Herman Frederick Ross is one of the early, reliable and worthy settlers of Shasta County, and one who has had an eventful history. He was born in Sweden, December 24, 1823. His parents, Erick and Catharine Elizabeth Ross, were also natives of Sweden. His father’s business was that of Swedish iron manufacture, and had large estates. In religion they were Lutherans.

Mr. Ross, the subject of this sketch, at the age of fifteen years started out in life as a sailor. In his first voyage his ship was wrecked in the English Channel, striking a bank in a heavy snow-storm, and went to pieces. The crew took to the boats, saving nothing but what they had on their person, and were twenty-four hours in frozen clothes, dashed about by an angry sea in small open boats. When they were picked up they were nearly frozen to death, and had to be lifted out of their boats. This “cooled” Mr. Ross’ ardor for a seafaring life, but did not stop him from seeing more of the world. He then went on an English vessel to the coast of Africa, where he went on board of an English man-of-war that was cruising there to do what she could in capturing slavers, then very numerous, and thereby break up the slave trade. Their ship, the Ferret, was a fast sailer, and they ran down many a slaver and rescued the poor men and women who were packed like cattle in the holds, which they landed on Sierra Leone. Many of the slavers were fast sailers and got away.

Mr. Ross was afterward transferred to an English seventy-four three-decker, and was sent to the coast of China during the China war, and participated in some of the battles at the close of the war. The soldiers then returned to England and were paid off. In 1843 Mr. Ross took passage to America, landing in New York city. Then he sailed with traders for gold dust and ivory on the coast of Africa and returned to the United States. Next he shipped on the first iron propeller made for the United States Government, the building of which was superintended by Erickson, the great inventor, and named Lagaree. It was an experiment, but she proved a success. They raced with the Great Western and beat her so far that they steamed around her twice.

He went on this vessel to Washington. She took President Tyler and his bride on a pleasure trip to Richmond. Then they went with her to Florida and made surveys there, and after this took out the first load of United States arms for the Mexican war. Mr. Ross was in the employ of the Government in the quarter-master’s department during the war with Mexico. Soon after this he had the yellow fever, and on his partial recovery went to the State of Maine to fully recuperate.

He remained there until 1849, when he came to California and landed at San Francisco. From there he went up the American River and engaged in mining for gold for a time. He was quite successful, and there with others made dams. Everything had been high while they were working on the dams, and they soon got rid of their money and also went in debt; and when they lost their work by the high water they were heavily in debt. They went to work with rockers in the bank, and in two weeks took out gold enough to pay their debts, and even more.

At this time there was great excitement over rich discoveries at Gold Bluffs, and there was a rush in that direction. He started there and landed at Trinidad, when the winter set in hard and the bubble burst. He next mined on Salmon, Scott, Klamath and Trinity rivers, and finally brought up at Shasta in 1852. It was then a rushing place, with crowds of people. He mined awhile, went to Oak Run and took up 160 acres of land and engaged in raising all kinds of farm products. When he began high prices were paid for farm produce. He paid ten cents per pound for seed barley and sold the crop for one and half cents per pound.

While he mined on the Trinity the Indians were quite troublesome. Frequently some one was killed. They had to keep a man on guard to prevent the savages from stealing up and killing them. The reds killed four men, and then about fifteen of the miners agreed to pursue them. When they came up with them they succeeded in killing three, the rest escaping.

Mr. Ross farmed on his ranch until 1865, and for a time he engaged in teaming to Idaho, Nevada and Silver City. At this business he made some money. In 1865 he purchased a half interest in the mill at Millville, the other owner being Mr. H. N. Wilkinson. This business for years proved a success. They handled a great deal of grain, and supplied some counties with flour. When the railroad was built in 1876 it to a great extent injured their business. They still own and run the mill, but it has not the business it once had.

When Mr. Ross settled in this county the Indians were numerous along the banks, salmon was plenty in the streams and game on the hills and mountains, deer, antelope and bear, -- so that the Indians had plenty to eat. After the Americans settled in the county and the rush of miners in 1849 and the years following, the Indians made frequent raids on them, stealing horses and cattle and occasionally killing a man and sometimes a family. To punish the Indians and for self-protection the whites had to retaliate, and often they did not know that they had found the right Indians; but in these raids Mr. Ross never killed a woman or a child. Even after he bought his mill in 1865 there were occasional bands of Indians who raided the country and committed depredations on the settlers; but as the game became scarce the Indians were starved out.

In 1859 Mr. Ross married Miss Margaret Hunt, a native of Missouri, and they have had two sons, born at Oak Run, namely: Albert F., now the county clerk of Shasta County, whose history will be found in this work; and Harold, who is at home with his father on their ranch. The relentless hand of death took from them in 1864 the kind and loving wife and mother, and three years afterward Mr. Ross was again married, to Miss Clarissa Powers, a native of Iowa, who has since been his faithful wife.

Since the great war of the Rebellion Mr. Ross has been a consistent and stanch Republican, and for some years held the office of Justice of the Peace. He has taken an active part with and has been prominent in several of the societies of the county. When at Shasta he was one of the charter members of the Legion of Honor. He is a chapter Mason and was one of the charter members and first Master of the Northern Light Lodge at Millville.

Memorial and Biographical History of Northern California, Lewis Publishing Co., 1891 pages 367-368
Transcribed by: Kathy Sedler, September 2004

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