The following bullets provide a summary of the life of River Ridge Farm.
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The heart of River Ridge Farm was originally the 760 acre Argeon Farm. It was purchased for $1.00 and other considerations by Joseph C. Sibley on Nov. 15, 1911. The original owner was Robert G. Lamberton.
Metta E. Babcock (Sibley's first wife) died of pneumonia on July 26, 1911, before River Ridge was built.
On October 22, 1913, only 6 months after construction began, Sibley moved into his mansion.
All interior and exterior work was completed by Nov. 29, 1913, one day earlier than promised by my wife's grandfather, Ernesto Louis Grandelis (foreman) and his 75 Italian stone masons in only 7 months.
Joseph Sibley's first wife died in 1911, he married his wife's favorite
niece, Ida L. Rew on Saturday, December 6, 1913.
This is the original floor plan of the mansion.
After the death of Mr. Sibley in 1926, the farm continued to be operated by his two daughters (Josephine and Celia Mary) until 1946. He had no sons.
In 1946, the Sibley's oldest daughter Josephine, put the farm up for sale asking $175,000. Josephine's only daughter, Josephine Haskell attempted to stop the sale claiming that she had an oral first option to purchase the farm. However, the mother fought the daughter all the way to the Pennsylvania state supreme court to prevent her from purchasing the farm. A question remains, why would the mother not want the daughter to purchase the farm to keep it in the family? The 33 room mansion, 1,038 acres of land and all of the out buildings were sold by the mother in 1948 for $137,500, without the furnishings, to the Society of Missionaries of Africa, White Fathers, a Catholic missionary organization. The mansion became a seminary, a school for young men preparing for the priesthood. A training program was also established for brothers.
All of the mansion furnishing including the library collection were auctioned off by the family on July 13 - 15, 1948. Many of the furnishings are still in many homes of the Oil City, PA area.
In less that 10 years, the White Fathers quit farming and sold off 940 acres of land and most of the out buildings to the Hammermill Paper Company for $175,000.
The Hammermill Paper Company apparently sold the land to the River Ridge Gravel Co. at some unknown later date.
The chimes in the Bell Tower were sold in 1967 by the White Fathers to the Eglise Notre Dame D'Anjou Church in Montreal Canada.
This the current floor plan of the mansion as it exists in 2008. The White Fathers cut-up much of the 2nd floor level of the mansion to create additional bed rooms.
River Ridge was sold to Life Ministries for $150,000 in 1969. They still own the property in 2012.
As of July 2008 - Most of the open fields below the mansion are now forested. The once beautiful view from the front of the mansion showing the Alleghany River and Reno is now covered with forest. The once beautiful red tile roof of the mansion was replaced with standard shingles by the White Fathers. The mansion is used for retreats only. The Franklin Gate House that the Grandelis family lived in up for sale in 2008. The farm house (the original Lamberton brick house by the barn) is empty and has been since 2001. Doc Woods, who lived in the red brick home, passed away in 2003 and the house is empty as well. The Featherstone Cottage (the pumpers house) was sold to an insurance man from Erie in 2006. They are living in the house full time. It was for sale in 2008 for $159,000. The Gardener's cottage is currently being lived in. A few additional modern buildings have been built on the farm. These consist of two modular homes and a log cabin positioned just south-east of the mansion. A large storage building has been built just west of the mansion.
As of 2013 - The Franklin Gate House is occupied. The owner of the Gardener's home owns 10 acres of the farm. They just spent $40,000 putting in fencing and a barn for horses so they intend to live there a long time.
Featherstone Cottage is
owned by a gentleman from Cleveland who uses it as a weekend retreat and
hunting cabin. There's also two acres smack dab in the middle of the
farm that are owned by a family that hunts out here.
The bulk of River Ridge is owned by River Ridge Development Corporation and Larry Price would still be the contact, but to my knowledge, its not for sale. Larry is a part owner of River Ridge (Larry is the ex-husband of one of Doc Woods' daughter and retained ownership shares in River Ridge Development). I think he's a realtor for Howard Hanna. I believe they own 1200 acres of the original River Ridge farm.
Glenn Cheers (another son-in-law of Doc Woods) is operating the gas leases, along with his grandson. They have three full time employees here and are still taking quite a bit of oil and natural gas out of here. They are currently operating 125 wells. Someone from Marcellus Shale had been in contact with them but I don't think they were interested; or no traction was made on it.
A Dream Unfulfilled
The following newspaper articles from the August 22, 1987 and Aug. 26, 1987 News-Herald explain the grand plans for an 18 hole golf course and winter sports complex that was to be built by the River Ridge Development Company. What happened I do not know, but apparently the team ran out of money. If anyone knows the details, please let me know and I will add the explanation to this page.
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A News-Herald editorial about the golf course printed on Aug. 26, 1987.
A letter to the editor from my wife's cousin concerning River Ridge.