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  Ripley County
Organized January 5, 1833, from Wayne County and named for Eleazar W. Ripley, a soldier in the War of 1812.

County Seat: Doniphan

Courthouse Address:

Ripley County
100 Courthouse Square
Doniphan, MO 63935

Photograph

History
Early Ripley County boundaries included nearly one-fifth of the state. As new counties acquired independent status, Ripley County shrank to its present size in March 1859. The legislature legally fixed the boundary April 1, 1872.

Commissioners selected a 50-acre site, donated by George Lee and his wife, for the county seat. At Lee's suggestion, they named the town Doniphan.

The first courthouse, a log structure, was built there in 1848. Civil War activities devastated Doniphan, and the courthouse was burned. Court sessions then were held in homes for six years.

In 1871 county citizens voted $10,000 in bonds to build their second courthouse, this one of brick. No illustrations are known to exist. Campbell's Gazetteer of 1874 described it as substantial. Fire destroyed this building, too, on January 1, 1898.

William F. Schrage, Kansas City architect, designed the third courthouse, which was built in 1898-99 (see Figures 1 and 2).

Judge McManus was appointed superintendent, and John M. Anderson contracted the building. The two-story courthouse, built of local brick, measured 128 by 95 feet at the base and 30 feet high. On July 30, 1898, Ripley County authorized $20,000 in bonds to pay for the courthouse and jail. By 1899 the courthouse was completed.

Schrage also designed similar courthouses for Morgan, Laclede and Howard counties. Laclede's courthouse was destroyed by fire; Morgan's has lost part of its tower; and Howard's was seriously damaged by fire in the 1970s, but was repaired. The three related courthouses, which were built a few years earlier than Ripley County's, all featured a central tower.

During the 1930s a Work Projects Administration project repaired storm and tornado damage, but until the 1970s the Ripley County courthouse remained without central heating or a regular maintenance program. Extensive remodeling began in 1976. Ripley County contributed $80,000 for the project; the remainder of the $325,000 cost came from an Economic Development Administration grant. This building, which still functions as the Ripley County courthouse, has been included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Copyright 2002 University of Missouri. Published by University Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia
Additional History
Because most of the population was in the southern half of the county, voters decide to move the county seat to the newly platted Doniphan, nearer to the center of population and a wooden courthouse was built. This building served the county until Union troops burned it, and most of Doniphan, in 1864. Fortunately, William Russell, a county official, had earlier removed the county's record books from the courthouse and placed them in a cave south of town. They remained hidden until retrieved by the county clerk in 1867.

Because of the chaos and destruction brought about by the Civil War, Ripley Countians did not replace the courthouse until 1871. A two-story brick courthouse resulted from the $10,000 bond passed by the county's citizens and housed the administrative offices until destroyed by fire in January 1898.

Ripley County's current courthouse was designed by William F. Schrage of Kansas City and built in 1898 - 1899. A central tower, later destroyed during a 1929 tornado, dominated the two-story brick structure. Federal relief workers undertook some repairs and renovations of the courthouse during the 1930s.
Records at the Courthouse
Recorder of Deeds:
  • Abstract and Index to Deeds 1844-1888
  • Deed Records 1844-1896
  • Patent Records 1833-1858
  • Marriages and Index 1833-1922
  • Marriage Register 1833-1866

Clerk of the County Court:

  • Register of Births and Stillbirths 1883-1897
  • Permanent Record of Births 1883-1891
  • Register of Deaths 1883-1893
  • Permanent Record of Deaths 1883-1891
  • County Court Records 1853-1868
  • State Census 1876
  • Assessment Book 1868, 1873, 1895, 1899
  • Business Ledger 1879-1881
  • Fee Bills 1857
  • Mark and Scalp Bounty 1848-1861
  • Poll Tax Book 1904, 1908
  • Proceedings 1841-1853

Justice of the Peace:

  • Records 1857 - 1860
  • Commissions 1834-1856
  • Dockets 1870-1879

Clerk of the Circuit Court:

  • Circuit Court Index 1874-1931
  • Circuit Court Records 1867-1888
  • Proceedings 1834-1853

Clerk of the Probate Court:

  • Probate Record Index 1882-1940
  • Probate Records 1856-1892
  • Probate Minutes 1883-1900
  • Probate Estate Files (no dates)
  • Wills 1883-1927
  • Letters of Administration 1834-1853

County Assessor:

  • Assessment Book 1868, 1873, 1895, 1899

County Collector:

  • Land and Personal Taxes 1887-1900
  • Land Taxes 1871-1873

NOTES:

  • Ripley County Courthouse, Doniphan, MO 63935.
  • The courthouse burned during the Civil War and again January 1, 1898.
More Links
County Marriages

Register of Births and Stillbirths

1891 County Directory

Birth & Death Records Database

Search for Ripley County on Archives' Online Catalog

Roll by Roll Listing of Microfilm

Local Records Inventory Database

Missouri Birth & Death Records Database: Search & Record Availability