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05/19/2021 12:01 AM
Pennsylvania State Senate

Jacob Elwood Ridgway



Session Position District Party
1863 1 Republican
1865 2 Republican
 Counties   Philadelphia


1824 - 1911

Born in Philadelphia, August 19, 1824, the son of Richard Ridgway, Jacob received his education in Quaker Schools, pursued the carpentry business, and emerged as a shrewd real estate investor, contractor, and builder.  A millionaire at 23, he built Philadelphia houses at the rate of 100 per year, eventually becoming one of the wealthiest investor-financiers in Pennsylvania.  He entered the shipping business in 1853, christening his 291-ton namesake, the iron-hull, trans-Atlantic schooner “Jacob E. Ridgway” in 1871, at Nyack, New York.  While Ridgway’s fleet became one of the largest in the country, fortunes did not smile for the “Jacob E. Ridgway,” lost in a hurricane east of the Bahamas during a Peruvian voyage, September 1880.  He entered politics in 1855 as a city councilman; reelected, 1856 and 1857; elected as a Curtin-McClure Republican to the state House, 1859-1861; and state Senate, 1862-1868.  Between House and Senate terms, he raised the Ridgway Guard, the company mustering in with Jacob as Captain, August 5, 1862, Co I, 119th Regt. – three year service.  He resigned via executive special order after the Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 1862, when Philadelphians elected him to the Senate.  As “an uncompromising patriot” in the upper house, Ridgway chaired the Railroad and Corporations committees.  After his legislative career, he purchased the Smith’s Island resort property in 1879; owned five farms in Burlington, N.J.; organized the Redstone Oil, Coke, and Coal Co.; the Ridgway-Bishop Coal Co.; was a major shareholder of the United Firemen’s Insurance Co.; owned silver mines and a stamp mill in Mexico, and a gold mine in South Carolina.  Ridgway organized and became president of the Quaker City National Bank.  He married Sarah Shreve of Burlington N.J. in 1848; and, second, Barb A. Kuhlmeyer, 1894, after the death of his first wife.  Captain Ridgway passed away on September 9, 1911.
(Portrait and Biography) Encyclopedia of American Biography, 1895   Note, the date given for Ridgway’s death is from the Civil War pension file, NARA; also: “Ridgway” or “Ridgeway” are both common spellings of the surname.