Holladay learned the business at an early age. Beginning his career by furnishing supplies to General Stephen Kearny in the Mexican War, he was involved with a number of successful business ventures in Weston, Missouri before moving to California and starting the Overland Stage Route.
By the spring of 1864 his stage line dominated the passenger, mail, and freighting business between the Missouri River and Salt Lake City, controlling more than 2,500 miles of stage lines and was among the largest individual employers in the United States.
Two years later he sold his routes to Wells-Fargo Express in 1866 for $1.5 million and moved to Oregon. He then formed a steamboat business called the Northern Pacific Transportation Company that operated from Alaska to Mexico. He also built the Oregon and California Railroad as far south as Roseburg before the Panic of 1873 financial crisis stopped the effort.
Having also dabbled in gold and silver mines, distilleries, slaughter houses, and a number of retail operations, the transportation millionaire, maintained several mansions in New York, Washington, D.C., and Oregon by the time he was 50. He spent the last years of his life involved in a number of law suits related to his complex financial holdings and died in Portland on July 8, 1887 at the age of 68.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, August, 2017.