ROSS, JONATHAN. This name has long been regarded by
the people of Vermont as a synonym for moral worth, judicial acumen, and
the highest civic virtues.
Jonathan ROSS was born in Waterford, Vermont, April 30, 1826, son
of Royal and Eliza Mason ROSS. The paternal grandfather of Judge ROSS moved
to Waterford from Massachusetts in or about the year 1795. He cleared away
the forest and cultivated a farm, on which he supported himself, wife,
and a family of six children, of whom Royal, the father of the subject
of this sketch, was the second son.
Jonathan ROSS received an excellent common school education, fitted
for college in the St. Johnsbury academy, and graduated from Dartmouth
college in 1851. During his minority his summers were occupied in the cultivation
of the paternal acres, and his winters between the ages of eighteen and
twenty-five, in teaching in the public schools of Vermont, New Hampshire,
and Massachusetts. In this pursuit he achieved decided success. After graduating
from college, he was for several years principal of the academy at Craftsbury,
Vermont, and of the one at Chelsea Vermont. While residing in that town
he entered the office of Judge William HEBARD for the Study of law and
he was admitted to the bar of Orange county in January, 1856. The same
year he formed a partnership with A. J. WILLARD, Esq. of St. Johnsbury,
which continued two years.
He then practiced by himself until 1865, when G. A. BURBANK, Esq.,
became a partner during one year, and later W. P. SMITH sustained the same
relation until 1870, when Mr. ROSS was elected a judge of the supreme court
of Vermont. From 1858 to 1868 he was the efficient treasurer of the Passumpsic
Savings bank. In 1862-'63 he was state's attorney for Caledonia county.
In 1865-'66-'67 he was the representative of St. Johnsbury in the legislature
and served on the judiciary and other important committees. He was for
some years before 1870 an influential member of the state board of education.
In 1869 was a member of the last council of censors held in the state.
In 1870 was elected to the state senate, and the same year was elected
sixth assistant judge of the supreme court. In 1890 he was elected chief
judge of the supreme court, which position he worthily filled until January
11, 1899, when he was appointed by Governor E. C. SMITH United States senator,
to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the late Hon. Justin S. MORRILL.
A distinguishing characteristic of Judge ROSS was his promptness
and capacity for work. When appointed to the senate, he started the next
day for the capital, leaving no unfinished judicial business in arrears.
Judge ROSS, almost from the first, exercised an important influence
in that august body, an instance almost unprecedented, and in a speech
of masterly grasp and logic pointed out the relations of the new possessions
to the national government, and the policy of the administration was based
on that theory.
He was one of four candidates for the senatorship before the legislature.
He was appointed by Governor W. W. STICKNEY chairman of the board of railroad
commissioners in 1900, and filled that position with rare ability two years,
when he refused a reappointment, and retired to the practice of his profession
at St. Johnsbury.
Judge ROSS is the connecting link of two generations of public men
in Vermont, representing the stanch integrity and the progressive activity
of both, and his great influence has always been exerted on the side of
morality and temperance. Mr. ROSS was united in marriage in 1852 with Eliza
Ann, daughter of Isaiah and Caroline (BUGBEE) CARPENTER. Eight children
were born to them, Caroline C. (deceased), Eliza M. Helen (deceased), Julia
(Mrs. Dr. ALDRICH of Somerville, Massachusetts), Martha (Mrs. John W. TITCOMB),
Edith (Mrs. Charles W. BRALEY), Edward Harlan, and Jonathan C. ROSS (deceased).
Mrs. ROSS, who was a sister of Judge Alonzo P. CARPENTER of the
New Hampshire supreme court, died some years since, and Judge ROSS married
for his second wife, Mrs. Helen DAGGETT, a relative of his first wife and
a former well known teacher.
Source: Successful Vermonters,
William H. Jeffrey, E. Burke, Vermont, The Historical Publishing Company,
1904, page 31-33.
by Tom Dunn January 2003