Dates of Birth and Death
William Biddle, the second son of an illiterate farmer in rural England, was sent to London as an apprentice to learn to be a shoe maker. He found himself in the midst of a group of people who were among the earliest Quakers in London. He soon became a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and he experienced the persecution of the Anglican government, serving time in jail for standing firm on his beliefs. He married Sarah Kempe, and they began to raise their family in London as a part of the growing Quaker movement there.
The Quakers kept meticulous records in London and in West New Jersey where William and Sarah eventually settled in 1681. The couple was part of the group in England who planned to settle a new territory in America, with a new constitution that would give them the ability to own land, to form a government and practice their religion all without fear of arrest or injury. For years members of this Quaker group emigrated from London to Burlington, in West Jersey.
William and Sarah were members of the group and along with their young family emigrated to Burlington. From the very beginning of his life in America, William played a leadership role in the government, the court system, in the matters concerning the settling of land and in his Quaker religion. The records for each of these areas confirm the important contributions that William and Sarah made to their new country.
The couple had two children: William who married Lydia Wardell and Sarah who married Clement Plumstead of Philadelphia. Lydia was a descendant of Eliakim Wardell and Lydia Perkins who both fled Massachusetts having been persecuted because they were Quakers. Lydia had been whipped over a dozen times. They settled in Shrewsbury, New Jersey and established the first meeting house by Quakers from Massachusetts in 1666. The Wardell family that remained in MA was physically harmed and Eliakim's Uncle Samuel was hung. William Biddle's second child Sarah married Clement Plumstead who became Mayor of Philadelphia. Among the guests at their wedding was William Penn Jr , , who grew up right across the river from William Biddle's Mount Hope Estate.
William Biddle & Sarah Kempe's grandchildren were William, Elizabeth, Sarah, Penelope, Lydia, Joseph and John. William and John Biddle removed to Philadelphia in the 1720s. Their brother Joseph Biddle remained in Burlington County and his son Arney settled in Salem County, New Jersey where many of his descendants reside today.
William & Sarah Biddle 1633-1711: Planting a Seed of Democracy in America. Publisher C. Miller Biddle M.D., P.O. Box 714 Moorestown, N.J. 08057. Hardcover, 408 pages, indexed, with illustrations. (2011)