Robert Zapp (naturalized from Zappe), businessman, state representative, and county official, was born in Elberfield, Germany, on October 20, 1820, to Friedrich Wilhelm and Maria Henrietta (Schlieper) Zappe. Zapp was raised in Germany and attended a university there as well as studied music. As a young man he engaged in opposition politics and fled Germany to avoid political persecution in 1846. He immigrated to Texas that same year, arriving in Galveston on November 30. As the Mexican War was then underway, Zapp found employment as a government teamster. He worked in this capacity for several months in 1847, before he fell ill and was sent to an army hospital in New Orleans. Later in 1847 Zapp returned to Galveston, where he married Johannah Huepgen at Liverpool in Galveston County. They had five sons and six daughters, as well as four other children who died in infancy.
The Zapp family relocated to La Grange, Fayette County, in 1848, and Zapp engaged as a carpenter, real estate speculator, and operator of general stores. He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on May 3, 1852, and, due to the lack of an official marriage record, remarried Johannah Huepgen on October 20, 1853. By the late 1850s he found himself once again isolated from the political mainstream. Opposing slavery and secession, Zapp switched his political affiliation in 1859 from Democrat to German Unionist. That same year he sold his holdings in La Grange and relocated his family to northern Fayette County near Cummins Creek. Zapp had purchased 2,700 acres of land in this area, and he led the settlement of the new community of Long Prairie (present-day Waldeck). He established a general store in the town and was the first postmaster.
During the Civil War Zapp served as an agent in charge of distributing welfare to needy families of Confederate soldiers. In addition, he joined the Long Prairie German Company—a secondary reserve unit formed to avoid connection to the state militia and conscription into the Confederate Army—as first sergeant. In 1866 Zapp helped organize the Long Prarie Schulgemeinde school association, serving as treasurer and assisting in the erection of the schoolhouse. He withdrew from the organization a few months later, however, as a result of a dispute concerning the hiring of teachers.
In November 1867 Zapp sold off his assets in Long Prarie and relocated to Round Top, Fayette County. In addition to owning and operating general stores in Round Top and Ledbetter, Zapp established himself as a leader in the Republican politics of Fayette County. In 1869 he won election as representative for District 26, consisting of Bastrop and Fayette counties, to the Twelfth Texas Legislature. He served from February 9, 1870, to January 14, 1873, and sat on the Interior Improvements, Public Lands and Land Office, and Printing and Contingent Expenses committees. He sponsored several bills concerned with public education, the licensing of physicians, and the prevention of alcohol sales to minors. Following his turn at state office, he returned to Fayette County, where he served as registrar. He also served as superintendent of county schools during the administration of Governor Edmund J. Davis. In 1882 Zapp ran an unsuccessful campaign on the Greenback ticket for the U.S. House of Representatives. He was a delegate to the 1884 Republican National Convention in Chicago. Zapp died in Round Top, Fayette County, on June 8, 1885, and was buried there at Florida Chapel Cemetery. He was a charter member of Florida Lodge No. 46.