Johannes / John Rupp of Macungie, continued.

Part IV

     Briefly looking at what census records are available (direct images via, once again), Andrew “Roop” and George “Roop” are both found in “Macunge” in 1790.  This census was not particularly detailed and females were not assigned ranges of age at all, while males were only broken down to under 16 years or 16 years of age and over.  Where was Herman?  I don’t know.  John is also missing.  Andrew is shown with a household of 4:  one male under 16, one over 16 (himself) and two females (wife and daughter, one would assume.). George is shown with a household of 3:  one female, and two males over 16.  Now this creates an interesting question:  which George is this?  George Jr.  was married sometime between 1785 (aforementioned tax list, still with the single men) and 1791 when his son Johannes was born (baptism also aforementioned).  Looking at the 1790 census from the perspective of either George Sr. or Jr., we can assume one of the males over 16 was George Rupp and the female was his wife, but then who was the other male over 16 in the household?  If this George Rupp represents George Jr., his son Johannes (aforementioned) was not born until 1791.  

     For the year 1800, the “Maccongie” census is thankfully a bit more detailed.  John Rupp, the focus here despite my incessant wandering, is listed for Macungie township and has a total household of 4.  There is one person over 25 years of age (I assume John), 1 female between 16-25 (I assume his wife), 1 male 10 to 15 years old and 1 female under 10.  Meanwhile, just to wander away from John again for a moment, Herman, George and Andrew are all listed as well although now Andrew has moved up to “Weissenberg” township.  One item of interest, which I can not currently explain, is that the listing for Herman indicates 1 male over 45 years of age and 1 female 26-45 years of age along with 3 other younger folks.  If Herman was actually born in 1756, it would be expected that he would be slightly under 45 years of age in 1800.  This seems to indicate that his ‘accepted’ birth date may be off by a year or so, or perhaps he himself was not entirely aware of his exact birth date (which was not uncommon).  Alternately, perhaps the census recorder was mistaken.   Another item of interest is that the listing for George Rupp indicates a household of only 2, and both individuals (1 male, 1 female) are over the age of 45.  This probably is George Sr., for as I illustrated above at least one child was baptized to J. George Rupp in 1791, so unless the child died and George Jr. and wife had no other children, it could only be George Sr.  The majority of online sources put Ursula’s death in 1800, though without documentation, so possibly the census was taken before her death that same year.  Alternately, a few equally unverifiable online sources place her death in 1806, a year prior to her husband; a trustworthy source of documentation has yet to materialize.  This is not completely clear but if this is George Sr., then George Jr. has now disappeared.

     A number of years ago, I was provided with an interesting transcription of a document involving John Rupp.  Dated 1802, there is an indenture extant for “…John Rupp of Maccongie township in the County of Northampton and the State of Pennsylvania Yeoman… and his wife Margaret…” in which John sold to Jacob Shoemaker 40 1/4 acres for 200 pounds.  The deed further notes the land borders a parcel “…intended to be granted to Herman Rupp…” and it appears that the 40 acres being sold was originally part of a larger portion (83 acres of it is mentioned as part of a patent) which was sold to George Rupp in 1774, and in 1797 George and wife Ursula either sold or granted “…with one other piece of land the above described forty acres and a quarter unto their son the said John Rupp (party hereto) in fee.”  This document seems to indicate that while he was still present in Macungie township, he was selling and/or disposing of land.  This might indicate he had moved or was preparing to move, or alternately needed money.  Also interesting is that we finally get a documented name for his wife, “Margaret,” and that there is the mention of land that is to be granted to brother Herman.  Who was doing the granting?  And why “Yeoman?”  Was he no longer gunsmithing?  I do not have an original copy of this document, but I am currently attempting to track down a copy for verification.

     Within the 1810 Federal Census for Macungie, “Harman Rupe” is listed and up in  “Wisenberg” township (bordering Macungie to the NW), “Andrew Rup” is listed.  John is absent as is George Jr.  Herman and wife are both 45 yrs or older, while other household members include a male and female b/t 16-25 and two females under 10; it seems quite likely that these others represent Herman’s son Jacob and his young family.

     In the 1820 Federal Census for Macungie - now Lehigh County (formed 1812) - there is in fact a John Rupp present, however this is clearly the son of either George Jr. or Andrew (somewhat unclear, as both men baptized sons “Johannes” within two years of each other, 1789 and 1791) who was also a noted 19th century gunsmith.  This John Rupp had three children under 10 represented in the record.

     Going any further with the census records is really of more interest to Rupp family genealogists, for by the next decade there were Rupps of this family group all over Northampton and Lehigh counties.  Actually, casting a wider net, there were Rupps of various unrelated family groups all over Pennsylvania!  Genealogy is not the focus of my investigation, as I have been primarily investigating Johannes Rupp the elder and as I will conclude below, there is certainly no need to pursue him any further than the decade 1810-1820.

Part V

     Now, let’s revisit old George Rupp’s estate paperwork.  It was preliminarily filed October 14, 1807, and I have already covered the initial statement by Herman Rupp as administrator (see above).  Following this, the next page notes that “Harman Rupp of Macungie twp, son of deceased George Rupp of said township, and John Fogle, of said township, and Peter {?} of borough of Easton, all of Northampton Co, are bound unto the State of Pennsylvania the sum of one hundred pounds…,” this being dated Oct 14, 1807.   Herman Rupp as administrator of estate of George Rupp is expected to make a “true inventory of all goods, chattels, debts…” etc., due by Oct 14, 1808 (one year).  More legal blathering continues, some of it unreadable, and it is then signed by Herman Rupp, John Fogle, Abraham {Horn?} and two other signatures that I can’t decipher.  So far, so good.

     The estate settlement apparently dragged on for a considerable period of time, probably due not only to the lack of a Will but also because of different reasons altogether.  Next, there are pages in a different hand dated December 5, 1816.  “Herman Rupp appeared before Nathanial {?} register for the probate of wills and granting letters of administration in and for the county of Northampton, swore that all inventory etc for the estate of George Rupp, deceased, was true.  Signed by Nathanial {?}  Another page then follows in the same handwriting which I assume is that of Nathanial (my underlining added):

“{very difficult to read} of the Estate of George Rupp, late of Macungie County of Northampton, now Lehigh, Yeoman, deceased.  The said accountant craves a credit, for the                following items, viz:                                                                                                                                           

By lost debts, to wit:

John Rupp’s two bonds, not recovered, he having died insolvent, And… charged…



Goods and Chattels … charged, which the accountant claims as his property by virtue of a certain agreement between the said George Rupp now dec’d and Herman Rupp the accountant and John Rupp… agreement… John Rupp to Herman Rupp…said agreement is recorded in the office for recording of deeds at Easton in and for the county of Northampton…

     (More accounting stuff follows, very hard to read)

Another page follows which appears to be a listing or inventory of items, dated November 27, 1807, but it is difficult to read.  There is then a final page:  

“…Account of Herman Rupp, Administrator, Macungy township, in the County of Northampton.

The said accountant charges himself with all and singular the goods and chattels, rights… credits, which were of the said deceased, at the time of his death; … per inventory and… thereof filed in the… office at Easton on the 27th day of October {anno?} 1807... and containing… to wit:

Debts due from the following persons to wit:

One bond from Herman Rupp, … 1809 for L25

2 bonds from John Rupp [looks like same date ] 1809 L25

And the other {?} 1810 for L50

               (Accounting for Dressing Apparel, Cash, Goods and Chattels)

And with the… due on the Agreement between George Rupp and… and John Rupp for sundries to be delivered… to him, the said George Rupp on which Agreement…


               Despite all of this being fairly difficult to read, the synopsis here seems to be that Herman took up the administration of the estate in 1807, completed the required inventory, but at some point in 1809 and 1810, John Rupp took two loans or indemnities  against the the estate settlement and then died “insolvent” before paying back the debts.  Given he did this in 1809 and 1810, but was noted by his own brother to be dead by the time the final papers were filed in 1816, he must have died between the 1810-1816 period.  It also appears that there had been some long-standing agreement between George Sr., Herman and John but the specifics are not exactly spelled-out in the paperwork.  I suspect this agreement involved land and/or the homestead, and Herman was clearly claiming something as his own due to this agreement, but I have not yet been able to find a record of it.  The estate paperwork does explicitly indicate that something was recorded and filed, so I will continue searching.

Part VI

               Initially, let’s just set aside all of the other birth dates and assorted dating given for the various Rupp family members.  Neither of the county histories offer any type of source information for the provided dates.  The Northumberland Co. biography mentions at a ‘family bible’ owned by a descendant, although it specifically mentions Herman Rupp but no others.  Wes White - long respected as a researcher of information relative to early American gunmsiths - possessed an old photocopy within his extensive files of what he noted as 'Herman Rupp's Birth Certificate.'  This page was done partially in decorative fraktur, however after consulting with Dr. Scott Paul Gordon of Lehigh University, it has been determined that this image is actually the facing page of a bible and the translation does indeed indicate ownership by Herman Rupp, born November 7, 1756.  It further notes the name of his wife (Barbara Biere), her birth and familial background, and an addition records their marriage on February 21, 1787.  It is unknown where Wes White obtained this photocopied image but it does verify the story of Herman's bible surviving into the early 20th century.  Could each of the other Rupp children likewise have owned bibles that documented important dates in their lives, these bibles being the basis of details offered in the later county histories?

             Church records are also mentioned in the histories, however the surviving records for the Trexlertown Union congregation only go back to 1784 and the records of the Jordan Reformed congregation only extend a bit further back to 1765.  Records of the so-called “Lehigh church” or “Blue church” have been transcribed back to 1750, but within those baptisms and births, there are only two notations of a certain “Anna Rup” being a sponsor in 1782, and a “Maria Rupp” in 1784.  Looking to nearby eastern Berks County, the Longswamp Reformed congregation was active during this early period but nothing has turned up there, and I am currently working on tracking records slightly northwest of Macungie in what became Weisenberg township although nothing of value has materialized there either.  I have also found nothing in any Zion (Allentown, also nearby) records, nor in the records of either the Egypt Reformed congregation (South Whitehall), the Lowhill Reformed church (Lowhill twp) or the Heidelberg Union congregation (Heidelberg township).  It is a given that in many of the regions inhabited by the early reformed settlers, it was common for small services, baptisms etc. to be held in individual homes by pastors who often traveled considerable distances or traveled a ‘circuit’ as-needed before local residents were able to form a cohesive congregation and construct a centralized church structure.  In such cases, the only records which might record births, baptisms or deaths would be privately-held records of individual pastors, many of which do not appear to have survived.  Likewise, family bibles were often used for record-keeping by the families themselves, however the location of Herman Rupp's bible is currently unknown, if it still exists, and whether or not John or any of the other Rupp children maintained individual bibles is presently an unanswerable question.     

     It is clear to me that much of the online information to be found in family histories regarding Johannes Rupp of Macungie is incorrect.  In large part, this is due to the fact that the name “Johannes Rupp” or “John Rupp” was very common in southeastern Pennsylvania, especially when interpreting variations of surname spellings which may indicate a ‘Rupp’ surname, or may indicate a different surname altogether:  Rup, Rupp, Raub, Roop, Raup, Rupe, Rapp, Rab, Rubb and probably more can all be found in records throughout the 18th century and into the 19th century.  These were not all the same surnames nor the same family groups!  There were Rupp family groups in Philadelphia, Lebanon, Dauphin, York, Lancaster and even “Raups,” sometimes written as ‘Rupp’ in records, as near as eastern Northampton Co. around Easton, none of which were in any way directly related to the Macungie Rupps.  Currently it seems popular in the multitude of family trees to assign death dates to Johannes Rupp of Macungie based upon records of men in other areas of southeastern PA, generally through the 1820s and 1830s.  However, as George Rupp’s estate papers and statements by his own brother Herman attest, he factually died sometime between 1810 and 1816.  This tightens up the field of candidates very considerably, yet after tracking down information concerning potential matches variably believed to have been this man, I’ve eliminated all of them fairly conclusively, including the most common candidate, a certain Johannes Rupp who died in Lebanon County in 1814 (correct time span) and coincidentally was born during the same assumed year, yet every other verifiable detail of his life completely contrasts what can be proven in regard to Johannes Rupp of Macungie.    

     Looking at the other end of his approximate lifetime, we can not say with any certainty exactly when he was born.  Both county histories give his birth date as July 2, 1762, and more than likely, the latter (Northumberland) was probably recycling information in bulk from the former (Lehigh and Carbon).  It definitely could be accurate and it would dovetail quite neatly with all of the information I have provided above; I can’t say as though I have found anything that would contradict this potential date of birth, but at the same time, I have yet to find any documentation of it likewise.  As much as I would like to trust the county histories, I prefer to take them with a grain of salt - ‘Trust but verify,’ as the expression goes.  I would think it safe to say that Johannes was born sometime between 1760 and 1765 or so, but that’s about as far out on the limb of speculation one can safely travel.  Ultimately, until more information comes to light, the question of “Who, exactly, was John Rupp?” remains clouded.  Was he formally trained as a gunsmith?  If so, who trained him?  There exist two signed, verifiable John Rupp (elder) rifles with clear Northampton/Lehigh school styling.  There are a few other attributed rifles of the same region based upon particular characteristics, but these are unsigned.  The last surviving assessment noting John Rupp in Macungie is dated to 1807, the year his brother Herman was one of the assessors; Herman was specifically recorded as a 'gunsmith' and John as a 'smith.'  Therefore, he can be clearly shown to have lived in Macungie at least through 1807:  was he working with his better-known (to modern collectors) gunsmith brother Herman?  Was he engaged in other work also?  The 1802 indenture notes him as “Yeoman,” not a smith or gunsmith; was his gunsmithing career short-lived or intermittant?  And ultimately, did he leave Macungie and if so where did he die?  Some last speculative thoughts on this, based upon one of the county histories…

Part VII

     Now we shall revisit the Genealogical and Biographical Annals of Northumberland County, and the individual featured therein:  George W. Rupp, born 1849 in Catawissa.  Using the genealogy presented, Johannes Rupp would have been his great grandfather.  He stated that George Rupp, his grandfather, was a son of Johannes and born in 1790 “…at Trexlertown…”  Grandfather George had a son named John, born in 1819 in Catawissa township, and this man was the father of George W. Rupp, the subject of the biographical sketch.  He also notes that great-grandfather Johannes was a blacksmith, and that he died in Philadelphia.  Is any of this accurate?  We’ll start with the provided date of birth of grandfather George, son of Johannes, allegedly born in 1790.  There are no records of any births to Johannes Rupp in the Trexlertown, Jordan or ‘Blue’ church congregations.  In fact, in 1789 and 1790, as per the lists of taxables (aforementioned) he was listed with the single men, and as of March, 1790, within the Trexlertown church records he was still listed as single.  Therefore, it seems that if he did in fact marry and sire a son christened as George, the date given of 1790 is probably close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades but may be off by a year or so.

               There were a number of John or Johannes Rupps in Philadelphia, but these family groups seem to all trace back into the 1750s-1770s and none of them, via tax or census records, match up even remotely closely to the details already established for John Rupp of Macungie.  I suspect - but of course this is just my suspicion - that old George W. Rupp at the turn of the 20th century was remembering the story concerning Theobald / Diephold Fahringer, married to Clara (thought to be Clara Rupp), dying in Philadelphia; Theobald is documented to have been a blacksmith in Northampton County deed papers, Herman Rupp was the administrator of his estate (firming the notion that he was married to one of Herman’s sisters) and he is generally accepted to have died in Philadelphia during the British occupation.  Conversely, maybe John did in fact die in Philadelphia, but if so, there is no evidence to be found of either his residence there or his death there.  No tax, census, church records or otherwise.  Of course, since Herman did attest that John died insolvent, it’s possible he left no document trail at all, but he would have left a widow and children.  I have tried to backtrack Rupp surnames who perhaps may have been his children (he had at least two per the 1800 census, and four total per George W. Rupp) but once again, no individual with a Rupp surname in the Philadelphia area - city or county - seems to even coincidentally tie in with John’s timeline.

     Let’s cast our net to the north rather than to the southern counties.  After all, this George W. Rupp ca. 1900-1910 was claiming familial ties with the Macungie Rupps, and furthermore, seems to have been outlining a family history involving the upper Susquehanna region and Northumberland (and later Columbia) counties.  

     The 1810 Federal census for Northumberland County (by the early 19th century, one of the ‘hot spots’ for northerly expansion within Pennsylvania) does not provide any Rupp surnames.  There is a potentially interesting possibility in a man noted as “John Rubb, B’smith” in “Town of Selins Grove” who is the correct age (45+) and with a number of children that could conceivably work, however a female assumed to be his wife is also listed as 45 years or older and this would contradict the 1800 Macungie census:  John’s wife was in the 16-25 years age range for 1800 so at most could only be 35 by 1810.  Furthermore, “John Rubb” had vanished by the taking of the 1820 census, which would fit John’s death range, and he was clearly noted as a blacksmith, but the age of his assumed-wife seems to be a deal-breaker.  This individual may be worth investigating further but at the present time I can’t quite bend reality enough to make him work.  The only other surname remotely close to ‘Rupp’ in the Northumberland area at this time were a small group of people with the surname ‘Robb.’  These folks are accounted-for and eliminated with a minimal amount of research, so “John Rubb” the blacksmith in Selinsgrove remains the likeliest candidate as he appears to represent a stand-alone family unit in the area.


     Looking to the 1820 census, we can find a George Roop and wife, both aged 45 or older, in “Selins Grove Penn twp” with two other household members, one male and one female both between the ages of 16-25.  Could this be the missing (from Macungie) George Jr.?  It does seem a bit coincidental given the notes re: the 1810 census discussed above.  The age is appropriate as would be the age of any children by 1820.  Also in 1820, over in “Cattawisse township,” there is a “Gorge Roop” who is a younger man, he and wife between the ages of 26-44, another female between 16-25 and three other younger children.  This fellow seems to match up with the story told by George W. Rupp (above) that his grandfather George was in Catawissa by or before the year 1819, Catawissa being about 30 miles up the north branch of the Susquehanna River from Selinsgrove.  Interesting - perhaps coincidental or perhaps not.

     Moving forward to 1830, there now is a younger John Rupp in “Selinsgrove Penn twp Union County PA” between the ages of 30-39, and he is living with a lone female who is much older, between 60-69.  Is this a dutiful son living with a widow of the 1810 John “Rubb?”  Or perhaps the widow of the 1820 George “Roop?”  Up the river a bit in “Cattawissa Township Columbia County,” the “Gorge Roop” of 1820 became  “Geo Rupp” in 1830 (just to illustrate how the names mutated depending upon who was doing the recording).  He and wife were both 40-49 years, with a number of younger folks in the household also.  This once again does indeed seem to match up with the story told by George W. Rupp ca. 1900-1910 just before the Biographical…Annals was published.  Unfortunately, by the time of the 1840 census, and later census studies, there are so many Rupp variant surnames all over the region, many with multiples of the given Christian names, that it is quite beyond my interest or scope to study them all.


     Ultimately, there can be no true conclusiveness to this study without additional information that hopefully will come to light at a future point.  Right out of the gate, I will state that one current possibility is that Johannes “John” Rupp sold or transferred his land - or at the least, portions of his land - in Macungie sometime around 1807-1810 and moved somewhere, possibly in conjunction with older brother George who also seems to disappear from Macungie and nearby townships.  Did one or both of them head ‘up the river’ to Northumberland County?  Johannes/John apparently had a hard time of it during the first decade of the 19th century, or otherwise suffered bad luck, and definitely died “insolvent” somewhere between 1810 and 1816; we have his own brother's attestation to this fact.  Additionally, I think I’ve presented a solid case with what documentation is available to illustrate that the assumed 1762 birth year is accurate within a couple of years at most on either side.  He clearly was married and had at least two children by 1800; whether or not he had additional children is unknown despite George W. Rupp’s assertion one hundred years later.

               We can say with confidence that he was a very capable gunsmith, whether professionally trained or not.  There are two signed rifles of classic ‘Lehigh’ form to attest to this, both extremely similar to the signed and dated examples of his brother Herman as well as rifles signed by John Moll working nearby in Allentown, not to mention a number of other regional gunsmiths such as Peter Neihardt or Jacob Kuntz.  His brother Herman was just barely old enough to conceivably have been working for perhaps a year or two at most prior to the War (and Pennsylvania’s insistence that any capable gunsmiths cease civilian production to work for the state after ca. 1775-1776).  Johannes, even if one were to stretch his birth date back to the earliest extent of a conceivable range, could not have been working on his own until after the close of the War and both of his surviving signed rifles display a form that evolved in the Northampton/Lehigh area following the War-era through the late 1780s and early 1790s.  The frequent attributional dating to his work being of the pre-Revolutionary era is blatantly ludicrous; it simply is not possible, nor is it possible that he was making decorated civilian rifles during the War years when Pennsylvania authorities were aggressively coercing anyone with remotely competent gunsmithing abilities to work for the State.  A stout or large rifle does not automatically associate with an early date!  Joe Kindig published his monumental Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age in the 1960s, and outwardly expressed his belief that knowledge of these rifles and their makers would constantly develop over time, necessitating revisions.  This is a wise and forward-thinking philosophy.

     I do very much believe that a number of the post-War Northampton/Lehigh gunsmiths had worked, and perhaps honed their skills via 'crash-course,' at the State arsenal and gun repair facilities established at Allentown ca. 1777-1779 when Philadelphia was evacuated (see my article on this establishment for a detailed examination).  Whether John Rupp was old enough to have been productively involved is questionable, but Herman Rupp certainly was of age as were older, known regional gunsmiths Johannes ‘John’ Moll and Peter Neihardt.  Something drew all of these men together into a distinctive and very unique regional style, and in that sense, Johannes Rupp was definitely integral as his work perfectly characterizes the early development of the ‘school’ while displaying enough individuality to set him apart from his older brother and others working nearby.

     Probably the earliest of his two signed rifles, and perhaps one of the earliest of the surviving ‘proper Lehigh’ rifles - contemporary with Peter Neihardt’s notable 1787 rifle? - is Kindig’s rifle number 62 (Thoughts…).  This rifle is signed “John Rupp” and is a large, stout gun making use of recycled earlier components (big lock + big breech = big rifle).  This piece was also exceptionally well-photographed for the 2010 KRA ‘President’s Display’ CD of Lehigh area rifles, rifle #13.  Two attributed pieces are also on this CD, but we all harbor our own opinions regarding such unsigned attributions so I have not yet discussed those two arms herein.

     His only other surviving signed rifle was briefly published in a 1941 publication, Forgotten Heritage:  The Story of the People and the Early American Rifle by Harry Davis and only recently surfaced again via Poulin’s auction company after many years in hiding.  It is clearly quite similar to the Kindig rifle but is a bit closer to the less-beefy ‘classic’ Lehigh form and is likely the later of the two in consideration of architectural and stylistic details, not merely the smaller overall size.  A good number of photos can be viewed through Poulin’s website.

     I sincerely wish I could provide more concrete, documentable answers regarding the life of this man, but at the present time additional research is required.  I would hope that any serious student of the kentucky rifle would clearly understand that these signed John Rupp rifles could not possibly be "ca. 1775” or “pre-Revolutionary” regardless of how an auction company may disingenuously choose to decribe one.  I think I’ve sufficiently proven that they are no such thing.  Furthermore, the concept of attributing any rifle signed "John Rupp" to his father George Rupp - a man always referenced as "George" in every single surviving document of the period (see studies re: archaic German vornamen and rufnamen naming practice) - is nothing more than a narrative creation solely designed to suit a conclusion with no evidence or backing research whatsoever.


Above:  Rifle signed "John Rupp," first published in Forgotten Heritage... by Harry Davis and recently auctioned through Poulin's Premier Firearms and Militaria Auction on November 5, 2021.  This rifle is probably a bit later than the Kindig rifle illustrated above.  Detailed photos can be viewed through Poulin's Proxibid site here:  LINK.

Addendum 1:  Rupp tax assessments in Macungie, 1761 through 1807.


Addendum 2:  Herman Rupp bible and translation.