History of Bucks County, Pa Volume 3 by William H. Davis
Names and Page # Index



LUCY WHARTON DREXEL.  On the historic Bristol Pike, in Bensalem township, in a mansion hardly less historic, lives a representative of one of the oldest and most prominent families in Pennsylvania.  Lucy Wharton DREXEL, widow of the prominent banker and philanthropist, Joseph DREXEL.

            Mrs. DREXEL is a descendant of Thomas WHARTON, the first acting executive of the infant commonwealth when she had joined her sister colonies in the effort to throw off the yoke of the mother country.  He was a deputy from Philadelphia to the first provincial convention, July 15, 1774, a member of the committee of safety in 1775 and 1776, and the first “President of the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Captain General and Commander-in-chief in and over the same,” on March 5, 1777.  He was a merchant in Philadelphia, and was a leader in the patriotic cause from the start.  He died at Lancaster, in 1778, while filling the office of chief executive of the state, at the age of forty years.  He married Susannah LLOYD, a descendant of Thomas LLOYD, the first acting provincial Governor of the province of Pennsylvania, by virtue of his office as president of William PENN’S first council, from September, 1684, to February 9, 1688, and was deputy governor under PENN, 1690-1.  A rare distinction in one individual, a lineal descendant of the first executive of the province and of the first executive of the commonwealth, is enjoyed by the subject of this sketch.  Kearney WHARTON, the oldest son of Thomas, and the granfather (sic) of Mrs. DREXEL, was a lawyer, but followed chiefly the business of a merchant in Philadelphia.  He was a member of the council of the city, and its president at one time.  His wife was Maria SALTER, of Tacony, Philadelphia county, whom he married November 11, 1795.  Their children were: Thomas Lloyd; John; Elizabeth, the wife of Thomas MORRIS; George, and James.  Kearney WHARTON died January 4, 1848, at the age of eighty-four years, and his widow survived until 1867, aged ninety-two years.  She was a member of the Society of Friends.  Her family were of the Church of England. 

            Thomas Lloyd WHARTON, the father of Mrs. DREXEL, was born in Philadelphia in 1799, but was reared on a farm near Tacony, where he later became the owner of a fine farm.  He was employed in a bank in  Philadelphia, being prominently connected with the Philadelphia Bank for forty years.  He died in 1869 at the age of seventy years.  His wife was Sarah Howell SMITH, daughter of Richard R. and Sarah (HOWELL) SMITH, by whom he had two children namely; Fanny, born in 1843, wife of Brigadier General Guy V. HENRY, and Lucy WHARTON, the subject of this sketch.  Mrs. WHARTON died in 1846.  Lucy WHARTON was born in 1841.  She was educated at St. Mary’s Hall, Burlington, New Jersey.  In 1865 she married Joseph W. DREXEL, a member of the well known banking firm of DREXEL & Company, of Philadelphia.

            Joseph W. DREXEL was a son of Francis M. DREXEL, a native of Austria, who in early life was an artist and protrait (sic) painter.  He located for a time in South America, where he attracted the attention of General Simon BOLIVAR, the distinguished hero and Patriot of South American Independence, whose portrait he painted. Under the patronage of General BOLIVAR he started the bank in Philadelphia, with money loaned by him.  The venture proved a success from the start, and soon became one of the most prominent banking institutions of the country.  The firm as first organized included Francis M. DREXEL and his son Francis, and soon after its establishment the other two sons, Anthony and Joseph W, became members of the firm.  In 1871 Joseph W. DREXEL went to New York city and established a branch banking house which he conducted for five years, when he retired and devoted the next twelve years to philanthropic schemes for the betterment of the condition of mankind. 

            He organized several plans for the benefit of the poor, and carried them into effect.  One of his successful projects was the incorporation of Klej Grange upon a large tract of land in Maryland, where he induced poor families to settle by keeping them without charge for one year and then selling them the land on easy payments.  He also owned Cedar Hill Farm in New Jersey, where unemployed poor were fed and clothed until employment could be found for them elsewhere.  Many other projects for the employment and improvement of the poor were carried into effect in Philadelphia, New York, and elsewhere.  Mr. DREXEL was a musician of talent, and an eminent patron of the higher arts.  On every Thursday a musical quartet was entertained at his house, and he was president of the Philharmonic Society at the time of his death, as well as a member of several other musical organizations.  He was one of the organizers of and a life member of the Metropolitan Art Museum.  Mr. DREXEL died in 1888.  He left four children:  Katherine, wife of Charles B. PENROSE, of Philadelphia: Lucy, wife of Eric B. DAHLGREN: Elizabeth, wife of John V. DAHLGREN, of New York city; and Josephine, married Dr. John Duncan EMMETT.

            Mrs. Lucy Wharton DREXEL now resides on the old BICKLEY estate known as Pen Ryn.  It is part of a plantation of two hundred and fifty acres purchased in 1744 by Abraham BICKLEY, Sr., a native of Sussex, England, but of Welsh descent.  The plantation on the Delaware river was then known as: Belle Voir,” but its name was changed by Mr. BICKLEY to Pen Ryn, after the home of his ancestors in Wales.  Abraham BICKLEY married a daughter of Robert SHEWELL and sister of Mrs. Benjamin WEST, and settled on the plantation on Bristol Pike.  In 1804 he remodeled the old mansion house by adding the present front to it, and later renewed the back portion. Mr. BICKLEY had six children: Robert Shewell, Abraham, Isaac, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Lydia, all of whom died unmarried, and all with the exception of Abraham, Jr., lie buried in a vault erected on the premises by Mr. BICKLEY.  Robert Shewell BICKLEY resided for the most part in the city of Philadelphia, though he had purchased several tracts of land adjoining Pen Ryn, which, together with his interest in the homestead, he devised at his death to his sisters Elizabeth and Hannah.  Isaac BICKLEY died in 1853 and devised his share in Pen Ryn to his sisters for life, then to his relative Lloyd WHARTON, who took the name of Lloyd Wharton BICKLEY.  The sisters had previously made a deed to Isaac for the land devised by Robert and Pen Ryn, vesting the title in Lloyd Wharton BRICKLEY after the death of Isaac.  After the death of the latter, in 1890, Mrs. Drexel purchased Pen Ryn of Mrs. BICKLEY, and has since that time made it her home. And has enlarged the mansion and made extensive improvements in the surrounding grounds.  The stately old house commands a fine view of the Delaware river and surrounding country.  Mrs. DREXEL usually spends the year at Pen Ryn.  She is a woman of high character, generous and hospitable, and enjoys the esteem and friendship of a very large circle of friends.




Test taken from page 525 to 526 of: 


Davis, William W. H., A.M., History of Bucks County, Pennsylvania [New York-Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905] Volume III

Transcribed August 2005 by Joan Lollis as part of the Bucks Co., Pa., Early Family Project, www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/bucksindex.html

Published August  2005 on the Bucks County, Pa., USGenWeb pages at www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/


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