William Morgan: In tiny Ripley, Maine, a 'no-frills preaching box'

Main Street, Ripley, about 1910. (Courtesy of Penobscot Marine Museum)


Named for Brig. Gen. Eleazar Wheelock Ripley, a long-forgotten War of 1812 hero  and later a congressman from Louisiana,  this agricultural town in Somerset County has not changed much. Today's population (488) is not a lot more than it was in 1820, shortly after the town was founded. At 655, the population peaked in 1860, just before the Civil War, but was down to around 435 when this photograph was taken, around 1910.

A new Methodist church, built in 1889, joined the Union church (on the left in the photo above). Looking not unlike the ubiquitous one-room schoolhouse found throughout the rural U.S., the Ripley Methodist Church is your basic, no frills multi-denominational Protestant preaching box.


As part of its  75th anniversary,  the church issued this commemorative plate, made by the Preston-Hopkinson Co., in Appomattox, Va. This little piece of northern New England history turned up in Savers' knick-knack department in Providence, for a relatively high price of almost $7.


Its owner apparently failed to note that such plates are "For Decorative Use Only," so a trip or two through the dishwasher marred the plate with some sort of ceramic pox.

The Methodist church is still active in its 127th year. But given Ripley's historic trajectory, one can imagine that this 50-year-old plate might have been the only relic of an abandoned church.

-- William Morgan

Mr. Morgan is a much-published architectural historian.