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Never again did the American party figure so prominently in Wisconsin. But for many years and during a succession of national campaigns beginning with that of 1856, the charge of Know-Nothingism was used against the Republicans for the purpose of holding Germans and Irish to their ancient Democratic allegiance. The plan did not wholly succeed, for little by little a fragment of the German population fell away and joined the party of Fremont and Lincoln. But of the various political forces operative in this state, which enabled the Democratic party to weather the storms of the Civil War and come out so nearly victorious in 1876,24 doubtless the purely negative force of "Nativism,” influencing the loyalty of foreigners to the Democracy, was the most important.
It would be possible to show that certain political episodes of the later period revived in a measure the earlier anti-Know-Nothing antipathies, resulting in significant shifts of party allegiance among the foreign-born. But the Know-Nothingism of the 1840's and the 1850's had its "Indian summer" in 1856 and 1860, and was blasted by the chill winds of war which so quickly followed. The later manifestations of the spirit of Know-Nothingism constitute another story.
24 Tilden received 123,927, Hayes 130,067. The counties where Germans and Bohemians were most numerous gave the largest Tilden majorities.
EARLY HISTORY OF RIPON COLLEGE, 1850-1864
SAMUEL M. PEDRICK
On Saturday, November 23, 1850, a little group of men gathered at the home of H. D. Scott in the village of Ripon, in the township of Ceresco, Fond du Lac County, having been convened by a formal notice, signed by Justice of the Peace G. H. Baker, for the purpose of the "formation of a corporation for mental improvement and the promotion of education, as provided in Chapter 49 of the Statutes of Wisconsin." At this meeting an organization was perfected, under the advice of the village lawyer of that pioneer settlement, Alvan E. Bovay, and the new corporation was launched under the name of the "Lyceum of Ripon." A seal was adopted, consisting of the common scroll. David P. Mapes was elected president; Alvan E. Bovay, secretary; E. L. Northrup, treasurer; and Warren Chase, Jehdeiah Bowen, John S. Horner, Asa Kinney, Almon Osborn, and Edwin Lockwood, with the officers, were made the board of directors of this new educational organization. This was the beginning of Ripon College.
We have no record of who were present at that early meeting, but we do have the secretary's record of the formal action that was committed to the written page for preservation; that record was lost for many years, but was discovered by chance and returned to the college office in 1905 by the late W. W. Robinson, of Ripon.
At the first meeting the directors were "authorized in their discretion to contract for the erection of a building in the village of Ripon, of stone, fifty feet square, two stories high, with hip roof, Dome &c, to be used for the purpose of education." To get the full significance of this action one should have in mind a picture of the conditions
in this little community at that time. In May, 1844, the Wisconsin Phalanx had established itself in the valley, which they named Ceresco, and had been there working out the principles of Charles Fourier of France in a very practical way; but at the time of this meeting it had resolved to dissolve, and under an act of the legislature was dividing up its two thousand acres of land and was going out of business. Many of its members were taking farms and becoming permanent settlers; others were taking lots in the newly laid out village of Ceresco, planning to remain permanently. There were probably not more than two hundred souls then left of this social experiment. At the crest of the hill east of the village of Ceresco, Captain D. P. Mapes had obtained control of a forty-acre tract from its owner, Governor John S. Horner, and had there laid out and platted the village of Ripon in April, 1849, and was doing everything that he could to attract settlers to his plat. In the year and a half that had intervened from the time of the platting of his village, its founder had obtained but few families to locate, and we know that "the hamlet was small, and the people poor," when the "college" was projected. The farms in the adjacent territory had all been taken up from the government between 1844 and 1850, but the number of settlers thereon was still small. The school maintained by the Phalanx had been taken over by the local school district, but it was feebly supported and not largely attended.
Mr. Mapes, says Dr. E. H. Merrell in his historical sketch of Ripon College, published in 1893, was "in many respects a marked man. Trained in business in the states of New York and Pennsylvania, afterwards the owner of a steamboat that plied between Albany and New York, accustomed to the tough conditions that belonged to business life before the days of the railroads, or even of canals, he brought to the enterprise of building a new city
the courage, sagacity and magnetism, that mark the veteran general of many hard campaigns. His steamboat was sunk at the Palisades in the Hudson River, and with her went down the bulk of Captain Mapes' fortune. At that day there was one commonly accepted way of mending a broken fortune: it was to gather up what remained, if anything remained, and migrate to the wonderful West. Captain Mapes heeded the prevailing impulse and set his face towards the setting sun. His steps were led, shall we say by a Divine Hand, to the delightful spot which is now the seat of Ripon College. He wrought with a missionary spirit of sacrifice and enthusiasm, and soon gathered a company of strong men and women who had caught the inspiration of his unflagging courage and his personal magnetism."
Of the men whose names were on the directorate of this "Lyceum," several contributed to the history of the state. Alvan E. Bovay took his place in history as the one who first suggested to Horace Greeley the name "Republican" for the new party that should rise in 1854 upon the ashes of the Whig party, and who was the moving spirit in that schoolhouse meeting, the first held in the United States, March 20, 1854, where it was definitely determined that so far as this pioneer community could do so, a new party should be organized, under the name Republican, to meet the issues raised by the Kansas-Nebraska bill. John S. Horner had been an early secretary, and as such ex-officio governor, of Michigan Territory; later, in 1836, secretary of the newly organized Wisconsin Territory; and had lately been judge of the probate court in Marquette County. Warren Chase had been the leader in the Wisconsin Phalanx in Ceresco, a member of both the first and second constitutional conventions, had served in the State Senate as the first senator from Fond du Lac County, and was later a candidate for governor on the Free Soil ticket. Asa Kinney had been a member of the second constitutional convention.
In fact, all of the names were those of strong men of those pioneer days.
At this first meeting which organized the "Lyceum," the record reports the following as the subscriptions toward the new educational enterprise: John S. Horner, $25; Alvan E. Bovay, $25; David P. Mapes, $50; Jehdeiah Bowen, $50; E. L. Northrup, $50; A. P. Mapes, $50; John T. Woodside, $20; Marcellus Pedrick, $10; Lyman Turner, $10; Griffith Beynon, $10; Levi Parker, $10; George F. Lynch, $25; Edwin Lockwood, $10. Thus with $345 pledged, the directors felt encouraged to proceed. We are told that before the building operations went forward in earnest additional subscriptions were obtained, aggregating some $800, “payable in goods, lumber, lime, grain, and such other commodities as were then current." Of money there was then very little, and it is related that the leader of the enterprise turned in his gold watch later when the needs were most pressing.
Subsequent meetings of the directors were held on December 7, 9, 14, and 18, at which meetings specifications were gone over, bids received, first for a building of stone and later for one of wood and brick; and finally, after some modification of the bid of Andrew Gill, of Dartford, the secretary was authorized to enter into contract with Mr. Gill for a "Building 50 x 50 2 stories high of stone laid in 'Random Courses' levelled every foot and 'sunk pointed' From foundation (2 ft. below the surface) to the 1st timbers 3ft. walls 2 ft. thick. thence to the 2nd timbers 12 ft. 20 inches thick. thence to the top 11 ft. 8 inches thick. 34 windows and 2 doors windows and doors arched with stone. corners of building hammer dressed. 8 chimneys topped with brick 8 ft. above the roof. Gill to find all the materials save the wood. and to have free access to the stone and sand quarry. Job to be completed at 7 months from date of contract. that is July 18th 1851. For $800 2/3 of it to be