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A long-standing, grey pedestal still stands on the grounds of the county courthouse, displaying a metal plate that honors beloved former Watertown Sheriff Freeman Thayer. Born in 1844, Thayer joined the military at age 17 and served twice during the Civil War. During the second term, which lasted twelve months, Thayer’s regiment was under constant gunfire for six months. He came close to being injured or killed several times. Once, a bullet passed between his torso and arm, piercing his blanket just behind him.

After the war, he became member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) which was a popular post-Civil War organization. The GAR consisted of Veterans of the Army, Navy and Marines who served in the American Civil War between 1861-1865. It became the prime Veterans organization with more than 400,000 members nationwide focusing on fraternity, charity and loyalty. For a man who escaped extreme gunfire in the war, his demise was ironically strange. In 1881, while hunting with a friend just outside Watertown, Thayer’s gun prematurely discharged inside his horse-drawn carriage. The bullet shattered his leg, which required amputation. Though he survived surgery, Thayer passed 10 days later.

A separate granite pedestal stands at this memorial, with the engraved names of Codington County Veterans who gave their lives during WWI and WWII. A popular Veterans prayer is etched into one side of this pedestal in honor of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice during these wars. Standing in the foreground of the courthouse, three separate granite monuments honor the Veterans of the Vietnam War. One pedestal lists the county’s Veterans that paid the ultimate sacrifice during this war. A map of Vietnam is etched into a second granite slab, and a touching verse written by George L. Skypeck is engraved into a third granite pedestal. Skypeck is a Vietnam disabled Veteran and his poem is displayed at Veterans monuments nationally and internationally.


Stone Group Architects (SGA) is a proud supporter of our Veterans and Military Memorials. While we are strong supporters, SGA is independent from the memorials and does not claim responsibility of building or funding these memorials. SGA is a verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small business (SDVOSB) architectural firm, providing planning and design services to a variety of government clients.

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