Posted by Jerry Adams on Feb 04, 2019
Members of the Weston Rotary Club and other members of the community are working with the City of Weston in hopes of establishing an annual event recognizing Ben Holladay.  But unless you are a resident of Weston, Missouri or a history buff of the Old West, chances are you may have never heard of Ben Holladay.  For Visitors to Weston or for those who grew up in the area, Ben Holladay is known as “The Stagecoach King”; founder of the local distillery in 1856; owner of the fabulous three-story International Hotel opened in Weston in 1858, but burnt down during the American Civil War.  The site is now the location of the Weston Historical Museum. Other than these locally promoted facts on Holladay, very few people in the region know the complete story of this truly historic and iconic individual or the fact he was a resident of Weston for approximately 20 years before becoming famous and moving on.  The local group is hopeful in establishing an annual event honoring Ben Holladay, starting as early as April of 2020.  Travelers to Weston always seem to find one reason or another to visit the historic Rivertown, but they are hopeful this new event will attract additional visitors to the city.    
The following excerpt from an article published in 1967 by Ellis Lucia, author of “The Saga of Ben Holladay Giant of the Old West” best describes who the man really was:
“He is indeed the last big Western pioneer.  Holladay was one of the most powerful and influential men of his generation.  He was a two-fisted frontiersman who did much to tame the West, and did it not from the safety of a desk, but by risking his hide out on the plains.  He was the greatest transportation tycoon this nation has ever known.  He developed the vast Overland Stage Lines across the plains, late the Wells Fargo system.  He had steamships to the Orient, sternwheelers on the rivers, freighters rolling everywhere, a Pacific Northwest railroad, and centers of power from coast to coast.  He kept his stages running during the Civil War on President Lincoln’s request to hold the West with the North.  He established towns, resorts, hotels, banks, newspapers and business centers.  He was a rugged adventurer, Indian fighter, explorer, builder, politician, and wealthy member of the international set.  Yet despite his many achievements which laid the foundations, upon which the West stands today, he was downgraded by his enemies during his last defenseless years.  He was branded the worst of the robber-barons and given an unhappy low place in history.  Even the early leaders of Wells Fargo, once his friends, contributed to degrading him.”
Ben Holladay was the oldest of eight children born of the marriage between William Holladay and Margaret Hughes.  Ben was born on October 14, 1819 in Nicholas County Kentucky and died at the age of 67 on July 8, 1887 in Portland, Oregon.   Ben Holladay was not an educated man, but he possessed a strong drive to be successful with a warm and friendly personality.  He left his home in Kentucky as young teenager when he boarded a riverboat on the Ohio River to the Mississippi and on the Missouri River to Liberty Landing.  There he was met by his uncle, Andrew S. Hughes, who was a lawyer in Liberty and the instigator of the Platte Purchase which was signed in 1836.  Hughes was an agent for the Indian tribes and was a signor of the treaty as a sub agent.  In 1838, Holladay first arrived in Weston at the age of 19, along with his cousin, Bela Hughes, son of Andrew S. Hughes.  Bela Hughes later purchased half interest in city of Weston from original owner, Joseph “Joel” Moore.  Holladay lived in Weston from 1838 until 1858.
During his early years in Weston he owned a dry goods store, drug store, meat packing plan, a hotel and various farm properties.  All of this was accomplished by age 23.    He was also the first postmaster of Weston.  In an article written by Jack Sullivan, “Ben Holladay: The Man and His Whiskey”, he writes, “by 1864 Holladay was accounted the largest individual employer in the entire United States and during his lifetime was as celebrated a figure as Bill Gates is in his own time. “ He had gone from Weston postmaster to multimillionaire, only to lose his entire vast empire in the stock market crash of 1873.  
 A number of books have been written about Ben Holladay, but the two most notable are by J.V. Frederick and Ellis Lucia.  The internet has a multitude of various articles written about Holladay, but his exploits and notoriety have been lost or misplaced in much the same way Weston was once known as the “town that time forgot”.  The saga of Ben Holladay and the early history of Weston from 1838 to 1865 ran on a parallel upward spiral to fame and fortune before both came crashing down following the American Civil War.
Jerry Adams and Louis Smither are both descendants of Mr. Holiday and both members of the Weston Rotary Club.