Johannes 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.

     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 do not currently have an explanation for this although I suspect it may involve some form of split between improved land w/ a house vs. unimproved land, but this is admittedly speculative.  He is likewise present on the list for the next year, 1762 (LCHS) 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.  Herman does not turn up in the single men list for Macungie until 1781 (along with brother George Jr.).  On June 22, 1791 George 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 belief 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).  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).  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.  A surviving 1785 tax assessment for Macungie (PA Archives 3rd series) 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.  Later, in 1788, another assessment lists Herman and Andrew with the same land and livestock, but George is missing and John has yet to appear.  Finally, in a 1790 list of taxables (no assessed values given), John Rupp and George Rupp are both listed as single freemen (LCHS).  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.

     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).

     Jumping forward, we find the first ‘Direct Tax’ of 1798.  Fortunately, can play a legitimate role here as it supplies not merely transcribed 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.

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 an idiot.   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.  Virtually every online source puts Ursula’s death in 1800, though without documentation, so possibly the census was taken before her death that same year.  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.  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 hints at a ‘family bible’ owned by a descendant, although it specifically mentions Herman Rupp but no others.  Church records are also mentioned, 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 but 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) or the Lowhill Reformed church (Lowhill twp).  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 any ancient Rupp ‘family’ bible is currently unknown, if it still exists, and the aforementioned brief notation regarding such only noted Herman.

     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 questionable attributions and are unsigned.  He can be clearly shown to have lived in Macungie at least through 1800:  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?  And ultimately, where did he go and 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 1790, as per the list 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 dude 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.

Conclusion at Last!

     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 my current speculation is that Johannes “John” Rupp sold or transferred his land - or at the least, portions of his land - in Macungie sometime around 1802-1810 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.  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 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 some 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 discussed those two arms here.

     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.

     For the moment, I’m done.  For the moment.  I dearly wish I could provide more concrete, documentable answers regarding the life of this man, but at the present time additional research is required.  Please STOP declaring these John Rupp rifles as “1775” or “pre-Revolutionary!”  I think I’ve sufficiently proven that they’re not.


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 the CD available for purchase through the Kentucly Rifle Foundation (2010 President's Display:  Lehigh Valley Gunmakers) available here:  LINK


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.