History of Ripley, NY
FROM: History of Chautauqua County, New York and its people
John P. Downs - Editor-in-Charge.
Fenwick Y. Hedley Editor-in-Chief.
Published By American Historical Society, Inc. 1921




Ripley- One of the towns of the "Grape Belt" of Chautauqua county. Ripley's 31,110 acres are largely devoted to the grape industry, and in the village of Ripley the Randall Grape Juice Company is located, that concern constituting one of its most important industries. Ripley is the extreme western town of the county, bordering on Lake Erie, and until 1817 was a part of the town of Portland. The town was set off in that year and named in honor of Gen. E. W. Ripley. The village of Ripley (originally Quincy) is the principal settlement of the town, others being South Ripley, Lombard and Ripley Crossing. The population of the town (State census of 1915) is 2,414 citizens and 68 aliens. Ripley is a station on the New York Central railroad, the Lake Shore & Michigan Central also passing through the town, following the lake shore. One of the natural features of the town is Johnson's Falls, a spot of great natural beanty

The survey of the town into lots was irregular, and the shape of the town is somewhat odd. Besides the usual dimensions of an ordinary township, six miles square, containing an average of 22,000 acres, there is a tract nearly triangular in shape, being nine miles long east and west, and from less than one mile to nearly four miles in width, containing about 9,000 acres. James McMahan in 1801, before the survey of the township into lots, bought 4,074 acres, and most of the early settlers bought from him. The tract bought by Mr. McMahan extended from the lake two miles southward, and from the east line of the present town of Ripley, west to within about half a mile of Quincy, including the old Brockway farm. The south line of the tract runs nearly parallel with the lake shore, and with the two roads which pass through the tract from east to the west line. The tract is about three miles long and two miles wide, having acute angles at the northeast and southwest corners. To give a square form to the lots and farms, the lines forming the boundaries at the east and west sides of the lots were run at right angles from the lake on the southern boundary of the tract This plan of survey was carried through by the Holland Land Company to the Pennsylvania line. Of the three tiers of lots in the McMahan tract, the one along the lake is narrower than the others. The number of lots in the town is eighty-nine. Colonel McMahan also bought from his brother John lot 13, extending east to the old "cross roads," where he settled, about three-quarters of a mile west of Chautauqua creek. Colonel McMahan was one of the prominent and influential pioneer citizens of Chautauqua county. The uplands of the town were not settled as early as the lands nearer the lake.

At the first town meeting held in Ripley, in 1816, the following were chosen, only a part of the record being available: Supervisor, Amos Atwater; town clerk, Moses Adams; commissioners of highways, Alexander Cochran, Burban Brockway, William Bell; commissioners of schools, Elijah Hayden, Stephen Prendergast. The full ticket elected in 1817 follows:

Supervisor, Thomas Prendergast; town clerk, Moses Adams; assessors, Alexander Cochran, Stephen Prendergast, Amos Atwater; overseers of the poor, Burban Brockway, Alexander Cochran; commissioners of highways, James McMahan, Francis Dorchester, Charles Forsythe; constable and collector, Moses E. Stetson; commissioners of schools, Moses Adams, Amos Atwater, William B. Dickson; inspectors of schools, Gideon Goodrich, James Montgomery, William Bell. Early justices of the tOwn were Perry G. Ellsworth, Burban Brockway, Asa Spear, Elijah Hayden. These men settled west of the McMahan tract on the Erie road.

Original Purchases of Lands in Ripley.
1804- October, Alex. Cochran, 10, 11.
1805- September, Nathan Wisner, 13; Samuel Harrison, 12.
1806- March, Asa Spear, 14; Josiah Farnsworth, 19; Wm. McBride, 15; May, John Akers, 14; August, Wm. Crossgrove, 10.
1807- October, Stephen Prendergast, 16.
1808- June, Perry G. Ellsworth, 20; October, Andrew Spear, 20.
1809- October, Hugh Whitehall, 8; Noah P. Hayden, 8; Basil Burgess, 15.
1810- April, Jared and Solon Benedict and Elkanah Johnson, 17; July, Richard W. Freeman, 9.
1811- September, Win. Benson, 35.
1815- February, Gideon Goodrich, 24, 26; Alex. Cochran, 86, 87.
1816- February, Robt. Dickson and William A. Judd, 45; March, Oliver Hitchcock, 46; May, John Benson, 44; Samuel Truesdell, 89; James Taylor, 89; July,Thos. Burch, 44; November, Win. Burch, 43; Pliny Colton, 88; December, Gideon Goodrich, 69.
1817- February, John Rowley, 62; Reuben Ellis, 12; May, Benajah Rexford, 52; July, Benajah Rexford, 37; August, John Squire, 37; November, Jedediah F. Bates, 81.
1818- September, Abner Sprague, 81; November, Phineas Royce, 36; December, Chandler Wattles, 59.
1819- April, John Gage, 64; November, David Royce, 36.
1820- April, Ansel Edwards, 60.
1821- October, Layton Bentley, 50, 51, 58; Henry Briggs, 60; November, Eli Shove, 36; Benj. C. Amsden, 36; David Jenkins, 55; Gordon H. Wattles, 55.
1822- January, Alex. Berry, 28; October, John Haight, 34.
1824- March, Aaron Aspinwall, 85.
1825- February, Farley Fuller, 43; June, David Jenkins, 57; August, John C. Hunaford, 35; Daniel Shove, 35; November, Israel Palmer, 52.
1826- May, Admiral Burch, 45; Albert Scott, 20; Henry Adams, 31; Lorenzo Palmer, 32; August, John H. Board, 44; Israel Palmer, 53; September, Luman Hopkins, 85; Joseph Thornton, 44.
1827- January, Chas. Winter, 56; June, David Lombard, 34; July, Henry Adams, 30; August, Jos. Humphrey, 70; Robt. Dickson, 45; September, Oliver Stetson and others, 32.
1828- March, Peter Burch, August, Judd W. Cass, 36.
1830- May, Allen Parker, 30.
1831- January, James Macomber, 42; February. John Thorp, 72; April, Samuel Barnes, 43; May, George Ellis, 79; June, Wyman Hill, 53; Gamaliel Parker, 53; Hiram Winter, 48; Walter S. Burgess, 40.

The village of Ripley was first called Quincy, but the origin of the name is obscure. The Buffalo and Erie road, known as the Ellicott road and now as the Main road, was surveyed in 1804. Later the lake and sidehill roads, parallel with the main road, were laid out. Many of the larger farms were divided to suit purchasers who desired to engage in the grape industry.

In 1803 Robert Dunlap, of Otsego county, contracted for lands with Col. McMahan. He afterwards went to Louisiana. William Alexander, a native of Ireland, in 1804, bought over five hundred acres of this land, and planted the first orchard in town, for many years considered the best in the county. A stone "tomb table" marking the grave of his brother, Campbell Alexander, still exists on the farm which he sold to David Boyd (1902). Campbell Alexander was a lieutenant in the War of 1812. William Alexander was one of the first associate judges of Chautauqua county. The first settler in the west part of the town was Alexander Cochran, who came in 1804. Josiah Farnsworth settled in 1806, near the present village of Ripley; he also bought lands of the McMahan tract, and was the first settler who paid cash down for his land. He traveled from his home to the office of the Holland Land Company in Batavia, and made his payments there.

In 1805 William Crossgrove settled near Mr. Cochran. He married Rachel Cochran, and they reared a large family. William Wisner bought a tract of land on the south side of the main road where is the present village of Ripley. Josiah Farnsworth and Jonathan Parsons were the first purchasers of lands on the north side of the road here, and others who came early were Perry G. Ellsworth, Asa, William and Andrew Spear. Charles Forsythe, from Connecticut, settled on the McMahan tract in 1808. He established sawmills, and made cider and cider brandy. He lived in the village until 1860 and built the first brick house there. In 1809 Basil Burgess, from Maryland, bought lands which he sold to Robert Dickson from Cherry Valley, and Moses Adams from Dutchess county. Mr. Burgess settled on adjoining lands; Jonathan Adams settled near him; Oliver Loomis settled on land which he bought of Perry G. Ellsworth, and sold to Thomas Prendergast soon after, west of Quincy. In 1809 Silas Baird settled on the western part of the McMahan tract, and the next year sold to John Dickson, who, in 1811 was killed by a falling tree. Burban Brockway, from Ontario county, bought the farm in 1814. - Among early settlers were Farley Fuller, Oliver Hitchcock, Asahel Peck, Silas Baird, Basil Burgess and Andrew Spear, all active in establishing a Methodist society. Robert and Hugh Cochran settled on the Main and Lake roads, near the Westfield line. John Post bought a farm at East Ripley, and built a house which was kept as a tavern; he also built the first tannery. Near Mr. Post's place, Samuel and David Dickson built and conducted a distillery. Gideon Goodrich, from Saratoga county, settled on the Lake road at an early day, and his sons, Anson and George, bought on the Main road, near the village, built a tannery, and engaged in making shoes. After 1820 Henry Fairchild owned considerable land in Ripley. Orren Willis bought land in town, but sold to his brother Anson, who engaged in the manufacture of horn combs. Oliver Stetson, who served in the War of 1812, and Elijah Hayden, were early settlers. Caleb O. Daughaday moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania, where he bought mills and later removed to a farm adjoining that of William Crossgrove. He lived in the village from 1836 to 1872, when his death occurred. He was an associate judge of the court of common pleas, and a man greatly respected.

Israel Palmer built the first wagon road over the hills toward the south in 1817. He 'was from Vermont, and had bought land and built a log cabin three miles south of the Main road. In 1816 the summer was so coo1 that there was a failure of crops and the pioneers and their families suffered much hardship in consequence.

Samuel Truesdale kept the first tavern at State Line, beginning in 1805. Afterwards James Truesdale, his brother, built a tavern, called the State Line House, the main building standing in Pennsylvania, but the outbuildings in New York State. The Wesleyan Methodists subsequently built a small church on the site of the tavern, which had been torn down. Perry G. Ellsworth and Oliver Loomis were early tavern keepers. Elihu Murray and Asa Spear kept inns at Quincy, the last named where the Presbyterian church was afterwards built. After the Second Presbyterian Church bought the property, the old tavern was removed and became a part of the Union Hotel. Henry Fairchild built a tavern and sold it to Henry Shaver, Sr.; later it was bought by Daniel Bryant, who built a dwelling on the site. David Royce and John Post were early keepers of taverns at East Ripley.

Sawmills were built about 1817 on Twentymile creek and other streams. George Mason and Orson Kingsley built the first steam sawmill in 1827. Among the early proprietors of sawmills were Brockway & Miller, at the village, and Joseph Miller, south of the State line in the west part. Gristmills were early built. Silas Baird, John Akers and Henry Fairchild formed a company for the manufacture of brick, and continued the business many years.

Kinsey & Manning built the first woolen mills in Ripley, at Gage's Gulf, and the property was afterwards purchased by Hezekiah Mason, who conducted the mills for years. The first creamery in Ripley was built in 1874, by F. Dingley and others from Stockton.

Hugh Whitehill, Noah P. Hayden and William McBride, early settlers, owned the lands on which the village at the State line was afterwards built. Buffalo people opened the first store here. At Quincy the first store was kept by Rappole & Keeler, and the same men built the first ashery. Other asheries were built soon after.

The postoffice in Ripley was established about 1815. Robert Dickson was postmaster, and the office was kept in his house. Burban Brockway was next, and the office was removed to his house. Moses Adams was the third, and he likewise kept the office at his home.

The first framed school house was built in Ripley in 1817, the inhabitants referring to it as the "school house on the corner." In 1818 a frame school house was built at East Ripley, and one in the district west of the village. A large brick school house was finally built near the central part of the village, and in 1858 a large two-story school house was built east of the Presbyterian church. The lower rooms were used for the district school, the upper rooms for the "Quincy High School." Prof. Alanson Wedge was the first teacher. Later the Ripley Union School was established, and in 1888 a large brick building was erected on Lake street. At East Ripley and in the district west of the village, all wooden buildings used as school houses were replaced by brick years ago, and the town has both good schools and good school buildings.

Baptist missionaries preached in this vicinity, but the first sermon preached in Ripley of which there is record was by Rev. Samuel Wisner, in 1806. A Baptist society was formed in 1825, and later a church was built west of the village. The society was reorganized at Wattlesburg, where a church was built, which later came into the possession of the Methodists. In 1891 the society was again reorganized in Ripley village as the First Baptist Church and Society of Ripley, Rev. G. Woodbury, pastor.

The first Methodist class was formed in 1811, Farley Fuller, Basil Burgess, Andrew Spear, their wives and others, among the members. Meetings were held at the house of Farley Fuller at East Ripley, at Andrew Spear's in the village, at the school houses after the congregations had grown considerably, and later in the first house built by the Baptists. In January, 1842, a church building was dedicated, which was used for more than thirty years. In 1873 a large brick edifice was built a short distance east of the first. It was dedicated in 1874 by Rev. Benoni Ives of Auburn. A parsonage was built in 1891, and about that time a church was built at South Ripley. The church at State Line stands within the State of Pennsylvania, but is connected with the Ripley circuit.

The First Presbyterian Church of Ripley was formed in 1818 at East Ripley. The meetings were held in the school house. Rev. Giles Doolittle was the first pastor. A church building begun in 1828 was struck by lightfling and burned after it was nearly completed. Another building was erected in 1829. Revs. J. B. Preston, Gillett, Harris and Samuel G. Orton were pastors after Mr. Doolittle, in the order named. Mr. Orton continued from 1839 until the division of the society in 1853. The Second Presbyterian Church and Society of Ripley was organized, and a brick church was built in 1853 at the village, which was dedicated in May, 1854, by Rev. Reuben Tinker, of Westfield. Meetings were held in the two churches until 1871, when a union was effected under the name of the First Presbyterian Church and Society of Ripley. The old building at East Ripley was sold in 1881 and removed to permit the desired extension of the cemetery.

A Universalist Society was organized in 1872, with Rev. I. George as pastor, who was succeeded by Rev. A. G. Laurie. The meetings were held in the town hall. There are people of the Universalist faith in Ripley, but the society has not had a regular pastor.

The first cemetery, one acre of ground, was given in 1815 by Robert Dickson. Quarries at Ripley and North East furnished the stone for many of the headstones. In 1858 the Rural Cemetery grounds were bought by the Cemetery Association and laid out in lots. Extensive additions have been made to both cemeteries.

The Ripley Literary Club was organized in 1893, through: the influence of Mrs. Mary E. Wethy, who was elected the first president and remained in office five years. The main object of the club was to keep the women and the girls beyond school age in touch with the events of the day, and to develop the study of history, art and literature. The club started with a membership of thirty-five, with the active membership limited to forty, but as the associate membership is not limited, there are now sixty members. Every year a new program of work and study is arranged by a committee of four or five members, and by this nethod a great many women in our village have received benefit in an educational way. The club has presented pictures to the school, adopted a French orphan, prepared and sent out Christmas gifts to the needy, and has taken full charge of the Memorial or Decoration Day services for a number of years. The present officers are: Mrs. Lillian P. Mason, president; Mrs. Clara Stebbins, vice-president; Miss Julia Conley, recording secretary; Mrs. Arley N. Taylor, corresponding secretary; Mrs. Ella A. Mahle, treasurer. The club is a member of the Western New York Federation, and two of its club members, Mrs. Harriet M. Randall and Mrs. Ella A. Mahle, have held the office of treasurer of the Federation.

Mrs. Mary E. Wethy was also instrumental in organizing the Ladies' Auxiliary Cemetery Association, in March, 1894, for the purpose of improving the Ripley Cemetery. The first work was to hire a landscape gardener for two summers to lay out the grounds according to a plot drawn up years before, which consisted of walks, drives and a circle. This required grading and terracing of the ground, lowering monuments, and straightening headstones. The association purchased two carloads of fertilizer and seed to produce a good lawn; purchased an iron fence; had the city water piped into grounds; furnished hose and hydrants to water lawn, flower beds and urns, also lawn mowers and all tools; helped pay off an old debt, and hired a caretaker every season. All these expenses were paid by money raised by the ladies in their yearly dues to the association of fifty cents, in having a bazaar each year, rummage sales, and entertainments of various kinds carried out by local talent. The officers are: President, Mrs. Mary E. Wethy; vice-president, Mrs. Charles Shaver; recording secretary, Mrs. Effie Hildred; corresponding secretary, Mrs. Ella Mahie; treasurer, Mrs. Ada McGinnies; chairman flower committee, Mrs. Harriet Randall.

There is another organization in the town of Ripley doing the same splendid work, - the East Ripley Auxiliary Cemetery Association, organized April 1, 1901, and which has for its purpose the beautifying of the East Ripley Cemetery. The members are going through the same arduous tasks in earning money for this cause. The officers are: President, Mrs. Ella Kolpien; vice-president, Mrs. Cora Pitt; recording secretary, Mrs. Horace Parker; corresponding secretary, Mrs. Emma Collins; treasurer, Miss Ollie Jones.

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union has a membership in Ripley of fifty-five, and the officers are: President, Mrs. Cora Pitt; vice-president, Mrs. Effie Hildred; secretary and treasurer, Mrs. Harry Goodrich, corresponding secretary, Mrs. Emma Rickenbrode. The union meets one afternoon every two weeks, and a certain period of each meeting is given over to the study of legislative laws and civics. They have a flower mission day for sending flowers, jellies or other dainties to the sick or needy. They have also adopted a French orphan.

Supervisors- 1816, Amos Atwater; 1817-2527, Thomas Prendergast; 1826, Ebenezer Ward; 1828, Moses Adams; 1829-32, Henry Fairchild; 1833-34, Orrin Willis; 1835-36, Gordon H. Wattles; 1837-38, Ethan Sawin; 183940-52-57-64-68-77, Chas. B. Brockway; 1841-42, Hezekiah Mason; 1843-45-48-53, Moses A. Tennant; 1846, Matthew S. McClintock; 1849-50, Stephen Prendergast; 1851, George Goodrich; 1854, Selden Marvin; 1855, Caleb O. Daughaday; 1856-58-61-63, Simeon Collins; 1862, Henry A. Prendergast, 1869-72, Addison Mason; 1870-71, Lucius G. Hamilton; 1873-76, Erban C. Wattles; 1878, Nathan J. Horton; 1879-80, Lyman Bennett; 1881-82, John A. Tennant; 1883, Fred B. Brockway; 1884-88, William L. Stanton; 1889, Fred B. Brockway; 1890-91, Lyman Bennett; 1892-93, Fred N. Randall; 1894-95. Charles R. Brockway; 1896-1920, Joseph A. McGinnies.

Mr. McGinnies was also elected clerk of the board in 1905, and has held office continuously until the present (1920).

Ripley is esseiltially a town of one industry and around the famous Chautauqua grape its prosperity is built. The town is a vast vineyard; grape juice is manufactured in large quantities and th manufacture of grape baskets is carried on extensively. The principal manufacturing concern of the town is the Randall Fruit Juice Company, that company having a large vineyard acreage in Ripley as well as their manufacturing plant.

William B. Rickerobrode is a large manufacturer of grape baskets in Ripley. The village of Ripley has a gravity system of water works, and is a rural community in which it is pleasant to dwell.

The assessed value of Ripley's real estate in 1918 was $1,890,879, the full value of the same being placed at $2,415,309.

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