Friday, January 15, 2016

DEATH HAS CLAIMED ANOTHER OLD AND HIGHLY RESPECTED CITIZEN OF OUR COUNTY ANDREW JACKSON ROSS: 1814 - 1877

This article was my annual submission to the 2014 Clark County (Arkansas) Historical Association's annual journal.  It was recognized in Spring 2015 by The Arkansas Historical Association's Committee on Awards for the Award for Best Biography, Autobiography or Memoir Published in a County or Local Historical Journal in 2014.

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His death notice ran in the Southern Standard on March 17, 1877 notifying readers who had not heard about his recent death.   Andrew Jackson Ross, better known as A. J., died on 11 March 1877 at the age of 62 after living in the Bradshaw community for nearly 35 years.  He died at his residence.  He was buried in the Mount Pisgah Cemetery and was considered an old and highly respected citizen of Clark County.[1]
A. J. was born in Logan County, Kentucky on 25 November 1814. He migrated from Dallas County, Alabama to Clark County’s Bradshaw community around 1843 along with his siblings and parents, Peter and Temperance (Arnold) Ross.  Before settling in Clark County, Jack apparently made an advance trip for his father in July 1842 to purchase a 329 acre parcel of land from David Browning and his wife, Mary.  The land purchase set Jack’s father back about $1645 (about $48,500 in today’s value) for this acreage. A. J.’s signature as the witness and representative for his father was the only Ross signature on the deed.  The deed indicates that Peter Ross, purchaser of the parcel, is living in Dallas County, Alabama.  This suggests that Peter and Temperance travelled at a later date to settle in Arkansas, possibly sometime after February 1843 after the sale of his land in Alabama.[2]
A. J.’s commitment to Clark County’s Masonic Lodges and their philosophy of brotherhood was demonstrated by his longstanding memberships.  He was a Master Mason listed on the 1866 membership roll of the Arkadelphia Lodge No. 19 and in his later years, as a member of the Flanagin Lodge No. 88.  Because he was seen as a “worthy and well-beloved” member of the Flanagin Lodge at the time of his death, A. J. was buried with honors by his Masonic brethren.[3]   
Masonic burial protocols call for either the member in their life or the family after his death to agree to the funeral. The published Tribute of Respect in the local newspaper stands as proof that either A. J. had given his approval or his surviving family members, sons Lucius Osborn Ross and Robert Carroll Ross, agreed their father should be buried with the usual pomp and circumstance of a Masonic burial.[4]
On the day of A. J.’s death, Lucius prepared for his father’s funeral service by purchasing several necessities from a local dry goods store where he had an account.   He sent a note to J. W. Shaw Dry Goods & Groceries on Maddox Street in Arkadelphia to charge several clothing items for D. J. McDonald to his account.  Mr. McDonald, another high standing citizen of the County and the first president of the Arkadelphia Chamber of Commerce may have been a friend of the family or possibly an important member of the funeral procession.  Mr. McDonald was to receive a pair of socks, a pair of low quartered shoes—size nine, a pair of large white gloves, and a white handkerchief.  It is assumed these items were intended to be worn by Mr. McDonald when attending A. J.’s funeral.[5]
Other items purchased on that same day, and written on the back of the same scrap of paper that was sent for Mr. McDonald’s funeral necessities, were items presumably for Lucius’ or Robert’s funeral dress.  The note that Lucius sent to the dry goods store requested another order to be charged to his account for a pair of shoes, a  pair of pants, a pair of gloves, a pair of half hose, a handkerchief, a vest, and ten gallons of bleaching.  These items totaled $17.00 and were charged to his account at Shaw’s Dry Goods and Groceries as requested on the 11 March 1877 note.[6] 
On March 12th, the day after A. J.’s death, the Flanagin Lodge Master called a special meeting of the members to plan his funeral service.  When the members were ready to begin the funeral service, it must have been a great sight-to-see on the country roads of the Bradshaw community.  Once the members were organized, they left Flanagin’s Lodge located near the Palestine Church, most likely dressed in their funerary attire prescribed by their Monitor.  The members possibly wore black pants and coats along with their top hats, white gloves, and white lambskin aprons trimmed in blue, the Masonic emblem of innocence. Their aprons would have been worn over their outer clothes with a black crepe armband placed on their left arms that would be worn for 30 days.  Finally, a sprig of evergreen placed on their left coat lapel served as a reminder that they themselves had imperishable spirits that would never die, just as their Brother Andrew Jackson Ross’ spirit would never die.[7]  
The procession of men marched to the Ross family house in Bradshaw where the body lay in state.  They probably marched in the order called for by their fraternity’s funeral custom—first was the Tyler, with his drawn sword, shrouded in black crepe. Next came the musicians, followed by the Stewards, with their blue and white rods wrapped in black crepe, then the Master Masons in attendance.  Next in formation would have been the Treasurer and Secretary, the Wardens, any past Masters, and the Bible bearer with a cushion covered in black fabric upon which the Bible, square, and compass would have been placed. The Bible would most likely have been carried by the oldest member of the Lodge.  After this segment of the funeral procession would come the Chaplain, followed by the Lodge Master, six pall bearers and finally mourners that would be joined by the others at the Ross home.[8]  
After arriving at the house, and continuing to follow the ancient tradition of the funeral ceremony, the procession would reposition at the entrance to the Ross home by forming two parallel lines that faced each other.  The Stewards would then cross their blue and white rods for members of the procession to walk through as they entered A. J.’s home.  First to enter would be the Lodge Master, followed by the Marshall, the other officers, but in reverse order, and finally the remainder of the brethren.  Once inside, the Master would take his place at the head of the coffin with the Senior and Junior Wardens on either side.  The Chaplain would take his place behind the Master, but slightly to the left.  The Bible Bearer would stand at the foot of the coffin.  The Stewards with their crossed rods would be positioned near the head of the coffin, while the Deacons would position themselves at the foot. The remainder of the Lodge members would then form a rectangle if space permitted, if not then a circle, around the ceremony’s officials who would already be in place.  Reverend Alexander B. Winfield, Minister of the Gospel, serving as the Chaplain for the Lodge, preached A. J.’s funeral sermon.[9]
Once the sermon was completed and the ceremony was performed by the Lodge Master, the members took their Brother’s body for interment in Mount Pisgah Cemetery. They would exit the home in the same order they entered, but the pall bearers would now carry Jack’s coffin with his apron lying upon it.  The procession from the Ross home to the cemetery would take quite some time to complete, as the distance from Andrew Jackson Ross’ home to Mount Pisgah Cemetery was almost four miles.  Joining the procession to the cemetery were his sons, Lucious Osborn and Robert Carroll Ross, along with their wives and children.  A. J.’s wife, Matilda Georgianna (Osborn) Ross, had preceded him in death three years prior.  He would be buried next to her in their final resting place.[10]
After the interment, the members marched once again in procession from the cemetery to Mount Pisgah Church.  The membership appointed a committee identified as William J. Spears, William J. Rowe, W.B. Pullam, W.D. Bridges, and W.C. Justice to write a resolution “that would be suitable for the occasion.”  The resolutions drafted were entered into the Lodge’s records as a memorial to their departed brother, copied and given to the Ross family, and published in the Southern Standard.[11]
The committee adopted the following:
Whereas, death has called from our midst and from his home, children, neighbors and friends, and from the duties of life to enjoy those of a higher one in another state of existence, our late well-beloved brother and member of our Fraternity, A. J. Ross, who died March 11th, 1877.  Therefore,
Resolved. That in his removal, we are reminded of life’s uncertainty and the saddening with it may terminate by an All Wiser Ruler, and whilst we bow submissively to the will of Him who doeth all things well; yet, we cannot, being mortals, refrain from deploring our great loss, with a pleasing hope that ours is his eternal gain. 
Resolved. That our deceased Brother was faithful, conscientious, upright and an honest man, and in the discharge of his duties in the Church, in the Lodge and neighborhood, he was ever true to the important trusts committed to him, and above all an honest man. 
Resolved. That a page of our Record be dedicated to this memory, on which shall be inscribed, to the memory of Brother A. J. ROSS. 
Resolved. That we wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days. 
Resolved. That a copy of these Resolutions be furnished his family to whom our sympathies are extended, and that copy be furnished the SOUTHERN STANDARD, for publications.

A. J. and Matilda Ross lie today in Mount Pisgah Cemetery, an abandoned cemetery on private property just off Central Road. Their headstone is still standing but shows the sign of age and neglect after 137 years.  Made of American marble and ordered through Anderson Brothers from Southern Marble Works in Prescott, Arkansas, the headstone was delivered to Arkadelphia on December 25, 1877 for placement.  In the tradition of Masonic symbolism, the double headstone has clasped hands within the cross’ union.  Lucius and Robert possibly chose this detail specifically because it was sometimes used by the Masons to depict unity and devotion to Masonic Brethren.  This headstone, one of only six remaining in this once vibrant Clark County cemetery, reminds us that Andrew Jackson Ross’ spirit is imperishable.[12] 


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[1]Spears, W. J., Rowe, W. J., Pullam, W. B., Bridges, W. D., and Justice, W.C. “Tribute of Respect." Southern Standard.  (March 1877): 3.                    
[2]Andrew Jackson Ross, Family Bible Records, 1814 – 1903, The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (Philadelphia: Jesper Harding, 1851), “Marriages”; privately held by David Charles Ross II, Henderson, Nevada.  The Bible appears to be a gift, but the reason for the presentation is unknown.  Also unknown is if it was presented to Andrew and Matilda Ross or one of their children sometime after the 1851 publication date. The data pages have multiple handwritings and assumed to have been handed down from Andrew Jackson Ross to Robert Carroll Ross, to Robert Stanley Ross, to David Charles Ross, and most recently to David Charles Ross, II.; Clark County, Arkansas, Deeds, B: 118-19, David M. Browning and Mary J. Browning to Peter Ross, deed, 21 July 1842; Office of Register of Deeds, Arkadelphia.; Williamson, Samuel H., "Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present," MeasuringWorth, 2014.; Ross Chappell, The Ross Family Beginning 1734 in Hanover County, Virginia (USA: Bluebird Books, 2005), 226 – 231.
[3]Desmond Walls Allen, Abstracts from Masonic Records Grand Lodges of Arkansas 1870- 1872 (Conway, AR: Arkansas Research, Inc., 2004), 72 – 73.
[4]Spears, et al, “Tribute of Respect,” Southern Standard, 17 May 1877.   
[5]Clark County, Arkansas, Probate Records: file “Ross, A.J., 1877”; Riley-Higginbotham Library Special Collections.; Richter, Wendy, editor, “Clark County Arkansas: Past and Present (Walsworth Publishing Co, 1992) 98.
[6]Clark Co., AR, Clerk of the Probate Court File Records: file “Ross, A.J., 1877.”
[7] Washington Monitor 1947—proxy used for funeral protocols
[8] Washington Monitor and Freemason’s Guide; 1947 pages 133 – 160.  Funeral service instructions from the 1947 Washington Monitor and Freemason’s Guide lay out the protocol of various types of funeral services that could be held for a Masonic burial.  The instructions in this Monitor are very similar to the tribute of respect in the Southern Standard newspaper.
[9] Spears, et al, “Tribute of Respect,” Southern Standard, 17 May 1877. ; Desmond Walls Allen, compiler, Abstracts from Masonic Records Grand Lodge of Arkansas 1870-1872, (Arkansas Research Inc. 2004) 73.
[10] Allen B. Syler, compiler. Clark County, Arkansas, Obituaries and Death Notice, 1869 – 1900, Vol 1, (Arkansas Research, Inc., 2007) 22.                     
[11] Spears, et al, “Tribute of Respect,” Southern Standard, 17 May 1877.
[12] Clark Co., AR, Probate Records: file “Ross, A.J., 1877.”, Arlis Graham, Clark County Cemeteries Vol. II Arkadelphia Area (Clark County Historical Association, 2009), 10.