Photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Although Jane Biddle lived in Philadelphia at the time her block was inscribed, Philadelphia is fewer than nine miles from Haddonfield and located just across the Delaware River. We do not know if Jane personally knew Harriet and Abigail, but all three of these women knew the quilt recipient, the quilt maker(s), or both because their names all appeared on the same friendship quilt.
In researching the name Jane Biddle, we discovered that there were several Jane Biddles listed in the 1850 census as living in Philadelphia. (Census data prior to 1850 does not include the names of any members of a household except the heads of household who were predominantly male. The women and children in the household were simply represented by their number, by age group, so earlier census information provides no help.)
The inability to identify which Jane Biddle was the one represented by the inscription on the third bear poses a real problem that one often encounters while researching the names on inscribed quilts. Without further blocks and more names, it is virtually impossible to determine which Jane Biddle was part of the community of friends and relatives represented on the quilt.
Never daunted, however, why let that insurmountable fact get in the way of a good story?! Research into several Jane Biddles did turn up a candidate with a story worth telling, whether she is the one represented by the inscription or not.
This Jane was born in Sadsbury Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania on May 26, 1795 to James (1779-1843) and Lydia Moore Marsh (1772-1850). James was fifteen years old in 1794 when he married Lydia, an "older woman" of twenty-two. Jane was their first child, born the year after their marriage. She was followed over the next seventeen years by six siblings - five sisters and one brother.
On November 1, 1821 at the age of twenty-six, Jane married twenty-two year old Philadelphian John Rowan Biddle at the Sadsbury Monthly Meeting in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Early photograph of Sadsbury Meeting House and cemetery. Source of
John Rowan Biddle was the son of Owen Biddle, Jr. (1774-1806) and Elizabeth Rowan Biddle (died 1832) and a descendant of noteworthy and historic Revolutionary War Quakers who, against the teachings of their faith, supported the American war for independence. These ancestors were his grandfather, Owen Biddle (1737-1799), and his grandfather's brother, Clement Biddle (1740-1814).
Clement and Owen Biddle were partners in the shipping and importing business in Philadelphia and Owen was also a clock and watch maker. Clement Biddle became a Colonel in the Revolutionary War and was a close personal friend of George Washington. He served in many military capacities during the war, earning the title "Quaker Soldier". John's grandfather, Owen Biddle, was also a patriotic supporter of the war. He was active in providing American troops with supplies, a delegate to the Provincial Congress and a member of the Committee of Safety in 1775, a delegate to the Constitutional Congress in 1776, and President of the Board of War in 1777. For his part, he gained a reputation as the "Fighting Quaker".
Both Clement and Owen were disowned by their Philadelphia meeting for their wartime involvement in the revolutionary conflict. Their response to disownment was to join with Samuel Wetherill and other disowned Quaker supporters of the war, including Elizabeth (Betsy) Ross Claypoole, to form their own Philadelphia meeting. The meeting became official with the publication in 1781 of "The Discipline of the Society of Friends, By Some Styled the Free Quakers." A Free Quakers meeting house was built in 1783 on the corner of Arch and Fifth Streets and the meeting continued until 1836 when diminishing membership and shifting interests forced it to shut down.
Sunday Morning in Front of the Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia.
Artist: John Lewis Krimmel (1786-1821). Courtesy of Wikiart.
(This is not the Free Quakers meeting house but rather the meeting house on Arch and Fourth Streets built
in 1803 according to a design by Owen Biddle, Jr., John Rowan Biddle's father. Members of
this meeting included abolitionist Lucretia Mott and the painter Edward Hicks.)
As for descendant John Rowan Biddle and his new wife, Jane, they moved to Philadelphia after their marriage. There they attended the Orthodox Frankford Monthly Meeting until 1829 when both were disowned. They were possibly disowned because they, along with a large number of Frankford Meeting members, joined the followers of Elias Hicks (the Hicksites) after the schism in 1827 that separated the faith into Orthodox and Hicksite factions.
Frankford Monthly Meeting House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photograph
courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Our next glimpse of Jane and John comes from the 1850 census. By this time they had moved from Philadelphia and were residing in Lower Makefield, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. John was fifty years old at the time of the census and Jane was fifty-five. John's occupation is listed as farmer and two people, a male laborer named Thomas Kelsoe and a nineteen year old Irish girl named Fanny Canningham, are living in the Biddle household. No evidence has been found to indicate that Jane and John had any children.
John passed away four years later on October 26, 1854 in Falls Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Six years later, Jane is shown in the 1860 census as living alone in Falls Township. She is listed as a "Lady" and has real estate worth $2,500 and personal property worth $1,500.
Also living in Falls Township at the time of the 1860 census was a man named Benjamin Headley who was living with a woman named Rachel Headley. Rachel, age seventy-four, was eleven years older than Benjamin and may or may not have been his wife. Benjamin was a farmer with considerable wealth, being shown in the census with $16,000 in real estate and a personal worth of $2,500.
Two years later, in 1862, Benjamin Headley married the widow Jane Marsh Biddle. Sometime after their marriage, Benjamin seems to have sold his farm land and they moved to Bristol in Bucks County. The 1870 census shows Benjamin as a "Gentleman" with real estate worth $5,000 and a personal worth of $15,000 (perhaps from selling his farm land). Benjamin was seventy-six at the time of the census and Jane was seventy-four.
Jane lived another ten years. The March 13, 1879 edition of the Bucks County Gazette, page 3, column 5, contained a notice which read: "Died HEADLEY - in Bristol, Pa. on First-day, the 9th inst., Jane, wife of the late Benjamin Headley, in the 84th year of her age."
Schofield Ford Covered Bridge, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. One of the many
extant covered bridges in the county where Jane Biddle lived most of her life.
Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Author: Esrever.
Ancestry.com census, Public Member Trees, and U.S. Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935.
Wetherill, Charles. History of the Religious Society of Friends Called by Some The Free Quakers, in the City of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, printed for the Society, 1894.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2015.