This column, Now & Then in Ripon…Retrospective with the Ripon Historical Society, began two years ago and now celebrates over 100 articles featured in the Ripon Commonwealth Press.
The idea of writing about Ripon’s history for the Commonwealth is not new. Between 1932 and 1943, lawyer and historian Sam Pedrick (1868-1963) wrote a similar weekly column “Early Ripon History”.
A portion of Pedrick’s articles were later compiled into the book “A History of Ripon Wisconsin”, edited by George Miller (1919-2011) and printed in 1964, with many reprints due to popular demand.
Sponsored by our Ripon Historical Society, the Now & Then in Ripon articles could not be written without its archives.
Based in an 1870s house at 508 Watson St., the Society took over the house in 1968. (The building housed Ripon’s first beauty salon from 1912 to 1965).
In 1999, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Ripon Historical Society, an addition was built to the rear of the building adding a first floor library and meeting room, office, kitchen and restroom.
The basement below was constructed to be an enclosed temperature-controlled concrete room, to hold extensive professional records.
An integral part of the archive collection is Pedrick’s local history timeline, including articles of interest, obituaries and facts about the town, as well as his personal handwritten notes and insights.
For example, he typed up a history of families and local residents of Ripon before the year 1960, which are called the Pedrick Genealogy Notebooks. These can be found online and accessed at www.riponhistory.orgclick on resources, then link to the research section of the Ripon Public Library.
Pedrick’s enormous amount of research and papers were once housed at Ripon College and later moved to the archives of the Ripon Historical Society after the addition to its main building was completed.
Society volunteer Nedra Martz took on the task of organizing Pedrick’s papers and notebooks (along with other photographs, posters, maps, scrapbooks, phone books, and other artifacts from Ripon’s history).
Martz moved to Ripon in 1958 when her husband became a professor at Ripon College.
A plaque in the historical society archives dedicated to Martz for her accomplishments reads, “Nedra joined the society in 1997. Shortly thereafter, she took on the position of archivist. At this time, the society had huge amounts of unorganized archival material, including the massive Pedrick Collection.
With professional guidance from the Wisconsin State Historical Society, she created a system for cataloging and indexing all of these files, as well as new acquisitions to make them readily available to researchers. In doing so, she pioneered the use of PastPerfect computer software for archival records.
When Martz left town in 2014, the task was taken on by volunteer Carol Sachen.
A graduate of Ripon College, Sachen returned to live in Ripon after her retirement. No one would know that Sachen is not native as she finds Ripon’s story very interesting.
She credits Martz with the archives, as Sachen’s work continues a legacy of excellence.
Proof of this is that when people first visit the archives of the Ripon Historical Society, they are amazed that information about the homes, buildings, businesses, organizations and citizens of Ripon is readily available. In fact, it is not uncommon today to find professional historians from Wisconsin and various other states researching the society’s archives by appointment only.
All of this makes writing the Now & Then in Ripon column for Ripon Commonwealth Press an energizing and fun task.
The column is primarily written by Steve Arbaugh and Pat Grahn.
Arbaugh, who moved to Ripon in 2015, is an avid historian and lives in an 1861 house he has thoroughly researched.
Grahn moved to Ripon in 2009 and became active in the historical society around eight years ago. She has always been an avid historian and has written two books on regional history.
Members of the Ripon Historical Society, along with volunteers, provide information and even suggest topics for upcoming Now & Then in Ripon articles.
Do you have a topic or story you would like to see and read about Now & Then in Ripon? Let the Historical Society know by emailing [email protected]
The Ripon Historical Society is Wisconsin’s oldest continuously operating historical society.
It is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
For more information, follow him on Facebook/riponhistory or www.riponhistory.org or leave a message at 920-748-5354 to request an in-person appointment.