Rev. Ruben D. Ross
In the mid 1890s a salesman called upon families throughout Central Texas offering for a sale, a book to be published containing Texas history and the stories of those families who were willing to spend $20 to be included. The 830 page book was published in 1896. In addition to a thorough history of Texas, dozens of family histories from communities basically west of Fort Worth and north of Austin were included. The History of Texas was published by the Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago.
While the family stories were perhaps a little self indulgent by today’s standards, those same stories usually provide an outstanding starting point for genealogist researching a family tree. Only a few families have been lucky enough to retain a copy of this book. Today the book sells at shows for about $450, if you can find one. All capitalization, spelling and punctuation has been retained but additions are in italics.
This is one of the sketches from a De Leon area family included in the book. Additional information, if available has been included at the end of the sketch. There are numerous sketches from families in other parts of Comanche County that are not included here. The Ross Family was one of the earliest settlers in this part of the country and the impact of this family on the De Leon community has been significant.
“No one who has made a study of the history of Texas can fail to note the important place the Baptist preacher has occupied in this state. His presence among the cowboys and frontiersmen has been a restraining power. He has exerted a refining influence in the rough settlements and rude homes. As the country has become more thickly settled, it has been through his direction and untiring efforts that churches have been organized and houses of worship built. Indeed, there has been no force more potent for good in this broad state than that wielded by the Baptist preacher. In this connection we would speak at length of the life of the Rev. R.D. Ross, whose identify with Erath county, Texas dates from the year 1865.
He was born September 26, 1824, in Lauderdale county, Alabama, and on his father’s farm in Franklin county, that state, was reared to manhood, passing his youthful days in honest toil in the field and receiving a fair education in the schools near his home. His parents were James and Margaret (Yost) Ross. John Ross, his grandfather, was a Pennsylvanian by birth. He served in the Revolutionary war, making a tour of the south under General Greene and, after the war returned south and made settlement in North Carolina; and his history in this respect was not unlike that of our subject’s maternal grandfather, Jacob Yost, he, too, serving under General Greene in the war for independence, and at its close establishing his home in the Old North State. Grandfather Ross was of Scottish descent and by occupation a millwright, while Grandfather Yost was a farmer all his days and traced his origin back to Germany. In North Carolina James Ross was reared and married. While yet a young man, accompanied by his wife and only child, he sought a new home in Alabama, then on the frontier, and there engaged in farming, having plenty of Indians and only a few white settlers for his neighbors. In 1859 the emigration spirit again seized him and we find him seeking another frontier home, this time in Harrison county, Texas, where he bought a farm and maintained his residence until 1865. That year he removed to Comanche county, where he bought another farm, and finally died in 1868, at the age of seventy-eight years. Wherever he lived he figured as a leading and respected citizen. A Democrat and active and prominent in local politics, he was frequently called to fill important positions and always acquitted himself creditably. For many years he was a justice of the peace, and among other responsible offices he filled was that of the deputy sheriff. His first wife died when the subject of our sketch was small, his last wife surviving him until 1885. In early life he was a Presbyterian, as also was his first wife, but later he became a Baptist and died in that faith. His two marriages resulted in the birth of twenty children, two of whom died in infancy, and of the others we make brief record as follows: Daniel, who died in Alabama; Mary, wife of Littleton Ross; Rachel, wife of John Walker; John, who died while on a visit to Texas; Jacob, a resident of Comanche County, Texas; and R.D. whose name forms the heading of this sketch. These were born of the first marriage. The Children of the second wife are Robert; Samuel; Jane, who died young; Martha, deceased; Elizabeth, wife of Jesse Davis; Martin V. Ziltha, wife of Pleas Crosley; Texas, deceased; Francis M.; George; William; and Allie, wife of Frank Brown.
From this reference to his family history we turn now to the life of our immediate subject, R.D. Ross. He remained with his parents on the Alabama farm until he reached his majority. In 1849 he married, then lived with his father-in-law in that state until 1851, when he and his young wife started for Arkansas. Arrived there, he purchased land covered with heavy timber, cleared off the same and made a farm, and then sold out and bought again. In 1862 he sold his second farm and moved to Texas, joining his father in Harrison county.
Early in life, in 1844, Mr. Ross was soundly converted and joined the Baptist church. Soon he began taking an active interest in church work, this interest increased form year to year, and he has never yet tired of his work for the Master. On moving to Arkansas he found no church or sabbath-school organization, but instead a wide field for missionary work. About 1853 he commenced holding meetings, organized both church and Sunday-school, and carried on the gospel work with enthusiasm and success. He was ordained regular minister in 1856. As long as he remained in Arkansas he continued to preach and soon had charge of two churches. In 1865, he came to his present locality in Erath county, pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres of land and set about the work of establishing a home, and at the same time embraced every opportunity to tell the glad tidings of salvation. He was then the only Baptist preacher in Erath county. His first charge was at Dublin and next at Stephenville, and at Dublin and Stephenville he preached fourteen years. Between his home and those places there was not house or sign of habitation and such was the unsettled condition of the country that he was compelled to go well armed to protect himself against the Indians. But he had a good horse and always felt able to take care of himself as he rode about the country making his appointments. In all his experience he never ran from, or had a fight with, an Indian. But he has been with the settlers on numerous raids after the red men, and at one time he captured a Comanche Indian whom they sent to Fort Sill and subsequently exchanged for a white child. (For Ross’ recollections related to Indians, click here.)
Mr. Ross preached every Sunday, either at his regular charge or at some ranch, and after several years helped to organize other churches, among them Round Grove, where he was chosen pastor in 1871 and where he has since presided as such. July of the present year (1896) will round up his quarter century as pastor of this charge. This fact alone is ample evidence of the high regard he entertains for the people of Round Grove and also of their love for him. The first church at Dublin, above referred to, was called Leon church, it was afterward dissolved and re-organized as Dublin church. In this change, however, there was no ill felling whatever. Indeed, in all his long ministerial career Mr. Ross has never had many wrangles to contend with. His ministry has in many respects been a remarkable one, remarkable for the long years of harmonious service, all characterized by steady constant work and free from anything like spasmodic action. Among his best friends were the cowboys. They came miles to hear him preach, were attentive to the service, and never had to be called to order, and not a few of them when they married sent for him to perform the ceremony. What may seem a little strange now is that he has never kept a record of the marriages and baptisms he has solemnized. Now in his old age he seldom goes far from home to preach but he is regular in the performance of his duties in his home church.
As already stated, Mr. Ross pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres of land at the time he located here in 1865. He has since acquired five hundred acres more, has given about three hundred acres to his children and yet retains four hundred acres, one hundred and seventy-five of which are under cultivation. He has a commodious and delightful home, with modern conveniences all around, including wind-pump, fine orchard, etc.; and he has always raised some stock.
Mr. Ross was first married in Alabama to Miss Martha A. Thompson, daughter of George and Mary Thompson, Virginia people who had moved to Alabama, Mr. Thompson being a slave holder and farmer of Alabama, where he died. Mrs. Thompson died in Texas. Mrs. Martha A. Ross was a woman of most excellent qualities, was in sympathy with her husband’s work, and was in every way a true helpmate to him. She and all her children were consistent members of the church. She died September 12, 1875. Seven of her nine children grew to maturity, namely: George R. Pastor of the Baptist church at De Leon, Texas; James R.; Reuben B., Jacob and John-all prosperous farmers; Samuel who died at the age of thirty-one years, January 1896 leaving a wife and two sons; and Potia, wife of Ed Ripato (Rippetoe), a farmer May 25, 1876 Mr. Ross wedded Miss Nancy A. Howell daughter of Sparks Howell, who was killed in the siege of Vicksburg. The present Mrs. Ross also is a member of the Baptist church , and is a refined and cultured lady. Their union has resulted in the birth of five children, all at home namely; Graves, Milton H., Morgan, Virginia, and Bertha.”
George R. Ross served as pastor of De Leon’s First Baptist Church was born February 11, 1850. The family moved to a farm on Armstrong Creek, east of De Leon in 1865, near what would become the site of the Round Grove Baptist Church.
Bertha Ross, may have had a larger impact on De Leon than any of the Rosses. She taught school for fifty years, first in New Hope and then in De Leon refusing to take her salary during her final year. Miss Bertha as she was known, touched as many as three or even four generations of students within given families. Additionally, she served many years as Sunday School Superintendent of surprisingly, De Leon’s First United Methodist Church. And, she donated the land on which the De Leon Municipal Hospital was constructed.
The Ross family also donated the land on which the 1918 school was constructed (now the Methodist Church) and agreed to donate land for a proposed college on the east side of De Leon. The number of Ross descendants living in the De Leon area is staggering.