Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens
Lawrence County Pennsylvania 1897


[p. 194] cashier of the W. N. Y. & P. R. R. at New Castle, and a representative of one of the first families of the county and city, residing on the old family homestead, No. 155 West Washington Street, New Castle, was born in the house in which he lives, April 17, 1867. He was reared in his native place, and his common school education was followed up with a one year's course at the Geneva College of Beaver Falls, Pa. Upon completing his education at the latter institution, at the age of nineteen, he entered the employ of the Pennsylvania R. R. in the warehouse, and within six months was promoted to a clerkship, which he filled for some five years. After resigning his clerkship, he went into business with Mr Marquis, under the firm name of Marquis & Sankey, but the partnership was only continued six months, for Mr. Sankey became dissatisfied, and sold out to his partner to accept the position of traveling salesman for C. J. Kirk, a dealer in hardware, in whose employ he continued about one year. On his return from a pleasure trip to Denver, he again accepted a position with the Pennsylvania R. R. as transfer agent at Lawrence Junction, and remained with the company two years, when he became, in August, 1895, cashier for the W. N. Y. & P. R. R., a position he is now filling efficiently in his wide-awake, energetic manner. Mr. Sankey was married in Wheeling, West Virginia, Feb. 17, 1893, to Mrs. Tillie Wiggins, daughter of Samuel Smith. Mr. Sankey is a member of the Presbyterian Church, while his wife unites with the Baptist Church. In politics, he is a Republican, and has served three years as councilman and also as director of schools in West New Castle. Socially he is a member of the following organizations: Improved Order Red Men, Erie Tribe, No. 252; Fidelis Lodge, No. 460, Knights of Pythias; and Uniformed Rank, No. 36.

The first member of the Sankey family to become a resident of Lawrence County, was Major Ezekiel Sankey, Sr., a native of Lewiston, Mifflin Co., Pa., where he was born in the year 1772. The ancestors were of English stock, emigrating from Warrington, Lancashire Co., to America in early colonial times, and settling in the Kishacoquillas Valley in Mifflin County. The father dying in 1794, Ezekiel and his mother, executors of the father's will, soon after moved to Center County, to a place called Potter's Mills, where they resided a short time before going to the Chartiers Valley in Washington County, where Ezekiel bought a farm, and resided until 1800, at which time he changed his residence to Mercer County, where he settled at the mouth of a stream, now known as Sankey's Run, within the present limits of Union township, and he was undoubtedly the first white settler within the present boundaries of that township. Ezekiel Sankey, Sr, was the first sheriff elected by the people of Mercer County, William Byers having served by appointment in 1803. He was major of one of the Pennsylvania militia regiments during the period of the War of 1812, and was one of two from the whole regiment who would volunteer to go outside of the State and serve. Major Sankey and William Sheriff proceeded to the front, where our subject's grandfather was appointed to a position in the commissary department of Gen. Cook's Brigade, which was organized at Pittsburg. Joining this organization at Mansfield, Ohio, they proceeded as far west as the Rapids of the Maumee River, where Fort Meigs was afterward located. Remaining at that point through the winter of 1812-13, he returned home in the following spring, but was taken sick at Mercer from the effects of cold and exposure, and was brought home from there, but lingered but a few months, dying July 13, 1813. He married Jane Cubbison, who was born in County Downs, Ireland, in December, 1767. Mr. Sankey was a member of the United Presbyterian Church.

Of a family of six sons and three daughters, born to the foregoing, Ezekiel Sankey was the seventh in order of birth. He was born on the family farm at Western Reserve Basin in Union township, Oct. 3, 1807, and was but six years of age at his father's death, with a brother and sister still younger. With a family of small children, dependent upon her efforts, Mrs. Sankey could give them but meager educational advantages, and how little education they did acquire we will leave to the reader's imagination, with the remark that the very best that could be obtained in this section of the country then would be considered very poor to-day. Most of his life was spent on the farm until he was nineteen years of age, when he learned the shoemaker's trade, and followed it five years. He then drove stock a few years for a leading drover of New Castle, at last carrying on the business on his own responsibility, driving his stock across the mountains to the terminus of the nearest railroad, and shipping them from there by rail to Philadelphia. He was also engaged for a time in boating between New Castle and Beaver, commanding the Alpha, which was the first boat to make the trip between the two cities. In 1835, he built the first warehouse in New Castle, and in the same year was elected major of a volunteer battalion of Mercer County militia, and held his commission for seven years. For a long period, Mr. Sankey was engaged in railroad building, executing important contracts with the N. Y. & E. R. R., Pennsylvania R. R., the B. & O. R. R., and the Sandusky and Beaver Canal in Ohio. He was a prominent promoter of the Pittsburg & Erie R. R., and for the rest of his life was employed in some capacity on the railroads of Western Pennsylvania. He was at times engaged in mercantile pursuits in New Castle, and for a time was the proprietor of the old Mansion House, that once stood on the southwest corner of Mercer and Washington Streets, the present location of the Leslie House. In the early records of New Castle, during the prime of his life, there is no name that stands out so prominent as an interested party in every enterprise that was for the progress, upbuilding and future development of his favorite city. Financial and political plans, as well as social and charitable, all claimed a part of his time and attention, and to every worthy project he gave liberally of his means. In 1838, he was instrumental in establishing the New Castle Female Seminary. It was through his influence to a large degree that Lawrence County was organized in 1849. His efforts and labors with members of the Legislature in securing the passage of the bill which would set off part of Beaver and Mercer Counties and form territory to be organized as a new county, were in the face of the strongest opposition, and proved that in the Legislative lobby he was no mean advocate; this convincing, winning power that he possessed was brought into use many times during the rest of his long and singularly active career. Among the many measures secured mainly by his efforts were the bills to incorporate the New Castle Gas Light Co., the New Castle Opera House Co., and the Bank of New Castle, in all of which companies he was a heavy stockholder. During the war he was active in the engineering department, gladly giving his services wherever he could. Being past the age limit for enlistment, he employed his energies in repairing railroads destroyed by the Confederates, and in destroying railroads over which the rebels received supplies. His talents and energies in this line won for him merited distinction. He was a man of remarkably fine and commanding appearance one of nature's noblemen, born to lead in the battles of life, and to be the instrument of much practical good.

His first marriage occurred Feb. 9, 1832, with Sarah S. Jones, daughter of Isaac O. Jones of New Castle, and of this union ten children were born to him, as follows: Minerva S.; Charles C.; Eben B.; Laura E., who married William McDonald; Rebecca E., who married Thomas H. Falls; Henry C.; James P.; William J.; and Lawrence and Kate, twins. On Oct. I5, 1862, after the death of his first wife, he married Rhoda Ann, widow of Bethuel Beeman of Youngstown, Ohio, daughter of Jacob Powers of Trumbull Co., Ohio. This second union resulted in the birth of two children: Jacob Powers of Cleveland, Ohio, and Clinton E., our subject.

Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens Lawrence County Pennsylvania
Biographical Publishing Company, Buffalo, N.Y., 1897

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Updated: 9 May 2001