Origins of the Republican Party

What were the origins of the Republican Party?[1]

In 1854, the issue of slavery was on everyone’s minds. At the time, many political parties presented their own views on the matter, including the Whigs, Free-Soilers, and Democrats. In Ripon, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, the concerns came to a head, inaugurated by A. E. Bovey [Alvan E. Bovay], a prominent member of the Whig party. He called for a meeting, and on the last day of February, the citizens met in the Congregational Church. Persons of both sexes from the town and the surrounding country attended the meeting. Their purpose was merely to compare their principles and views. After a great deal of discussion, they adopted a resolution that, if the Nebraska bill, then pending, should pass, they would “throw old party organizations to the winds, and organize a new party on the sole issue of the non-expansion of slavery.”
They held a second meeting on March 20 for the purpose of organization and for the adoption of such preliminary measures as the inauguration of the new party required. By formal vote, the town committees of the Whig and Free Soil parties were dissolved, and a committee of five, consisting of three Whigs, one Free Soiler and one Democrat were chosen. A. E. Bovay, J. Bowen, Amos Loper, Abram Thomas, and Jacob Woodruff comprised the committee. Henry Wilson, former Vice President of the United States, wrote this account:
I remember every word and act, as if the time but yesterday. The election of that first Republican Committee…was a solemn act. Every man present fully believed that he was helping to make a permanent piece of history. And he was. Yes; that point ought to be clearly understood. This was no blind, unconscious movement, of which the human family make so many. We did not build better than we knew; and there stands the edifice. Look at it. It will bear examination. It was no fragmentary movement. It contemplates the combination in one grand organization of all shades of anti-slavery sentiment in the country in one grand organization to resist the encroachments of slavery, under the name Republican.
Soon, neighboring sections accepted this combination and it quickly spread throughout the entire state. In July, they held a State Convention and their candidate, Free Soiler Charles Durkee, gained election to the Senate of the United States.

How is all of this relevant to my family history?

A quick review of my journey to this discovery starts with a pursuit of descendants of Timothy Bemis, of Malone, New York. When Mr. Bemis wrote his will in 1844, he divided his estate among his children. Included in that list was his daughter, Eunice Strong. By the time Timothy died in 1848, Eunice must have died because the executors of the estate posted a notice naming: “Harriet Strong, Henry Strong, Ann Eliza Strong, Alice Strong, and an infant child of Eunice Strong, deceased, whose name is unknown, and cannot, upon diligent enquiry, be ascertained, severally residing in the town of Ceresco in the county of Fond du Lac and the state of Wisconsin.”
To find out more about Eunice Strong, I did some research into the history of Fond Du Lac County and came across a biography of William D. Strong. The following description provides the link:
In 1824, when our subject [William Strong] was a youth of sixteen years, the family removed to Franklin County, N. Y., where he engaged in farming. In his twenty-first year, he was united in marriage with Miss Eunice Bemis, celebrating Independence Day of 1829 by that important event. The parents of Mrs. Strong were Timothy and Lois Bemis. Ten children graced the union of our subject and his worthy wife, and the record is as follows: Phoebe M., the eldest, died in infancy; Judson also died in infancy; Harriet married Peter Gore and departed this life in December, 1878; Angeline died at the age of five years; Henry V., who served his country as a member of the 5th Regiment Wisconsin Infantry, married Sabrina Bailey, and is now living in Emmett County, Iowa; John W. died of smallpox when an infant; Ann Eliza, wife of Henry Bates, is living in Cooper County, Missouri; Cynthia A. died at the age of five years; Alice A. married Edgar Loper and is living in Madelia, Minn.; William A. died in infancy. [2]
Finally, on a recent trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake, I obtained death certificates for Alice (Strong) and Edgar Loper. Edgar’s certificate identified his father as Amos Loper; and research into Amos Loper provided the critical link to the founding of the Republican Party: Amos Lopers’ daughter-in-law, Alice Strong, was the granddaughter of Timothy Bemis, my 4th great grandfather.[3]


[1] History of northern Wisconsin : containing an account of its settlement, growth, development, and resources, an extensive sketch of its counties, cities, towns and villages, their improvements, industries, manufactories, biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers, views of county seats, etc. (Chicago: Western Historical Co., 1881), 852-856; digital image, Heritage Quest Online (http://www.heritagequestonline.com : accessed 03 December 2011).
[2] Acme Publishing Company, Portrait and biographical album of Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara counties, Wisconsin:  containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the counties, together with portraits and biographies of all the presidents of the United States (Chicago:  Acme Publishing Company, 1890), 355.
[3] Minnesota, Division of Vital Statistics, Certificate of Death, No. 11543, 25 March 1922; Edgar A. Loper, died 13 March 1922 at New Avon, Redwood, Minnesota, age 85 years, 7 month, 13 days; microfilm of original records at the Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul; FHL microfilm 2,218,075.

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