Three Biddle Brothers
Nicholas Biddle, Major Thomas Biddle and Major John Biddle
Played Roles of Westward Expansion in the United States
History along the Missouri River around Ft. Calhourn, Nebraska near where I live.

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This is how my family is connected.  My ancestors, the Henry Biddle Family (my Great Grandfather) came from Sacramento, California where he had a mill that was destroyed by flooding and settled on a farm in about 1874 near a North South road (Praire Rd) Irving Township, Brown County, Kansas running toward Rulo, Nebraska (just a few miles from the Missouri River). This farm already had his brother (Thomas Biddle Family) living across the road South from him and his sister and husband (Sarah and Matthew Zahniser) living across the road East from him. His brother the Thomas Biddle Family first moved from Mercer County in 1863 to Illinois, then in about 1865 to Tama County Iowa, then in 1868 Iowa to Brown County, Kansas, then in 1881 to Axtel, Kansas. Jonathan Biddle, the Grandfather of Henry Biddle, Sarah (Biddle) Zahniser and Thomas Biddle had as his second cousins three brothers named Nicholas Biddle, Major Thomas Biddle and Major John Biddle. The exploration of the nearby Missouri River about 50 to 60 years before Henry Biddle and his siblings arriving, had roles played by Nicholas Biddle, Major Thomas Biddle and Major John Biddle. One would think Henry Biddle and his siblings would be aware of the efforts these three distant cousins had made and it would have influenced them. My Biddle branch is the poorer Biddle branch but many still like to travel plus also buy and sell land. The following three paragraphs relate stories how the three Biddle brothers (Nicholas Biddle, Major Thomas Biddle and Major John Biddle) are connected to exploration of the Missouri River.

Nicholas Biddle at age 18 went to France to work on financial details of the Louisiana Purchase. Next Nicholas Biddle was the editor of "The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition" (one of the more important publications of the 19th century) where this effort which included his "Biddle Notes" were very important because these journals opened up the West and Henry Biddle may not have been there if not for this journal. Nicholas Biddle is the father of central banking in the United States and developed a trading system which became our stock exchanges. He became the president of the Second Bank of the United States ("The Bank") which has evolved into our current Federal Reserve System. "The Bank" was blamed for all financial problems of the United States at that time and he was hated by everyone but now history maybe rewriting how he is viewed.

J. C. Calhoun, Secretary of War ordered an Expedition lying West of the Allegheny and East of the Rocky Mountains by going up the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains for the Years 1819, 1820 under the Command of Maj. S. H. Long. The expedition went up the Missouri River and setup a winter camp called "Engineer Cantonment" at a place a few miles South of a town we now call Fort Calhoun, Nebraska (town named after J. C. Calhoun, Secretary of War). Major John Biddle was the official journalist of this expedition of 1819, but he withdrew from this assignment before the end of the year because of a situation that had happen to him. On the way up the Missouri River with the expedition, he and his party had gone ashore and were captured by the Indians. The steamboat "Western Engineer" (page down to the article on Western Engineer) of the expedition did not wait for them and continued on up the river to where they setup the winter camp at "Engineer Cantonment". The Indians robbed Major John Biddle and his party of their horses and equipment and then released them. Major John Biddle and his party had to then find their own way up the Missouri River to the expedition winter camp and he was not a happy camper. Major John Biddle wrote a letter complaining about Maj. S. H. Long and then was discharged from the service in 1821.  He eventually was elected mayor of Detroit, Governor of Michigan and to the United States Senate. The steamboat "Western Engineer", had construction which was calculated to cause astonishment to the Indians. The bow of the boat was in the form of a giant sized serpent, having a carved head reared as high as the boat's deck. Smoke was forced out of the mouth of the monster causing a great roar heard for miles, and the craft was setup to appear as a huge serpent carrying the boat on its back with guns and canon pointing out the portholes. The expedition changed its plans after Major John Biddle left and went up the Platte River to explore to the Rocky Mountains then down the Arkansas River. This became known as Long's Expedition.

Major Thomas Biddle in 1820 was the paymaster at Fort Atkinson along the Missouri River located in the town now called Fort Calhoun, Nebraska (a few miles North of Omaha) at a place formally called Council Bluffs where Lewis and Clark had held council with the Indians.  A few years later, he loaned his two white horses to help pull a carriage around St. Louis, Missouri for Lafayette when he visited St. Louis.  He died in a duel fought at St. Louis, Mo., in which he killed Spencer Pettis (a Missouri U.S. Congressman), his opponent, Aug. 29,1831 over an argument about the bank of his brother Nicholas Biddle who had "The Bank" at Philadelphia, Pa. The two fought the duel on an island in the middle of the Mississippi river as hundreds looked on. As a result of Major Biddle's defective eyesight, the duel was fought at a paced off distance of five feet. The two promptly killed each other at the first shot.

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Last Modified September 2017
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