Ross Family

ROSS FAMILY. Probably no one family contributed better and stronger men, and more devoted and unselfish womanhood, to Kansas from pioneer times to the present than that of Ross. The annals of Kansas give credit to more than one of that name who played a worthy and distinctive part in the early life of the territory and state. Many of the name are still found in Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties, and some of the finest farms around Dover are owned and occupied by the descendants of the first settlers.

The first of the family to come to Kansas Territory were three brothers, William, Edmund and George, who arrived in the fall of 1855. All of them lived at first at Lawrence. They were men of superior intelligence and of a high degree of physical and moral courage. They at once took sides with the free soil element in the great drama of events preceding the Civil war. They were intimate friends and associates of John Brown, James H. Lane and other notable characters of the day. and were active members of the Lawrence Free State Militia.

The Ross brothers brought from Missouri to Kansas Territory a negro said to have been the first free negro in Kansas, and their defense of this colored man very nearly embroiled them in several conflicts. To the Ross brothers is also credited the bringing to Kansas of the first printing plant. In the spring of 1857 they removed to Shawnee County, and William and Edmund published a paper at Topeka for a considerable time. Their strong writings had much to do in shaping public opinion in the early days.

William Ross became agent for the Pottawatomie Indians, and the Town of Rossville was named in his honor. Edmund became the most widely known of any of the family. He succeeded James H. Lane as United States Senator. His vote was a decisive one in preventing the impeachment of Andrew Johnson and in consequence he was heaped with abuse, accused of graft and his life threatened should he ever return to Kansas. That was a time, soon after the close of the war, when the strong passions of men were easily aroused and when reason and justice were frequently crowded from their seats. Later years have brought a calmer view of that epoch, and Senator Ross is now credited with absolute honesty and with the highest degree of moral courage in voting according to the dictates of his reason rather than casting his vote at the behest of public clamor. It is probable that his subsequent years were much embittered because of the injustice done him. He became a democrat, and President Cleveland appointed him territorial governor of New Mexico.

Besides these three brothers there were two others, Charles and Walter, who came to Kansas in 1856. Sylvester F. Ross, father of all these pioneer Kansans, was born at Grafton, Windham County, Vermont, August 31, 1798. April 18, 1821, he married Cynthia Rice. Fourteen children were born, nine reaching maturity. In his youthful days Sylvester Ross was a midshipman in the United States navy. Farming was the occupation of his mature years. For a time he lived in Ohio, subsequently in Ohio and Wisconsin, and from the last named state arrived in Kansas Territory in 1856, bringing the members of the family who had not already preceded him. His selection of a home in a new country and community was in what has since been known as Ross Creek, not far from the present Village of Dover in Wabaunsee County. He was the first permanent white settler in that immediate vicinity. He pre-empted the land comprising his homestead, and that land is now the home of Aaron Sage, another old settler. Sylvester F. Ross was of Scotch ancestry and inherited the thrift and integrity characteristics of that people. Three of his sons, Edmund, Charles and George were soldiers of the Civil war.

George Ross, one of the three brothers who first came to Kansas, was born in Allen County, Indiana, September 29, 1840. He was about fifteen years of age when he arrived in Kansas, and thereafter his home was near Dover, and on his farm there he died March 26, 1895. On August 19, 1862, he was enrolled as a member of Company E, Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, and was in service nearly three years, being honorably discharged at Fort Riley August 7, 1865. When peace came upon the country he resumed farming near Dover, and besides the prosperity he won in that occupation he bore a commendable part in the life of the community. While his name was not widely known over the state, he had those attributes of character and industry which give a man honor and useful influence in any community. The fact that he came to Kansas when fifteen years of age indicate that his early educational opportunities were curtailed, though his sound practical sense and extensive reading made him a man of unusually wide information.

At Auburn, Kansas, on August 19, 1866, George Ross married Minerva Fox. Her father, Henry Fox, came to Kansas Territory in 1856, and was also closely identified with the free soil movement and was one of the men of strong and self reliant nature who brought order out of the border ruffian period. He served as a member of the State Legislature. Mrs. George Ross is still living. She and her husband became the parents of eight children: Marion, wife of H. J. Palenske; Claude; Floyd; Gertrude, Mrs. A. K. Barnes; Charles, and three that died in infancy.

Claude Ross, the oldest of the sons, was born December 29, 1870. Completing his education in the State Normal School at Emporia, he was for four years a teacher, but for a number of years has lived near Dover in Waubunsee County, and is one of the extensive farmers there, having acquired 600 acres of land. September 29, 1898, he married Miss Emma More, daughter of E. G. More of Alma. To their marriage were born six children: Hildred, Helen, Donald who died in infancy, Merle, Claude and Floyd.

Floyd Ross, the second son of George Ross, completed his schooling at Campbell University in Holton, Kansas, and since then has given his time and attention to acquiring and managing a 600 acre farm, which is one of the important stock centers of that locality. He married Miss Jennie Snyder.

Charles Ross, the youngest son, has a farm of 185 acres adjoining the old Ross homestead, and with him his mother resides. To his marriage with Miss Bertha Allison one daughter was born, Lela.

All of the name of Ross have been a credit to the State of Kansas. It is characteristic of the family that each and every one has been possessed of a superior mentality and of those qualities that make for good citizenship.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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