Tripp's father, also named William Tripp, was a farmer and minister. He married Lucy Tebbets on January 3, 1814, and William Tripp was their second child. After attending the Maine Wesleyan Seminary, he studied law and was admitted to the bar at the age of twenty-one. A Democrat, he served in the Maine House of Representatives in 1841 and the Maine Senate in 1848-9, becoming Senate President in 1849.
In 1852 he left Maine and settled in Dubuque, Iowa, where he practiced law. In 1857 he moved to Sioux City, Iowa. At the beginning of the Civil War he became the commander of Company B of the 1st Dakota Cavalry, serving under General Alfred Sully on the frontier. After the war he was appointed Surveyor General for the Dakota Territory under President Andrew Johnson. He later practiced law in Yankton in the Dakota Territory with his younger half-brother Bartlett Tripp, later a judge and diplomat. The first meeting of the Upper House of the Territorial Legislature, in March 1862, occurred at William Tripp's house in Yankton.
- http://ripleymaine.blogspot.com/2009_10_01_archive.html blog on Ripley, Maine history
- http://www.maine.gov/legis/senate/history/past/prespast/1849wt.htm Maine Legislature page on Tripp
- article The Beginnings Of Yankton’s Christ Episcopal Church, Yankton Press & Dakotan, June 11, 2011
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