“General” John O’Neill’s advice for new Nebraskans

In 1875, John O’Neill published a pamphlet saying two things. Come to Nebraska and bring money.

Gen. John O’Neill, a native of Ireland and veteran of the American Civil War, beginning in 1874 encouraged Irish immigration to Nebraska. The “general,” a rank bestowed on him by admirers because he commanded three Fenian incursions into British-governed Canada, was the founder of O’Neill in Holt County. Many Irish coming to O’Neill had emigrated to America earlier, temporarily settling in eastern cities.

In 1875 O’Neill’s pamphlet, Northern Nebraska As a Home for Immigrants was published in Sioux City, Iowa, as a general answer to the thousands of letters O’Neill had received asking for information about the West. It encouraged immigration to Nebraska, including a brief history of the state and a description of the northern Nebraska counties which O’Neill felt would be especially suitable for homes for displaced Irish. He described the geography and climate of the state; procedures for acquiring land under the Homestead Act; and the economic opportunities available in farming and other occupations. He reported that even servant girls were “in good demand all over the state, and receive from $2.50 to $4.50 per week.”

O’Neill recommended that:

persons with families should not come West entirely destitute of means to brave the hardships of pioneer life. Many have done so, and have succeeded and in a few years have been numbered among the most influential and well-to-do citizens of the State; but it more frequently leads to disappointment, homesickness and discontent. A capital of $500 or more, after getting West, with which to commence operations, is necessary for a man of the family. Single men can get along with less, as their labor is a certain provision for their support. Settlers coming West should dispose of their farming implements and heavy and bulky furniture–bedsteads, tables, mattresses, chairs, crockery, stoves, &c., &c. Stock, teams, wagons, tools of all kinds and farming implement better adapted to this country than those left behind can be purchased here . . . .

If a man comes West in the spring he builds himself a small house of sods or cottonwood lumber. He then plows a few acres and plants corn or potatoes in the sod. His cow is staked in a rich bottom, his patch of green vegetables grows in front of his door, and four months after his arrival at his new home he is home indeed, with food growing on his own farm for his family and his cattle.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Sewing the Flag

Sewing the Flag

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Marker Monday: The Seedling Mile

Marker Monday: The Seedling Mile

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.