The following page presents various biographies and newspaper articles found about Joseph C. Sibley. For a more complete reading about Joseph Sibley’s life and the farm, I recommend the book “Destiny’s Gentleman” by Jack Mays which may be purchased from the Oil City Arts Council.
To access an online Sibley family Tree, click here.
To view the Sibley family plot located at the Franklin Cemetery, Franklin, PA, click here.
- Joseph Crocker Sibley – Was the son of Joseph C. Sibley (b.1820) and mother Elvira (b.1825). Joseph was born in Friendship, Allegany county, New York on Feb. 18, 1850, and died at the River Ridge Mansion of old age on May 19, 1926. Joseph had at least three siblings, Adelaide (b. 1847), Henry E. (b. 1857) and Mary E. Sibley (b.1864).
- He married Metta Evalina Babcock on Mar. 17, 1870. She was born Nov. 28, 1853 in New York, and died Jul. 26, 1911 in Franklin, PA of pneumonia before River Ridge was built.
- Joseph and Metta Sibley had two girls Josephine and Celia Mary Sibley. Josephine was born Jan. 16, 1873* in Friendship, New York and died Mar. 1951*. Celia Mary Sibley was born in Franklin, PA on Sept. 19, 1874 and died on Dec. 19, 1944.
- Celia Mary Sibley married William Mc Calmont Wilson Jun. 5, 1901 in Franklin, Venango Co, PA, son of Alexander Mc Calmont Wilson and Mary McBride. He was born Nov. 15, 1870 in Berwyn, Chester Co, PA, and died Aug. 24, 1917. They had no children.
- Josephine Sibley married William Emerson Heathcote Mar. 17, 1897 in Franklin, Venango Co, PA. He died Apr. 16, 1929. To date I have only found one child born to them, namely Josephine Mercy Heathcote.
- Josephine Mercy Heathcote was born Jan. 11, 1898, and died Sep. 11, 1982 in New York City, NY. She married Broderick Haskell of Franklin, PA. They apparently had no children. (See the newspaper article below.) Note Aug 1, 2019: Josephine Heathcote Haskell outlived her three brothers and one sister and any of their descendants and so, was the last Sibley heir.
- When Joseph Sibley’s first wife died in 1911, he married his wife’s favorite niece, Ida L. Rew on Saturday, December 6, 1913 (See the newspaper article below). He was 63 and she was 38 years old. He was 25 years older than his bride. They had no children. Ida was born Feb. 1875 and died July 1957.
* = Birth/Death dates from their Franklin Cemetery, Franklin, PA tombstones.
JOSEPH CROCKER SIBLEY, the second child and eldest son of Doctor Joseph Crocker and Lucy Elvira (Babcock) Sibley , both of Puritan ancestry, was born at Friendship, Allegany county, New York, February 18, 1850. In 1866, upon the death of his father, he gave up, on account of limited means, a course in college for which he was about prepared, and came to Franklin and began clerking in the dry goods store of his brother-in-law, Charles Miller. From that time the business interests of Messrs. Miller and Sibley have been closely allied. In 1870 Mr. Sibley married Metta Evalina Babcock, youngest child of Simon Milton and Celia (Kellogg) Babcock, of Friendship, New York. Their two children are Josephine and Celia Mary. After the closing out of the dry goods store Mr. Sibley was agent for the Galena Oil Works at Chicago for about two years, and during the great fire lost all his effects and came near losing his life.
The beginning of his business prosperity may be said to date from 1873, when he returned to Franklin, and after many experiments succeeded in making a signal oil superior to those previously in use in quality of light, safety, and cold test. The Signal Oil Works, Limited, was organized with Mr. Sibley as president, and the proprietors of the Galena Oil Works, Limited, whose plant was used for the manufactory, as partners. A few years later Mr. Sibley compounded a valve oil for locomotives, which was more economical and free from all the bad effects of the animal oils that had hitherto been in use. This oil has been introduced on three-fourths of the railway mileage of the United States.
His purchase of St. Bel and other animals that afterward became noted is mentioned in the article on Prospect Hill Stock Farm. His judgment in regard to live stock has been many times strikingly confirmed, and he is now generally considered one of the best judges of horses and Jersey cattle in the United States. For several years prior to 1889 he was one of the leading members of the Venango County Agricultural Society, and its yearly fairs, which rivaled in excellence the state fair, owed no little of their success to his plans, and the loose purse strings of himself and Major Miller.
After the burning of the Hanna block, there being no place in Franklin suitable for concerts, operas, or theatrical representations, Mr. Sibley drew up a subscription list and himself and Major Miller having headed the list called on the leading citizens and in one or two days enlisted sufficient capital to erect the tasty and commodious opera house building that is now such a credit to the city.
The large pipe organ in the First Baptist church of Franklin, of which he is a member, was the gift of himself and Major Miller, and they also bear the entire expense of the music, which is said to compare favorably with that of any other church choir of equal numbers in the country. The only church services in the Third ward are supported by these same gentlemen.
Prior to the Blaine campaign Mr. Sibley was an ardent Republican and made many speeches in behalf of that party. Since that time he has voted with and spoken for the Prohibition party, whose principal object, the suppression of the liquor traffic, he heartily indorses. Although a member of the class principally benefited by the high tariff laws, a careful study of the question has led him to believe that such legislation is unwise and unjust, taxing all for the benefit of a few, and on several public occasions he has earnestly stated his views and given many illustrations in support of them. His sympathies have always been with the laboring classes. He was elected mayor of Franklin in his twenty-ninth year on the issue of public improvements, but has never since been a candidate for any political office.
Mr. Sibley is president of the Pennsylvania State Dairymen’s Association, vice-president of the National Half-Mile Track Association, a director and member of the executive committee of the National Association of Trotting Horse Breeders, and a member of the State Board of Agriculture. He has twice been a director of the American Jersey Cattle Club and is the author of some of its most important measures. Besides the business interests already referred to, he is president of the Franklin Opera House Company and a director in the Railway Speed Recorder Company, and the First National Bank of Franklin. He has made several contributions to live stock literature. An address on the Jersey cow, and an article comparing George Wilkes and Electioneer as trotting sires excited wide comment and have been many times reprinted.
Joseph Crocker Sibley (February 18, 1850 – May 19, 1926) was a U.S. Representative from the state of Pennsylvania.
Joseph C. Sibley was born in Friendship, New York. In 1859 he moved with his parents to Boston, New York. He attended the county schools and the local academies at Springville and Friendship. He taught school and studied medicine. He was engaged in the oil-refining business in Franklin, Pennsylvania as co-founder (with his brother-in-law Charles Miller) of the Galena Oil Company, specializing in high-quality railroad lubricant. Sibley actually landed that contract on an ill-fated trip to Chicago for a meeting with the major railroad barons of the day– he won the contract, but woke up the next day to find himself in the middle of the Great Chicago Fire. Galena was soon to be one of the early acquisitions for John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company. With his money, Sibley established himself in agricultural circles, particularly as a breeder of fine horses. His wealth also enabled him to launch a political career. He was mayor of Franklin, Pennsylvania, in 1879.
Sibley was elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-third Congress. He was unsuccessful candidate of the Democratic and Populist Parties for reelection in 1894 and for election in 1896. He was elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-sixth Congress. He was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-seventh, Fifty-eighth, and Fifty-ninth Congresses. He served as chairman of the United States House Committee on Manufactures during the Fifty-eighth and Fifty-ninth Congresses. He declined re-nomination in 1906. He was nominated for Congress in 1910, but declined to make the campaign because of ill health. He served as chairman of the Republican State convention in 1902. He resumed his former manufacturing and agricultural pursuits, and died at his home, “River Ridge Farm,” near Franklin, Pennsylvania, in 1926. Interment in Franklin Cemetery.
Just upriver from Franklin you can easily see the Joseph Sibley mansion, River Ridge, situated on a hill and looking back down on the valley and across the river to Route 8. Sibley made a fortune as a young man in partnership with Franklin resident, Charles Miller. Sibley and Miller were the two principals who created and organized the Galena-Signal Oil company, a refining company specializing in lubricants and kerosene lamp oil for the railroad market. The company early on became a subsidiary of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. In the 1890’s and the first decade of the 1900’s, Sibley was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for five terms. President McKinley, the Speaker Of the U.S. House of Representatives, Standard Oil’s John D. Rockefeller were all his close friends and were entertained by him in his original residence on Elk Street at 12th in Franklin or at his vacation home on Lake Champlain. [Note by William Passauer: The current location of J. Sibley’s first home is on the corner of 12th and Otter Streets in Franklin, PA] President McKinley was traveling in 1901 with Joseph Sibley in Sibley’s private rail car when the President was assassinated in Buffalo. Sibley built River Ridge in 1913 after the death of his first wife. The River Ridge estate grounds were operated as an experimental farm.