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Robert Thomas Holloway | Inducted by 1920

Known worldwide for his large Clydesdale horse operation and founding the town of Alexis, Illinois.

1829-1906 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)

Impact & Accomplishments

Born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, and educated at Kentucky Military Institute and Transylvania University, Robert Holloway moved to Illinois to practice law.

In 1870, he acquired 7,000 acres in Warren County and founded the town of Alexis, Illinois.

He built an outstanding herd of Shorthorns, naming the farm Durham Lawn. Holloway was more renowned for his Clydesdale horse operation, however, begun with his first importations from Scotland in 1873. At one point, he maintained the largest Clydesdale stud on either continent. Many of his horses were exported back to Scotland.

Did You Know?

This article appeared in the Alexis Centennial Book [1970] written and edited by Hope Holloway McKelvey, a descendent of the Colonel.

No history of Alexis would be complete without an account of "The Holloway Raid," which appeared in newspapers all over the United States as a front page sensation story. People came from miles around to hear the incident described by those who had witnessed the occurrence. Col. Holloway had on hand prior to the raid 100 horses which had been readied for sale. This was back in the early 1880's and took place on Durham Lawn, the Holloway homestead. It was the custom of Mr. Holloway to hold a sale every fall. People came from all over the United States for an opportunity to purchase the Clydesdale horses. Two men who claimed ownership of some of these valuable horses hired some 100 men spoken of as "thugs and toughs" to come down from Chicago and perform the daring raid. They had brought a special stock train and planned to load the horses and take them back to Chicago. During the early morning hours the faithful guards and attendants, who had not been bribed, were overpowered and tied up. Everything was going as the would be thieves had planned, but because of the unusual noise, Mrs. Holloway was awakened and immediately awakened the Colonel. When he rushed to the barn, he found all of his valuable horses missing, with the exception of his riding horse, which he saddled as fast as possible and sped to town to summon the Warren County sheriff and a posse. When he arrived at the telegraph office, he discovered the operator missing, having been taken away by the thugs. E. D. Alexander who at one time was the president of the Illinois Northern Utilities Company, was a very brave and daring young business man in Alexis and the owner of the fastest horse in town. Thus it was that Mr. Holloway contacted him for the purpose of getting the officers as soon as possible. According to the story told by my grandfather, E. B. Holloway, and my father, W. T. Holloway, this fine horse dropped dead on the edge of town, but the officers were contacted in a short time and soon a switch engine, bearing Col. Holloway's young attorney, the officers and young Alexander arrived on the scene. The thieves were just starting to load the horses when great numbers of friends and neighbors, alerted by Mr. Holloway, arrived to help. They came with every conceivable weapon, some having only a board to defend right. It seemed that there might be blood shed, for the raiders threatened to shoot anyone who tampered with the tracks. However, the brave men disregarded the threats and in a short time had piled boards and anything they could find in front of and behind the train, making it impossible for the train to move out in either direction. On the sheriff's arrival, he quickly deputized a group of farmers and all violence was averted. Officials of the railroad arrived soon thereafter. It took the rest of the day to repair and clear the track as the rescuers had done such a fine job. All of the Clydesdales were returned to the barns and Mr. Holloway's faithful foreman was found, bound and gagged. Litigation in Warren County courts lasted several years, and the rail way company was completely exonerated.

Alexis, Illinois train depot.

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Robert is my great-great-great grandfather and it's hard to describe how happy I was to find him here, after doing some family research. I grew up hearing stories about him from my grandpa, Thomas Holloway, whose sister Hope wrote the accompanying article. How exciting to think of his travels to Scotland and friendships with the landed gentry and Prince of Wales to us children! Although many came before, I truly look at him as though he is the patriarch of our family. I know he would feel humbled and honored to hold this space with such a varied and distinguished group of gentlemen. Although he died many years before my birth and I obviously never got the pleasure of meeting…

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