Azores to Ashtabula: the Story of Manuel Rapose

Manuel Rapose was born 17 May 1864 on the island of São Miguel in the Azores to Anthony Rapose and his wife, Evelyn Lavena. He and his family faced many of the same problems the family of Manuel Fratis, which you can read here, if you missed it.

I have a theory (not much but it makes a little sense) that the Fratis family and the Rapose family knew each other back home in the Azores. They might even be related, I don’t know. But I do believe they were well acquainted. I’m reasonably certain Manuel Rapose played a large part in the immigration of Manuel Fratis at the turn of the century with a well worded letter, extolling the virtues of Ohio.

Manuel also immigrated to Ashtabula during the industrial boom to work on the docks around 1884. Most likely he came alone and when he had saved up enough money he sent for his lovely Mary, the woman who would become his wife soon after. The money was good but the labor was backbreaking. Son Anthony was born in 1889 in Ashtabula, and his sister Mary born in 1893.

 The missing 1890 Census makes me so upset sometimes. It would solve a lot of problems because the first record I am able to find for Manuel is in the 1902 Ashtabula City Directory. He’s now been promoted to dock foreman. But if you notice, Manuel is married (or at least living with) to a woman named Annie, not Mary. He lives at 6 Rice Street.

Here we are in 1904. Our Manuel Rapose is the second Manuel Rapozo on the list, the gang foreman. This time he seems reunited with Mary and living at 6 Devney, which used to be —

You got it. 6 Rice.

That’s the only clue that these Manuels are the same man.

I don’t know how to explain the two different women. Mary is listed as the mother of his two children. She seems to have been around first. He may have had a midlife crisis and took up with Annie. That obviously didn’t work out because he’s back with Mary quite soon. It could be that was a name Mary went by, I doubt it, but I don’t know. (Oh, how, I hated writing that.) It just seems a bit preposterous that one Manuel Rapose would move out and another would move in right behind him. I suppose nothing is impossible, but come on, be real. I do know I need to narrow my timeframe down and get in touch with the Ashtabula County Courthouse. I think that’s where my answers are.

Mary and Manuel remain living together when we find them in 1910. I wonder if she worried if Manuel would leave again or if she even worried about it at all. The census said they’d been married for 22 years, so there’s an other wrench in the search for Annie’s identity.

We also find that son Anthony had joined his father working on the docks. I’m sure that was at least a little uncomfortable because Dad’s the boss. The other guys probably thought Anthony would get special treatment from dad and I’m pretty sure that it didn’t happen. Manuel was probably a little harder on Anthony to make sure no one could even think he was giving his son special treatment.

Rapose family in 1910. They are the next to last family on the page.

If domestic bliss had finally settled on Manuel and Mary (and I hope it had), it didn’t last long. Mary had suffered from breast cancer for about two and a half years. Three weeks before she died in 1911, it was discovered she had come down with carcinomatosis, which halved her already feeble chances for survival. Carcinomatosis is further cancerous growths that are independent of the original cancer. This is not cancer spreading to other areas; it can still do that. In Mary’s case, she had breast cancer and carcinomatosis usually sets up in the lungs. In effect, it was like she had breast cancer AND lung cancer. For the last three weeks of her life, she suffered. She was often short of breath and coughed all the time, sometimes spitting up blood. She died the afternoon of November 16 and was buried two days later in St. Joseph’s.

Death Certificate of Manuel’s wife Mary

113368930_138110652876  This is the headstone of Manuel’s wife Mary, giving her birth date as 6 May 1855.

Tragedy struck again just four years later, in 1915. His daughter Mary, aged 21, also passed away.

Daughter Mary's tombstone
Daughter Mary’s tombstone

From the winter of 1914 until the next spring, this Mary struggled with tuberculosis. She had many of the same symptoms that her mother had: shortness of breath, coughing up blood. There wasn’t much to be done for the disease in those days. A lot of times, a patient would be sent to the sanitarium, but that was just death’s waiting room for the majority of people. You could survive, but it would take a miracle.

Mary’s miracle was not forthcoming. She died at home on April 23 and her brother and father are remarkably fortunate they did not catch tuberculosis themselves.

The next year saw a glimpse of joy for the Rapose family that remained. Anthony, now 27, married Mary Dorothy Fratis, daughter of Manuel and Rosie Fratis, at the Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church by Father Bernard Patton. Rosie was now herself a widow, Manuel having died in 1911. Rosie moved her family to 6 1/2 Devney, next door to the Raposes.

Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church in Ashtabula

I suppose two lonely people without spouses couldn’t live next to each other for very long without something happening. On 23 June 1917, Manuel Rapose and Rosie Fratis welcomed their own little girl, Genevieve, into the world. They were unmarried and living apart. I think the phrase “There’s nothing new under the sun” applies here.

I’m going to stop here and say I know I might have upset some people both by mentioning the illegitimate birth and by being nonchalant about it. You never please everyone. I believe in speaking the truth as it is without casting judgments that aren’t mine to make in the first place.

In 1920, the families are still living next to each other and little Genevieve is living with Rosie and they live next door to Manuel.

1920UnitedStatesFederalCensus Manuel Rapose
Rapose and Fratis households in 1920

Manuel and Rosie finally married in 1927.

marriage record of Manuel Rapose and Rosie Fratis
marriage record of Manuel Rapose and Rosie Fratis

Unfortunately, the marriage only lasted three years. The day before New Year’s Eve 1930, Rosie passed away.

Rosa Rapose death certificate

For some time, Rosie had been very sick. At first, she’d just been tired, but she kept pushing herself and pushing herself. But soon, tired morphed into extremely short of breath and she was soon unable to do even the most mundane daily tasks. Her body began to hold fluid and become tight and uncomfortable. She had heartburn when she laid down and chest pains when she was up. If that wasn’t bad enough, she had coughing fits all the time and couldn’t ever catch a breath no matter how hard she tried. The constant racking pains were nothing, she thought, when she saw blood in her handkerchief after a recent coughing fit. It was always worse at night. So she never got much sleep. Genevieve was still young and Manuel needed her, too. But there was nothing to be done. Three weeks before she died, her appendix ruptured and it was discovered in the operating room that it had been gangrenous and abscessed. More pain. Much more pain. Father Patton came to deliver the Last Rites. She could have died then, but she didn’t. Perhaps she would recover. A couple of weeks later, the fluid she had been holding because her heart couldn’t pump had settled in her lungs and caused pneumonia. Pneumonia was pretty much a death sentence. Father Patton returned to pray over her again. Four days later, her heart, almost gone, threw a clot and it traveled to her brain and caused a stroke. There was no saving Rosie this time.

tombstone in St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery
tombstone in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery

Manuel stayed single for the rest of his life. He was 66 years old in 1930 and still had his job as a foreman at the docks. He didn’t keep it for long. He started forgetting things he once knew and was soon replaced as dock foreman. He had poor circulation from heart disease and high blood pressure. He puttered around home and watched his son start a family of his own. There were grandchildren to play with. His family looked out for him like he had looked out for them all these years. In 1942, his heart just stopped in his sleep in the early hours of the morning of July 8.


He was buried three days later besides his wives in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery.