Cities, Towns, Villages
Amelia; Atkinson; Chambers; Emmet; Ewing; Inman; O'Neill; Page; Stuart
Each year the residents of Holt County celebrate with great pride their Irish ancestry and the role it played in the development of the county. In fact, O'Neill, the county seat, is oftentimes referred to as the Irish Capital of Nebraska.
The Irish heritage in the county dates back more than 122 years. Ten years after the county's boundaries were established in 1862, Gen. John O'Neill conceived a plan to bring his Irish countrymen out of the crowded East and to the land of "Room Enough." O'Neill traveled through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska seeking a suitable site. He decided on Holt County, which had been named after American statesman Joseph Holt. O'Neill brought groups of Irish immigrants to the area each year beginning 1864 and continuing through 1867. O'Neill's efforts are credited for the county's early development.
The first attempts to organize Holt County were made in 1873. However, the area did not have the required 200 inhabitants at that time. A second effort was made three years later and a governor's proclamation was issued that June. In the election that followed in August, a settlement named Twin Lakes was made the county seat. Canvassing the vote became so difficult that the election was declared invalid and another election was held in December. This time the village of Paddock was named the county seat.
Since Paddock was located on the extreme north edge of the county, dissatisfaction grew and a special election was held in 1879 to relocate the county seat to a more central location. O'Neill was chosen. It would not be until 1885 that a courthouse was built. Between 1888 and 1904 at least five attempts were made to move the seat of government again. All failed.
Today, O'Neill is known as the gateway to the Sandhills, with livestock feeders and farmers on the east and ranchers to the west. The area is one of the leading hay producers in the state. Because of the abundance of water sources in the county, irrigated corn is its most prevalent farm crop.