Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Elizabeth Virgins Raplee (1900-1982)

Elizabeth Virginia Raplee
Secretary, Poet
Born November 17, 1900, Clayton, New York
Died March 1982, presumably in New York

A few days ago I wrote about Elizabeth Virgins Raplee. Today I have learned that her name was Elizabeth Virginia Raplee, and with that information, more comes to light. A question remains, however. The name Elizabeth Virgins Raplee comes from Jaffery and Cook's Collector's Index to Weird Tales. So was that a misprint? An error made by the authors? Or was that the original credit in Weird Tales magazine of October 1937?

In any case, Elizabeth Virginia Raplee was born on November 17, 1900, in Clayton, New York, and grew up in Watertown. In 1910 (as Elizabeth M.V. Raplee), she was enumerated in Champion, New York, with her granduncle, Arthur Johnson, and his sister, Mary J. Johnson. In 1920, Elizabeth was still in Champion and still with her aunt, Mary J. Johnson, and Mary's nephew, John Johnson. Finally, in 1940, Elizabeth Raplee was back with her French-Canadian mother, Mary Adam, and her brother, Francis Raplee, in New York, New York. Elizabeth was employed as a secretary at Standard Oil at the time.

The family of Mary--perhaps more accurately Marie A.--and Francis Raplee leads back to Elizabeth Raplee's father, Jefferson T. Raplee. In 1900, Jefferson T. Raplee and his wife Marie A. Raplee were hoteliers in Clayton, New York. With them was their young son, William T. Raplee. Jefferson T. Raplee may have been Jefferson T. Raplee, Junior, and the son of Jefferson T. Raplee, aka J.T. Raplee, a broker and banker who was said to have been worth $500,000 before losing his fortune in the panic of 1869. The elder Raplee went to the Westchester County poorhouse with a trunk full of fancy clothing, including a silk hat, a white waistcoat, and a pair of patent leather shoes. The keepers of the poorhouse called him "the most aristocratic guest they ever had." (1) In 1905, his niece, who did not want to be named, found out where he was and fetched him away to New York City. A few months later, at age eighty-six, he returned to the poorhouse--the New York City Farm Colony on Staten Island--at his own request. (2)

In an interview from 1940, Elizabeth Raplee claimed publication of fifty poems in magazines and newspapers in the six years previous. (3) One of those was "To a Skull on My Bookshelf" in Weird Tales for October 1937. Some others from about that period:

  • "Nostalgia" in A Book of Living Poems, edited by William R. Bowlin (1934)
  • "Brief Moment" in Good Housekeeping (July, 1935)
  • "After Silence" in Lewiston Evening Journal (Mar. 29, 1937)
  • "The Call" in Good Housekeeping (Aug. 1942)
  • "Like Summer Rain" in Good Housekeeping (Aug. 1935)
  • "The Poet Considers Perfection" in Good Housekeeping (Aug. 1939)
  • "Recompense" in The Lion and the Unicorn (Vol. 1, No. 1)

Elizabeth Virginia Raplee last resided in Carthage, New York, and died in March 1982. She was eighty-one years old.

To a Skull on My Bookshelf
From Weird Tales, October 1937
(Presumably in the public domain)
by Elizabeth Virgins Raplee

O bony relic of forgotten days,
Which, from my bookshelf, dominates the room,
Your empty sockets, with sardonic gaze,
Follow me weirdly in the deepening gloom!
I often think, if sudden speech returned,
You might reveal that secret, grisly jest
You're grinning at--or tell me what you've learned
Of that dark realm to which we're all addressed.

By what rude hands were you exhumed, and why
Wrenched from your body in its earthy bed?
Who knows but such indignity will I
Receive at other hands, when I am dead,
And, strangely resurrected, may adorn
The wall or desk of one as yet unborn!

(1) From "Home for Broker Raplee," New York Times, Aug. 17, 1905, p. 3. See also "Banker To End Days in Dependents' Home," New York Times, Oct. 10, 1905, p. 6.
(2) The Farm Colony now lies in ruins. If decadence is at the root of the weird tale, then the Farm Colony could be the setting of just such a tale.
(3) In the Niagara Falls Gazette, February 17, 1940, p. 6.

Revised December 11, 2013.
Thanks to Randal A. Everts for confirmation of the name and dates of Elizabeth Virginia Raplee.

Text copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Very nice, thanks. I love the poem too.

  2. Thanks, Ron,

    And you're welcome. I get the feeling that, although no "rude hands" have exhumed Elizabeth Virgins Raplee, we have still reached into the past to adorn our computer screens with her verse and with talk of her life. I hope she would understand there is no indignity intended.


  3. I knew Miss Raplee and her brother Francis very well ! She would sit for hours in a local restaurant reading.

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    Thanks for your message. In what town was that? Do you know where I might find an obituary?