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Puslinch Historical Society Spirit Walk
June 23, 2014
The Rappolt (Rapeault) family were French Huguenots. During the Protestant Reformation of the 1500's and-1600's , thousands of Huguenots fled France to escape persecution and at some point the Rappolts left France too and went to Hesse, Germany.
Hesse is also where the Stein family that we are featuring tonight came from, and Rappolts and Steins would know each other in the old country through marriage.
Otto Rappolt was born in 1857 in Hesse, one of a family of four boys. When he was eleven years old his father died and shortly thereafter his mother decided to follow her sister Elizabeth to Canada where she was living in Morriston, married to Johann Stein. She came out in 1868 bringing three of her sons, Frederick, who was about 20, Otto, 10, and, John who was an infant, but she left eight year old Ernest behind in the care of others. A few years later the oldest son, Frederick left Morriston and went to St. Louis, U.S.A.
The first years in Canada were hard. Otto's mother, Marguerite, worked as a field hand to support the family until the boys were old enough to go out to work. Her first employer paid her only 25 cents a day until Mrs. Ross of Morriston, who was helping her learn English, told her that she should be getting 50 cents a day. Marguerite later worked for farmers in the Badenoch area ,presumably earning 50 cents per day by then.
By 1870 she had managed to scrape enough together to buy Lot 16, in the Ochs Survey, Morriston, next to the Catholic Church that was there at that time. That was on the corner next to the ball field in Morriston. Three years later, in 1873, she married again, to Jacob Thiele.
Otto's brother Ernest who had been left behind, didn't get to Canada until 1879, when he was about nineteen. His mother was anxious to get him out of Germany before he was conscripted , but by the time she could spare the money for his passage, time was running out.. He almost didn't make it. On board ship, the Captain claimed there was some discrepancy with his ticket and he was going to be sent back. Ernest had to buy his silence with all his money, and finally his overcoat as well. He was destitute when he arrived in Hamilton from Boston. He caught a ride to Morriston on a load of hay, and whenever the teamsters stopped at hotels along the way, he was left outside in the cold damp April weather. He was frozen stiff when he got to Morriston, caught pneumonia, and died within a week of arriving.
Otto missed out on schooling. He was ten when he came to Canada, and most likely spoke no English. He only went to school for six months, but caught up in later life by reading widely. He became an apprentice to a stonemason and bricklayer and followed the trade for many years. His brother John was also a mason and the Rappolt brothers worked in partnership in various ventures throughout their lives. They were industrious and enterprising, and I'd say one of the success stories of early Puslinch history.
The Rappolt brothers built the Heuther store in Morriston in 1885, Badenoch school in 1889 (for $1,750), and in 1910 a school in Morriston to replace the original stone school of 1856. It was closed in 1969 when schools were amalgamated. There were other projects throughout Wellington and surrounding counties as well.
In 1881 when he was 24 years old, Otto married Fredericka Morlock. They had three children, Louis, born 1882, and Margaret , born 1884 and Willie Christian, born about 1885. In 1888 Fredericka died of consumption, (likely tuberculosis.) Three year old Willie Christian also died that year. Otto was left to bring up the two remaining children Louis and Margaret, on his own. He never remarried.
In 1889, Otto and his brother John bought Lot 28, Rear Concession 7 (Philip Calfas farm) Later on they bought 80 acres of Lot 28, Front Concession 8 across from Duff's Church. Crown cemetery occupies the other 20 acres of that lot. They farmed ,raised cattle and continued working at their trade for many years. Highway 401 now crosses both of these farms.
About 1889 the Rappolt brothers also built a steam powered cider mill in Morriston at their place at Lot 15 of the Ochs Survey. In 1893 the apple crop was poor and the season was short. However, by 1896 there was a line-up at the mill hours long of horse-drawn wagons loaded with apples. The apples were shoveled off "like turnips" into the presses and the mill ran day and night during October through December.
Cider, apple syrup, apple jelly and apple jack came from the mill. Apple jack was made by concentrating cider. The cider was steamed til it would 'jell" and became "jack on the spot". Apple jack was popular in the 19th century, partly because it could be 30-40 proof, and partly because safe drinking water was not always available – in Morriston this was a particular problem, in fact cholera was prevalent for some years.
In the earliest days, before farmers starting planting apple trees, wild apples were gathered for cider, sauce and jack. . Apple jack was said to 'take the lining off a shilling crock" and one naïve hired boy waiting at the mill drank cider til "he became so sick that a variety of first aids were applied. The only effective one was rolling him on the ground and …massaging him which had to be continued going home ", which was annoying and disgraceful to the farmer" . The Ontario Temperance Act of 1916 prohibited the sale of liquor, but apparently 6 ounces of apple jack was permitted. The Act was repealed about 1927, but there was local option and Puslinch was dry for quite a while..
In 1897 the brothers added a chopper to the mill, for grain , and that operated three days a week. The cider mill was still running in 1912.
Along with the mill and the farm, the brothers kept at their masonry trade. In 1895 they built the Grace Anglican Church in Milton, Otto was the foreman on the job. Many other stone buildings in Beverley and Galt were products of the Rappolt masonry skills.
The next new venture for the Rappolts was in lumbering. According to a 1905 newspaper clipping, the Rappolts in partnership with Mr. Schultz, had bought 20 acres of bush near Killean, and "took it off " that is, harvested the wood. They had ten men working for them at that point. One can only wonder at how Otto kept all these balls in the air at once.
Around 1905, the first automobiles came to Morriston. Horses were frightened by the new contraptions and runaways were common. Otto bought his first car in 1915.
Otto was a member of the Morriston Evangical Church, at least from 1895 to 1910, but I could find no records that he ever ran for Council or the school board, or was active in the Agricultural Society or other community organizations. In 1926, still a widower, he died of cancer, he was 69 years old.
His daughter Margaret never married and probably kept house for him, as so many daughters who never married did in those days. We do know that she lived most of her life in Morriston. She died at 97, her last years spent at a nursing home in Cambridge.
Otto left his two farms to his son Louis. When Louis retired from farming, he and his wife moved back into the house in Morriston which his grandmother Marguerite had bought in 1870 only two years after she arrived in Canada. It was a small cottage then, but about 1926 they added a second storey to the house. Vi and Colin Bain live there now.
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29 Brock Road South
Puslinch Historical Society
c/o Puslinch Library
29 Brock Road South
Puslinch, ON N0B 2J0