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Henry Ross Journals

Henry Ross Journals, 1849-1882

Henry Ross (1822-1899), son of Silas and Nancy Ross was born in Newtonville and attended Newton schools and Seth Daviss private school in West Newton before beginning to learn the mason,s trade from his father.

He worked first as a mason and later as a florist with Edwin Fewkes of Newtonville, and became superintendent of the Newton Cemetery in April 1861. The cemetery, located on Walnut Street between Beacon and Homer streets, had been incorporated in 1855.

By the time Ross became superintendent the cemetery had grown from the first 30-acre site to 65 acres. According to Smiths History of Newton (1880), "the success of the enterprise [was] due largely to [Rosss] taste and skill, and his devotion to the interests of the cemetery."

The Newton Historical Society acquired Rosss daybook and journals in 1986. They cover the years 1849-50; February 15, 1852-January 20, 1854; July 1, 1866-October 31, 1870; November 1, 1870-March 30, 1875; April 1, 1875- December 31, 1882.

Henry Ross is neither a dynamic writer nor a particularly astute observer of the time, and he is often depressed. However, his journal entries provide insight into his work, the difficulties he encountered in his daily life, events in Newton, and occasional commentary on issues of the day.

Ross was particularly interested in horticulture and landscape gardening. He was an active member of the Newton Horticultural Society, read books on landscape gardening by Gilpin, Repton, and Downing, visited many local nurseries and greenhouses including those at the Hunnewell estate in Wellesley.

He also recounts hearing lectures by Mark Twain and Horace Mann among others, and makes some mention of temperance, abolition, womans suffrage, and the weather.

As cemetery superintendent he came in contact with many Newton families, and although he does not dwell on death, the number of child burials he recorded is a poignant reminder of the fragility of childrens lives before the advances of modern medicine.

There are no original family materials in this collection, but there is additional genealogical material about the Ross family, a copy of a portrait photograph of Henry Ross from the Newton Cemetery, and a copy of an advertisement for a Ross Lawn Mower from the Newton Journal, July 5, 1873.

No. of boxes: 1 flat box
Finding Aids: None, No index

Biographical Review, Smith