Dr. Ripley arrived at Shakopee, Scott county, Minnesota, in September 1853, and resided at that place, boarding at the “Warren House” during the years 1853-4.
He came from New York city, where he was educated, and where he left a mother and an intended wife.
In 1855, he first made his appearance in the small village of Minneapolis — a slightly built man, of refined and gentlemanly appearance; possessing copious stores of useful and instructive information; richly endowed with all the natural gifts of an enlarged mind and liberal understanding; full of high hopes and vigorous promise, who in his early manhood had left the land of his birth to seek that of his adoption in the far west. He had been induced to take this step by a college classmate. at that time a practicing young lawyer in Minneapolis — the late Hon. D. M. Hanson.
Dr Ripley was a young and talented physician but recently graduated from a celebrated medical institution in the east, and was looking through the west for the purpose of selecting a home, where he could devote his entire time to the practice of his profession.
About this time that portion of our Territory now comprising Meeker and McLeod counties had just been explored by a few citizens of Minneapolis, and considerable excitement existed in the village, in regard to the favorable reports made by the pioneers in relation to their visit west of the Big-woods.
The doctor was strongly recommended to make a visit to the new-discovered region, to look up a claim and select a home, and in doing so made up his mind to settle — expecting to locate either at Forest City or on Cedar Lake, in the county of Meeker.
Arrangements were made to have the supplies necessary for the ensuing winters use, stored at Forest City, at the same time the Dr. with one John McClelland now Register of Deeds in Becker county, were to remain on the claim at Cedar Lake, where they had established their camp for the winter.
Ripley and McClelland left camp for Forest City, for supplies on the first day of March 1856 — a distance of 18 miles.
It was a delightful morning — the sun shone brightly and the snow was melting fast till 9, A. M. when a gentle breeze from the north-west started up — in a short time clouds began to appear and by 12 M. a full-grown Blizzard was upon them.
They traveled as near a north-west course as they could calculate, until dark when they stopped in a small popple grove; gathering a pile of dry sticks, with which they started a fire, they camped for the night — imagination will tell how they spent the night, without food or blankets, and the thermometer down to 20 below zero and the wind blowing a hurricane, their only occupation was to hunt wood and keep up the fire till morning when they again started out, as was supposed in a direct course for Forest City and traveled until about 9 o’clock A. M. through snow from one to three feet deep striking Crow River, but whether above or below Forest City they could not tell, and after a search for several hours both up and down stream the Doctor became discouraged and both started to go back whence they came — this was about two P. M. by this time the storm had abated and the sun came out just before night.
About dark they accidentally came to the place where they had camped the night before, but to their great disappointment the fire had gone out and their few remaining matches were found to be wet, they had no fire and as they started out without food, in anticipation of getting through to Forest City the same night, hunger and cold told on them terribly. The Dr. was badly chilled — both walked the grove for some time but concluded to strike out for camp as it was quite as easy to walk on the prairie as in the timber.
Ripley showed signs of fatigue and quite frequently wanted to stop and rest — McClelland insisted it would not do to stop as he would freeze and McClelland was already aware that his own feet were partially frozen. Ripley was evidently freezing as at every step he seemed to get weaker and less able to proceed and finally fell down in the snow — McClelland helped him up and led him on for some distance, until Ripley said “Mc. go ahead and if the teams have come into camp — have them come out after me.
McClelland very reluctantly left Ripley and made as rapid steps for camp as possible, knowing full well that he was taking a last farewell of the good man on earth.
McClelland left Ripley about half a mile from what is now called Lake Ripley.
The Dr. seems to have wandered back to the grove, where his remains were found in the April following by Mr. William S. Chapman (now of California.)
McClelland left Ripley about 8 o’clock A. M. of the third day out and seven miles from camp. McClelland had a hard days work and got into camp about sun down with his feet badly frozen, where he lay nineteen days! before the expected team arrived. Dr. Ripley was thirty-two years old.
When McClelland was discovered in camp, he was in a dreadful state of prostration, was immediately removed to Shakopee and both legs amputated above the knee.
Dr. Ripley was of pleasing address and gentle-manly manners, below the medium height, light hair, blue eyes and talented-and had he lived could not fail to have made a valuable citizen.
He belonged to the Masonic order was an hon or to the craft and was beloved by all who knew him. His remains have not been, but should he removed to the cemetery at an early day. Previous to Dr. Ripley’s pitching his tent west of the woods in Meeker county, he had pre-empted the East half of the South-west quarter and South-west quarter of the South-west quarter of section 30 and and Lots 7 and 8 of section 31-116-22 This pre-emption bears date October 18, 1855 the public sale taking place October 24th, 1855.
Source: Smith, A. C.. A random historical sketch of Meeker County, Minnesota: from its first settlement to July 4th, 1876, p. 112-117. Litchfield, Minn.: Belfoy & Joubert, 1877.