From my own family research in the UK the name is also fairly common in Cornwall and Devon - S.W. England. There it appears to be a contraction of Reaper (as it was a largely agricultural area i guess it describes the family's occupation in the same way as Thatcher and Cooper) I have found both Reap and Reep there as far back as 1590. A lot of Cornish miners emigrated to the US coal fields in the mid 1800's when the tin mines went through periodic boom and bust(as did many reep/reaps fropm germany - no link) I guess it gets confusing in the US with so many nationalities arriving at the same time with similar names - however - one avenue you might try is this Cornish/Devon link
i hope it helps!
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