History of Bucks County, Pa Volume 3 by William H. Davis
Names and Page # Index


HON. GEORGE ROSS, an eminent jurist and statesman, was born in Doylestown, August 24, 1841. He came of a distinguished and honored ancestry. His earlier ancestors were of the clan Ross. of the Highlands of Scotland. His great-great-grandfather Thomas Ross was born in the year 1708, in county Tyrone, Ireland, where his parents had sought a refuge from the horrors of civil and internecine war in their native Scotia.Emigrating to America at the age of twenty-one he settled in Solebury, Bucks county. He joined the Society of Friends and became a distinguished preacher. He was a man of superior education and intellectual ability, and traveled extensively in later life both in the American colonies and in England and Ireland. He died at the home of Lindley Murray, the great grammarian, in York, England, while on one of his religious visits in 1786. He married Keziah Wilkinson in 1731, and had by her three children: John, Thomas, and Mary, who married Thomas Smith. John Ross married Mary Duer in 1754, and had seven children; Sarah, who died in childhood; Thomas; Keziah, who married Benjamin Eastburn; John; Joseph; Isaiah; and Mary, who died in infancy.

Thomas, the great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch, as one of the executors of his father’s will, joined in the conveyance of the Solebury homestead, patented to his father in 1737, to Jacob Van Horn in 1787, and the latter conveyed it back to Thomas by deed dated two days later. In 1796 he conveyed it to his son Thomas, who by will in 1814 devised it to his brother, Judge John Ross of Easton, who devised it to his son Thomas, the father of the subject of this sketch, who conveyed it to Edward Vansant in 1853. Thus the original homestead of the Ross family in Bucks county remained in the family for one hundred and sixteen years, notwithstanding the fact that for three generations the owners had been much more eminent as jurists than as farmers. John Ross, eldest son of Thomas and Keziah, removed to Philadelphia. His son Joseph removed to the West. John became an eminent physician. Thomas married Rachel Longstreth and settled in West Chester. He was a lawyer, and had a large and lucrative practice.

THOMAS ROSS, younger son of Thomas and Keziah (Wilkinson) Ross, born on the old homestead in Solebury, was the great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch. He married (first) a Miss Clark, and (second) Jane Chapman, who was the mother of his six children: Thomas, John, William, Cephas, Hugh and Samuel. He lived on the Solebury plantation until 1796, when he removed with his family to Newtown, where he died about 1814. His eldest son Thomas was appointed prothonotary and clerk of the courts of Bucks county in 1801, and held those offices for eight years. He was born in 1767 and was admitted to the bar of Northampton county in 1793, but practiced but a year of two, when he removed to New York city. He returned to Newtown in 1800 and practiced law until appointed prothonotary and clerk. His wife was Mary Lyons, of Long Island. He died in 1815, while visiting his brother John at Easton and left no children. Hugh Ross studied law with his brother John at Easton and on being admitted to the bar returned to Newtown, later went to Trenton, New Jersey and finally settled in Milford, Pike county, Pennsylvania. Samuel, the youngest child of Thomas Ross (2), born 1779, married in 1815 Mary Helena Wirtz, and settled in Philadelphia. He had six children. Cephas Ross, another son of Thomas (2) remained in Bucks county, where he still has numerous descendants. He died in Plumstrad in 1840.

HON. JOHN ROSS, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, son of Thomas and Jane (Chapman) Ross, was born on the Solebury homestead, February 24, 1770. He received a liberal education, but it appears that his family were averse to his following a professional career. From a number of letters written by him in 1790 to his benefactor, Richard Backhouse, it would seem that by reason of the difference with his parents as to his future career he was cast upon his own resources. These letters are now in the possession of the Pennsylvania Historical Society. He commenced life as a school teacher at Durham, where he attracted the attention of Richard Backhouse , then proprietor of the furnace. To Mr. Backhouse the youth confided his intention of going South to seek his fortune. Mr. Backhouse urged him to take up the study of law, and generously offered to give him sufficient financial aid to complete his studies and start him in the practice of law. Taking up with this generous offer, the embryo judge began the study of law with his cousin, Thomas Ross, of West Chester, then in the same judicial district as Bucks county, and he was admitted to the bar of the district in 1792. He settled at Easton, Northampton county and began the practice of law, and at once sprang into prominence. Hon Henry P. Ross, his grandson, once said: “No member of the family approached him in ability,” and his brilliant professional career warrants the assertion, superlative though it be. A born politician, he early launched into the arena of politics. He was elected to the state legislature in 1800. In 1804 he was a candidate for congress, but the jealousies aroused by the rival claims of the three counties of Northampton, Bucks and Montgomery, then composing the district, caused his defeat. He renewed the fight in 1808 and was then elected. At the expiration of his term he was appointed prothonotary of Northampton county. Was elected to congress again in 1814 and re-elected in 1816 and resigned to accept the appointment of judge of the seventh judicial district, comprising the counties of Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware, January 25, 1818. He had married November 19, 1795, Mary Jenkins, whose family resided at Jenkintown, and on taking up the duties of his office he located there. The act of March, 1821, placed Montgomery and Bucks in one judicial district and Judge Ross removed to Doylestown, then the county seat of Bucks. He purchased the old tavern stand where the National Bank now stands, and converted it into a residence, and it remained the home of his descendants until 1896. Judge Ross was appointed justice of the supreme court April 16, 1830, after which much of his time was spent in Jenkintown. He died of apoplexy in Philadelphia January 31, 1834, in his sixty-fourth year. While in Northampton county he had purchased a tract of 348 acres near the Wind Gap in what is now Monroe county, and named it Ross Common. He set apart upon this tract a family burying ground. Here his favorite brother Thomas was buried, and here the famous jurist and statesman himself lies buried.

The children of Judge John Ross were: George, a graduate of Princeton, who studied law with his father and was admitted to the bar in 1818; (he became involved in a quarrel which resulted in a duel on the Delaware river, and he was never afterwards heard from) Charles J.; Lord; Camilla, who married General Peter Ihrie, of Easton; Serena; John, an invalid, though he lived until 1886; Thomas; Jesse Jenkins, who was at one time consul to Sicily; Adelaide, who married Dr. Samuel R. Dubbs, and Mary. Of these, George, Thomas, William and Jenkins all were college graduates and all lawyers, though Thomas was the only one who continued to practice. William became a teacher. Mary Jenkins Ross died in December, 1845.

THOMAS ROSS, the father of the subject of this sketch, was born in Easton, December 1,1806. He graduated at Princeton in 1825, studied law, and was admitted to the bar February 9, 1829. Inheriting the abilities of his distinguished ancestors, he was a fine pleader and a logical thinker and became one of the eminent lawyers of his day. He was elected to congress from the tenth district comprising Bucks and Lehigh in 1848, and re-elected in 1851, and the district was never more ably represented. As an orator he obtained a national reputation. He died July 7, 1865. His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Levi Pawling of Montgomery county, a member of the fiftieth congress, and grandaughter of Governor Heister. The children of this marriage were Henry P., George and Mary.

Henry P. Ross, born December 16, 1836, who became president judge of the seventh judicial district, graduated at Princeton in 1857, studied law with his father and was admitted to the bar in December, 1859. He practiced law with his father until the death of the latter in 1865, when he took his brother George into the firm. He was elected district attorney in 1862. He was a brilliant lawyer and an accomplished speaker. He was a leader of his party and twice its candidate for congress. He was elected additional law judge in 1869, and succeeded Judge Chapman as president judge two years later. When the district was divided in 1874, he chose Montgomery county and, finishing his term there, was re-elected in 1881, but died at Norristown, April 13, 1882.

George Ross, son of Thomas and Elizabeth (Pawling) Ross, was born August 24, 1841. He obtained his preparatory education at the Tenent school at Hartsville, conducted by the Rev. Mahlon and Charles Long, and at the Lawrenceville, New Jersey Academy, under the tutorship of Dr. Hamill. He entered Princeton in January, 1858, and graduated in the class of 1861. He at once began the study of law with his father and brother at Doylestown and was admitted to the bar of the county June 13, 1864. At the death of his father the following year he formed a partnership with his elder brother, Hon. Henry P. Ross, which lasted until the elevation of the latter to the bench in 1869, when he became associated with Levi L. James, under the firm name of George Ross & L. L. James. At the death of Mr. James in 1889, J. Ferdinand Long became the junior partner.

Mr. Ross, like his father and grandfather, was a trained and erudite lawyer, by years of study and patient industry he had mastered the great principles of common and statute law, and soon earned the proud distinction of being the recognized leader of the bar in his native county. He was a forceful speaker, quiet and undemonstrative in his manner, not given to self-assertion in oratory. One of his contemporaries has said of him, “if the absence of art is the highest quality of oratory, he was an orator indeed. His remarkable knowledge of the law, his subtle power of logic, and his indomitable perseverance in the advocacy of the cause of a client, have made his memory dear to the people he served, and made his name remembered and honored in the community in which he lived.” In 1872 he was a member of the constitutional convention that framed our present state constitution, representing the counties of Bucks and Northampton in that body. He was elected to the state senate in 1886, and succeeded himself four years later, a distinction exceedingly rare in the history of his county. He was a life-long Democrat, and therefore represented the minority in the law-making body of the state. Notwithstanding this fact he soon became known as the recognized leader in all that pertained to the best interests of his state. At the organization of the senate on January 2, 1895, Senator Brewer, of Indiana county, who was not of his political faith, in calling the attention of the body to the death of Senator Ross, said in part: “Seldom has any legislative body been called upon to mourn the loss of a more distinguished member. This is not the proper time to pay a tribute to the distinguished services he rendered his state. There is such a thing as leadership, known and recognized among men, and the members of this body, irrespective of party, accorded to George Ross leadership. Although we have scarcely passed the threshold of this session, his absence is noticed and his counsel is missed.” Mr. Ross stood deservedly high in the counsels of his party. He was a delegate to the national conventions of 1876, 1884, and 1892. He was the Democratic nominee for the congress in the seventh district in 1884, but was defeated at the polls by Hon. Robert M. Yardley. He was also the caucus nominee of his party for the United States senate in 1893. He was deeply interested in the local insitutions of his county and district was one of the original directors of the Bucks County Trust Company, and its president at the time of his death. He was also a trustee of the Norristown Insane Asylum until his death. He died at his home in Doylestown, November 19, 1894. The disease which caused his death had given his family and friends much concern for probably a year. The state senate, of which he was a member at the time of his death, appointed a committee of five to draft resolutions expressive of the sense of that body upon his death, and fixed a special session on January 23, 1895, to receive and consider the report of such committee. At this special session the resolutions adopted and the speeches of his colleagues show the merited appreciation of his public services and private virtues. We quote from one of these speeches the following: “Our friends (sic) was not of humble origin, nor could he boast of being wholly a self-made man. He had great advantages, coming from a long line of distinguished ancestors, a race of lawyers, some of whom had worn the judicial ermine; he had the benefits of a most liberal education, and claimed the famous college of Princeton for his alma mater. This scion of one of the most illustrious families of Pennsylvania, in whose veins flowed some of the best blood in this grand old Keystone state, worthy of his origin, was a prince among men.”

George Ross married, December 4, 1870, Ellen Lyman Phipps, a daughter of George W. Phipps, of Boston, Massachusetts. The children of this marriage are: Thomas, born September 16, 1873; Elizabeth P., George; Ellen P., Mary; Gertrude.

Thomas, the eldest son, was educated at Lawrenceville and Princeton, and graduated at Princeton in the class of 1895.He studied law under the preceptorship of Hon. Harman Yerkes, and was admitted to the bar December, 1897.  He formed a partnership with his father’s old partner, J. Ferdinand Long, which terminated with the death of the latter in January, 1902.

George Ross was born May 28, 1879. He graduated at Lawrenceville in 1896 and at Princeton in 1900. He studied law with his brother Thomas at Doylestown and at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and was admitted to the bar December 22, 1902, and entered into partnership with his brother. In 1902 Hon. Harman Yerkes became a member of the firm.

Text taken from pages 81-83 of: Davis, William W. H., A.M., History of BucksCounty, Pennsylvania [New York-Chicago: the Lewis Publishing Company, 1905] volume III Transcribed July 2000 by Earl Goodman of PA as part of the Bucks Co., Pa., Early Family Project, www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/bucksindex.html

Published April 2000 on the Bucks County, Pa., USGenWeb pages at www.rootsweb.com/~pabucks/

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