Updated: Jun 2, 2020
I consider this family the most famous family in the Broad Axe section of Whitpain Township based on the family name in that area.
The origins of Broad Axe puzzled me, and when looking up each member of the family, I discovered something incredible. It turned out that the whole family originated in the Germantown section of Philadelphia before migrating elsewhere.
It was difficult to figure out how long they lived in Whitpain Township. I had to look up their biographies in multiple websites and online archives, including ancestry websites. Luckily, I ran into a source that talked about John T. Rex who resided in Raleigh, North Carolina, and accomplished many things in his life. I consider him as being the most famous out of his relatives.
John T. Rex (1771-1839) was born in Germantown to John George and Sebella Rex. His father John G. owned properties not only in Germantown, but also in Springfield, Chestnut Hill, Whitpain, and Whitmarsh townships containing his buildings and a tanyard. He was the man with many occupations: shipwright, wheelwright, and yeoman. While growing up, John T. learned the business of tanning while working at his father's establishment.
He was considered a loner, and preferred the simple life when he lived in Raleigh while his PA relatives enjoyed the prestigious life. It was possible that was the reason he decided to move out to NC. He was in his late 20s when he arrived in Raleigh with money he invested back in PA. His first major purchase took place in 1799 when he bought 264 acres from Isaac Hunter for 250 silver dollars. He grew up in a Lutheran family, but had no church ties in Raleigh.
He realized his relatives were growing old, and wanted nothing from him. John T. made this statement:
[I am] determined to dispose of the Estate which it has pleased God to bestow on me in a long life of labor and economy, in the way which accords with my own judgment, and will most extensively promote the welfare of others.
John T. inherited the Broad Axe Tavern (50 acres of land) from his father after he died in 1802. His nephew John Rex (Levi's son) was notified from the executors in Raleigh Raleigh's John Rex had left the Broad Axe Tavern property to him.
He wrote his will before his death, and here was what he wanted to do before he died:
He held his real estate in Raleigh passed to the executors, and his slaves to be freed and sent to a colony in Africa, in trust for specific purposes. For the slaves who wanted to stay than take a chance of freedom, they were allowed to make that choice. But, if they decided to stay, they would be sold by the executors at public sale. For the slaves he set free, he provided transportation for them to Africa, and the money for that came from selling his plantation, tanyard, and everything he owned like his agricultural tools, carriages, household items, etc.
He willed his 2 lots SW of Raleigh to the executors in trust to be used for the erection of a hospital.
[I desire] to provide a comfortable retreat for the sick & afflicted poor belonging to the City of Raleigh in which they may have the benefit of skillful medical aid & proper attention...
We all know that the Rex family lived in Germantown, but who was the first to live in Whitpain?
Since neither John T. Rex didn't live in the township nor his father John George, it had to be Levi Rex, John T.'s cousin. According to resources, Levi's son John inherited his farm after her died. John lived in the township from 1828-1851. John was featured in the 1850 census data of Whitpain township, but there were no earlier maps to where in the township he lived in. The earliest map that featured a Rex was in 1871, but there were two different Rex's: "J. Rex" and "J.S. Rex." One of them must've taken over their father's farm. But when looking at a later map in 1877, "J. Rex" became "J.L. Rex." Chance is that Jacob L. Rex took over his father's property after his death since he was the oldest son.
A quick background on John and his known children:
John Rex (1800-1852) was the youngest son of Levi and Catharine Rex. According to the 1850 census data of Whitpain Township, John was a farmer while his son Jacob was a laborer. He was an "old line Whig*" and took an active part in political and civil affairs. He served in the 1st City Troop of Calvary of Philadelphia, and was a member of the Lutheran church. He came to Whitpain in 1828 to take over his father's farm, but left in 1851 to move to Norristown one year before his death.
*Whig Party- a political party formed in 1834 by opponents of President Andrew Jackson and his Jacksonian Democrats. Led by Henry Clay, the name “Whigs” was derived from the English antimonarchist party and and was an attempt to portray Jackson as "King Andrew." The Whigs were one of the two major political parties in the United States from the late 1830s through the early 1850s.
Jacob L. Rex (1829-1912) was born on August 29 in Whitpain Township to John and Sarah Rex. He received his education in the district schools and Nazareth Hall school of Nazareth of PA. Jacob had quit school to pursue in farming in 1887, and in that year, he moved to Norristown with his family, where he retired. In politics, he was Independent, supporting men or measures independent of party considerations. He served 5 years as a justice of the peace, was a member of the Patrons of Husbandry and Wissahickon Grange No. 760. In 1855, Jacob married Sarah Slingluff, and had 3 children: Mary, William, and John.
John S. Rex (1839-1909): nothing much about him, but he married the daughter of a well-known business owner John Hobensack. He owned the Broad Axe Post Office until he passed it down to his son, Harry H., according to the 1916 map. With his wife Charlotte , they only had one son: John H. Since his marriage, his house stood next to his father in-law's property. John Hobensack's property became what is known today the Broad Axe Shopping Center.
NOTE: I'll talk about the sons of Jacob and John Rex in a separate blog who played a part in politics. There were two things they have in common: Their names were John, and they were part of the PA House of Representatives. Also in a separate blog, I'll talk about the YOUNGEST brother of John: Frederick. His life was the most interesting out of his siblings.
It was easy to tell exactly where the John S. Rex property is located. Comparing the 1893 and 1916 maps, it's remarkable! When looking at all of these maps, you can see that his property was right next to the Prophecy Creek. As of the pathway to the house, it's there today.
Today, the "J. Rex/J.L. Rex" property was changed as of 1893. The owner of that property varied until development.
Meanwhile, the "J.S. Rex" property was changed to the "Woodrow Farm" owned by Daniel Buckley as on 1916. Today, the property was taken over by what is known today, "The Manor House at Prophecy Creek," a wedding venue. There were no old photographs of the place, but it looked like it was restored or renovated.
"Find A Grave." Find A Grave. Accessed April 18, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com.
"Geni: A MyHeritage Company." Geni. Accessed April 18, 2020. https://www.geni.com.
Hopkins, G.M. Atlas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Page 031, 1871.
Mitchell, Memory F. and Thornton W. Mitchell. "The Philanthropic Bequests of John Rex of Raleigh: Part I Bon Voyage and a Lawsuit." The North Carolina Historical Review 49, no. 3 (1972).
Mueller, A.H. Atlas of the North Penn Section of Montgomery County, Pa., Plate 28, 1916.
Roberts, Charles Rhoads, John Baer Stoudt, Thomas H. Krick, and William Joseph Dietrich. History of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania: And a Genealogical and Biographical Record of its Families In Two Volumes--Illustrated Volume 3. (Allentown: Lehigh Valley Publishing Company, LTD., 1914), 1047.
Scott, J. D. Montgomery County 1877, Whitpain, Rahn Sta., Grater's Ford, 1877.
Smith, J. L. Montgomery County 1893, Whitpain and Worcester Townships, Bethel Hill, Fairview, Cedar Hill, Washington Square, Broad Axe Left, 1893.
Thomas, A.K. "Obituary: John S. Rex." Ambler Gazette XXVII, No. 42 (Ambler, PA), October 14, 1909.
"WikiTree: The Free Family Tree." WikiTree: The Free Family Tree. Accessed April 18, 2020. https://www.wikitree.com.
Wiley, Samuel T. Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County, Together with an Introductory Historical Sketch. (Philadelphia: Biographical Publishing Company, 1895), 142-143.
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