Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Two Treasures in One

Today I'm sharing two treasures, The Samuel Justus Trail and glimpses of River Ridge Farm along the way.

Connecting Oil City and Franklin, the Samuel Justus Trail is a 6-mile segment of a 30-mile trail that follows the former Allegheny Valley Railroad. 

In days gone by, the RG and I have ridden this trail several times.

On one of those outings we were sitting on a bench facing the River Ridge Farm when an older gentleman came riding along on his older model Schwinn and stopped to chat.
He was a local and shared his story of the farm during which he pointed out that at the time of the railroad barons and oil boom in this area, a U.S. President would take this side track in his private rail car to visit River Ridge.

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.  
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 Ernesto Louis Grandelis (foreman) and his 75 Italian stone masons in only 7 months.

After the death of Mr. Sibley in 1926, the farm continued to be operated by his two daughters until 1946.  He had no sons.

In 1946, the Sibley's oldest daughter, put the farm up for sale. 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.  

The 33 room mansion, 1,038 acres of land and all of the out buildings were sold 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. 

The chimes in the campanile, bell tower, were sold in 1967 by the White Fathers to the Eglise Notre Dame D'Anjou Church in Montreal Canada

River Ridge was sold to Life Ministries for $150,000 in 1969

side note: The trail runs along the river bank at the base of a mountain. The first time I saw these, I was ready to abandon the excursion.  The RG assured me the bears probably cross the trail to drink from the river and wouldn't get thirsty when the trail was busy. He was right (at least that day :/ ).

Joining Tuesday's Treasures w/Tom


  1. What a great area with a rich history, Gayle. I'm always amazed by what was built in the 1800s. Thanks for sharing this post and I hope to see you again.

    1. I was just peering at the engraved stone over the fence and it appears to be one solid rock. While not unusual for this area of big boulders, it had to take alot of power to get it up there.

  2. So very interesting. I suppose $150,000 was a lot od money in 1969 but it seems to have been a bargain for all those acres and a stone mansion.

  3. What a wonderful piece of history you shared. Very enjoyable,

  4. I loved every word of this great post...thanks for the info

  5. Fascinating story of a building over the centuries. I wonder why the mother didn't want the daughter to take it on.

  6. Interesting. I really like the last picture with the scattered leaves.

  7. me to on leaving the trail after seeing the prints.. it is beautiful and I enjoyed the history of it.. must have been bad blood between them

  8. What an interesting place. Thanks for the info. Your photos are great. I'm so glad that tracks were all you saw!


Thank you for stopping by and sharing my ventures in photos. I look forward to every comment and especially discovering your Blogs with their wonderful photos, conversation and words of wisdom and encouragement.
Each of you are a blessing to my day.