Hibben was born on April 19, 1861 in Peoria, Illinois, United States, just before the start of the American Civil War, on the day when Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a blockade of the Southern ports. He was the only son of Reverend Samuel and Elizabeth (Grier) Hibben.
The Hibbens were of Scottish and Scotch-Irish descent. His father came from Hillsboro, Ohio, to the pastorate of the Presbyterian church in Peoria, and on the outbreak of the American Civil War volunteered for service as a chaplain in the Union Army. He died in 1862 of one of the fevers prevalent in the camps. After his death, his widow, then a very young woman with a son one year old, was faced with serious financial problems.
Elizabeth Grier was a native of Peoria, from a large family with partial German ancestry. She later was one of the pioneers in the movement for woman's suffrage. She obtained a position in a nearby ladies' seminary.