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City of O'Neill
401 E. Fremont

O'Neill, NE 68763

History of O'Neill, Nebraska

O'Neill, county seat of Holt County, was founded by General John O'Neill, a native of Ireland and veteran of the American Civil War. The "general," a rank bestowed on him by admirers because he commanded three Fenian incursions into British-governed Canada, first directed colonists in 1874 to this fertile Elkhorn Valley site which bears his name. General O'Neill also induced other Irish groups to settle at Atkinson in Holt County and in Greeley County.

Many Irish coming to O'Neill had emigrated to America earlier, as result of famine and economic distress, temporarily settling in eastern cities. General O'Neill, knowing the agricultural heritage of his people, said his object in founding Nebraska colonies was "to encourage poor people in getting away from the overcrowded cities of the East."

The Irish were a major immigrant group contributing to the settlement of Nebraska. Speaking the English language, they blended into the population and were found in many communities. However, due to ancient animosities with Britain, some of them colonized in America. Foremost colony in this state is O'Neill, proclaimed the Irish Capital of Nebraska by the Governor in 1969.

History Timeline:

1875 General O'Neill brought three groups of people from Ireland and added to the town, then known as Holt City. Renamed "O'Neill" by Col. James H. Noteware.
1879 Designated the county seat of Holt county.
1881 The Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad come to O'Neill.
1881 Due to the railroad's location, the community grew from 57 to an established town of 1,226.
1881 Moses P.Kincaid, a young lawyer came to O'Neill. A second floor office in the building at the southeast corner of the 4th and Douglas crossroads later becomes his office and the first level a bank.
1882 Moses P. Kincaid elected as a state senator.
1884 The Kincaid Bank is built, along with the First National Bank built on the opposite northwest corner.
1885 The first Courthouse was built at a cost of $20,000.
1889 May 7, 1889 saw a new form of government take place in O'Neill, the Mayor-Council form with John McBride elected the first mayor.
1892 O'Neill achieves notoriety due to Barrett Scott case, treasurer of Holt County who disappeared with county monies. He was found in Mexico and brought back to O'Neill. While free on bail, he was hanged by a group of vigilantes. Twelve men were brought to trial and acquitted.
1902 Congressman Moses P. Kincaid introduced the Kincaid Act which provided for a 640 acre homestead in western Nebraska. Settlement in the Sandhills region greatly increased due in large to the Kincaid Act.
1913 The Golden Hotel was built, this being one of the town's largest buildings.
**** Other significant buildings that date back to the first part of the twentieth century include the O'Neill Elementary School, St. Patrick's Church, the Carnegie Library, St.Mary's Academy and the Post Office.

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