Ross, John Eautaw (unknown–1848)

By: Jean L. Epperson

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

Updated: November 8, 2017

John Eautaw Ross, a noted sea captain in Texas during the 1830s and 1840s, was probably not the John E. Ross listed in Stephen F. Austin's register of families as living in San Augustine, Texas, on August 5, 1835, with a family of five; that Ross had emigrated from Tennessee in 1826. John Eautaw Ross made several trips as master of the schooner Exert from Matamoros and the Brazos to New Orleans in January and October of 1832. He also mastered the steamer Cayuga from New Orleans to Galveston Bay on August 1, 1834. The steamer Yellow Stone made a trip up the Brazos River in February 1836 with Ross in command. She went as far upriver as San Felipe de Austin. She was half loaded with cotton at Groce's Landing on March 31, when Sam Houston and the Texas army arrived. Houston impressed the Yellow Stone and moved his army over the flooded Brazos River, with Ross's cooperation. Ross had been warned that the Mexican army was near Fort Bend. As he proceeded downstream he placed his cargo of cotton bales so as to protect the crew and vulnerable ship boilers from musket fire. The Mexican troops opened fire and attempted to lasso the smoke stacks, but the Yellow Stone reached Quintana with cargo and crew intact. On another occasion Ross came to the aid of Houston. The Yellow Stone was being prepared on May 5, 1836, to take the Texas government officials and Antonio López de Santa Anna to Galveston from the San Jacinto battlefield. Houston, painfully wounded above the ankle, was refused permission to sail with the group to seek medical aid. When Ross learned of this decision by the government officials, he replied forcefully that he would not sail without General Houston.

Ross married Charlotte Stockbridge in Harris County on April 19, 1838, and they had two children. He was the master of the steamer Branch T. Archer, formerly the Cayuga, in 1837 and was associated with the John Huffman Company of Houston, owners of the vessel. The steamer was in the Buffalo Bayou, Trinity River, and Galveston trade. The Archer was again renamed the Pioneer by 1839, and Ross was probably still her master. Probate records of Harris County state that Ross died intestate in 1848, a citizen of the county. There was no homestead, but a league and labor of land in Hill County was listed in the inventory of property. It appears that none of the individuals connected with the Yellow Stone received the compensation that Houston promised when he impressed the ship in March 1836. Ross's widow filed several petitions in the 1850s seeking payment. In December 1855 Houston wrote to Ashbel Smith, then a state representative, urging his help in securing legislative action on the claim.

Thurman J. Adkins, Yellowstone: Biography of a Steamboat (M.A. thesis, Trinity University, 1969). Donald Jackson, Voyages of the Steamboat Yellow Stone (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1985). Jean Epperson McGinty, "Steamboat Served Republic of Texas as Floating Capitol," Port of Houston Magazine, April 1981. Clarence Wharton, Wharton's History of Fort Bend County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1939). 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). Marion Karl Wisehart, Sam Houston (Washington: Luce, 1962).

Time Periods:

  • Texas Revolution


  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Jean L. Epperson, “Ross, John Eautaw,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 26, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995
November 8, 2017

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