Biography of Hector Ross

In the town of Sherburne, and near the village of the same name, Chenango county, is a locality known as the “Quarter,” taking its name from the fact that it comprises one-quarter of the town. Here is located a thriving little manufacturing and trading settlement. By far the greater part of the life and prosperity of this place are due to the business capacity and the energy of the man whose portrait appears above.

Hector Ross was born in Greenock, Scotland, in 1811. His father’s name was John Ross, who was a molder. living in Greenock. His mother’s maiden name was Isabel Melville. She was also a native of Scotland, and came to this country in the year 1844. With her came also two brothers of Hector Ross–William and George, and one sister, Bell, all residents of Binghamton.

When Hector Ross first came to this country, in 1837, he landed in Canada, where he was employed for a brief time in a foundry. Leaving the Dominion, he crossed to Charlotte, and from there went to Rochester, walking the distance, as he was entirely out of funds. Finding no employment in Rochester, he started on foot eastward, but found nothing to do until he reached Brownell’s mills, in Oneida Co., where he worked one day, during the absence of one of the hands, who was known as a hand mule spinner. Thence he went to New Berlin, Chenango county, expecting to find employment in one of the two mills located there. Again he failed, but with characteristic perseverance, he went on to Morris, Otsego county, where he began work as a hand mule spinner in a cotton factory. He received for his services about $18 per month, and he worked faithfully in that place for twenty years. For the last six years of this long time of service Mr. Ross had full charge of the mill. It was there that he gained the practical experience and acquired the foundation of that large business capacity that enabled him in after years to gain so much success as a manufacturer.

In the early part of his service in Morris. in the year 1838. Mr. Ross was united in marriage to Miss Ellen Edwards, of that village. Her parents were of Welsh nativity, and came to this country in 1806 or ‘7. Mrs Ross was born in 1814.

Leaving the mill where he had been so long employed, Mr. Ross returned to New Berlin, where he, with his brother Daniel, and William Clinton, purchased the cotton mill there located. Subsequently the Brothers purchased Mr. Clinton’s interest, and in the spring of 1859 Mr. Ross sold his interest to his brother. He then bought a fine farm within the corporation limits, erected a large house, contemplating the future devotion of his time to agriculture.

Becoming again imbued with a desire to enter the manufacturing business, he sold out his farm property and went to Sherburne, in 1861. There he, with great energy and success, soon enlisted sufficient capital for the erection of an extensive cotton mill at the Quarter. The planning, furnishing and general oversight of the erection of this mill was placed in care of Mr. Ross, and the work was accomplished in the most thorough and successful manner. The first brick of the mill chimney, 108 feet high, was laid by Alexander Ross, the eldest son, on his birthday, June 25, 1862, the first breaking of ground having occurred on the 1st of April preceding. The first brick of the mill itself was laid by Hector Ross on his birthday, May 6, of the same year, on the south east corner of the building. The mill was 163×46 feet, three stories high, with boiler house, 51×23 feet, and an ell 57×26 feet. The office was 42×22 feet. So energetically was the work pushed that the first cotton was run through the mill on the 23d day of December of that year. Moreover, durthe same year, Mr. Ross built six dwellings, one store, a large storehouse, a blacksmith shop, a barn and 186 rods of picket fence. It will readily be seen that he was a busy man. His business enterprise and his liberal foresight almost revolutionized the Quarter, giving it its present appearance of thrift.

For a time Mr. Ross managed the mill in the interest of the stockholders. but he finally purchased the entire mill property, which was left at his death, July 24, 1872, in a prosperous condition, to his family.

A person who was well acquainted with Mr. Ross, thus writes of him at the time of his death:–

“Mr. Ross possessed the rare gift of accomplishing large results with little display of activity. While everything was moving on with celerity and precision under his hands, he never seemed to be busy or in a hurry. His judgment in business affairs was seldom at fault. He was prompt and liberal with his means in all matters of public utility, and never stinted his sympathy or means in cases of private suffering. It will be long before the void made by his death will be completely filled.”

Mr. Ross was the father of ten children, six of whom are now living. We have already mentioned Alexander as the eldest son of Hector Ross. To him was left, by the death of his father, the full management of the large business. Alexander Ross was born in Morris, Otsego county, June 25, 1845, and removed to Sherburne in 1862, where he has since lived.

This mill, which is now under the control of Alexander Ross, is the largest manufacturing establishment of any kind in Chenango or Madison county. It now manufactures prints exclusively, employing one hundred hands and manufacturing annually 2,250,000 yards. The goods stand high in the markets, and are sold mostly in New York city.

The machinery of the mill is run by about 160 horse power. and is complete in every detail. In addition to this branch of business, Mr. Ross runs a first-class retail store, in which is his private office. The direction of his large business interests is characterized by the same traits of energy, foresight and capacity evinced by his father, with still more of modern progressiveness and liberality. To his present large and prosperous business interests much of the thrift of the village is due.



Smith, James H. History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York. Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co. 1880.

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