Jackson County

Biography - Isaac Rapp

ISAAC RAPP. This venerable and well beloved citizen of Carbondale, who is the oldest resident of the city, both by reason of the number of his years in age and because of the length of time he has had his home here, has been elevated to the rank of a patriarch by the esteem and affection of the people, who know no better man now living among them, and have never known a better one anywhere. They revere him for his high character, for his clean and upright life, for the unyielding fidelity with which he has performed every duty in peace and war, and for the conspicuous services he has rendered to the community as one of its founders and most zealous practical workers for the promotion of its progress and improvement.

Mr. Rapp was born in Orange county, New York, on June 24, 1830, and in 1832 was taken by his parents to New York city, where they had decided to reside. He grew to manhood in the great metropolis of the Western world and was educated in its public schools. The circumstances of the family were such that he was obliged to leave school at an early age and prepare himself for the practical requirements of life in this busy sphere. So he was apprenticed to an architect and house-joiner to acquire a thorough knowledge of the business. He devoted himself particularly and with studious attention to the architectural part of the business, which was of great interest to him and well adapted to his distinctive bent of mind toward designing and construction work.

When he had finished his training he became an architect and builder, and began operations in New York city. On June 24, 1851, his twenty-first birth day, he was married to Miss Georgiana Shaw, a native of the Island of Jersey, England, but at the time of the marriage a resident of New York. With the establishment of his domestic shrine Mr. Rapp found his long cherished desire for a life in a freer and more open environment, and one more fruitful in opportunities for a man without capital, intensifying year by year, until at length it became irresistible.

Accordingly, in 1856, five years after his marriage, he set his face in the direction of the established "course of empire," the great West, determined to become a part of its sweeping enterprise and strident progress. He moved to Carbondale that year, and soon after his arrival was engaged by the late General D. H. Brush to build him a residence. The manner in which he performed this task gave him reputation and standing as a capable architect and builder, and he found his services in great demand.

But when the Civil war descended like a besom of destruction on the country, he could not withstand the promptings of his patriotism, and in 1862 enlisted for the defense of the Union in Company D, Eighty-first Illinois Volunteer Infantry, as a private. He was at once elected second lieutenant of his company and assigned to the commissary department on detailed duty. Notwithstanding this assignment he participated in many engagements with the enemy, and saw active service in the midst of unrolling columns on many a field of carnage, although in none of the great battles of the war. His term of enlistment expired in 1863 and he was discharged at the end of it. He then returned to Carbondale and resumed his occupation as a contractor and builder. The town was then in its embryo, and he found plenty to do, as it was on the move and required homes for the incoming population and business structures to provide for their wants in trade. He erected many of the earlier houses in the city, and many outside of its limits in various places in Southern Illinois. He put up a number of the first buildings on the Southern Illinois Normal University grounds, and after the disastrous fire which destroyed most of his work, and that of others, he was the leading factor in building new and more ambitious structures to take the place of the old ones.

The course of the patriarch has led him beyond the four score years fixed by the sacred writer as the limit of human life, and, in the nature of the case, is nearly spent. But he is still hale and vigorous beyond many men much younger, and the sunniness of his nature yet abides with him, even in larger measure than ever, if that is possible. He reminds all who know him of some genial year, hastening to its close without doubt, but with its seasons of warmth, and beauty and fruitfulness not yet wholly spent. The people of Carbondale cherish the hope that they may have him with them for many years more to brighten their lives and keep before them the strong influence of his great example of usefulness and upright manhood.

Extracted from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, volume 2, pages 636-637.

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