Memorable Manitobans: Arthur Wellington Ross (1846-1901)
Lawyer, MLA (1878-1879), MLA (1879-1883), MP (1882-1887), MP (1887-1891), MP (1891-1896), businessman.
Born at Nairn, Ontario on 25 March 1846, son of Donald Ross, he was educated there and at the Toronto Normal School. He entered teaching and in 1871 rose to inspector of public schools for Glengarry County. Soon afterward he received his BA from the University of Toronto, and he moved to Winnipeg in 1877.
He was admitted to the Manitoba bar in 1878 and formed a partnership with his brother, W. H. Ross. He served as a Bencher for the Law Society of Manitoba from 1880 to 1883. He was one of the leading real estate promoters and speculators in the infamous Winnipeg Boom of the early 1880s, holding most of the Fort Rouge area. He was active in acquiring Métis scrip, perhaps because of inside information he had received. But in 1882 the collapse of the boom ruined him, and he spent years in court over his complex finances.
He was elected Liberal MLA from Springfield in 1878 and re-elected in 1879. He was an opponent in the legislature of the Canadian Pacific Railway monopoly, and he was elected Liberal MP from Lisgar (the riding that included the town of Selkirk) in 1882. In Ottawa he became an eloquent defender of the CPR, and he became active in Vancouver real estate speculation associated with the railroad’s arrival in that city. He was vice-president of the Manitoba and Northwest Railway. In 1887 he was elected to the House of Commons and he was returned in the 1891 general election with tacit CPR support. According to one of his colleagues in Ottawa, Joseph Royal, “Ross was elected for Ross.”
On 30 July 1873, he was married to Jessie Florence Cattanach (?-?) with whom he had three children, including businessman John Hugo Ross and engineer Donald Aynsley Ross. He was a founding member of the Manitoba Historical Society.
In 1901, Ross suffered a stroke in British Columbia and died in Toronto on 25 March while seeking medical treatment. He is commemorated by Arthur Street and Wellington Crescent in Winnipeg, with several other street names (Jessie Street, Flora Avenue, Helen Street, Aynsley Street, and Hugo Street) associated with his family members.
The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.
“Death of A. W. Ross,” Winnipeg Tribune, 25 March 1901, page 8.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 20 September 2020