William H.H. Ross, Governor

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William Henry Harrison Ross

Birthplace: Laurel, Sussex, Delaware, United States
Death: June 30, 1887 (73)
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Place of Burial: Seaford, Sussex, Delaware, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Caleb Ross, Esq. and Letitia Lofland
Brother of James Ross and Maria Elizabeth Hearne

Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William H.H. Ross, Governor

William Henry Harrison Ross (June 2, 1814 – June 30, 1887) was an American farmer and politician from Seaford, in Sussex County, Delaware. He was a member of the Democratic Party who served as Governor of Delaware.

Brief Biography

WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON ROSS was born in Laurel, Delaware, on June 2, 1814. He was educated in Laurel's public school system, and for two years attended the Friend's School in Claremont, Pennsylvania. Before entering politics, he worked in his father's mercantile business and a few years later opened his own successful store in Seaford, Delaware. He was elected Delaware's 29th governor on November 12, 1850, and was sworn into office on January 21, 1851. During his tenure, the most important issue he dealt with was the 1853 State Constitutional Convention. Some of the proposed revisions were manhood suffrage, the elimination of slavery, the selection of the judiciary, and increased representation for New Castle County; however, in the 1853 popular election, these proposals were overthrown. Ross ended his term on January 16, 1855, and retired from public service. He continued to stay active, serving as a senior partner in his firm, the W.M. Ross and Company. Governor William H.H. Ross died on June 29, 1877, and is buried at the St. Luke's Episcopal Churchyard in Seaford, Delaware.

Slavery and the Civil War

Ross was a slaveholder and obviously sympathetic with the various arguments intended to preserve it. "'Slavery might be dying in Delaware,' he said, but he was convinced a majority of the citizens in the state supported the rights of the slaves states." [2] As if to agree with his point, the General Assembly again refused proposals to allow African-Americans to testify in courts of law, or to travel freely.

Ross knew what his reputation was, and with the outbreak of the Civil War in early 1861, and especially after one of his sons joined the Confederate States Army, Ross left for England for a few months. He tried returning a year later, but by 1863 had left for the duration of the war. While he was in exile he wrote, "Not that I am guilty of any act against the government of the U.S., but I am considered to entertain opinions which are pronounced by some people as disloyal. For that reason I remain out of the country, hoping that the American people may some day return to their reason, [when] I may return in safety to spend the remainder of my days in a country ruined by the madness and fanaticism of its own people." [3] Ross returned, and lost many of his investments, but by his act of avoidance, probably prevented further personal ruin.

Ross was but the most wealthy and most visible of many persons in Delaware equally sympathetic with the cause of the Confederacy. Most of his peers and neighbors felt the same way, and the strength of their pro-slavery feelings was matched only by awareness that the very existence of Delaware required its membership in a strong Union. Refusing to give up either opinion, the important decisions were simply made elsewhere.


  • Parents: Caleb Ross & Letitia Lofland


  1. 1840 Emeline Hall ( ??-1909 ) 

10 children include:

  1. Letitia Lofland - married Victor Green 
  2. Caleb - ( 1841-1861 ) 
  3. George Hall - ( 1844-1861 ) 
  4. James Jefferson - ( 1846-1934 ) 
  5. William Madison - ( 1848-1910 ) 
  6. Edward C. 
  7. Sarah A. - married Dr. Skillern, moved to Philadelphia, Pa. 
  8. Mary G. - married Montgomery Fisher of Seaford, De.   # Laura F. - ( ??-1916 ) - married John Gray 
  9. John Wood


  1. Governor William Henry Harrison Ross
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William H.H. Ross, Governor's Timeline

June 2, 1814
Laurel, Sussex, Delaware, United States
June 30, 1887
Age 73
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
June 1887
Age 72
St. Luke's Episcopal Churchyard, Seaford, Sussex, Delaware, United States