The Biddle Family, Part I

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

Like many settlers from Europe, they want to get away from mostly religious persecution. One of the families that came to America was the Biddle family with the one and only William Penn. William Biddle purchased land in West New Jersey from Penn in 1676. He, his wife Sarah, and his family ended up living in NJ until his children migrated elsewhere. William and Sarah remained in NJ until their death. William was an officer in the Parliamentary army during the civil war in England.


The first arrival of the Biddle family was in 1681, the same time William Penn stepped foot into what's known today Pennsylvania.


William's surviving son William II followed his father's footsteps: he was appointed by the Council of Proprietors in 1703 to talk with the Indians to purchase their land in NJ.


William II married Lydia Wardell in the 1690s, and this is when their sons William III (1697-1756) and John (1707-1789) would develop different lives with their own families.


We'll talk about William III and his descendants in a separate blog since his descendants are interesting to talk about.


John was William's youngest brother who came with him to Philadelphia, and remained in the area for a long time. Like William, John was a successful businessman.


John, his wife Sarah, and his family lived on Market Street between 2nd and 3rd Streets. According the records, their home was called the "Biddle Homestead."


Colonel Clement Biddle (1740-1814)

Clement (1740-1814) was raised in the "Biddle Homestead" with his family. He helped his father and brother Owen in the shipping and importing business until the Revolutionary War broke out. Ever since the war broke out, Clement paid great contributions for the war:


  • One of the signers of the Non-importation Agreement of 1765

  • One of the organizers of the "Quaker Light Infantry"; originally formed to defend the Conestogo Indians from the Paxton Boys (1763-1764)

  • Served in the Jersey Campaign of 1776-1777

  • Appointed Deputy Quartermaster General of the Flying Camp* in 1776

  • Appointed by General Nathanial Greene as "aide-de-camp*"

NOTE:

*Flying Camp- a military formation employed by the Continental Army

*Aide-de-camp- a military officer acting as a confidential assistant to a senior officer


  • Stationed at Fort Lee on the Hudson, but returned to the Delaware to fight in the Battle of Trenton; he was deputed by General George Washington to retrieve the swords of the Hessian officers who surrendered

  • Besides Trenton, he fought in Princeton, Germantown, Brandywine, and Monmouth

  • Shared the sufferings at the camp Valley Forge

  • Appointed by President Washington "United States Marshal of Pennsylvania"

  • A Quartermaster General of Pennsylvania Militia for many years

  • Appointed Prothonotary of Court of Common Pleas of Philadephia County in 1788; later made Judge of Common Pleas Court in 1791


Fun Fact #1: Benjamin Rush briefly met Col. Clement during the war. Clement received letters from the most prominent people, including George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. You can find them here.


Fun Fact #2: John and Sarah's youngest daughter, and Clement's sister Lydia, married Dr. James Hutchinson who was a surgeon general during the Revolutionary War, and a distinguished physician in Philadelphia alongside Benjamin Rush. He was in charge of the docks and naval vessels during the Yellow Fever Epidemic in 1793. When he heard about Rush's "new remedy" of curing the fever, Hutchinson refused to try it. He eventually died from yellow fever. He was the first physician to die, and Rush claimed Hutchinson was too arrogant to listen to him.


Thomas Alexander Biddle, Sr. (1776-1857) was the son of Clement and his second wife Rebekah, and the second oldest to 13 children. Thomas attended the University of Pennsylvania from 1788 to 1791. After graduation, Thomas became a broker and a banker in Philadelphia. He was also a trustee of UPenn from 1837 to his death in 1857. He married Christine Williams in 1806.


Thomas Alexander Biddle, Jr. (1814-1888) was the son of Thomas and Christine, and like his father, he was a broker, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1832. He established the firm "Thomas A. Biddle Co." He was a director of the Cumberland Valley Railroad Company, the Allentown Iron Company, the Mutual Assurance Company of Philadelphia, and the Equitable Life Insurance Company in New York. In 1845, he married Julia Cox.

Biddle Family Tree, only displaying the most important people
From "Notes on the genealogy of the Biddle family : together with abstracts of some early deeds"; Page 1

I'm going to pause for a moment and think about this: When did the Biddle family come to Whitpain?


It's difficult to figure that part out since the Biddle family stayed in Philadelphia their whole life. But, there is proof on all the maps listed below that "T.A. Biddle" owned the "Blythewood" property from 1870s to late 1890s. Then "W. Lyman Biddle" came into the picture in 1916.


William Lyman Biddle (1853-1920)

William Lyman Biddle (1853-1920) was the son of Thomas and Julia Biddle. He received his education in Dr. Ferris Select School in Philadelphia, and prepared for college at St. Paul's Preparatory School in Concord, New Hampshire. Then he graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1874. He spent 2 years traveling outside the US until he returned and entered a broker's office in New York City. In 1878, William returned to Philadelphia to be part of his father's business "Thomas A. Biddle Co" on 424 Chestnut Street.


He was unmarried.


Again, there is no proof if when the Biddle men stepped foot into Whitpain.


One possibility is that they used the home as a vacation home. In the beginning of William's obituary it says (from the Find a Grave website), "William Lyman Biddle died Sunday in his summer home at Penllyn." His summer home is definitely the "Blythewood" property.


Conclusion: The owner of the "Blythewood" property definitely belongs to the Biddle family, and unfortunately, the property looks like it was demolished due to development.

Atlas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 1871, Page 031; G.M. Hopkins & Company, Publisher
Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left; J.L. Scott, Publisher
Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., 1916, Plate 28; A. H. Mueller, Publisher
Google Satellite Plan View; Notice the pathway to the property. It's similar to the 1916 map
Google Satellite Birdseye View Looking West

Bibliography:


An Historical Catalogue of The St. Andrew's Society of Philadelphia With Biographical Sketches of Deceased Members 1749-1907 Volume 1. (Philadelphia: Press of Louchead & Co., 1907): 120.


"Distance Calculator." DaftLogic. Accessed May 1, 2020. https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-distance-calculator.htm.


"Find A Grave." Find A Grave. Accessed May 1, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com.


Fried, Stephen. Rush: Revolution, Madness, and Benjamin Rush, the Visionary Doctor Who Became a Founding Father. (New York: Broadway Books, 2018): 182, 352.


"Geni: A MyHeritage Company." Geni. Accessed May 1, 2020. https://www.geni.com.


Hopkins, G.M. Atlas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Page 031, 1871.

Jordan, John Woolf. Colonial and revolutionary families of Pennsylvania; genealogical and personal memoirs. (New York: Lewis Historical Pub. Co., 1911): 161–189, 742.

Mueller, A. H. Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., Plate 28, 1916.


Smith, J. L. Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left, 1893.


"WikiTree: The Free Family Tree." WikiTree: The Free Family Tree. Accessed May 1, 2020. https://www.wikitree.com.


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