John Milton Thayer: 1820-1906

Born in January, Governed Nebraska

Young Lawyer: John Milton Thayer was born in Bellingham, Massachusetts, graduating with a law degree from Brown University in 1847. He was soon admitted to the bar and practiced law in Worcester, Massachusetts, for seven years.


Bust of Thayer in the Vicksburg National Military Park

Civil War Soldier: Shortly after the Nebraska territory was created in 1854, he and his family moved to Omaha, where because of previous experience and interests, he was appointed to head the territorial militia. In Nebraska, he led two expeditions against the Pawnee. In 1861, responding to President Lincoln’s call for volunteer soldiers, Thayer recruited a thousand men and served as colonel of the First Regiment of Nebraska volunteers, which fought in the battles at Fort Donelson and Shiloh. As a Brigadier General, he served with Grant at Vicksburg, Mississippi. (Read a description of “Thayer’s Approach” at

First Senator: Following the Civil War, Thayer was actively involved in securing Nebraska’s admission into the union. When Nebraska became the 37th state, he became one of its first two United States Senators, serving from 1867 to 1871. In 1875, President Grant appointed him governor of the Wyoming territory, a post he held until 1878, after which he returned to Nebraska to resume his law practice.

Seventh Governor: In 1885, at the age of 65, he was elected Governor on the Republican ticket – the oldest Governor in Nebraska history – and served two full terms from 1886 to 1888 and a partial third term in 1891-92. He died in Lincoln and is buried there in Wyuka Cemetery. Thayer County in southeast Nebraska is named for him.





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