Biography of Sidney O. Bigney
Bristol County, MA Biographies

SIDNEY OSBORNE BIGNEY is the son of James and Sarah Jane (Black) Bigney and a grandson of Peter Bigney, and was born in Wentworth, Cumberland county, Nova Scotia, November 4, 1854. On the paternal side he comes from old historic and distinguished ancestry, being a lineal descendant of Theodore Agrippa d'Aubigne, an eminent author and a brave and dashing soldier, who sided with the Huguenots in the religious wars of France, and who, after the capitulation of Rochelle, entered the service of Henry IV of Navarre, who bestowed upon him many high honors; he spent the latter part of his life in Switzerland in active support of the Protestant cause, and left many valuable works, including a universal history. Among the conspicuous members of this noted family who are closely related to Mr. Bigney are Jean Louis Villain d'Aubigne, statesman; Pierre d'Aubigne, the French miniature painter; Madam d'Aubigne (Amelia Dautel), the eminent portrait painter; Gaces de Ia Bigne, the poet; Margerin de la Bigne, writer, theologian, dean of the Church of Mans, and doctor of the Sorbonne; Charles Francois dAnbigne, the French engraver and painter and pupil of Edmé d'Aubigne; Mark F. Bigney, born in 1814, poet and formerly managing editor of the New Orleans Times; Dr. P. M. Bigney, of Cincinnati, a war veteran of 1862; and Major Thomas Oozsley Bigney, a Coloradan historian and poet, who distinguished himself in the Civil war, and who is a cousin of the subject of this sketch. Charles Francois d'Aubigne, previously mentioned, was associated with the famous Fontainebleau group of painters and belonged to a coterie of great masters of landscape painting. Jean Henri Merle d'Aubigne, D. D.,was another noted member of this family, being an eminent Swiss divine, and ecclesiastical historian. He received the degree of D.C. L. from Oxford, was appointed court preacher at Brussels in 1823, and after the revolution of 1830 declined the post of tutor to the Prince of Orange, but became professor of church history at Geneva in 1831 and filled that chair in the theological seminary until his death. His works of world-wide reputation are "Histoire de Ia Reformation an Siezieme Siecle, 1735-53"; "Germany, Scotland, and a Vindication of Cromwell," 1848; "Trois Siecles de Lutte en Ecosse," 1849; and "Histoire de la Reformation en Europe an temps de Calvin," 1862-78.

On his mother's side Mr. Bigney is of Scotch ancestry, being a lineal descendant of Adam and Charles Black, of Edinburgh, who are well known in connection with Sir Walter Scott's works. The first of the name to settle in Massachusetts were John Black, who was admitted a freeman in 1632, Richard Black in 1637, and Henry Black in 1645. The founder of his mother's family in America was William Black, who was born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1727, emigrated to Haddersfield, England, and came thence in 1774 to Nova Scotia, where he settled on a farm near the town of Amherst, which is still occupied by some of his descendants. Mr. Bigney is a cousin of Senator William R. Black, of Taunton, Mass., a captain and veteran of the War of the Rebellion, and of Charles Allan Black, M. D., of Amherst, Nova Scotia, who was born in Salem, Cumberland county, Nova Scotia, August 23, 1844. Among others with whom he is closely related are Dr. Joseph Black, the celebrated chemist, who succeeded Cullen in the cLair of chemistry at Edinburgh University; William Black, the noted English novelist, author of "Madcap Violet," "Macleod of Dare," "White Wings," etc.; James Black, of Lewisburg, Pa., a nominee for president of the United States in 1872; Jeremiah Sullivan Black, the eminent jurist, United States attorney general under Buchanan in 1857, and secretary of state in 1860, who exerted himself to prevent the government from falling into the hands of the secessionists; William Black, the Wesleyan divine, who founded the Wesleyan Church in Nova Scotia and became general superintendent of Wesleyan missions in British America; John C. Black, soldier and commissioner of pensions; Rev. John Black, father of John C., a Presbyterian minister of Scotch Irish extraction; and John Fisher Black, of New Orleans, of Scotch and English ancestry. Through his paternal grandmother Mr. Bigney is descended from the Leslie family, the original progenitor of which was a Hungarian knight named Bartholomew, who appeared in Scotland in 1667, during the reign of Malcolm Caenmore.

Mr. Bigney's father and grandfather were both respected farmers in Cumberland county, Nova Scotia, and, anglicizing the name, followed its present spelling. James Bigney, the father, was born in 1809 and died in 1871. He was a devout Christian, noted for his benevolence and generous hospitality, and enjoyed the respect and confidence of all his neighbors.

Sidney Osborne Bigney was educated in the schools of his native town. At the age of eighteen, prompted by an ambitious nature, he determined to seek a wider field of usefulness, and coming to North Attleborough, Mass., he entered the employ of Draper, Pate & Bailey, which subsequently became F. S. Draper & Co. There he mastered the trade of stamping and tool making, remaining eight years. Under the most experienced workmen he acquired a thorough and practical knowledge of the business. In December, 1879, with Charles A. Marsh, he formed the firm of Marsh & Bigney and began manufacturing jewelry at North Attleborough in the Stephen Richardson building, which, eighteen months later, was completely destroyed by fire. Undaunted by this disaster they immediately secured a shop in the Robinson building at East Attleborough, and with new samples were in the market on the opening of the season's trade. From the first they displayed that foresight, energy and business capacity which laid the foundation of their subsequent success. In July, 1894, Mr. Bigney purchased his partner's interest and has ever since conducted the business under the style of S. 0. Bigney & Co., he being the sole owner. The particular branch of the industry which commands his attention is the manufacture of ladies' and gentlemen's high-grade rolled-plate, gold-filled, and gold chains, embracing a large and complete line of original designs in guard chains, neck chains, gentlemen's vest chains, silk fobs, charms, etc., with dainty trimmings. These products have materially aided and made possible the proud position of Massachusetts and Rhode Island as the leading States in the Union in the manufacture of high grade chains. The unique trade mark of the firm is a horseshoe with Mr. Bigney's initial B entwined, the whole being inclosed in a triangle, and is emblematical of that good fortune which has attended his fair dealings and business methods. It is so well known by all jobbers in the jewelry trade that it bespeaks a sufficient guaranty for the excellent quality of the goods. On May 18, 1898, the large and commodious manufactory on the corner of Union and Mill streets, Attleborough, was totally destroyed by fire, and in the incredibly short time of fifteen days Mr. Bigney established, in the Manufacturers' building in Providence, R. I., a most conveniently arranged and modern factory, covering between 5,000 and 6,000 square feet of floor space, fully equipped with the latest improved machinery and appliances, and employing a full for3e of skilled operatives. He was the first of the several manufacturers to re establish business after that disastrous conflagration in Attleborough, a fact that speaks eloquently of his indomitable energy, enterprise and courage, and which abundantly demonstrates his wonderful business ability and executive management.

Mr. Bigney has been actively and prominently identified with the growth of the town of Attleborough for more than twenty years, being one of its most loyal and patriotic citizens and public spirited men. He was a founder and is now president of the Attleborough Co operative Bank, is president of the Manufacturers' Agricultural Association and of the Odd Fellows Building Association, and was chairman of a committee to organize a board of trade. During the tariff agitation in 1897 he was chosen by his business contemporaries as chairman of the tariff committee of prominent Attleborough and Providence jewelers, who successfully prepared explanations of the classifications of jewelry under the Dingley law and rendered a universal service by securing an increase of the tariff rate from 35 to 60 per cent., and also valuable assistance to the New York custom house appraisers in regard to certain importations of jewelry. Much of this was the result of Mr. Bigney's personal, untiring efforts, and won for him the gratitude of jewelry manufacturers and dealers everywhere. Mr. Bigney is a staunch Republican and has repeatedly declined to become a candidate for election to the Massachusetts Legislature, though frequently urged to accept the honor. Arduous and pressing demands of business have kept him from entering the political arena. He is, however, intensely patriotic, progressive, and enterprising, and active in several fraternal organizations, holding membership in Orient Lodge and the Encampment of the I.O.O.F. of Attleborough and the rank of colonel in the military division of the Knights of Pythias. He has passed through all the chairs in Pythagorus Lodge, K. of P., and is a member of the Grand Lodge. He is an ardent admirer of nature and of horses, sympathetic and kind hearted, responding promptly to the calls of distress and injustice, and liberally encouraging every commendable enterprise. As chairman of the literary committee of Attleborough's Fourth of July celebration in 1888 he made, prior to the introduction of Prof. Alonzo Williams, of Brown University, as orator of the day, an interesting and thrilling speech, which stamps him as a public speaker of no mean ability.

Mr. Bigney was married, June 17, 1876, to Miss Henrietta, adopted daughter of Benjamin Stevens, of Wentworth, Nova Scotia, and they have one son, Harold Osborne Bigney, born in January, 1886. The family attend the Congregational Church, to which, as well as the Attleborough Young Men's Christian Association, Mr. Bigney generously contributes.

Our county and its people
A descriptive and biographical history of
Bristol County, Massachusetts
Prepaired and published under the auspices of
The Fall River News and The Taunton Gasette
With assistance of Hon. Alanson Borden
The Boston History Company, Publishers, 1899.

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