David E. Ross

David E. Ross, inventor of the Ross steering gear, and founder of the Ross Gear & Tool Company, of Lafayette, of which he is now serving as general manager and vice-president, was born on a farm in White County, Indiana, August 25, 1871. His parents, George H. and Susan (Booth) Ross, were natives of Tippecanoe County, Indiana, and Wheeling, West Virginia. The father passed his entire life in this state, and was among the most highly respected agriculturists of White County, where both parents died, leaving a family of one son and two daughters. The Ross family, from which our subject descended, was among the first to settle in Lafayette. The Grandfather, David Ross, was born in 1806 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He came to Lafayette in 1827 and opened a general store on the north side of the court house square. This was the next year after the town had been laid out. He was widely known throughout the county and enjoyed the respect and esteem of the entire community. He married Mary Henderson, of Delphi, Indiana, and to this union were born three sons and one daughter. The Ross family are of Scotch descent, the founders of the family in America having immigrated to this country prior to the Revolutionary War, and it is probable that some of its members participated in that historic struggle. David E. Ross, the subject of this mention, was brought to Lafayette as a child and here grew to manhood. He received his early education in the public schools of this city and Brookston and later completed it by a course in Purdue University, graduating with the class of 1893 as a mechanical and an electrical engineer. Following his graduation, he turned his attention to agricultural pursuits and it was while following this calling that he erected the steering gear which resulted in the organization of the present company in 1906, when a small company was organized with a capital of $50,000, the greater part of which was furnished by his uncle, William Ross, who served as its president until his death in 1913. The original officers of this company were William Ross, president, David Linn Ross, secretary and treasurer, and David E. Ross, general manager. In 1907 the office of secretary was separated from that of treasurer and Edward A. Ross was chosen to fill the position, the duties of which he has ably discharged from that time until the present. Their first factory was located in the brick building standing on the corner of Ninth and Main Streets, and it was not until 1913 that the present factory, with a floor space of over 86,000 square feet, was erected. The capital stock of the company was increased from time to time in order to meet the needs of the rapidly growing business, until it stands today at over $200,000. They employ between 450 and 500 people, a greater part of which may be termed skilled laborers. Prior to 1922 the company manufactured gears especially designed for use on trucks and busses, but in that year their present gear was perfected, which meets the demands of all classes of cars and finds a market throughout the civilized world. Besides extending a general supervision over the Ross Gear & Tool Company, Mr. Ross also fills the position of vice president of the Fairfield Manufacturing Company, of Lafayette, which is engaged in the manufacture of differentials and bevel gears. He is also a director of the Ross Machine Company, of Lafayette, Indiana. Besides giving Lafayette one of its most prosperous industies, Mr. Ross has found time to devote to the government of the city and serve for a number of years as a member of the city council. He has ever taken a deep interest in his alma mater, and with George Ade, gave the beautiful stadium which now adorns the university grounds. In 1921 Mr. Ross was chosen as one of the trustees of the university and has ably served in that capacity up to the present time. Mr. Ross has never married, nor does he hold membership in any of the religious denominations or secret societies. He does, however, hold membership in the Automotive Engineering Society.
-- History of Indiana from Its Exploration to 1922 also A History of Tippecanoe County and The Wabash Valley in Three Volumes (1928) by Logan Esarey, Volume 3 Pages 178-179

Like the Dryfus and Duncan companies, the Ross Gear and Tool Company has proved conclusively that the advantages of Lafayette are conducive to industrial success. All three began modestly in Lafayette and all three have grown to greatness here. The Ross Company is a $3,000,000 corporation. A few years ago, when manufacturing light tools, it gave employment to fifty men; more than 350 men are now employed. The Ross cam and lever steering gear, the chief product of this company, is now used on forty makes of passenger cars, fifty makes of busses, and 110 makes of trucks. Contracts and orders now on hand insure a production of more than 400,000 gears in 1927. David Ross, the inventor of this gear, personifies the public spirit of the community. He and George Ade, the playwright and humorist, gave the athletic field and stadium to Purdue University as mentioned in the previous chapter. Mr. Ross has given ground for a park in West Lafayette, and he has contributed liberally to all projects that promise the development and betterment of the community.
-- History of Indiana from Its Exploration to 1922 also A History of Tippecanoe County and The Wabash Valley in Three Volumes (1928) by Logan Esarey, Volume 3 Pages 91-92

Fairfield, 80 years old today, helps gear Lafayette's strength

Today 1,300 employees at Lafayette's Fairfield Manufacturing Co. Inc. are celebrating the company's 80th anniversary. Rightfully, they are giving themselves a prideful pat on the back.

The company is internationally known for its high-precision custom gears and assemblies, and planetary gear systems marketed under its Torque-Hub registered trade name. Fairfield products can be found on virtually every kind of agricultural, constuction and industrial machinery, from manlifts to locomotives and countless pieces of equipment in between. The quality of its products is reflected in its certifications--the plant has earned both ISO 9001 and QS 9000 ratings, the highest attainable in the manufacturing world. In a word, Fairfield's successes are impressive.

What this means to Greater Lafayette is nearly immeasurable. It begins with a healthy payroll providing for 1,300 area families. It continues with these families' investments in homes, food, entertainment--all fueling the success of other area businesses. Its economic value extends through its taxes to support our schools, libraries, police and fire protection and other public services. And its support of community organizations, too, contributes to the quality of life we all enjoy.

The Fairfield story also has a local history angle that makes its success especially sweet. Convinced that there was a market for differential gears, local inventor David Ross founded the company in 1919. It's operated continuously since then, pioneering new products, reaching a global market, expanding its plant and work force and, throughout, bringing countless benefits to the Greater Lafayette community.

Sometimes we take our businesses and industries for granted. Sure, their goal is to make a profit. But look at all that their success brings to our community.

Let's all give Fairfield workers a pat on the back for their 80 years of success. It's something for our community to celebrate. -- The Lafayette Journal and Courier, Sunday August 15, 1999 article by Joseph Seaman

George U. King and Charlie Stover working in the heat treat department at Fairfield in 1929

A Land-mark to be torn Down.

On Monday next workmen will commence to tear down an old land-mark and one of the oldest structures in Lafayette, which for nearly fifty years was the family residence of the late David Ross, father of W. and D.L. Ross. The edifice stands on east Main street and was erected in the year 1832 by Mr. Ross, the contractors being George Warwick, who did the brick work, and James Skinner, who was employed as the carpenter. The price paid for its construction was in the neighborhood of $3,300 and in its time it was pointed out as the most substantial and imposing dwelling in the then growing city. Its style of architecture, while plain, was of the durable kind, and an inspection of the interior would convince the visitor that contractors and builders in those days used only the best material and did the work well. An addition was made to the building in the year 1845, but since that time no improvement has been made, only an occasional coat of paint on the outside and the necessary repairs in the way of fresh wall paper and a little cleaning up on the interior of the family mansion. Immediately upon the marriage of Mr. Ross, which happy event took place during the same year that his home was constructed, he repaired to the place, where he continued to reside until his death. Here it was that all of the children were born and grew up to manhood's estate. It was ever a most hospitable home, and in the years gone by there is to be recorded many a happy hour and day of social enjoyment and pleasure. Like all other obstacles in the way of progress it must give way for more modern improvements and in a few months what is now looked upon as a most familiar "land mark" will be laid low to give rise to a business edifice of the latest and most improved appliances. The new building will be erected by Mr. D.L. Ross, the well known commission merchant. -- The LaFayette Weekly Courier Tuesday March 6, 1888

This Page was created by Jason G. King on October 6, 2001.
E-mail: thefamilyhistory@yahoo.com