Captain John Ross

Captain John Ross

Born 1729 in Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland, died age 71, 1800 in Philadelphia. Came to Philadelphia, age 36 and immediately established a successful mercantile business. John married Clementina Cruickshank, Dec. 8, 1768 at the First Presbyterian Church. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Ross sided with the patriots and soon became an emissary for his adopted country. He was a trusted friend of Robert Morris. By 1777 he was a maritime agent in Nantes, France for the firm of Willing & Morris, purchasing military supplies for the Continental Army. At one point, Ross advanced £20,000 of his own money when Congress had a financial shortfall.

Ross made several trips to Paris always interfacing with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Dean. By war’s end in 1783, he was well established in the import/export business. In 1789, having considerable wealth, he built an impressive brick mansion facing Headhouse Market at the southeast corner of 2nd and Pine Streets. The house, still standing today, has several tenants including the Society Hill Dance Academy. John and Clementina Ross lavishly entertained the “who’s who” of the day including: Washington, Franklin, John Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton and Lafayette. Ross’s cook was always discreetly tipped with silver coins as guests departed. She saved her money. A reversal of Ross’s fortune left him in poverty at death. Reason: he trusted in paper money printed by Congress which proved to be worth less than the paper it was printed on.

Ross is buried beneath a slab ledger, plot 60-48 on the west side of Old Pine’s graveyard.