Foxburg History

George Fox -Ancestor to the Philadelphia Fox Family and founder of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers.

George Fox – One of the ancestors to the Philadelphia Fox Family and founder of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers.

The first inhabitants of European descent to settle in the area was the Fox family of Philadelphia. These original owners were descendants of George Fox, the founder of the Quaker religion.  His grandsons, Samuel Mickle Fox and George Fox, along with brothers-in-law Joseph Paker Norris and George Roberts, bought what amounted to 6,600 acres in 1796 from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  This area was located between the Clarion and Allegheny Rivers and later was known as the Fox Farm.  It was Samuel’s son, Joseph Mickle Fox, a practicing lawyer, who purchased 1800 acres from his fathers estate after his fathers death.  Joseph had already married Hannah Emlen and was ready settle down  on the property where he had spent many summer vacations during his childhood.


The original Fox Farm, now known as RiverStone Farm.

As time went on, the Foxes added to their estate a carriage house, designed by nationally renowned Franklin Heyling Furness in 1876.  A greenhouse was also built and designed during that time by Lord and Burnham, a company known for building public conservatories such as the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh.  Both restored structures can be found on the property today.  Stables, barns, an ice house, and even a play house in the form of a log cabin for the Fox children had been part of the Fox farm at one time.  In 1910 the Foxes had built a long, two story dairy barn that formed the letter “H”.  With pink-colored stucco finish and gable style roofs, these “H” barns were historically significant in that they later housed some of the first Guernsey dairy cows in United States.  The Fox farm also had one of the first arboretums in Pennsylvania with every known native species of tree of the commonwealth planted there.

The original “H” barns.

While the rivers allowed for the transportation of raw materials up and down the river with productive iron furnaces sporadically tucked in along the banks, farming and timbering on the estate maintained a steady profit for the Foxes for many  decades.  With the oil rush arriving in the 1860’s, many a prospector became baron in short notice, including the Foxes.  As more people started to settle in the area, Joseph Mickle Fox decided to establish a town on the banks of the Allegheny River of which he named “Foxburg” in 1870. This small village quickly grew with the addition of two rail lines, the north-south travelling Pennsylvania Railroad and the east-west travelling B & O Railroad. It was the Baltimore and Ohio railroad that made the town somewhat of an attraction when a double-decker railroad bridge was built across the Allegheny River at Foxburg with its trains passing over the pedestrian traffic that crossed on the deck below. Though the railroad stopped using this bridge in 1964, it lasted up until 2008 when it was finally demolished and replaced by a single tier, two lane bridge.  The Railroad also incorporated a small engineering marvel in constructing a “switch-back” to help it’s trains navigate the surrounding ridge above Foxburg.  Both rails added to the popularity of Foxburg through transportation and commerce, especially from the 1860’s to the 1880’s when the oil boom swept the area.  Although the bridge and rails are long gone, evidence of their existence can still be seen in the area with a keen eye.

B & O train crossing over the Foxburg Bridge right before the beginning of a switch back.

A Baltimore and Ohio train crossing over the Foxburg Bridge after its descent from the switch back.

Other Foxburg attractions still grace the area such as the Episcopal Memorial Church of Our Father, The Hannah Memorial Library, and the Foxburg Golf Club – all testaments to the dedication of Fox family to the community.  The Episcopal Church, built by the Fox Family in 1881 and dedicated in 1882, was an architectural design based on a gothic church Hannah Fox had seen during a visit to England.  Like the Fox mansion, all stone used for construction came from surrounding hillside quarries. A painting above the alter depicting the “Angel of the Resurrection” was created by the famed artist, Edwin H. Blashfield. The church courtyard cemetery still contains the burial plots of several Fox family members.

Inside the Episcopal Memorial Church of our Father.

Inside the Episcopal Memorial Church of our Father.

The Episcopal Memorial Church of our Father.


The original Hannah Fox Memorial Library – now called Foxburg Free Library




Dedicated in 1910, The Hannah Fox Memorial Library became a cultural meeting place for those in the community looking to enhance their knowledge as well as enjoy concerts, plays, and lectures, which still place to this day. The library today is now known as the Foxburg Free Library.

Joseph Mickle Fox

Joseph Mickle Fox

One of the first golf courses in the United States was built in Foxburg with  the efforts of Joseph Mickle Fox in 1884 after discovering the game during a trip to play a cricket match in Scotland. On his return, Joseph had a five hole course built on the family farm, but after seeing its huge success, it was then moved to its present nine-hole site in 1887, thus establishing the Foxburg Golf Club. This golf course is now recognized as the oldest continuously-operated golf course in the U.S., which also houses many antique golf memorabilia.

By 1964 and nearly 170 years, the Fox era was over and the Fox Estate then passed through several hands until 1996 when Dr. Arthur and Patricia Steffee purchased the property.  The Steffee’s went on to restore the remaining buildings on the property as well as construct additional barns, dwellings, and numerous outbuildings, a total of 26 in all.  The restoration process took many years of painstakingly meticulous work by dozens of skilled craftsman and laborers.  The restoration of the original mansion alone took over two years and included the addition of an award-winning conservatory, a observatory cupola, a porte-cochere, a hunting/fishing room, an English-style pub in the basement with attached wine cellar and a spectacular 4-story, spiral staircase spanning from cupola to ground floor.  In addition to the phenomenal architecture and stone/wood craftsmanship, the art décor creates a breathtaking tour for anyone who gets the rare chance to visit this historical landmark.

The completed mansion.

The completed mansion.

The historical Fox mansion during restoration.