It was 1881 when Moses Kinkaid, a young attorney, left Pierre, Dakota Territory and moved to O'Neill, Nebraska to open a law practice. Shortly after his arrival, he was elected to the State Senate for a one year term. In 1884, interested citizens initiated plans and construction of the first brick building in O'Neill, now known as the Moses P. Kinkaid Bank Building.
Kinkaid moved his law office to the second floor of the new building and the Holt County Bank occupied the first floor. The bank failed and closed its doors in 1894. Fearing irate citizens, the banker fled O'Neill during the night of the closing day.
The Elkhorn Valley Bank soon occupied the vacant space. Pat Hagerty, a trusted, sound citizen was in charge of the new bank. In 1904, Hagerty and his friend and accomplice, Bernard McGreevy (school district treasurer), absconded with the bank funds and fled the country. County citizens were astounded when the vault was opened, and one lone dime was all that remained. Many people were financially ruined.
Kinkaid was appointed judge in 1887 of the newly created 12th Judicial District that covered a ten county area of 288 miles east to west and 60 miles north to south. For thirteen years, he held court at least once a year in each county. Most often, Kinkaid traveled by stage coach.
In 1903, Kinkaid became Congressman for a 37 county district, more than on-half of the state of Nebraska. In this capacity, he is best remembered for his effort in changing land laws to benefit homesteaders in the area he represented and set a model for future land laws in the West. The Kindaid Land Act was enacted in 1904.
While in his ninth term in office, Kindaid died in Washington D. C. on July 6, 1922. His funeral and burial were held in O'Neill on July 10. He never married and appeared to be a very private man. No one knew about his family background and his obituary stated, "No one knows the exact age of the Congressman. Perhaps it will always remain a mystery."
After the closing of the Elkhorn Valley Bank, the Fidelity Bank occupied the first floor of the Kinkaid Building. The fourth, and last bank tenant was the Nebraska State Bank. Again, the citizens were financially devastated by the bank closing during the depression of 1930.
In February 1930, Elmer Hagensick purchased the Kinkaid Building. The chain of tenants included a cafe, dentist, attorney, a real estate office, a barber shop and millinery shop. Eventually, all tenants vacated. Weathered and scarred, time had taken it's toll on the old historic building. With courage and determination, the members of the Holt County Historical Society, took action to preserve the Kinkaid landmark. Through membership sales, fund drives and contributions, the Society was able to purchase the building from Hagensick. In 1974, the U. S. Department of Interior designated the building as a National Historic Site in honor of Moses P. Kinkaid.
Financing the restoration project presented a real challenge to the Society. In order to reach the restoration financial goal, members continued a concentrated fund drive in the succeeding years. Through the cooperation of members, citizens, civic groups and the Peter Kiewit Foundation grant, the Society reached their goal. The initial restoration process began in February, 1984 at a cost of $86,000.
The Kinkaid Building's Centennial was celebrated in September, 1984. At that time, it was reopened as the Holt County Historical Museum and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Over a century old, the beautiful landmark preserves the wealth of Holt County history.
The preservation of the Kinkaid Building is not funded by tax money. The Holt County Historical Society welcomes contributions for the maintenance of the building and museum.
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© 1998, 1999, 2002 by Lynn Waterman