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From the desk of Alison Gibson, Director

February is Black History Month, and Ripley is fortunate to have several nationally important people in its history to celebrate. Brig. General Charles Young and John P. Parker come to mind, and then as we explored last year, the exceptional jazz music careers of Joe and Russell Smith as well as other members of the Smith family.

This February, we thought we’d highlight the Atwoods. While in brief mentions, we’ve talked about the livery stable next to the library, and the sadness that the Rankin/Atwood house on Second Street was recently demolished. We want everyone to know that the family as a whole is remarkable, and made history around the country.

The initial Atwoods of Ripley were born in Alabama, slaves born of plantation owner Henry Stiles Atwood. When Henry S. Atwood died, he had a will in place that the mothers and children that were his children were to be manumitted and given trust money. In 1851 this was unique and was fought against by the white family heirs and the state for years. Fortunately, and not exactly sure how, most of the Atwoods made it out of Alabama and started their new life in Ripley Ohio, May of 1853. John S. Atwood was 13 years old.

  • Here are a few of his accomplishments:
    Entered and graduated from Iberia College
    Went to California for gold prospecting
    Came back to Ripley, taught school, including principal at Red Oak
    Enlisted in the US Navy on the gunboat Choctaw, participated in battles at Vicksburg, Shreveport and Red River
    Returned to Ripley, opened grocery store
    Joined his brother Julius and R. C. Rankin to construct Georgetown Turnpike
    In 1872, started his first livery stable, built bigger one in 1879
    Served as Ripley Councilman
    Appointed as Board member then President of the Board of Trustees of Ohio Institution for the Education of the Blind, made many improvements
    A director of The Ripley Building and Loan institution
    Bred and raced some of the best and fastest horses in the region
    Urged Bishop Arnett to enact legislation to end desegregation in Ohio schools
    The list goes on and on!
    J.S. Atwood died in 1908 and is buried in Maplewood Cemetery.

Our file on the Atwoods is fairly robust, but we know there is room for improvement. If any descendants of Atwoods have information to share, we’d love to add it to our collection.