ROSS, James Gibb (1819-1888)

Born on April 19th 1819 in Carluke, Scotland, James Gibb Ross is the son of Thomas Ross, merchant, and of Jane Gibb.

Ross settled in Quebec at age 15 and worked in his family’s dry goods businesses. In 1858, he founded Ross and Company with his eldest brother John Ross, which became the largest grocery importers in Quebec City. The company extended its activities to the lumber trade in 1861, and to steel and steamships afterward. John Ross left the company in 1868 to set up his own business. James Gibb Ross became one of the most important owners of lumber mills in Quebec and Ontario and, according to some sources, owned a fleet of 80 ships. He was also involved in the development of railroads and banks.

Ross participated in the founding of several organizations in the Quebec City region, namely the Saint Lawrence Navigation Company (1861), the Quebec Marine Insurance Company (1862) and the Quebec Elevator Company (1863).

He also served on the boards of many commercial and social associations such as the council of the board of trade, the Quebec Harbour Commission, the Stadacona Club, and the Humane Society of Canada.

Ross was also involved in politics. He was a candidate in the federal elections of of 1872 and 1878, but lost both elections due to violent campaigns centered on racial and religious differences. He was nevertheless nominated to the Canadian Senate in 1884, and served for the four years preceding his death.

He died in Quebec City on October 1st 1888. He was buried at Mount Hermon Cemetery in Quebec City. He left an estate valued at several million dollars, which included money for Protestant charities in Quebec City and Carluke, Scotland. A judicial battle between the Ross family and Protestant organizations in the city followed, which wound up in the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1894, the rights of the Protestant organizations were upheld by the Supreme Court and Jeffery Hale’s Hopital, Morrin College, Finlay Asylum, the Ladies’ Protestant Home and other Protestant organizations in the city received their most important bequests to date.

– Patrick Donovan, June 2015


  • BLAIR, Louisa, Patrick DONOVAN and Donald FYSON. From Iron Bars to Bookshelves. Quebec: Septentrion, 2015 (forthcoming).
  • MACKENZIE, Kenneth S. « Ross, James Gibb ». Dictionnaire biographique du Canada [Online].
  • GELLY, Alain. « Ross, Francis ». Dictionnaire biographique du Canada [Online].