The cast of Primary Characters involved in the Birth of the Republican Party


Alvan Earle Bovay, 36 - Bovay was born in rural New York in 1818. He received academic and military training at Norwich University in Vermont. After graduating, he taught math and language at several institutions in the area, including the military college at Bristol, PA. In 1846, Bovay was admitted to the bar at Utica New York, where he practiced law and taught math at the New York Commercial Institute. During his formative years in New England, Bovay had been a supporter of the abolitionist movement and a vehement opponent of the expansion of slavery. In 1850, he and his wife (married in 1846) and two-year-old son moved to Ripon, Wisconsin. Ripon was a new community when the Bovays arrived (with only 13 homes in residence), but already a hotbed for progress and political debate. In 1844 Warren Chase, among others, established The Wisconsin Phalanx just outside of Ripon, in an area they named Ceresco (after Ceres, the Roman Goddess of agriculture). Bovay and his family arrived in Ripon shortly after the Phalanx’s disbanding in 1850. He opened an office as an attorney and quickly entered the burgeoning political scene, often leading debates at the general store, post office, or any other place a debate was to be had. He was instrumental in the creation of Ripon College in 1851, where Bovay Hall is named in his honor. Outraged by the further Compromises from Congress regarding the expansion of slavery, and realizing the weakened Whig Party’s disability to challenge the Democrats on the issue, Bovay began calls for a new party as early as 1852 (even going to New York to discuss the idea with Horace Greeley—editor of the influential New York Tribune). He also ran for public office in Ripon, but was defeated by Edwin Judd, a prominent local Whig, in 1853. Democrat Stephen A. Douglas’ introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 angered many in Ripon, Bovay none the least. Bovay called a meeting at the Congregational Church for February 28, 1854 that was heavily attended by the men, women, and children of Ripon. During the meeting, five resolutions were passed—the most of important of which established a new party if the Nebraska Bill were to be passed.


Building off the momentum from the first meeting, Congress' passing of the Nebraska Bill on March 4, and the freeing of captured slave Joshua Glover by mob from a Milwaukee jail on March 12, Bovay’s March 20, 1854 school house meeting succeeded in the formation of a new political party.


As Bovay himself would later write, “"We went into the little meeting held in a school house Whigs, Free Soilers, and Democrats. We came out of it Republicans and we were the first Republicans in the Union."


Jedhiah Bowen, 37: PRO BOVAY WHIG - Banker and merchant. Born in South Wales in 1817, came to America in 1830. Came to Ripon in June of 1850. He opened a general store on the NW corner of the public square, and entered the banking industry in 1864. In 1859 he was elected mayor of Ripon, and served as postmaster from 1861 - 1866. One of five members elected to serve as the committee for the newly formed Republican Party.


Amos Loper, 54: PRO BOVAY WHIG - Farmer and lawyer. Came to Ripon in 1847 from New York. He was associated with the Loper School House and was known as a “man of quiet mark and sturdy character.” Deeply involved in public affairs, Mr. Loper also served as a Justice of the Peace. He died in April of 1862, at the age of 68. One of five members elected to serve as the committee for the newly formed Republican Party.


Alonzo Loper, 24: WHIG - Son of Amos Loper. He was only 24-years-old when he attended both Bovay meetings in 1854. Active in politics ever since, he represented his city in the legislature for several terms. In his later years, he took to the insurance business.


William Dunham, 60: FREE SOILER, PRO BOVAY - Farmer, with brother David. Born in Saratoga, NY in 1796, he arrived in Ripon on May 27, 1844. Dunham was one of the incorporators of the Wisconsin Phalanx and a charter member of the Congregational Church, where he served in many capacities. He was a moderator at the first Bovay meeting and became deeply involved in the promotion of the new Republican Party. He died in 1862.


Jacob Woodruff, 41: PRO BOVAY WHIG - Born in Connecticut in 1813. Moved to the Ripon area in 1845 with his wife, Penilla. Was a blacksmith for ten years. Was a member of the Wisconsin Phalanx, and also held offices of city treasurer for one year and assessor for another. For six years he was as a member of the school board, and served as its treasurer. Woodruff built a grout Octagon house in Ripon at 610 Liberty St. The house still stands in this location today. ”A staunch Republican, he died in September of 1892.


Abram Thomas, 36: PRO BOVAY WHIG - Born in New York in 1818. Thomas moved to Ripon, where he entered the sheep raising industry, and made efforts to raise and promote that industry in Ceresco. Passionate in matters of public interest, Thomas signed the call for Bovay’s March 20, 1854, meeting. He was a member of the Congregational Church in Ripon.


Hiram S. Town, 21: ANTI BOVAY, WHIG - Born in Ontario in 1833, Town moved to Ripon with his mother and brother in July of 1844. They joined the Wisconsin Phalanx in 1846. Town began clerking in the store of William Starr, later taking over in 1857. Signed Bovay’s letter for the March 20, 1854 school house meeting. He entered the Civil War with the 1st Wisconsin Calvary in 1861 and served until 1865. After returning home to Ripon, Town took up business and public office—serving as Sheriff, State Senator, Mayor, Clerk of the Ceresco School Board, and local Postmaster.


Robert Mason, 23: ANTI BOVAY, DEMOCRAT - Born in Vermont in 1821, came to Ceresco in 1845. Aside from joining the Wisconsin Phalanx, Mason held several town and city offices. He signed Bovay’s letter and attended the March 20, 1854 school house meeting.


George Lynch, 27: PRO BOVAY, DEMOCRAT - Born in New York in 1827, Lynch was educated at Dehli Institute where he was a classmate of General Edward Bragg, later a prominent Democrat in Wisconsin. After publishing a paper in Dehli, New York, Lynch moved to Brandon, Wisconsin. He attended the March 20, 1854 school house meeting, and recalled, in writing, his encounter with Bovay before the meeting. Bovay told him, “we’re going to organize our party.” During the meeting, Lynch suggested naming the party “democrat-republican” but Bovay knew the party must be called Republican, and won out.


O. H. McCauley, 27: ANTI BOVAY, WHIG - Born in New Hampshire in 1827, McCauley later came to Ripon with his parents. A contractor and builder by trade, he built the First Congregational Church in 1853. McCauley attended both Bovay meetings, as recalled through an acquaintance in the Los Angeles Times dated April 20, 1914. McCauley left Ripon for Kansas in 1859, where he raised a company of Volunteers for the Civil War, holding the rank of Captain. After the Civil War he subsequently lived in Denver, CO, where he died on May 27, 1914.


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