Open main menu

John Mellen Thurston (August 21, 1847 – August 9, 1916) was a United States Senator from Nebraska.

John Mellen Thurston
John Mellen Thurston.jpg
United States Senator
from Nebraska
In office
March 4, 1895 – March 3, 1901
Preceded byCharles F. Manderson
Succeeded byJoseph Millard
Member of the Nebraska House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1847-08-21)August 21, 1847
Montpelier, Vermont
DiedAugust 9, 1916(1916-08-09) (aged 68)
Omaha, Nebraska
Political partyRepublican

Thurston was born in Montpelier, Vermont. He moved with his parents to Madison, Wisconsin, in 1854 and two years later to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. He attended the public schools and graduated from Wayland University in Beaver Dam, where he studied law. Thurston was admitted to the bar in 1869 and commenced practice in Omaha, Nebraska. He was a city councilman 1872–1874 and the city attorney of Omaha 1874–1877. Thurston then served in the Nebraska House of Representatives 1875–1877.

He married Martha S. Poland, born May 12, 1849. Her father, Col. Luther Poland, was the son of Deacon Luther Poland, a Vermont pioneer. Her uncle, Luke P. Poland, was a United States Senator and Member of Congress for a number of years, and for nearly a quarter of a century was Chief Justice of Vermont. On her mother's side, Poland was of Puritan ancestry, the family name, Bennett, being conspicuous in New England history. Her parents moved to Wisconsin when she was five years old, where she was reared, completing her education at the Wisconsin State University. On Christmas, 1872, she married to John M. Thurston, then a struggling young attorney of Omaha, Nebraska.[1]

He was appointed assistant attorney of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1877 and general solicitor in 1888. He was a presidential elector on the Republican ticket in 1880. In 1893, Thurston was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for United States Senator; he was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate two years later and served from March 4, 1895, to March 3, 1901. During his term, Thurston served as the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (Fifty-sixth Congress). He was not a candidate for reelection in 1901. He was appointed as the United States commissioner to the St. Louis Exposition in 1901. He moved to Washington, D.C., and resumed the practice of law; then in 1915, Thurston returned to Omaha and joined Edwin T. Morrison and Joseph Crow in the law firm of Thurston, Crow & Morrison. He practiced law in Omaha until his death on August 9, 1916. His remains were cremated at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Omaha and the ashes were interred in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Between 1885 and 1890, his portrait was painted in Omaha by artist Herbert A. Collins.[2]

Thurston County, Nebraska is named after him.


  • United States Congress. "John Mellen Thurston (id: T000256)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • John Mellen Thurston papers at the Nebraska State Historical Society
  1. ^ Hinman, Ida (1895). The Washington Sketch Book.
  2. ^ Biography of Herbert Alexander Collins, by Alfred W. Collins, February 1975, 4 pages typed, in the possession of Collins' great-great grand-daughter, D. Dahl of Tacoma, WA
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Charles F. Manderson
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Nebraska
Served alongside: William V. Allen, Monroe L. Hayward, William V. Allen
Succeeded by
Joseph H. Millard