Johannes / John Rupp of Macungie

(A preliminary study, to be updated as necessary)

Part I

     This article is primarily intended to deal with Johannes “John” Rupp the elder gunsmith, not the younger John Rupp - likewise a gunsmith in the same region of Macungie - who was a nephew of the elder man.  I also would like to make it known that this is not intended to be a detailed genealogical study of the Rupp family in any way, as the Macungie Rupps were a prolific family.  When one considers that there were a number of other family groups with many variations of phonetically-similar surnames all over southeastern PA of no relation, and considering that all these people were rapidly producing ‘issue’ and moving around, it becomes almost impossible to render firm or assured statements.  My focus here is constrained to information relative to Johannes Rupp, son of George Rupp Sr., and other family members may only be cursorily mentioned as they relate to the investigation.

     A few quick notes: in researching historical individuals, has become a hot mess.  Yes, I said it.  There may be a hundred different ‘user-provided’ family trees for any given family, most of which have no first-hand period documentation whatsoever, and one can bet that any search is going to turn up all of them.  This questionable information is then disseminated through multiple other Ancestry user databases, contaminating them all like a virus.  The genuine ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ factual information can truly only be found in church records, tax records, census records, estate records etc.  These types of records are all that I am personally willing to trust and to present as facts:  first-hand documentation of the period under investigation.  If I speculate, regardless of how accurate I think I may be, I will always try to ensure that I am presenting it as speculation.

     Another wrench in the works has always been the ever-popular ‘county histories’ of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  These are a trap, providing at the same time both bright beacons of hope or interest as well as dead-ends in abundance.  Beware their siren call!  One might find enough valid or verifiable information therein to entice you into a serene trust, only to subsequently stumble and find yourself down a blind rabbit hole amid a floral word-soup of conflicting, ethereal statements.  See what I did there?  These ‘histories’ are useful as a preliminary sketch and can be valuable in seeking base compass points, but ultimately they should not be taken at face value without tracking down and verifying each perceived lead.  They rarely, if ever, document their sources and the biographical sketches are based almost entirely on family oral history which may be accurate to some extent, or it may not.  It is these county histories which are the vast majority of ‘sources’ for the family trees littering like stale cigarette butts.

     So, rant accomplished.

     Two of the fairly popular county histories compiled during the late 19th and early 20th centuries present a detailed portrait of the Macungie Rupp family.  There were mentions or entries in other histories as well, most biographies dealing primarily with  later family members, but the two histories I’ve highlighted below seem to be the origin of information presented in the others (more than one having ‘lifted’ some of this information almost verbatim).  A summarization of the relevant portions is as follows:

(1) History of the Counties of Lehigh and Carbon, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania…

Alfred Mathews, Austin N. Hungerford; Everts and Richards, Philadelphia,1884.

Pages 452-453

Provides the commonly-related background of George Rupp (Sr.) and wife Ursula. Notes arrival in 1750, settlement near Chapmans in Macungie (now Upper Macungie, Lehigh Co.).  Provides entries for nine children:

Maria Clara - (m. Fahringer)

Margareta - (m. Meitzler)

Anna Margareta - (died single)

Adam Herman - 11/7/1756

Johan George - 2/28/1758, “Lived for some time in Upper Macungie and then moved away.”

Andrew - 3/26/1760 - Carpenter, moved to Weisenberg for 21 yrs near what is now Seipstown.

John - 7/2/1762 - “He married A. Fleckser’s daughter, and moved away.”

Maria Susanna

Anna Maria - (m. Schumacher)

Notes that John Rupp II (later gunsmith) was son of Andrew.

Page 319 mentions the Rupp’s again and states “The old family Bible, now in the possession of Louis Rupp, one of the descendants, contains the name of Herman Rupp, a son of George, who was born in Macungie, Nov. 7, 1756, and was married to Barbara, daughter of Michael Biery.”

Page 324 notes an 1812 Macungie assessment list: George (Jr.?  or a nephew?), Herman, and Jacob (son of Herman) present.

Page 323 notes a Dec. 27, 1781 assessment for Macungie.  George Rup is listed and Herman Rupp listed w/ the single men.

(2) Genealogical and Biographical Annals of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania…

J.L. Floyd and Co., Chicago, 1911.

Pages 939-940

Biographical portrait presented for George W. Rupp of Northumberland Co., born Jan. 1, 1849 in Catawissa.

Proceeds to relate the story of George and Ursula Rupp and children, similar to above county history (Lehigh/Carbon).  “The following account is mainly from family and church records.”

Maria Clara born Dec. 4, 1750.

Margarette born Aug. 25, 1752.

Anna Margarette born Sept. 10, 1754.

Adam Harmanus born Nov. 7, 1756.

Johan George born Feb. 28, 1758.

Andreas born March 26, 1760.

Johannes born July 2, 1762.

Maria born Jan. 2, 1764.

Anna born 1766.

“Johannes Rupp, son of George [Sr.], was born July 2, 1762 at Trexlertown, Lehigh County, and died at Philadelphia.  He was a blacksmith by trade.  His children were:  William, Jacob, George and Mary (married Jacob Stein).”

George Rupp [s. of above Johannes] b. May 30, 1790 at Trexlertown, d. Feb 8, 1870.

Columbia Co., Catawissa twp.

John [s. of above George] b. Oct. 17, 1819 in Catawissa twp., d. July 12, 1890 in Illinois while visiting daughter.

George W. Rupp, the subject of the biographical sketch, was the son of the aforementioned John, so the Johannes Rupp that is the focal point of this article would have been his great grandfather.

Part II

     Now we’ve managed to get the initial curtains parted and will further set the stage.  What are currently the townships of Upper Macungie and Lower Macungie in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, were initially part of Bucks County and were formally designated as a single township - Macungie - in 1743.  This territory was ceded to Northampton County in 1752 when Northampton County was formed, and later in 1812 Northampton County was basically split along the Lehigh River to form Northampton to the east and Lehigh County to the west.  Macungie township thence became a part of Lehigh County between Allentown and the Berks County line.  Finally, in 1832, Macungie was spit in half to form two townships, Upper and Lower.

               The “patriarch” of the Macungie Rupp family is generally accepted as (Johan?) George Rupp Sr., married to Ursula.  The above sources, and most if not all other sources either online or in print, present birth dates for the pair, arrival here immediately post-marriage via immigration around 1750, and the topper is a romantic story of mixed class.  However, thus far, a search of Palatine passenger lists through the port of Philadelphia has not turned up a good match even considering spelling variations.  If someone can provide me with documented background information on this couple, I would be exceedingly happy to see it!  Possibly, they arrived through a different port of entry.

               An interesting notation regarding the origins of George Rupp is found in one of the many scholarly works of Annette Kunselman Burgert.  Mrs. Burgert spent much of her life researching the genealogies of the colonial-era German immigrants and was not only a member of the Palatines to America German Genealogy Society (PALAM) but also a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists.  She published a total of 27 books and was actively involved in the expansion of the research library at Kutztown University’s Heritage Center Complex.  In the preface to her book Eighteenth Century Emigrants from the Northern Alsace to America (Camden:  Picton Press, 1992), she writes:

“Another reason that an emigrant from this region is not included in this volume is that records were simply not found.  An example may be found in the family of an immigrant named George Rupp who is identified in Charles Roberts et al., History of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, Vol. III:  1106.  The article states that he was born in Wimmerau in Lower Alsace on 11 Aug. 1721, son of Ulrich Rupp and Margaret Holtz.  This place appeared likely to be Wimmenau, and the records there were searched for the family.  The church book in Wimmenau starts in 1724, too late to locate a birth that occurred in 1721; however, it is likely that the immigrant was from this village since an Ulrich Rupp was located in the burial records at Wimmenau, died 29 Aug. 1727, aged 50 years.  Other Rupps appear in the Wimmenau KB, but no mention of George Rupp could be found there.”  (Burgert, xiv)

As with the other Rupps relevant to this study, the million dollar question then manifests:  if the church records in Wimmenau do not pre-date 1724, and there is no German record of George Rupp, how exactly were the later 19th century county history compilers determining such a specific birth date (or 'dates' plural, in the case of his children)?

     The earliest assessment (taxation) lists of which I’m aware for the county of Northampton are dated September 1, 1761, and here can be found the first verifiable reference to “George Rup” in the list for Macungie township (HSP); he was curiously taxed 2 pounds, followed by a separate entry for 5 pounds of additional tax "for the land he lives on."  I consulted with Dr. Scott Paul Gordon of Lehigh University, and he offered an explanation based upon Pennsylvania tax law which can be reviewed on pages 557-558 of Volume V of the Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania from 1682 to 1801, compiled under the authority of the Act of May 19, 1887 by James T. Mitchell and Henry Flanders, Commisioners.  Basically, the law was written in such a way to ensure that those who were claiming and/or controlling large tracts of land to which they otherwise did not hold official ownership (no warrant, in other words) would nevertheles remain obligated to pay tax upon that land.  What this seems to tell us is that George Rupp as of 1761, anyway, was not warranted the land he was claiming and upon which he lived.

             He is likewise present on the list for the following years, 1762 (NH Co.) and 1763 (HSP) and in 1768, "George Rup" was witness to a mortgage transaction in Macungie (NH Co. Deed book B1).  His tax for that year {1768} in "Macungi" had increased to 20 pounds and was the same for the 1770 assessment as well ("George Rub").  He next appears in relation to a baptism on September 1, 1771 in the records of the Jordan Reformed congregation; George, son of Diephold (Theobald) Fahringer and wife Clara, sponsors George Rupp and wife Ursula.  It is believed that Fahringer’s wife Clara here was the Rupps eldest child, although I have not found any record of this marriage nor record of her birth.  However, circumstances strongly suggest the familial relation especially given that Diephold Fahringer (blacksmith, township of Macungie) died during the War, in Philadelphia, and Herman Rupp was the administrator for his estate (NH Co. Deed book B1).  

     George Sr. is easy to place thoughout the surviving assessments for Macungie during the 1761-1772 period (HSP), and in the 1772 proprietary tax assessments (PA Archive series) “George Rup” Jr. first appears listed with the single men for Macungie township.  No other Rupp offspring are listed, so this would seem to indicate that the other three Rupp brothers were still underage and George Jr. was the oldest son, rather than Herman, but this is speculative only and of course contradicts the county histories.  Herman does not turn up in the single men list for Macungie until 1781 (along with brother George Jr.).  On March 25, 1786, a land warrant for 145 acres was recorded for George Rupp "...including an Improvement adjoining Leonard Moyer, Jacob Moyer, Dewalt Koons and Joseph Schlouch in Macungie Township..." and in 1788 both George Rupp and Herman Rupp signed their names on a petition to split Northampton County due to the western portion of the county being inconveniently remote from the county seat at Easton (HSP).  (Herman Rupp signed his name in Anglicized fashion, but George signed using old German script.)  On June 22, 1791, George Sr. is mentioned in an Orphan’s Court Petition (HSP Orphans Court records Vol. E) and finally, in 1794, George Sr is noted in a deed wherein “George Rup, yeoman, and wife Ursula…” sold to Jacob Shoomacker (Shoemaker, Schumacher) 11 Acres and 50 Perches in Macungie (NH Co. Deed book B2).  I am unclear on the date of Ursula’s death - I can find no verified record of it - however George Rupp’s estate papers have survived and the initial paperwork dates to October 14, 1807.  On that date, ‘Harman’ Rupp appeared before Abraham (Horn?) Register for the Probate of Wills, Northampton County, and declared that George Rupp died without a will, that he (Herman) will administer the estate of the deceased, will pay debts, inventory goods etc. and provide an account to the Register’s Office.  It specifically does note that “Harman Rupp is a son of George” and is signed by Herman Rupp.  These estate papers have proven to be quite informative in the search for Johannes “John” Rupp - more on this a bit later.

Part III

               The first solid record I can find for John Rupp is in the records of the men who took the Oath of Allegiance (act passed in June 13, 1777) in Northampton County.  John did not take the Oath until 1783 before Justice Peter Trexler (Marx room records, Easton Public Library), however Herman and Andrew had already taken it (also before Peter Trexler) together on November 1, 1779.  Once the act was passed as a provision of the militia law, all males above 18 years were compelled to take the Oath before the following July (1778) although there seems to have been a bit of leeway given the hectic activities in Pennsylvania during this period and availability of Justices.  That John managed to go until April 26, 1783 without taking this oath does reinforce the assertion that he was younger than the other brothers and indicates that he had not yet ‘come of age’ at the time the act was passed.  I can’t find a reference to either Jr. or Sr. George Rupp taking the Oath, however they may have taken it before another official whose lists have not yet come to light - to my knowledge, only approximately half of the Justices’ lists have survived relative to the number who were sworn in for Northampton County.  The Act was passed as part of the updated militia law, and George Sr. was likely (assuming his birthdate was somewhere approximating 1721) too old for militia service anyway, so I’m not clear on whether he would have been expected to swear the Oath.  By June 16 of 1784, John Rupp is listed as a Private of the 5th class in Captain Jacob Grim’s company of the 3rd Battalion of Northampton County militia under Colonel Peter Trexler (so possibly mustering in 1783 when he took the Oath).  George Jr. and Andrew were also listed in this company at that time, George being of the 3rd class and Andrew being of the 8th class (PA Archives 5th series, Vol. 8).  Earlier, in the winter of 1781-1782, George Rup and ‘Andres’ Rup were found in “A Gen’l Return Of The 1st Battalion of Northampt’n County Militia Comand’d by Steph’n Balliet Esq’r Lieut’t Coll. 1st Nov. 1781-1st Jan’y 1782.”  They were listed in the 6th Company under Captain John Trexler (PA Archives 5th series, V. 8).  John Rupp is not found in this muster roll.  As a brief side note, these “class” groupings do not appear to have had relation to rank or status; this appears to have been a rotational grouping method to ensure that once called to muster or otherwise called into service, an individual could be assured that he would not be immediately called back into service once his allotted time had concluded.

     During this 1783-1784 period, I am unaware of any other record of John although older brother Herman appears as a single freeman in assessments by 1781 and 1784.  Both Andrew and George Jr. are noted by 1785, as a surviving transcription for Macungie (PA Archives 3rd series) of that year notes Herman Rupp with 260 acres, 4 horses and 4 cattle, Andrew Rupp with 100 acres, 1 horse and 2 cows, and George Rupp (Jr.) listed with the single men.  However, no John is to be found; he does not appear until 1789, at which time he was listed with the single men and upon one list (I have copies of two) "John Rup" is noted as a "smith."  The following year, a 1790 list of taxables (no assessed values given) notes John Rupp and George Rupp again listed as single freemen (NH Co. archives) although George's name was crossed out and elsewhere added (following a marriage, apparently) above that of his brother Herman.  It is unclear to me whether or not a man who had passed the age of 18, but was still living with either a parent or other family member, would be included on an assessment list, or if the lists essentially enumerate the ’head of household’ (to use a modern term) only.  I am currently under the assumption that any unmarried male of majority age, capable of working and being self-supporting, would have been considered a 'free man' and would have therefore been subject to tax assessment.

     Jumping back a year to 1789, in the records of the Trexlertown Union congregation, “Johannes Rupp” was sponsor to Johannes, son of Andreas Rupp and wife Maria on May 24.  He (Johannes Rupp) is noted as being single.  Almost a year later, on March 12, 1790, “Johannes Rupp” was again sponsor to another Johannes, this time a son of Conrad Meitzler and wife Anna Margaretha (probably one of his sisters).  Once more, Johannes Rupp is noted as single.  (Trexlertown Union records).

     On October 8, 1790, John Rupp was witness to a bond transaction or indenture in Macungie township between Jacob Albright, John Albright and Jeremiah Trexler (NH Co. Deed book G1) and then exactly one year later, on October 8, 1791, Johannes Rup was sponsor at the baptism of yet another nephew Johannes, this time recorded with the Jordan Reformed congregation and a son of brother “J George Rup” and wife Catharina.  There is no notation of “single” so Johannes was most likely married at that point.  To close out the year of 1791, on December 7 John Rupp was witness to a property transaction in Macungie township between Jeremiah Trexler and William Hains (NH Co. Deed book H1).  The following year, 1792, in the records of the Jerusalem Church of Western Salisbury (transribed by H. Ray Haas, 1911), there is an entry for May 25 noting that "Johannas Rupp" was sponsor to Johannas, son of Ludwig Klotz and wife Magdelena.

             In 1793, Andrew Rupp and Herman Rupp are both noted in the assessment for Macungie (surname "Rup"), and what is particularly interesting is that for this year, Andrew is assessed for 260 acres and Herman none.  This is a strange contradiction to the 1787 list in particular and I do not have an explantion for it.  Herman is noted with the trade of "Smid" with only a single cow, although of course we know that by this point Herman was capable of highly proficient gunstocking in a fully-developed, decorative 'Lehigh' style as his magnificent signed and dated rifle of 1793 attests.  George Jr. and John do not appear on this list.  Three years later, in 1796, things become even more curious as Herman and John appear to be taxed jointly for 280 acres of land ("Rup, Herman and John") and the trade listed is simply "Smit."  Is this indicative of the trade for both?

     Jumping forward, we find the first ‘Direct Tax’ of 1798.  Fortunately, Ancestry has not merely abstracts but actual, verifiable microfilm images for Northampton County.  These records are detailed and there are multiple lists of what appear to be multiple nitpicking assessments.  I am not going to pretend to fully understand how it all worked so I’m merely going to illustrate what I was able to find.  Let’s have a round of applause for bureaucracy!

     The first assessment states, “General list of Lands, Lots, Buildings and Wharves, owned, possessed or occupied, on the fifth Day of October, 1798, within the Township of Macungie in the second Assessment District of the fifth Division of the State of Pennsylvania excepting only such Dwelling-Houses as, with the Out-Houses appurtenant thereto, and the Lots on which they are erected, not exceeding two Acres in any Case, are above the Value of One Hundred Dollars.”  Under “Dwelling-Houses and Out-Houses of a Value not exceeding One Hundred Dollars,” Herman Rupp is shown with one and John is shown with none.  Under “Lands, Lots, & c. subject to and included in the Valuation,” both Herman and John are shown with 140 acres.

     The next list states, “General List of all Dwelling-Houses which, with the Out-Houses appurtenant thereto, and the Lots on which the same are erected, not exceeding two Acres in any case, were owned, possessed or occupied not he first Day of October, 1798 within the Second Assessment District of the fifth Division in the State of Pennsylvania exceeding in Value the Sum of One Hundred Dollars.”  Herman is listed with 1 dwelling house, 1 out house.  John is listed with 1 dwelling house.  Under the heading “Quantities of land in the lots valued therewith,” both men are listed as 1 acre, 80 perches.  “Valuation as determined by the Principal Assessors” puts them both at 200, and then “Valuation as revised and equalized by the Commissioners” lists both at 250.

     Next up we find “A Particular List or Description of all Lands, Lots, Buildings and Wharves, owned, possessed or occupied, on the fifth Day of October, 1798 in Macungie Township Northampton County being within the second Assessment District of the 5th Division in the State of Pennsylvania excepting only such Dwelling-Houses as, with the Out-Houses appurtenant thereto, and the Lots on which they are erected, not exceeding two Acres in any Case, are above the Value of One Hundred Dollars.”  Under “Dwelling-Houses and Out-Houses of a value not exceeding 100 Dollars” we again see Herman with 1 dwelling house, $60, while John has none.  Then, “Number and Description of all other Buildings and Wharves” shows Herman with “1 old log Barn” and John with “1 log Barn unfinished.”  Finally, “Quantities of Land and Lots admitted to be subject to Valuation” show 140 acres for each man.

     There is one more document showing “Particular List or Description of each Dwelling House owned, possessed or occupied, on the fifth Day of October, 1798 in Macungie Township Northampton County being within the second Assessment District of the 5th Division in the State of Pennsylvania.”  This shows John with 1 Dwelling House and Herman with 1 Dwelling House.  Under “Outhouses appurtenant,” Herman is recorded with “1 adjoining piece.”  Under “Dimensions of Area,” Herman is marked 28 by 25 and John 27 by 20, and under “Materials of which built” John is marked “Log” and Herman “ditto, old.”  “Number of stories” for both structures is marked as 2.

     Just to close out this stupendously massive assessment (it did instigate the Fries Rebellion, after all!), we find Andrew Rupp listed as living in a dwelling owned by John Lichtenwalter with a Barn measuring 40 by 26 and on 154 acres of land.  I am not going to dig into this one any further as Andrew was not a gunsmith and I’m tired.  I don’t know where George was located at this point but hopefully it was far away from these exceptionally nosy assessors.

            For 1799, on the threshold of the 19th century, John was assessed for 133 acres with 1 horse and 2 cattle.  His trade was declared as "Smith."


Above:  Rifle signed "John Rupp," initially published in Kindig's Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age as rifle number 62.  Also extensively photographed in high resolution detail and included on a CD available for purchase through the Kentucly Rifle Foundation (2010 President's Display:  Lehigh Valley Gunmakers) available here:  LINK

Johannes / John Rupp of Macungie, continued: