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O'Neill, Nebraska
Shamrock painted on pavement at 4th and Douglas
Shamrock painted on pavement at 4th and Douglas
Location of O'Neill, Nebraska
Location of O'Neill, Nebraska
Country United States
State Nebraska
County Holt
Incorporated 1882
 • Total 2.38 sq mi (6.18 km2)
 • Land 2.38 sq mi (6.18 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
1,988 ft (606 m)
 • Total 3,705
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,500.63/sq mi (579.29/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 402
FIPS code 31-37105
GNIS feature ID 0831786

O'Neill is a city in Holt County, Nebraska, United States. The population was 3,705 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Holt County.


O'Neill was platted in 1874. It was named for one of its founders, John O'Neill. O'Neill was originally built up chiefly by Irish settlers.

The town was incorporated in 1882.


O'Neill is located at 42°27′39″N 98°38′49″W / 42.46083°N 98.64694°W / 42.46083; -98.64694 (42.460753, -98.647016). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.38 square miles (6.16 km2), all of it land.

O'Neill is the official Irish capital of Nebraska. Cattle, potatoes, tomatoes, soybeans and corn are the major products produced near this town.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 57
1890 1,226 2,050.9%
1900 1,107 −9.7%
1910 2,089 88.7%
1920 2,107 0.9%
1930 2,019 −4.2%
1940 2,532 25.4%
1950 3,027 19.5%
1960 3,181 5.1%
1970 3,753 18.0%
1980 4,049 7.9%
1990 3,852 −4.9%
2000 3,733 −3.1%
2010 3,705 −0.8%
2019 (est.) 3,579 −3.4%
U.S. Decennial Census
2012 Estimate

2010 census

At the 2010 census there were 3,705 people in 1,593 households, including 970 families, in the city. The population density was 1,556.7 inhabitants per square mile (601.0/km2). There were 1,778 housing units at an average density of 747.1 per square mile (288.5/km2). The racial makup of the city was 94.2% White, 0.2% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 3.9% from other races, and 0.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.5%.

Of the 1,593 households 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.1% were married couples living together, 8.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.2% had a male householder with no wife present, and 39.1% were non-families. 34.6% of households were one person and 17.3% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.94.

The median age was 42.8 years. 24.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 20.9% were from 25 to 44; 27.5% were from 45 to 64; and 20.2% were 65 or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.4% male and 51.6% female.

Arts and culture

Moses Kinkaid Bldg from NW
The old Nebraska State Bank building is now the Holt County Historical Museum. Moses Kinkaid's office, now restored, occupied the second floor of the building.

Annual cultural events

Saint Patrick's Day and the Summerfest in July are the town's main celebrations.

Museums and other points of interest

For now, O'Neill houses the world's largest permanent shamrock. Made of colored concrete, it was installed in the main intersection of 4th & Douglas in 2000.


O'Neill has three high schools: Word of Life Christian School, O'Neill High School and St. Mary's.



Until 1992, O'Neill was served by the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company. The line, known as the "Cowboy Line", ran from Norfolk, Nebraska to Chadron. The line has since been removed and "railbanked"; it is now part of the Cowboy Trail, the longest bike trail in Nebraska.

O'Neill is also served by a former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy branch line from the Sioux City, Iowa vicinity. This line is now operated as the Nebraska Northeastern Railway.

The highways which go through O'Neill include U.S. Highway 20, U.S. Highway 275, and U.S. Highway 281.

Notable people

  • Clayton Danks (1879-1970), three-time Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo winner, model of Wyoming cowboy symbol; born in O'Neill in 1879
  • Helen Duhamel (1904–1991), Rapid City, South Dakota, businesswoman and broadcaster, attended St. Mary's Catholic School in O'Neill
  • Father Edward Flanagan, who established Boys Town, first served as a Catholic priest at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in O'Neill
  • Mike Johanns, U.S. Senator, started career as attorney in O'Neill
  • Thomas Kearns, U.S. Senator, Utah mining, banking and railroad magnate, owner of Salt Lake Tribune, an O'Neill native
  • Moses Kinkaid, resident, Republican U.S. Representative from Nebraska and sponsor of Kinkaid Act, expanding the amount of land to be granted for homesteading plots
  • Debra Kolste, Wisconsin State Assembly member since 2013, was born in O'Neill
  • Frank Leahy, football coach at Notre Dame, member of College Football Hall of Fame, was born in O'Neill
  • John O'Neill, Irish-born officer in American Civil War, member of Fenian Brotherhood; led Fenian raids on Canada in 1866 and 1871
  • Harry Owens, bandleader and Academy Award-winning songwriter, was born in O'Neill
  • Jake Peetz, quarterbacks coach of NFL's Oakland Raiders, is a native of O'Neill
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