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The first permanent settler of Brown County established his home on the banks of Eagle Creek called Logan's Gap just east of Ripley. Beltshazzar Dragoo is credited with the first permanent settlement in 1794. A monument marking the site, erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution, is located on Scofield Road.

Ripley gained a reputation throughout the United States for its strong beliefs in the abolition of slavery. Many prominent citizens were active in the underground railroad movement.

North of Ripley lies historic Red Oak Presbyterian Church, another station on the underground railroad. The church cemetery is the burial site of a more recent personality. Rosa Washington Riles, known for her portrayal as "Aunt Jemima" of Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix fame, is buried in the tranquil country graveyard setting.

Architectural buffs as well as people interested in history will take pleasure in touring Ripley's 55-acre historic district named on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Ripley's history began in 1812 when the village was founded by Colonel James Poage. A Virginian, Poage obtained the land on the banks of the Ohio River through a 1,000-acre land grant for his service in the Revolutionary War. Colonel Poage originally named the village Staunton in recognition of his hometown.

The name of the village was changed to Ripley in 1816 honoring General Eleazar Wheelock Ripley, an American commander in the War of 1812.

Pioneer settlers of Ripley were predominately of Scotch and Irish descent. In the 1840-1850's a large influx of German immigrants settled in Ripley as the landscape reminded them of their German homeland. Their skills in agriculture, woodworking and business helped to make the village a vital port on the Ohio River. Ripley gained a reputation as a shipping port for the pork industry, second only to Cincinnati.

Through the years tobacco has played a significant role in the history of Ripley. Ohio's only tobacco market is located in Ripley and the cry of the auctioneer's chant can be heard from November through February in the village's three burley tobacco warehouses. As the tobacco market becomes less profitable, local farmers are researching alternative crops and livestock, such as goats, green peppers, and wine grapes.