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Ross, James J. (ca. 1787–1835)

Biography Entry

James J. Ross, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, was born around 1787. Little is known about his early life. On June 1, 1821, he married Mariah Cummins, daughter of James Cummins, in Clark County, Arkansas. The same year he was tried and acquitted on bigamy charges stemming from an earlier marriage to Sinthia Ross, from whom he was granted a divorce in July 1822. He arrived in the Austin colony sometime in late 1822 or early 1823. In December 1823 Austin appointed him captain of the militia of the Colorado district. He received title to one sitio of land in present-day Colorado County on July 19, 1824. The census of March 1826 listed Ross as a farmer and stock raiser, aged between twenty-five and forty. His household included his wife, a son, a daughter, and five slaves. He led attacks against the Tawakoni Indians in 1825 and the Waco and associated tribes in 1826. That same year Benjamin W. Edwards tried to enlist Ross to join him in the Fredonian Rebellion. In 1827 Ross and Nancy Cummins, the younger sister of his wife Mariah, had a child born out of wedlock; Mariah left her husband, and Ross married Nancy in San Antonio on July 19, 1828. The couple later had four more children. On February 16, 1828, Ross purchased a league and a half of land along the Colorado River in southern Fayette County. He moved there the same year and built a house near where Ross Creek empties into the Colorado River. Along with James Cummins and John Crier he founded the town of Fayetteville. He also founded a stage station on the old San Felipe Trail, and Ross Prairie was named for him. On January 14, 1835, Ross, who was sheltering a group of Tonkawa Indians on his land, was involved in a confrontation with some other settlers. The group, which according to one account included James S. Lester, John Rabb, and Ross's brother-in-law Col. John Henry Moore, tried forcibly to remove the Indians. In the subsequent shootout Ross was killed. He was buried near his homestead on a small hill locally known as Ross Cemetery.

James Ross, a single man from Kentucky, came to the Austin colony in 1833. It is not certain whether it was he or James J. Ross who married Mrs. M. A. Wallace at Washington in November 1844.

Another James Ross was a merchant at Port Lavaca who had once lived at Texana and at Washington-on-the-Brazos. He committed suicide on January 1, 1849.

Eugene C. Barker, ed., The Austin Papers (3 vols., Washington: GPO, 1924–28). Eugene C. Barker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin (Nashville: Cokesbury Press, 1925; rpt., New York: AMS Press, 1970). Lester G. Bugbee, "The Old Three Hundred: A List of Settlers in Austin's First Colony," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (October 1897). J. H. Kuykendall, "Reminiscences of Early Texans," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 6–7 (January, April, July 1903). Worth Stickley Ray, Austin Colony Pioneers (Austin: Jenkins, 1949; 2d ed., Austin: Pemberton, 1970). Harold Schoen, comp., Monuments Erected by the State of Texas to Commemorate the Centenary of Texas Independence (Austin: Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations, 1938). Telegraph and Texas Register, November 6, 1844. Texas National Register, December 7, 1844. William Barret Travis, Diary, ed. Robert E. Davis (Waco: Texian, 1966). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

Time Periods:

  • Mexican Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Ross, James J.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed April 11, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: