Historical notes on renaming Ripley… and Willard

May 31, 2024

First, Ezra Ripley was definitely Concord’s minister for a long time, but he was not the first. Peter Bulkeley was the first English minister in Concord. The senior housing across from Emerson Park that used to be a school was named for him and that building continues to bear his name.

Second, Alcott School is named for Bronson Alcott, a progressive and radical educator, not his author daughter, Louisa May.

To Ms. Anderson, I would say that if we are going to strip all of the names of historical figures that are religious, we have to rename Bulkeley as well. If we are concerned about religious figures, with Ripley, let’s rename it for Sarah Bradford Alden Ripley, Ezra Ripley’s amazing educator wife. But then you still have Bulkeley.

It would make much more sense, if we’re trying to find a school to rename, to rename Willard. 

All of the other schools in Concord are named after educators: Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, Frank Sanborn. One could even argue that, in the way that Puritans in the 17th century thought about ministers (they often referred to them as “teachers”) as educators, Ripley and Bulkeley fit the bill for naming schools for educators. 

Willard, on the other hand, stands out as someone who is in no way able to be construed as an educator and, as you dig into his history, is a pretty complex historical figure. He seems the better candidate for replacement.

Kim Frederick

Main Street