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Ross family

Neighbors of the Ingallses’ homestead who resided in the Perry School district.

David Ross’s tree claim was burned over and lost ten acres of fine trees. Schoolhouse No. 4 was burned, with the outbuildings of Mr. Olson, living opposite. Gaylord Ross lost a wagon; the whiffletrees, lying out on the plowed ground, were also burned. – Kingsbury County News, April 1889

The four members of the Ross family mentioned in the Dakota Territory portion of Pioneer Girl were Mr. Ross (Russel Ross); David Ross (said to be Mr. Ross’s brother and married to Fanny Perry, sister of Delos Perry of the Perry School), Gaylord Ross, and Jenny / Jennie Ross.

Gaylord and Jennie were two of the three children of Russel J. Ross; the siblings stayed with Laura, Carrie, and Grace when Ma and Pa went to Iowa to take Mary to the Blind Asylum. In Little Town on the Prairie, Gaylord and Jennie are said to be a little older than Laura (who was 14 at the time), and related to the neighboring Perry family. Jennie was 21 and Gaylord was 19 when Mary Ingalls enrolled in college in 1881.

Russel Ross was very involved in school matters in Kingsbury County. He was treasurer of the De Smet school beginning in 1884, and in that capacity, he signed Laura Ingalls’ teaching contract for her term in the Wilkin School. He was named moderator of School No. 5 (Perry School, of which Delos Perry was director) in October 1883. In early school maps, the schoolhouse location is on the Perry farmland. He also purchased lumber with which to build the Wilkin School, which he helped build. He was one of the speakers at the dedication of the first graded school building in De Smet. A portion of an 1899 map has been marked to show the boundary of the Perry School District when Laura Ingalls taught there, with the Delos Perry, David Ross, Jesse Ross, and Charles Ingalls claims outlined in green.



Russel Jesse Ross (his first name had only one L; it was not Russell Ross) was born in Granville, Pennsylvania, March 15, 1838, to Harrison Ross (1813-1893) and Abigail Ross (1814-1883). He married Viola Roberts in March 1859, and taught school in Pennsylvania before enlisting in Co. C., 132nd Regiment of Pennsylvania, serving for nine month. He then enlisted in the 11th Pennsylvania cavalry and served until the close of the Civil War, participating in the battles of Fredericksburg, Antietam, and Chancellorsville. Following the war, the Rosses moved to Iowa.

The couple had three children: Jennie (1860), Gaylord (1861), and William (1866). In 1874, they moved from Iowa to Dell Rapids, Dakota Territory, where Russel taught school and farmed. In 1880, they settled on a preemption claim in Kingsbury County. Russel continued to teach and was active in Drakola Congregational Church. Viola Ross died in 1887, and in 1889, Russel married Celestia Newell, sister-in-law of Emma Cooley from On the Way Home. Celestia died in 1911 and Russel died at age 81 in 1919; all three are buried in the De Smet cemetery.

David Benjamin Ross was born in Granville, Pennsylvania, February 26, 1845, and was Russel’s younger brother. During the Civil War, he remained at home to look after his parents’ farm, since his two brothers had enlisted. In 1868, he married Fanny Perry, and they soon moved to Minnehaha County, Dakota Territory. In 1901, David moved to Garfield, Washington, where he died in 1912. Fanny (Perry) Ross died in 1930 in Garfield.

Jennie May Ross was born February 17, 1860, the oldest child of Viola and Russel Ross. At age 13, she moved to Ackley, Iowa, then to Dell Rapids, Dakota Territory, in 1874, where she taught school for several years. In 1879, her father settled on a claim in 11-110-56 in Kingsbury County, preempting it in 1882. Jennie earned a second grade teaching certificate in 1880 and first grade certificates the following two years. In the spring of 1883, Jennie married Walter H. Wheat, one of the many former residents of Oberlin, Ohio, who settled west of Lake Thompson. Jennie and Walter had seven children. Jennie filed on a tree claim in the Perry District, the SE 10-110-56, relinquishing it to her sister-in-law, Abbie Wheat, following her marriage.

Following the death of her husband in 1912, Jennie Wheat moved to Sioux Falls to live with a daughter and care for some of her grandchildren. Until Jennie’s death at age 81, she alternated her time between the daughter in Sioux Falls and another in Estherville, Iowa. She was seriously injured in a car accident in 1941, dying from complications of her injuries in October 1949. She was buried in Estherville. The navigation button that brought you to this page shows Jennie and Walter.

Sellick Gaylord Ross was born in Canton, Pennsylvania, December 13, 1861, the middle child of Viola and Russel Ross. Gaylord didn’t homestead in Kingsbury County as other members of his family did, but worked in town as a drayman. He was active in Company E., De Smet National Guard, joining in 1885 as a private. He went with Co. E. to the Philippines during the Spanish-American War, returning to South Dakota to live in Carthage and work in a lumber yard.

In 1899, Gaylord married Abigail Drury, a widow, and they settled in Sanborn County, where they raised two daughters. In her “The Road Back” diary about her trip to De Smet in 1931 (see A Little House Traveler), Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that she learned that Gaylord was a helpless cripple in the northern part of South Dakota. Shortly after, Gaylord moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where he died in September 1934. He was buried in Des Moines.


Ross family (PG), see also Perry family
     Mr. Ross (PG)
     David (Mr. Ross’s brother, married to Fanny Perry) (PG)
     Gaylord (PG; TRB)
     Mr. Ross (PG)
     Jenny / Jennie (PG)
     De Smet Cemetery tour info for ROSS