The Ripon Historical Society provides resources locally through its museum, library, and archives collections. The Society supports a range of educational opportunities including evening programs, school field trips, college classes, and independent historical and genealogical research.
The strong archival collection documents the building of a small city on the American frontier. Of particular interest are documents relating to the experimental Fourierite community of Ceresco as part of the reform movement in the mid-nineteenth century; the role of Ripon citizens in the anti-slavery movement and subsequent formation of the Republican Party; Ripon’s involvement in the Civil War; and the area’s industrial development.
The Society played an active part in placing the historic area of the city on the National Historic Register. Pictures, documentation, and a tour booklet showing Ripon’s various 19th century architectural styles are available.
The Ripon Historical Society was founded in 1899 “for historical and literary purposes.” The mission of the Society was stated as “the discovery, collection, preservation, and publication of historical records and data of and relating to the City of Ripon.” One of the founders, Ripon lawyer Samuel Pedrick, actively collected documents and wrote and cross-referenced family histories throughout his adult life. The Pedrick papers are the foundation of our ongoing archival collection.
OUR MAJOR ACTIVITIES
We Offer Programs, Open Houses, and Tours
Our events and programs are free of charge, open to the public, and suitable for all ages. Regular programs, unless otherwise noted, are held on the third Thursdays of March, April, May, September, October, and November at 7:00 P. M. in the Society meeting room at 508 Watson Street. We also participate in community events and activities and offer summer open houses and special tours.
We Help People With Research
The Society has an unusually complete record of Ripon genealogy. Assembled by Ripon’s remarkable historian Samuel M. Pedrick, this material is preserved in more than 80 notebooks. Pedrick’s Genealogy Notebooks provide obituary information up to 1960 and a database is maintained for obituaries 1960 – present. In cooperation with the Ripon Public Library, our obituaries and our Pedrick Genealogy Notebooks are available online. City directories, telephone books, high school yearbooks, and county and local histories also are available.
Our library of state and local history is modest but growing. It includes special collections in such diverse areas as elementary school books, etiquette books, cook books, children’s books, memoirs, and Wisconsin Civil War histories.
The Society has published the book A History of Ripon Wisconsin as well as pamphlets dealing with Ripon history.
We Maintain a Museum of Local History
The Society owns two Ripon houses, including one with a barn. Pickard House was built during the 1870’s and is used as our headquarters. It contains the Society’s archives, library, meeting room, and a museum for both permanent and temporary exhibits. Pickard House, which is handicap accessible on the main and lower levels, maintains regularly scheduled hours or may be open by appointment.
The older of the two buildings is the Pedrick-Lawson House which was built in the 1850’s. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its unusual grout-block construction. The barn is used for agricultural and oversize exhibits including farm tools and equipment. A Heritage garden with markers identifying various plants and flowers has been developed on the property.
We Are a Resource for Teachers and Learners in Ripon’s Schools
The Society has a tradition of using its resources as teaching tools. Our volunteers are willing to work with school personnel to plan and implement programming that will challenge children to develop thinking skills within the context of learning about how people in the Ripon area lived in the past. Our educational efforts have included school visits to the Society, Society volunteer visits to the classroom, displays in the Ripon Public Library, special educational offerings at our open houses, charter and home school projects, and PowerPoint presentations for teachers to use in their classrooms. Our archives and collections offer potential for individual study for middle school and high school learners as well as research opportunities for College students.