To make sense of Ripon today, one must first understand the community’s 165-year-old history.
It’s a story of adventurers, visionaries and entrepreneurs undeterred by economic, political or climatic adversity.
Ripon’s roots date back to 1844, when about 20 people moved up here from the Kenosha area, seeking to form a utopian community. Their village of Ceresco grew to 200. Among the common buildings they constructed were a communal “long house” and post office that exist today near Ceresco Park.
Just east of Ceresco, settlers formed a second village. It was named “Ripon” after the ancestral home of founder John Scott Horner, who grew up in the English city of Ripon, Yorkshire. A rivalry between Ceresco and Ripon resulted in 1851 with Ripon prevailing and, during that same year, forming a college on top of a hill to attract “responsible” settlers to the area. Today, Ripon College is a distinguished private liberal arts college.
Three years later, more than 50 citizens gathered on a cold, windy evening in the local one-room schoolhouse, entering as anti-slavery Whigs, Free Soilers and Democrats and emerging as the first Republicans in the nation.
Ripon grew quickly and attracted a large German and Polish population during the second half of the 19th century. Most of its settlers came from New England, New York and Pennsylvania.
Today, growth is slower but still steady, with the 20-person village of Ceresco now enjoying a population of about 7,600.