Thomas J. Majors, Soldier, Congressman, and Lieutenant Governor

Thomas J. Majors in 1893. NSHS RG2189.PH0-000009

Thomas J. Majors in 1893. NSHS RG2189.PH0-000009

Thomas J. Majors (1841-1932) of Nemaha County, Nebraska, was a pioneer soldier and farmer who served in the Nebraska territorial and state legislatures, in Congress, and as lieutenant governor from 1890 to 1894. He narrowly missed being elected governor in 1894 during a confused campaign centering around the silver issue in which Fusion gubernatorial candidate Silas Holcomb defeated both Democrat Phelps D. Sturdevant and Republican Majors.

Majors, an Iowa native, at the age of eighteen took a stock of goods from his father’s store to Peru, Nebraska, to start his own business. After service in the First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, he returned to Peru and served in the territorial and later the state legislature. It was chiefly through his efforts that the State Normal School (now Peru State College) was located at Peru in 1867.  

Majors was elected to the Forty-fifth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Representative Frank Welch and served during the Third Session. He was also elected several times as a contingent (or additional) member of Congress but was not seated. The assumption behind the election of a contingent congressman was that the population of Nebraska had increased enough after the census of 1870 and before that of 1880 to entitle the state to another member of the House of Representatives, but no additional one was granted until after the apportionment of 1880, when the state was found to be entitled to three.  

The Thomas J. Majors Homestead in Nemaha County, now on the National Register of Historic Places. NSHS NH09-010

The Thomas J. Majors Homestead in Nemaha County, now on the National Register of Historic Places. NSHS NH09-010

In 1890 Majors was elected lieutenant-governor and was reelected in 1892. In 1894 he was nominated for governor. The Democratic state convention that year split over the silver question and fused with the Populists to nominate Silas A. Holcomb for governor. Administration Democrats (who supported President Grover Cleveland and the gold standard) bolted the convention and nominated a state ticket of their own headed by Phelps D. Sturdevant. With the combined support of the Populists and many Democrats, Holcomb defeated Republican Majors, 97,815 votes to 94,613; Sturdevant got only 6,985. — Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor/Publications

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