Ohio's rich in history, but few places have as rich a history as Ripley. A major center of Underground Railroad activity in the years before the Civil War, Ripley celebrates its bicentennial Aug. 3-5, 2012 -- a perfect time to visit this picturesque and well-preserved Ohio River town.
At the Boundary Between Slavery and Freedom
Before visiting, you can get a feel for what was going on in Ripley and the surrounding area at the time by reading two books.
Still Much As It Was Before the Civil War
Though still a living community and not frozen in time, today much of Ripley is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More than 200 buildings on Front, Second, Third, Fourth, Main, Market, Mulberry and Locust streets make up the 55-acre Ripley Historic District. From early homes and business blocks to landmarks like the 1867 First Presbyterian Church, much of what a visitor would have seen in the 1830s-1870s is still there to be seen today.
On a hill above town, overlooking the Ohio River, is the modest brick home of Rev. John Rankin, the Presbyterian clergyman who was one of Ripley's leading abolitionists. Rankin's position on slavery was no secret and the prominent site made his home highly visible from the river, where it could be plainly seen by those en route to freedom. Today the Rankin House, a National Historic Landmark, is open to the public as a state memorial managed for the Ohio Historical Society by Ripley Heritage, Inc.
Strategically located on Front St. facing the Ohio River is the two-story brick home of John P. Parker, also a National Historic Landmark open to the public. Credited with aiding more than 900 fugitives on their way to freedom, Parker bravely crossed the river by boat under cover of darkness to ferry fugitives from Kentucky to Ohio. In one now-famous episode described in His Promised Land, Parker slipped into the bedroom of a sleeping Kentucky slaveholder to rescue an enslaved couple's child, then brought father, mother and child across the river to Ohio, where all escaped to freedom.
North of Ripley is historic Red Oak Presbyterian Church, another landmark associated with the Underground Railroad.
More Things to See and Do
This Sunday, July 29, at 2 p.m. at Ripley Elementary School, 502 S. Second St., see the Ohio Village Muffins take on the Ripley All-Stars in a game of base ball (yes, two words) played by 1860s rules.
Click here to learn more about Ripley Bicentennial events Aug. 3-5, 2012.
The Ripley Museum at 219 N. Second St. features exhibits related to Ripley's history. Tobacco is important in local agricultural history and the Ohio Tobacco Museum is at 703 S. Second St. Both museums occupy mid-19th-century houses.
Though it post-dates Underground Railroad days, Ripley also has a gem of a public library. Completed in 1915, Union Township Public Library at 27 Main St. is the last Carnegie Library built in Ohio. One of just two in Ohio designed in the early 20th-century Prairie Style associated with Chicago and the Midwest, it features colorful tile made by Cincinnati's famed Rookwood Pottery.
Planning Your Visit