John Scott Horner’s role as founder of Ripon goes back to his control of the ¼ section of
land currently bounded by Ripon’s railroad tracks where they intersect Oshkosh Street,
west to a point halfway between Hamburg and Washington Streets, south to Blossom
Street, east to the railroad tracks again and then north to the starting point.
In 1835 President Andrew Jackson appointed Horner as Secretary and Acting Governor
of the Michigan Territory followed by Secretary of the Wisconsin Territory. As Secretary,
Horner administered the oath of office to Governor Henry Dodge and judges of the
supreme court in 1836. According to Horner he was then transferred to the office of
Register of the Green Bay land office by “a fraud perpetrated on General Jackson”
leaving a “fine estate in the mineral country” the following spring.
The pay for being Register was minimal, so Horner resumed the practice of law. His
practice proved lucrative, and in late 1838 he became the first purchaser of land west of
Fond du Lac including the Silver Creek water power section and land on the south
shore of Green Lake.
Horner held his office for eleven years. In the early years, the office was not worth
anything politically, however in later years it became capital for demagogues and
Horner lost his assignment in 1846.
Friends urged him to return to his native Virginia but in 1847 he moved to his farm,
Westwood, on the south shore of Green Lake. While there he was elected probate
judge for Marquette County and served 1849-1854.
During that time, David P. Mapes and Horner reached a purchase deal for the ¼ section
to develop Mapes’ vision of a village. Horner provided the property, retained the right to
name the city and also name the principal streets. He chose the name “Ripon” after his
ancestral home near Ripon, England. Street names included Watson, Blackburn,
Jefferson, Cass, Houston, Washington, Spaulding, and Doty.
Horner’s retirement years were spent at his large residence on Scott Street in Ripon.