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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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John Otis Thayer

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 719 - 720

John Otis Thayer, of Sheboygan, is an officer of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway Company, in charge of the land department and industrial development of the region tributary to that company, and has been associated with that corporation in this capacity for the past fifteen years. He came to Sheboygan in August, 1858, and has made this city his home ever since.

Mr. Thayer was born in Barnstable, Mass., September 23, 1830, and is a son of Joshua and Catherine (Otis) Thayer. His ancestors on both sides were descended from old New England families that were founded in America in early Colonial days. The first mention of the Thayer family in the New World is found in the Colonial records, where Richard Thayer, an emigrant from England, was declared a freeman of the town of Braintree, Mass., in 1640. His wife was Dorothy Pray, also a native of England. They were married in their native country, and had three children when they emigrated to America. Others were born to them in this country. Richard Thayer died August 27, 1695. The line of descent from Richard Thayer above mentioned, the common ancestor of the family in America, to the subject of this sketch is as follows: through Richard the second, son of Richard the first; Richard the third, son of Richard the second; Ferdinando, son of Richard the third; Jonathan the first, son of Ferdinando; Jonathan the second, son of Jonathan the first; Jonathan the third, son of Jonathan the second; Seth, son of Jonathan the third; Joshua the first, son of Seth, who married Sarah Curtis; and Joshua the second, son of Joshua the first and Sarah Curtis, who was the father of our subject. This Joshua was born in North Leverett, Mass., April 6, 1799, and married August 18, 1828, Miss Catherine, daughter of Amos Otis. They were the parents of five children, two of whom died in infancy. One son and two daughters are living. The son, John Otis, whose name heads this sketch, is the eldest of the family; Jane S., the elder daughter, was born March 23, 1838, married Richard Howland, and resides in South Hanson, Mass.; Sarah C, the younger, was born October 20, 1847, and is the wife of Isaiah S. P. Weeks, who is the Chief Engineer of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad, residing in Lincoln, Neb. Joshua Thayer died in Barnstable, Mass., July 2, 1875. His wife survived him several years, and died in South Hanson, Mass., February 19, 1883.

John O. Thayer received an academic education in his native town, and at the age of sixteen years left home to begin the world for himself. He secured a situation in the Barnstable Bank, which was located in Yarmouth, a town adjoining his native place. On the 21st of August, 1852, he was united in marriage, in Barnstable, to Miss Sarah E. Pierce. Mrs. Thayer was born in that town, and is a daughter of Sumner and Elizabeth (Gorham) Pierce.

Mr. Thayer continued with the Barnstable Bank until 1858, when he removed to Wisconsin, and in July of that year settled in Sheboygan. He soon afterward opened a private bank, carrying on at the same time a general insurance business. He continued banking until 1871, when he retired from that line of business, but continued the insurance business till 1879. In that year he closed up his insurance connections and accepted a position with the Milwaukee & Lake Shore Railway Company, which he retained until the company was merged into the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company, in September, 1893. He has charge of the land department, etc., as has been stated above. His services in this connection, during a continuous term of fifteen years, have proved eminently successful and satisfactory to the company.

Mr. Thayer has been more or less prominently identified with the public interests of Sheboygan City and county since taking up his residence here in 1858. The year of his arrival in Sheboygan, he was elected Secretary and Treasurer of the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railway Company, and filled that position until 1862. In the year last named he was elected a member of the Sheboygan City Council, and was chosen President of that body. In 1864, he was elected Mayor of the city, and was re-elected for the succeeding term. He was Tax Commissioner in 1869 and 1870, one of a board of three appointed by act of the Legislature to arrange for and pay off the bonded debt of the county, a duty which he performed with ability and fidelity. In 1870, he was elected a member of the County Board of Supervisors, was re-elected and served as a member of that body for the years 1870-72-73-74-75 and '76.

In the fall of 1892, Mr. Thayer helped to organize and establish the Sheboygan Milk Company, of which he is President. This company has a plant at Sheboygan, and buys and sells milk extensively, also manufactures butter and handmade cheese. The company is doing a large and increasing business, having an invested capital of about $7,000.

In politics, Mr. Thayer is a Republican and participated in the organization of that party in Massachusetts. He was a member of the first Republican Central Committee of the Old Bay State, and was a colleague of Anson Burlingame, Nathaniel P. Banks, Thomas D. Elliott and John Z. Goodrich. Since coming to Wisconsin he has borne a more or less active part in the councils of the party.

Six children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Thayer, of whom two (who were twins) died in infancy. Catherine S., the eldest of the family, is the wife of Edgar Williams, of Western Springs, Ill., who is assistant engineer of the Chicago Sanitary Commission and Drainage Board; Lucy married J. P. McGuire an engineer of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company, who resides at Chippewa Falls, Wis.; Martha P. is the wife of Malcom Kennedy, County Judge of Wabasha County, Minn., residing at Wabasha; Anna E. married William Schrage, a member of the Phoenix Chair Company of Sheboygan; Frederick H. married Miss Tillie Otto, and is Secretary of the Sheboygan Milk Company; Joshua C. is single and is engaged in horticulture, growing oranges at Orange, Orange County, Cal.

Mr. and Mrs. Thayer were reared under the auspices of the Unitarian Church of Barnstable, of which they are still members. They now attend the Congregational Church of Sheboygan, and Mr. Thayer is President of its Board of Trustees. Mr. Thayer was made a Mason in Fraternal Lodge of that order in his native town, and still retains membership in Harmony Chapter of that place. He took a demit from his home lodge on leaving for the West, and became a member of Sheboygan Lodge. He is also a member of the Knights of Honor and for several years was Grand Treasurer for the State. Mr. Thayer is the owner of a farm in Massachusetts, on the Atlantic Coast, and of an orange plantation in California, on the Pacific Coast.


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