Catherine FULKERSON Ross
The Governor's Mom

Line of Descent:
Guillaume VIGNE and Adrienne CUVELIER
Dirck VOLCKERTSZEN and Christine VIGNE
Volkert DIRCKS and Annetje PHILIPS
Jacobus VOLKERTSEN (Capt. James Fulkerson) and Mary VAN HOOK
Isaac FULKERSON and Rebecca NEIL
Catherine H. FULKERSON

  Catherine H. FULKERSON was born 27 Sep 1812 in Rockingham Co., Virginia, where her father had served as Sheriff.  She moved to the Missouri Territory in 1814 with her parents and Daniel Boone. They settled in Darst Bottom, St. Charles County.

  Catherine married Shapley Prince Ross in St. Charles County, Missouri, on November 4, 1830. He was born near Louisville, Kentucky in 1811, son of Shapley Ross and Mary Prince. His older siblings had all married and moved away when his father died in 1823. Young Shapley stayed with his mother until he was 16, then went off on his own. His wanderings took him as far as Galena, a new mining settlement in the northwest corner of Illinois, and then down to Missouri.

Shapley and Catherine Fulkerson ROSS in later years
Click for a larger image
  Catherine, Shapley and their two young daughters, Mary and Margaret, moved north in 1834 to settle in "Indian country" on the Des Moines River in what is now Iowa. (Iowa became a U.S. territory two years later - it was a lawless, ungoverned region when Catherine and Shapley went there.) With several other families they farmed and began a community that became known as the "Ross Settlement."

  By 1839 Catherine and Shapley had added two sons to their family, Peter and Lawrence. With their oldest child just eight, they moved 600 miles south to the Republic of Texas (it was an independent nation from 1836 to 1845). There they took the oath of allegiance and homesteaded on 640 acres at a site now occupied by the town of Cameron (Milam County). Shapley organized volunteers for defense against Indian attacks. On one occasion the Indians crept into the settlement and stole all of their horses. Someone showed up the next day with some mules, so they took those and chased the Indians to Buggy Creek. There a hand-to-hand battle ensued. Shapley and his group won back their horses. From this and similar incidents, Shapley became known as a great Indian fighter.

  It's said that, after a few years at Cameron, Catherine and Shapley traded their land for a two-horse wagon and a yoke of oxen, and headed west to look for something better. The family settled at Austin, where the older children attended school, and finally in 1849 at Waco. Shapley was appointed Captain in the Texas Rangers, and continued to enhance his reputation.

"In early 1849 the first streets of Waco were laid off and lots were sold. Among the first buyers was a famed Indian fighter and Texas Ranger, Captain Shapley P. Ross....Captain Ross served as Waco's first postmaster, carrying the letters under his hat to make deliveries. Ross also built the first hotel and constructed a crude ferry across the Brazos, which substantially increased traffic through the village. Soon thereafter some large and productive plantations were opened along the fertile bottom-lands of the Brazos River. Growth came rapidly. In 1857 the town of Waco was officially incorporated." -Waco history website

These were 'rough and tumble' times in Texas, where the outward trappings of civilization competed with the buckskin-clad legacy of the frontier. The following story was found in “Early days in Milam County: Reminiscences of Susan Turnham McCown” [Southwestern Historical Quarterly, L, 372.]:
  While the ladies met for a quilting bee at the Shapley Ross place, the men congregated at a spring below the Ross home and procured some whiskey. In the rude play that followed, Captain Ross fell into the spring and his leather breeches got soaking wet. He went to sleep in the sun and when he awoke, his pants had dried stiff as boards. After companions ripped open the seams for him, Ross decided to go home and get a new pair of pants. Since walking in the stiff breeches was difficult he took them off and carried them over his shoulder.

  Someone informed the ladies at the quilting bee that men had been drinking rather freely. Some of the ladies became anxious but Mrs. Ross continued her quilting, commenting “Well, I am not the least bit worried as Captain Ross never drinks to excess.” About that time the Captain, clad only in hunting shirt with breeches thrown over his shoulder was seen approaching the house. The quilting was immediately adjourned and the Captain and his wife met alone, and no report of the meeting was ever published.

  And what about Catherine? In the early 1880's a "History of Texas" was produced and reported thusly about her:

"At the age of seventy, she is active and healthy. She has lived on the frontier all her life, at times, in the wilderness, among Indians, hostile and friendly, living in tents, log cabins, and fine houses, subsisting on honey and wild meats, and is now among the most widely known ladies of Texas, honored because of her estimable qualities. She has been, as a neighbor and citizen in Texas, what would have been called, in Bible times, "a mother of Israel."
  That last part was even more prophetic than they knew at the time.  The same history goes on to describe her nine children, including one Lawrence "Sul" Ross:
  • Mary Rebecca, born September 30, 1831, educated in Baylor University, married in 1851, in Waco, George Barnard, and has had nine children;

  • Margaret Virginia, born October 23, 1833, educated with her sister, Mary, married Captain Francis Horns, and has three children--these two were born in Lincoln county;

  • Peter F., born in Iowa, July 27, 1836, graduated from Vernon College, in New York, commanded a company in Colonel B. Warren Stone's regiment, and was afterwards promoted colonel in the Confederate service, served as captain on the Texas frontier, under Houston's administration, where he did gallant service, married Miss Laura, daughter of General James E. Harrison, of Waco, and has two children;

  • Lawrence Sullivan "Sul" Ross, born in Iowa, September 27, 1838, graduated at Florence, Alabama, was a brigadier-general in the Confederate army, married Elizabeth Tinsley, daughter of D.R. Tinsley, of Macon, Georgia, and has six children; (see below)

  • Ann, born on Little river, Milam county, Texas, May 8, 1841, graduated at Madden's school in Waco, married Major Patrick Fitzwiliams, a commission merchant of Galveston, and has five children;

  • Mervin, born on Little river, where the town of Cameron now is, February 8, 1843, died at Waco, six years old;

  • Robert S., the first white child born in McClennan county, was born in a tent, under a big live-oak tree, on Station creek, May 23, 1848, educated at Waco, married, in 1871, Miss Bettie Glenn, of a Tennessee family, and has one child; NOTE: Robert also served in the Civil War, as a captain in Company D, Sixth Texas Infantry. He was a founder of the Waco Grays, a local defense force of about 60 men, in 1874. In 1876 he began editing the Waco Advance, and some years later co-owned (with brother William) the Waco Daily Reporter. He also served as a deputy sheriff for 8 years, and as county treasurer for 4 years. He died in 1923.

  • Kate, born January 6, 1851, the first white child born in Waco, and the first to cross the suspension bridge at that place, graduated under Dr. Burleson at Waco, married Thomas Padgitt, of Waco, and has three children;

  • William H., born in Waco, August 18, 1852, graduated at Waco, married Miss Lizzie Denison, daughter of Major Francis L. Denison, editor of the Belton Courier. He is now travelling for his brother-in-law, Thomas Padgitt's saddle and harness establishments. He was formerly owner of the Waco Telephone.

  • Lawrence Sullivan "Sul" Ross

    Catherine was more than one of the "founding mothers" of a city. She was the mother of a Texas Ranger, a Confederate general, a sheriff, a senator, a governor, a college president...and a university

      Catherine's son "Sul" left home at 18 to attend Baylor University in Houston. From there he went to Wesleyan University in Alabama and graduated in 1859. During the summer of his junior year in college, while home on vacation, Sul joined with the United States Army as leader of a band of Indian auxiliaries from the Brazos Indian Reservation (Young County). During their campaign against the Comanches in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in September-October 1858, Ross won the praise of regular army officers for his skill and courage, but nearly lost his life from a serious wound received in a battle at the Wichita Village near the site of present-day Rush Springs, Oklahoma. He recovered enough to return to college and graduated the next summer.

      Upon his return to Texas he became a Texas Ranger and by the age of 22 he was Captain of the Rangers' Waco Company. His aggressive leadership caught the attention of Governor Sam Houston, who empowered him to raise a company of his own for service in the area of Young and surrounding counties. In December 1860 his pursuit of a Comanche raiding party resulted in the "rescue" of a captive white woman, Cynthia Parker, at the battle of Pease River - an exploit that gained him much popularity in Texas, and earned him appointment as state peace commissioner to several Indian tribes.

    There has been controversy concerning that "rescue" for almost 140 years. Althougn she was captured in a raid when she was only 9 years old, the Commanches have long contended that Miss Parker remained with them voluntarily. She married within the village and was the mother of the famed Commanche chief Quanah Parker. A fairly balanced account of this story is found within the Cynthia Ann Parker page at an interesting Georgia website.

      Sul married Elizabeth Dorothy Tinsley, daughter of a Waco planter, on May 28, 1861, and then enlisted as a Confederate major in the Waco company raised by his older brother, Peter F. Ross, which became part of the Sixth Texas Cavalry. Rising to the rank of colonel, Sul led his regiment in western campaigns, including Corinth, Pea Ridge and Vicksburg. In December 1863, when he was just 25 years old, he was made a brigadier general and given command of the Texas Cavalry Brigade - made up of the Third, Sixth, Ninth and Twenty-seventh Texas Cavalry regiments.

      He led his command in action against Union troops in the Yazoo River area for five months, then brought them east to participate in the defense of Atlanta, Georgia. Their first battle there, at New Hope Church near Dallas, Georgia, lasted ten days from late May into June, 1864. Sul spent more than 100 days in Georgia, during which his command was involved in 86 battles and skirmishes. His soldiers had a reputation for being "rollicking, rascally, brave," but a higher-level general also called them his "most reliable" troops.

      However, their bravery was no match for the overwhelming forces of the North. By late summer Sul's command was weakened and being overrun by Union armies. With Atlanta lost, he took what remained of his brigade to Tennessee, where they served as vanguards and rear guards, raided Union supply trains, and battled the Union cavalry in the South's losing effort to keep Nashville. Sul returned home in March 1865, before war's end, apparently to recruit more troops - he was in Texas when his brigade surrendered at Jackson, Mississippi in May 1865. The Texas Cavalry Brigade was forever after known as Ross's Brigade, and in 1875 its survivors formed the Ross Brigade Association.

      He spent the next eight years engaged in farming near Waco, but eventually developed an interest in politics. In 1873 the citizens of McLennan County elected Ross sheriff. In his two years in office he ended a reign of terror and helped form the Sheriffs' Association of Texas. He also campaigned for broader reforms in the state, and served as a delegate at the Texas constitutional convention that produced the Constitution of 1876. This service gave him experience in public office and a reputation for honesty and ability. In 1880 he was elected State senator from the Twenty-second District.

      A redistricting bill limited him to just four years in the state Senate, but by 1886 his friends and supporters persuaded him to enter the race for governor of Texas and he won easily on his first attempt. He served two 2-year terms as governor, from 1887 to 1891, during which his father Shapley died at the age of 78. Sul's time in office was later considered one of educational, industrial, agricultural, and commercial growth for Texas - and exceptional good will and harmony.

      In 1891, the 53-year-old Sul took on a new challenge as president of a seriously troubled college that is now known as Texas A&M. Under his popular presidency the number of students grew, many new buildings were built, and public faith in the institution returned. He also served as commander of the Texas Division of the United Confederate Veterans, in 1893.

      Sul was only 59 years old and had just returned from a hunting trip when he suddenly became ill and died at his College Station home on 3 January 1898. An editorial written after his death stated, "It has been the lot of few men to be of such great service to Texas as Sul Ross." This service was later recognized with the naming of Sul Ross State University at Alpine, Texas.

    Sources: Library of Congress, American Memory Collection (Internet); Judith Ann Benner, "Sul Ross: Soldier, Statesman, Educator" (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1983); Ross Family Papers, Texas Collection, Baylor University; New Handbook of Texas, 1996, The Texas State Historical Association; Waco history website; Lone Star Junction website; family history by Joseph R. Fulkerson, 1961. Photograph by permission of Lone Star Junction.