A Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets
Past and Present
of Ripley County, Missouri

Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser

Ripley County


It was probably in 1819 that Wm. Little and Thos. Pulliam settled on La Fourche de Main in what is now Ripley County, and Geo. Lee, Wm. Merrill, Joseph Hall, Willis Dudley, Abner Ponder and a few others settled on Current River. The county was organized January 5th 1833, and named in honor of Gen. Ripley. The county suffered greatly during the Civil War, being occupied alternately by both armies, besides being invaded by marauding parties and bushwhackers, who murdered peaceful citizens and destroyed houses, fences and crops until towards the close of the war scarcely a male citizen was permitted to remain at home unmolested. Doniphan was first pillaged and burned, only 2 or 3 houses of the entire town being saved. (--Gazetteer of Missouri, 1874, Campbell, p. 479.)

The first permanent settler was Lemuel Kittrell, who settled near Current River about 1819. About that time a road or trail was marked out from Potosi to Little Rock, and along this road the first settlements were made ... About the time Kittrell settled in the county, William Little and Thomas Pulliam located on land on one of the small tributaries of Current River and on Current River near where is now Doniphan. George Lee, Joseph Hall, William Dudley, William Merrill, Abner Ponder and a few others laid out farms ... Ripley County was organized by legislative act of January 5, 1833, and named in honor of General Eleazar W. Ripley. It was created out of a part of Wayne, and greatly decreased the size of the "State of Wayne." By the act creating it, its boundaries were defined as follows:

"Beginning in Cave Creek, where the southern boundary line of the State crosses the same, in Range 5 east; thence with the State line to a point where the same crosses the North Fork of White River, thence running a northwardly direction on the dividing ridge between the head waters of Spring, Eleven Point and Current Rivers and the waters of Osage and Gasconade Rivers to the southwest corner of Washington County; thence east along the township line between Townships 33 and 34 to the Madison County line, thence south with said line to Black River, thence with said river along the middle of the main channel thereof to a point due west of the Cedar Cabin, thence with the southwest boundary of Wayne County to the beginning."

This vast tract embraced nearly one-fifth of the present State of Missouri. It was gradually decreased by the organization of new counties, and March 10, 1859, was reduced to its present limits by the formation of Carter County. The first county seat was at Van Buren, the present seat of justice of Carter County. The settlement in the section now comprising Ripley County was slow. As late as 1840 the population of the county, then ten times its present size, was only 2,856. Van Buren, the county seat, had but one store in 1857, and a log building where the court met. (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, 1901, Conard, Vol. 5, p. 357.)


Ripley County is one of the southern border counties lying between Butler County on the east and Oregon County on the west. It is bordered on the north by Carter County and on the south by the State of Arkansas ...

Thus Ripley originally was the mother of Howell, Oregon, Carter and the West half of Butler Counties, besides some other divisions farther north.

The General Assembly decreed that John Howard and John Greggs of Wayne County, and Allen Duncan of Madison County be commissioners to select a seat of justice and that the courts be held in the house of Isaac R. Kelly, until the county court should fix a temporary seat of justice.

Van Buren (now the county seat of Carter Co.) was selected as the county seat. It was named for General Eleazar Wheelock Ripley (1782-1839) of the War of 1812, who was conspicuous for gallantry in the defence of Fort Erie on August 15, 1814. General Ripley was a member of Congress from Louisiana. (--Place Names.)

March 10, 1859, when Ripley County was reduced to its present size, Doniphan was selected as the county seat. (--Encyclopedia of the History of Ripley County, 1901, Conard, Vol. 5, p. 357.)

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