My post yesterday letters home has sparked interest in Chester County genealogy buffs and thanks to Tina S. of West Chester, we have some pieces to the puzzle of my soldier letter writer, William Rapp of New Tripoli, Lehigh Couny PA.
But before then a note: I got them from a friend who purchased them at auction.
Tina first messaged me when she found more on William’s mother, Florence. This is what she said:
Hi. I have found that Florence divorced her husband and raised her son herself before 1940. …lHer parents were John A Kuntz 1854-1938 and Mary Alice Rex 1858-1945.
Florence must have been one plucky lady. Divorce for women at that time was extraordinarily difficult.
Here is her obituary:
She was a teacher, and obviously a very independent lady for her time. She lived with her son until her passing at 92. She was a teacher for 43 years!
Tina is looking for relatives we can contact. Much like Finding Your Roots on PBS. What Tina has learned via Ancestry.com is no one seems to be looking for William. Perhaps his descendants and relatives did not know he existed? Only more research will tell.
Tina discovered an article written about William in 2006 in the Morning Call.
April 30, 2006|By Frank Whelan Of The Morning Call
There is a house on the edge of New Tripoli out on Decatur Road about a stone’s throw from the 19th century brick Ebenezer UCC church. A simple white shingled little place, it began its life as a log cabin. There is history here and that is my beat. They call me the house detective.
On a certain bright April morning I found myself bouncing west with the home’s owner, Jayson Boushell, 28 year old real estate guy who works with his wife, Jessica, at Countrywide Home Loans.
As the country opens up before us Boushell is telling me about the house and the unique fellow who lives there.
His name is William Rapp, and it is his story about the house I had come to hear. Although he has purchased the house, Boushell says that it was part of the agreement that Rapp would live there as long as he wanted to.
History is made rich by the people who occupy the buildings, so I was pleased for the opportunity to learn about Rapp’s life while he was an occupant of the house.
We pull up to the house and Rapp is there to greet us. He is 83 and does not get around as much as he use to. But his mind is sharp.
Rapp has lived here almost all of his life, at least since the early 1930s, in this old building. Most of that time was spent living with his mother, a school teacher who once taught him in a one room schoolhouse….Rapp had been in the service in World War II in both Europe and Asia, crossing the Rhine and waiting for that invasion of Japan that never to happened. He went to Muhlenberg College, later got a degree in industrial engineering and worked at Bethlehem Steel…..
William’s father’s name was Louis Rapp. He is a bit of a mystery.
Tina through her genealogy research discovered Louis Rapp (William’s father) was born in 1888 but was living with an Aunt & Uncle in 1900 at age 15 in Brooklyn, NY and in 1910 he is with a different family member of his mother’s. He is 22 and still in Brooklyn.
Tina is looking for 1920 to see what turns up.
Tina also through her genealogy research has NOT found the divorce of William’s parents Florence and Louis Rapp yet but they were together in 1923.
Florence then reportedly gets ill in January 1928 through April 1929. It says an attack of jaundice. We don’t see him with her after that time in 1923.
In 1930 Louis Rapp is living in Philadelphia- or Chester Pa (not sure). The WWII registration says he’s staying in Washington DC in 1942.
Louis , like the son he seems to have abandoned, also apparently signs up for WWII. Were they in Washington DC and surrounding area at the same time we wonder?
Stay tuned! I will also post more when I get through more of the letters! Initial research indicates that family members may have the surname Rex, and some quite possibly either live or used to live in Chester County.