CHARLES H. S. Ross, the circuit clerk of Perry county, has in the course of his life thus far seen a variation of experience in many lines of endeavor, and has been active in public life for many years. His nature partakes of those stirring qualities which lead him to be found most frequently as the leading spirit in a new movement or organization, and his connection for many years past as an active leader in the local affairs of the American Federation of Labor is but one of the numerous evidences of that quality in his make-up.
Charles H. S. Ross was born at old St. John, Perry county, on October 15, 1865. His father, Silas J. Ross, was one of the ante-bellum settlers of the county, having entered therein after periods of residence in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, following his exit from Lawrence county, New York, where he was born on June 7, 1830. In the town of his birth and rearing he learned the trade of a miller, and when he settled in St. John followed that occupation through the Civil war period and until his removal to DuQuoin in 1870. There he continued the business as the proprietor of the old Red Star Mill on the west side of the town, and also engaged in the feed business on East Main street. In 1887 Mr. Ross abandoned the mill and thereafter devoted his entire time and attention to the management of the feed store. The actual schooling of the elder Ross was limited to a country school training covering a few brief years, but that did not deter him from exercising to the utmost his traits of good judgment, reliability and general capability, which made it possible for him to realize the success which was his in later life, and which commended him to the public as a suitable man for positions of responsibility. He was elected to the office of county commissioner for two terms on the Democratic ticket, serving from 1878 to 1884, and while the incumbent of that office he was called to fill the office of mayor, which position he held from 1878 to 1882, serving judiciously and capably in both offices. Mr. Ross was the oldest Odd Fellow in DuQuoin at the time of his demise, having been a member of the order for fifty-six years, and at the time of his death he was in charge of the lodge building and of the cemetery of the order. In St. John, Illinois, Mr. Ross married Mrs. Sophia Leavenworth, a daughter of Robert Gibson. She was born at Little Sandusky, Ohio, and died in DuQuoin on December 24, 1909, her husband surviving her until October 15, 1911. Their children were Flora, wife of C. C. Hatfield, of DuQuoin, Illinois, Charles H. S. and Louis J., both of DuQuoin.
Charles H. S. Ross acquired his education under the tutelage of Professor John B. Ward, one of the ablest men ever in charge of the DuQuoin schools. His training in the book line was limited, as he began to earn his own living when a boy of fifteen, drifting into the work of a stationary engineer, which trade he learned and was fourteen years
employed in that capacity by the Red Hook mill. Following his retirement from that position he weighed coal at the old Browning mine for some time; he then became a car-repairer for the Illinois Central and later on was a night-watchman in their employ. During the World's Fair at Chicago he was in the employ of a concessioner in the Florida building, and in December of 1893 he returned to the Illinois Central people at DuQuoin as a baggage man. In May, 1894, he engaged in teaming, and from a single team he expanded his business to include a line of drays doing contract work. It was in this connection that he afterward became actively identified with the labor movement at the inception of the organization. When the Federal Labor organizations began forming unions Mr. Ross was one of the first men to become a member of it, and he was chosen the first secretary of the local order, performing the duties of that office for eight years. He was active in the labor of spreading interest in the organization, performing the duties of a district organizer, and was successful in bringing into the Federation all the membership of labor unions in and about DuQuoin, with the exception of the mining organizations. He represented his district in 1898 in the National convention at Washington, D. C., and was appointed from there as a delegate to represent the Middle states, being one of a committee of five to meet President Samuel Gompers, of the American Federation of Labor, and the Federation itself then in session at Washington, D. C., to recommend certain ideas concerning the defence fund to be inserted in the constitution of the American Federation of Labor then being drawn up. After the teamsters separated from the Federal Labor Organization and organized a union of their own Mr. Ross was the local secretary for four years, but upon his election to public office his connection with organized labor ceased, in accordance with the terms of their constitutions.
In 1904 Mr. Ross was elected alderman from the first ward of DuQuoin, serving one term. He was later appointed superintendent of streets under Mayor Pope, filling the position capably and satisfactorily, and in 1908 he was elected circuit clerk by a majority of fifty-six votes, succeeding James Pyatt to the office. Mr. Ross is an Odd Fellow, as was his father, and sat in the Grand Lodge of the order in 1902. He is a member of the Order of Eagles, being its secretary for four years, and is a Modern Woodman.
On December 31, 1885, Mr. Ross married Miss Minnie M. Hill, a daughter of Richard Hill and Harriet (Weeks) Hill, both of whom came to this country from England. Mrs. Ross was born at DuQuoin, on October 10, 1864. Mr. and Mrs. Ross are the parents of five children: Conrad S. is a locomotive fireman on the Illinois Central and is married to Miss Nettie Clark; Leila F. is a teacher in the public schools; Mary E., Tillie H. and Richard complete the family.