Henry Biddle in a Historical Context


Local information and Nearby Immigration Stories

by Owen Picton

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Henry and Mary Biddle

Henry Biddle #116 and his children including my Grandmother Martha (Mattie) Biddle #218 are listed in a book printed in 1895 containing some early family histories of North America. Henry Biddle was born in 1841 at Mercer County, Pennsylvania and had Quaker Colonial ancestors. The Henry Biddle Family moved around a lot until they settled in Kansas. Henry Biddle first moved to Tama County, Iowa in 1868 (page down to Henry Biddle) and lived with his brother the Thomas Biddle family. There, Henry Biddle met and married Mary McBride in 1868 at Tama County, Iowa. Mary McBride was an orphan who had been adopted by James and Martha McBride after her Mother had died. Mary McBride's parents had come from Ireland. The Henry and Mary Biddle Family lived at Tama County, Iowa until 1870, then went back to Pennsylvania, in about 1871 back to Tama County, Iowa, in about 1874 to Sacramento, California and then in 1874 to Brown County, Kansas.

This took a lot of courage considering that the Civil War had recently ended and all the other things that happen in the area. They immigrated into a community located a few miles south of the Nebraska - Kansas state line between Rulo, Richardson County, Nebraska and Hiawatha, Brown County, Kansas with the small nearby town called White Cloud, Kansas and a nearby Indian Reservation. The Missouri Pacific Railroad built a rail line passing through Hiawatha, to Falls City in 1881 and a railroad ran from Falls City to Rulo but there was no railroad bridge across the Missouri River. Railroad cars had to be hauled across the Missouri River by barge.. The railroad from Hiawatha to Falls City was built 7 years after Henry Biddle settled there and the Rulo railroad bridge across the Missouri River was completed about 1894. Jesse James the outlaw was shot at St. Joseph, Missouri 8 years after Henry Biddle settled in Brown County.

The Henry Biddle Family 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. This would make the three siblings Henry Biddle (#116), Sarah (Biddle) Zahniser (#115) and Thomas Biddle (#113) to be second cousins twice removed from the three Biddle brothers. The exploration of the nearby Missouri River about 45 to 65 years before Henry Biddle and his siblings arriving, had roles played by Nicholas Biddle, Major Thomas Biddle and Major John Biddle (the three Biddle brothers). One would think Henry Biddle and his siblings would be aware of the efforts that 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 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 his effort was very important because these journals opened up the West and Henry Biddle may not have been there if not for this journal. Others had attempted to produce these journals but no one else had the determination, hard work and will to get the job done. 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 and he was hated by everyone but now history is 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. The steamboat went on without them when they disappeared. Major John Biddle and his party had to then find their own way up the Missouri River until they caught up with the steamboat. The steamboat then continued on up to the expedition winter camp but Major John Biddle was not a happy camper. Major John Biddle was discharged from the service in 1821. 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. This was the first steamboat to go up the Missouri River. 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. He died in a duel fought at St. Louis, Mo., in which he killed Spencer Pettis (a Missouri Congressman), his opponent, Aug. 29,1831 over an argument about 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 distance of five feet. The two promptly killed each other at the first shot.

The Henry Biddle farm initially had no house so they had to rent while they built a house. The Henry Biddle farm is still lived on and owned by one of his descendants and they have recently purchased what long ago was the 160 acre old Thomas Biddle farm across the road South. Henry and Mary Biddles's first child born in Kansas was a little girl called Margaret or Little Maggie. She died of what they called a summers complaint (dysentery). She was buried in the old Kenyan Cemetery (about 7th article down) toward White Cloud. As they had used wooden markers in those days, when Great-grandfather Biddle (Henry Biddle) went to bring her up to the new Mt. Zion Cemetery they couldn't find the exact spot. Farmers had let a fire get into the cemetery. Another time Henry Biddle had purchased lumber for building the Mt. Zion Methodist Church and having it stolen or burnt and that they had to replace the lumber. The Mt. Zion Methodist Church was built one mile south of the Henry Biddle farm. The Henry Biddle daughters (my Grandmother Mattie used to talk about her and her sisters) having horse back races up and down the road in front of there house. The families greatest sad event was the death of there two young daughters dieing in a fire.

Henry and Mary Biddle lived on their farm in Kansas until they died.

Mary (McBride) Biddle grave - View her tombstone

Henry Biddle grave - View his tombstone

My Dad (Samuel Picton) told me that he saw his Grandfather Henry Biddle die. My Dad was a boy climbing a tree and he saw his grandfather Henry Biddle walk out to the mailbox along the road. All at once his grandfather Henry Biddle held his arms up in the air, then fall down and died Oct. 18, 1920 at his farm.

Robert and Margaret Biddle grave - Parents of Henry Biddle - View tombstone at Pulaski Cemetery, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, USA

Tama County, Iowa has records (on page 20) that Henry Biddle married Mary McBride on 3 Dec. 1868. They are listed in the 1870 Federal Census in Tama County, Iowa and in the 1875 Kansas census for Brown County, Kansas. The "History of Tama County" (page down to Henry Biddle) book printed in 1883 never mentioned Mary McBride but did mention Henry Biddle. It said for Lincoln township in Tama county: Others who came in 1868 were Henry Biddle and James Voss. Henry Biddle and James Voss came together. The former settled on section 14; he has gone to Oregon. James Voss located on section 12, where he still lived in 1883. There is the following folklore about Henry Biddle that came from a couple of his grandchildren. Henry Biddle had a disagreement with his brother and left home when he was young. He got a job working on a ship and sailed around the world. He had been to such places as China and Alaska. One time I was talking to Claribel (Picton) Bruning (my aunt). She said that she saw passport type travel documents that belonged to her Grandfather Henry Biddle when the family was going through his things after his death. When she asked about it she was told as she remembers it, that he had gone to California by ship. Henry Biddle had a family sword that was past down in the Biddle family and used by an ancestor whose name can not be remembered in the Revolutionary War (The History of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, 1770-1877 by S.W. and P.A. Durant- page down and the Book states that: Arney Biddle died fighting in the Revolutionary War in the Battle of Brandywine on 9/11 in the year 1777, according to our families testimony). I do not know if we had any other ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War. This is our only known proof that Arney Biddle fought in the Revolutionary War. Henry Biddle had the family sword with the story verbally past down and one the of children of my cousin now has the family sword. Another story is that Henry and Mary Biddle owned a mill on a river at Sacramento, California and they lost the family fortune from a flood.

Traveling here was most likely by train to either St. Joesph or Omaha. There was a train that ran between Grand Island, Nebraska to Hiawatha to St. Joesph. For Missouri River travel, Mark Twain in his "Roughing It", said: "We were six days in going from St. Louis to St. Joseph, Mo., a trip that was so dull and sleepy and eventless, that it has left no more impression on my memory than if its duration had been six minutes."

The Henry Biddle Family farm is about 5 to 10 miles from the "Sac and Fox" and " Iowa" Indian Tribe reservations ( Chief White Cloud was their Chief), Chief White Cloud fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War with his picture in the 75 year Gettysburg Anniversary book (he attended the 75 year anniversary celebration) and died when I was young). The Henry Biddle Family farm is about 4 miles from the Nemaha River, 4 miles from the mouth of the Roys Creek, about 20 miles to Albany, Kansas- (a description of a town similar to White Cloud), about 15 miles from Falls City, Richardson County, Nebraska, about 6 miles from the Missouri River, about 7 miles to Rulo, Nebraska, about 7 miles to Padonia, Brown County, Kansas (one of several Welsh Settlements in the area), about 9 miles to White Cloud, Kansas, about 35 miles to Stella, Richardson County, Nebraska, less than 60 miles to St. Joesph, Missouri (where Jesse James had his outlaw hideout) and 70 miles to Nebraska City.

History surrounding the area where the Henry Biddle Family settled had some adventure and violence. Could Coronado have come here in 1541 searching for the Land of Quivera? The Lewis and Clark Expedition came up the Missouri River in the 1804-1806 time frame. The Underground Railroad for smuggling slaves in "Bleeding Kansas" from 1857 to 1861, was a trail (marked with rock piles known as Lane's chimneys) built by Gereral James H. Lane and called Lane's Road. Lane's Road followed several paths with one passing through Hiawatha to Padonia to Falls City and another passing through Albany, Kansas to Salem, Nebraska. Lane's Road ran from Lawrence, Kansas through Brown County, Kansas, then though the Falls City underground railroad in Richardson County, Nebraska to Nebraska City. The name of the street that the highway takes through Falls City is now called Lane Street. "Bleeding Kansas" was a dangerous place. John Brown personally used this Underground Railroad to smuggle slaves to freedom by taking them through the Brown County area to Falls City, Nebraska (Slavery in Nebraska) where he hid slaves on the Underground Railroad. John Brown sparked the American Civil War by his actions in other parts of the United States and was hung for this. He is considered by some to be a heroic martyr and one of the more important people in American history because he give his life for freedom of the slaves by actions which he intentionally took to free the slaves. Others consider John Brown a terrorist. Abraham Lincoln gave a two hour campaign speech for president in 1859 at Troy, Kansas (about 20 miles away) when he was running for President of the United States. At this time, John Brown was executed while Abraham Lincoln was visiting Kansas. The Pony Express went through the area in 1860-1861. There was a Pony Express station every 10 miles from St. Joseph, Missouri and the route passing somewhere near Hiawatha toward the Pony Express Station of Rock Creek Station near Fairbury, Nebraska (a distance of about 100 miles). Could Pony Creek between Padonia and Falls City have been given its name by its relationship to the Pony Express? Wild Bill Hickok (a famous character of the Wild West) at the Rock Creek Station was reported to have shot three men to death in 1861, just 13 years before Henry Biddle arrived. Padonia, Kansas was the site of a bloodless civil war skirmish called the Battle of Padonia. During the Civil War, Confederate Soldiers were captured in the Padonia area and there were problems in the Falls City and Salem area. Lawrence, Kansas of the underground railroad was the site of the Civil War Lawrence Massacre in 1863 where about 200 men and boys were massacre. Padonia is now just little more than a Ghost Town and is on a list of Kansas Ghost Towns.

My Grandmother Mattie Biddle (daughter of Henry Biddle) married Owen Picton who was Welsh. So for that reason, I also go into some Welsh immigration in the web page. Other groups immigrating were Welsh families in about 1867-1868 immigrated to nearby areas in Nebraska such as Rulo, Nebraska, to an area Northeast of the Stella, Nebraska area and to the Padonia, Kansas in 1870's. Additionally, the towns of Rulo and White Cloud are on the Missouri River, were river towns and the nearest stopping points for steamboat traffic. River towns were often considered to be a place of a lot of fights, drunkenness and not a very safe place. Also, White Cloud had an Indian Reservation. I am sure from 1874 to the time of the death of Jesse James in 1882, that Jesse James would go through this area, traveling to do various bank robberies. Some stories on other nearby Welsh immigration and settlements are related below. The Henry Biddle family moved to this area in 1874.

Lewis and Clark Expedition 1804 Notes- as they explored the mouth of the Nemaha River.

(Remember the Nicholas Biddle connection to this Lewis and Clark Journal). The mouth of the Nemaha River is maybe 6 miles from where Henry Biddle settled when he came to Brown County, Kansas about 70 years later. I would guess that all the elk and buffalo had been killed off before Henry Biddle arrived. Roys Creek is a small creek on the lower (South) side referred to by Lewis and Clark and where my Dad, Samuel Picton used to play when he grew up and where he learned to swim. The Padonia to White Cloud Road ran over Roys Creek at the time of Stephen Picton. There are still descendants of Henry Biddle farming near Roys Creek. Notice how Clark describes the land and vegetation in 1804. That describes the vegetation when Henry Biddle arrived and it is still the same now. At the mouth of the Nemaha River, there is Sand Stone cliff and that is the place where Clark says he carved his name and date (his name and date are not known to exist today). At that location on the Missouri River in 1804 the Lewis and Clark Expedition held a court martial for a soldier sleeping on sentry duty and sentenced him to one hundred lashes on his bare back at four different times starting in the evening for four evenings. How punishment has changed.

Lewis sailed the Missouri River with a Sextant just as one would sail the ocean. Clark has two writeup's for each day. The first are his notes and the second is his writeup for the book that was published. You can put in other dates by going to the web site above. July 10, 1804 brings up the a writeup for the day they arrived at what is now the Nebraska - Kansas state line. Other members of the Expedition also have notes. Floyd was the only member of the Expedition to die. He died at what is now Sioux City, Iowa of what is believed was appendicitis.

William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas - published in 1883- Coronado Exploration in 1541 and the search for the Land of Quivera (Mythical Cities of Gold)

Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska - published in 1882- Coronado Exploration in 1541 and the search for Quivera.

'Hail and Wind Storm'

Here is a description of such a 'Hail and Wind Storm' in 1541 by Coronado which could just as easily have happen today: 'One evening, there came up a terrible storm of wind and hail, which left in the camp hailstones so large as porringers and even larger. They fell thick as rain-drops, and in some spots the ground was covered with them to the depth of eight or ten inches. The storm caused, says one, many tears, weakness and vows. The horses broke their reins, some were even blown down the banks of the ravine, the tents were torn, and every dish in camp broken.' In this case, our environment has not changed much in almost 500 years. It is possible that the Henry Biddle family experienced such a storm, but maybe not as bad. My son in 2014 had such a 'Hail and Wind Storm' and the insurance company paid out to him a large amount of money to repair the damage.

Could White Cloud, Kansas really be the location where Coronado visited in 1541 searching for the mythical "Seven Cities of Gold" in the Land of Quivera? The description of the vegetation and land match, but no one knows where it was? The Kansas Nebraska state line is on the fortieth parallel of latitude. Coronado used a sextant and sailed the prairies to what he says was the fortieth parallel of latitude. At another place in Coronado's writeup, he said that he stood on a high hill top and looked down on a very very very great river (Maybe this was looking down from a high bluff on the Missouri River near White Cloud, and where our Nebraska Kansas state line starts). Each person pushes for there own favored location for the Land of Quivera. This search for such a mythical land has been the inspiration for a number of movies and comic books. Some of the farm ground in this area cost $10 an acre in 1870, now may be worth up to nearly $10,000 an acre. Maybe Henry Biddle really found the Land of Quivera.

Other Nearby

History and Immigration Stories


Kansas and Nebraska

Stephen Picton Family Immigration in 1870 from Wales to Padonia, Kansas area- by Mrs. Lewis Morgan, 1957 (revised by Owen Picton)

Padonia Township, Brown County, Kansas at the present time- The founding of Padonia consisted of ten Welsh families.

Read Article on David Evans- He was founder of Padonia

Aerial Map of Padonia area- Henry Biddle farm about 7 miles East of Padonia

Owen Jones- (Go to page 459) Welsh Immigrate to Mission Township, Brown County, Kansas

Thomas Family- Rulo, Nebraska and Kansas Indian Reservations

Experiences in Nebraska Pioneering- Welsh Settlement in Nebraska - by John Lewis, 1937

Saga of John Morgan Lewis- Welsh Settlement in Nebraska - by Joan Lewis Bohrer

Welsh Settlement in Nebraska- Eunice Haskins, Stella Press, 1917

Memories of Sam Picton- (my Father) by Owen Picton

Other Surname Projects - Biddle, Roesch, Schrader and Taylor by Owen Picton

E-Mail to Owen Picton

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Last Modified March 2019

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