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How Our Town Got Its, Name, by Lynn Wilson

Rippey native, Lynn Wilson, and a 1959 graduate of Rippey High School, shares the history of how the town was named.

                                                          How Our Town Got Its Name                                     February 25, 2020

By Lynn Wilson           

I was born and raised in Rippey, and probably like most people, didn’t give much thought when I was growing up about how our town got its name. When I attended the 1970 Centennial, I looked at the excellent History of Rippey, & Families of Rippey publications, and learned that our town was named for a Civil War Captain, Robert M. Rippey. Much later, when I decided to do genealogy on the Wilson family, which I quickly traced back to England (my great grandparents), I enjoyed the project so much that I decided to do some research on Captain Rippey. Following is a summary of what I found, after researching the Greene County Records, Iowa Historical Society, Indiana Historical Records, Elkhart, Indiana County records, and the Vicksburg, Corinth, and  Shiloh National Battlefields. I also received much help from the Jefferson, Iowa Public library.

Robert Montgomery Rippey was born in Rush County, Indiana, on August 17, 1828, one of five children of Mathew & Jane Montgomery Rippey. During his early years his parents moved to the Elkhart, Indiana area, where Robert grew up.  His parents were very prominent farmers, with substantial land holdings. They were active supporters of the community, engaging in a number of philanthropic causes. Mathew was also a Justice Of The Peace and a state representative. Robert attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana in 1850 for one year. During the early 1850’s Robert moved to Greene County, Iowa, becoming one of its earliest, most prominent & influential citizens, serving as a drainage commissioner, surveyor, and County Judge. On page 188 in the History of Rippey, published in 1970, just before the Centennial, is a plat of the original town, called Old Rippey, surveyed by Robert M. Rippey in 1855. The town was then named for him.

On February 14, 1856, Robert married Ann Linn. One daughter, Olive Jane was born. After the death of Ann, Robert married Mary E. Young on July 22, 1857. One daughter, Alice Ann was born.

When the Civil War began, Mr. Rippey answered the call of duty, and was commissioned as a Captain in Company E, 39th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment, on August 24, 1862. Ten companies were formed, with a total of 933 men, commanded by Colonel Cummings & Lt. Colonel Redfield. The 39th was transported by rail to Cairo, Illinois, and then sailed down the Mississippi River to Columbus, Kentucky, seeing their first action at Parker’s Crossroads, Tennessee, in December, 1862. The regiment spent most of 1863 guarding important Union railroad installations in Corinth, Mississippi. In 1864 the regiment moved south, engaging in a number of battles, including participating in General Sherman’s march to the sea through Georgia.  The regiment sustained heavy losses, and received the highest commendation for bravery from General Sherman. The regiment capped its distinguished career by participating, after the war ended, in the Grand March in Washington, D.C. on May 24, 1865. The 39th was formally mustered out of service at Clinton, Iowa on June 06, 1865. According to the official records, the 39th Iowa Volunteer Infantry lost, due to disease and combat, 192 enlisted men, and 8 officers, for a total of 200.

 Captain Rippey died at Corinth, Mississippi, on October30, 1863, of acute dysentery, age 35. He is buried along with his first wife and two daughters in the Jefferson, Iowa Cemetery.


 In 1855, Rippey, Iowa, named for County Judge Robert Rippey, Drainage Engineer, and Deputy Surveyor in Greene County when Rippey was platted on the Raccoon River, about four miles west of Rippey, before he was part of the War of the Rebellion.  When the new line of the Des Moines Valley Railroad in 1869, the inhabitants began moving east and putting down new roots.  In June, 1870 a town was laid out on the railroad by W. H. Cartwright and was named New Rippey.  Thereafter, the two villages were designated as New Rippey and Old Rippey.  In 1957 New Rippey was changed to Rippey by the voters.  Photo courtesy of the Iowa State Historical Society.  Information taken from the History of Rippey 1849-1870 published in 1970.  Robert Rippey died October 30, 1863 before he saw the decline of his namesake village. Robert Rippey Family Gravestone, Jefferson CemeteryRobert Rippey Gravestone, Jefferson Cemetery, Greene County, Iowa