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Edmund Gibson Ross

Born on December 7, 1826 at Ashland, Ohio, the son of Sylvester Flint, a farmer, and Cynthia (Rice) Ross. Ross had thirteen brothers and sisters, including Sylvester, William, Nancy, George, Charles, and Walter. A Presbyterian of Scottish ancestry, he was married in October 1848 to Fanny M. Lathrop of Sandusky, Ohio; he was the father of four sons and three daughters, including Lillian.

Because Ross was a small, frail child, his father decided when the boy was eleven that he should learn the printer’s trade rather than take up the more strenuous occupation of farming. The elder Ross sent his son to work on the Huron [Ohio] Commercial Advertiser, where Edmund’s brother Sylvester was employed. In 1841 Sylvester bought the paper, moved to Sandusky with his younger brother, and began publication of the Sandusky Mirror. Edmund worked at the Mirror for eight years, and also attended Sandusky High School for part of that period. In 1852 he moved to Milwaukee, working on the Free Democrat. Two years later, outraged at the institution of slavery, he took part in the rescue of Joshua Glover, a runaway slave. Soon thereafter, he went to work for the Daily Sentinel in Milwaukee.

In 1856 Ross became a leader of a group bound for Kansas, which was determined to free that territory of slaves. He settled in Topeka and in December 1856 bought the Kansas Tribune. In September 1858 he ceased publishing the Tribune and moved to Wabaunsee County, which he represented at the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention in 1859. Ross played a significant role in shaping the constitution under which Kansas was admitted to the Union as a state. In October 1859, along with his brother William, Ross established a new paper at Topeka, the Kansas State Record.

Ross sold his newspaper in August 1862, recruited Company E of the 11th Kansas Regiment, and was elected Captain of the company. Early in 1863 Ross became Major of the regiment and mainly saw service in Missouri and Kansas; he was mustered out in September 1865.

In July 1866 Governor Samuel J. Crawford, Ross’ military commander during the Civil War, appointed him United States Senator from Kansas. Ross replaced James H. Lane, who had committed suicide after becoming despondent over the attacks upon him because of his support for President Andrew Johnson. While the new senator did not personally or politically sympathize with Johnson, he was determined to treat the President fairly during his impeachment trial. In May 1868 he cast the deciding vote to acquit the President and therefore retain him in office. Subsequently, Ross became the subject of insults and threats.

After Ross left the Senate in March 1871, he started a newspaper in Coffeyville, Kansas. A tornado destroyed his press in April 1872, and he went to Lawrence, Kansas, where he worked in the newspaper business, including a period as publisher of the Standard. He bought the Leavenworth Press in February 1880. Having become a Democrat eight years earlier, Ross was that party’s unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Kansas in the fall of 1880. He visited Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1882; later, in July 1884, he permanently established his family there and became involved in the newspaper business.

In May 1885 President Grover Cleveland named Ross Governor of New Mexico Territory. Although he took the oath of office on June 15, 1885, his appointment was not confirmed by the Senate until April 29, 1886, a delay caused by lingering bitterness over his impeachment vote. Ross thus served as de facto governor for a year. As governor, he sought to encourage reform. He tried to decrease the power of the "Santa Fe Ring," which had long controlled the politics of the territory. Because of this action and others, he attracted the hostility of the Legislature. Hoping that New Mexico would develop into an area populated by homesteading family farmers, Ross also supported Surveyor General George W. Julian, who challenged many of the land grants in the territory. He was a strong supporter of a federal court for private land claims, which would meet in the territory to aid small claimants. (This court was eventually established with the McCreary Act of July 1888.) Ross sided with sheep raisers against the cattlemen, particularly in contentious areas like Lincoln County.

Because of his homesteading position, he advocated a firm policy towards the Indians. He also pushed for reforms in public education and finance, although little progress in these areas was achieved during his term in office.

President Benjamin Harrison removed Ross as governor in April 1889. Unlike some of his counterparts, Ross did not become rich as a result of his governorship. He returned to the newspaper business and in 1889 passed the bar, practicing law in Albuquerque. From 1894 to 1896 he served as Secretary of the Territorial Bureau of Immigration. In his last years, Ross lived on a small fruit farm near Albuquerque. and ran a printing office there. He died of pneumonia in Albuquerque on May 8, 1907, and was buried there in Fairview Cemetery.

Sources Used:

Edmund Gibson Ross, "A Previous Era of Popular Madness and Its Lessons," Forum, 19 (July 1895), 595‑606.

Edmund Gibson Ross, History of the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson... (Santa Fe, 1896).

New York Times, May 9, 1907; Albuquerque Morning Journal, May 9‑10, 1907.

Edward Bumgardner, The Life of Edmund Ross... (Kansas City, 1949).

John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage (New York, 1956).

Howard R. Lamar, "Edmund O. Ross as Governor of New Mexico Territory: A Reappraisal," New Mexico Historical Review, 36 (July 1961), 177‑209.

Lillian Ross Leis, "Memoirs of Edmund G. Ross," typescript located in the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives.

The papers of Edmund Ross are located in the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives in Santa Fe and the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka. DAB.