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. Calhoun, Nebraska near where I live.

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This is how my family is connected.  My ancestor, Henry Biddle (my Great Grandfather born in Pennsylvania) 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).  My  Grandmother Martha (Mattie) Picton is a daughter of this Henry Biddle.  This farm (which is still owned by a Henry Biddle descendant) 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, Pennsylvania 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 was the Grandfather of Henry Biddle, Sarah (Biddle) Zahniser and Thomas Biddle.  Jonathan Biddle (there Grandfather) had his father die on (911) September 11, 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania plus Jonathan 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. 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 the age of 18 went to France to work on financial details of the Louisiana Purchase and became friends with Lafayette. After returning to the United States, Nicholas Biddle became 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 one of the fathers of both the central banking system in the United States and developing a trading system which became our stock exchanges. He became the president of the Second Bank of the United States ("The Bank") at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which 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 almost everyone in the United States, but now history may be rewriting how he is viewed.

Major John Biddle was part of what became known as Long's Expedition.  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 (as intended at the mouth of the Platte River) 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 (past the intended meeting place at the mouth of the Platte 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 (One does not write such a complaint letter in the military).  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.  After leaving Fort Atkinson a few years later, he loaned his two white horses to help pull a carriage around St. Louis, Missouri for Lafayette when Lafayette visited St. Louis.  He died in a duel fought at St. Louis, Missouri, in which he killed Spencer Pettis (a Missouri U.S. Congressman) in a duel on August 29,1831 over an argument about "The Bank" of his brother Nicholas Biddle who had "The Bank" of the United States of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The duel (which was against the law in both Missouri and Illinois) was fought on Bloody Island in the middle of the Mississippi River with hundreds looking on. As a result of Major Biddle's poor eyesight, they decided to fight the duel at a paced off distance of only five feet. The two killed each other on the first shot.

It is reported that Charles Biddle (the father of the above three brothers) hid the setting United States Vice President Aaron Burr in his home after the famous Burr duel and death of Alexander Hamilton (each man claimed the other shot first).

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Last Modified July 2018
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