Member Biography

William M. Rapsher Sr.


Portrait: Governor’s Photograph Album, 1878, RG-22, PSA; Rodearel, 1893; Rapsher and  “Yellow Jack” Donohue can be found in the Tamaqua Courier, Oct. 28, 1876

Sessions Office Position District Party
1891-1892       22 Democrat
1893-1894       22 Democrat

COUNTIES: Carbon, Monroe, Pike  


04/23/1843 - 01/26/1897

Sergeant William M. Rapsher, Sr. (D22) Carbon Monroe and Pike Counties 1891-1894

Early Life: 

Sergeant William M. Rapsher, Sr., born April 23, 1843, Northampton County, Pennsylvania; son of William Sr. and Lucy Ann Reese Rapsher; educated, public schools; attended Albion College, Michigan; left school to enlist, sergeant, Company E, 6th Regiment, Michigan Volunteer Infantry, Civil War, 1861-1865; teacher, four years; attorney-at-law, 1871-1897; elected, Republican, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1876 and 1877; elected, secretary, common council, Mauch Chunk, 1880; unsuccessful campaign, judge, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 1887; elected, District Attorney, Carbon County, 1887-1890; elected, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1891-1894; partner, Rapsher and Cassidy; married, Ellen Fath Rapsher, children, Charles, William M. Rapsher, Jr, Robert J. Rapsher, May Rapsher; died, January 26, 1897, (age 53 years 9 months 3 days), Lehighton, Carbon County, Pennsylvania; interment, Gnaden Huetten Cemetery, Lehighton, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. 

Early Career:

Enlisted, private, Company E, 6th Regiment, Michigan Volunteers, August 20, 1861, Kalamazoo, Michigan; engaged, battles in Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana; other major battles in the Mississippi Valley and Gulf campaigns. He mustered out, Port Hudson, Louisiana, July 1864; then re-enlisted, same regiment (now heavy artillery) sergeant, mustered out August 20, 1865, New Orleans, Louisiana. 

Teacher, Mauch Chunk area, studied law, admitted, Carbon County bar, 1871-1897. 

Defense counsel for the unfortunate “Yellow Jack” Donohue during the Molly Maguire trials, 1876. 

Pennsylvania Politics:

Elected, Republican, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1876 and 1877, unsuccessful campaign for reelection, House (1878). 

Elected, secretary, common council, Mauch Chunk, 1880. 

Unsuccessful campaign, judge, Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 1887.

Elected, District Attorney, Carbon County, 1887-1890.

Elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 22nd district, Carbon Monroe and Pike Counties, 1891-1894; committee assignments, Elections, Judicial Local, Judicial Special, Legislative Apportionment, Public Printing and Retrenchment and Reform. 

Pennsylvania House of Representatives Biography:

Official Website - PA House Archives Official Website (


Gravesite Details: William Rapsher purchased a very large family plot at Lehighton Cemetery. Among those buried in the plot are William, his wife Ellen and mother Lucy and probably his sons. The plot has a rather large 18-foot stone monument marking the plot.  


Cox, Harold. "Senate Members "R""Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University. 

Smull’s Legislative Handbook, (1893) Cochran, T.B., (Editor) Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pages 809, 815-817, Biographical Sketches of Senators, page 779.

William M Rapsher (1843-1897) - Find a Grave Memorial