ROSS, BERNARD ROGAN, HBC chief trader and naturalist; b. 25 Sept. 1827 at Londonderry, Ireland, son of James Ross and Elizabeth Rogan; d. 21 June 1874 while visiting Toronto, Ont.
Bernard Rogan Ross was educated at Royle College, Londonderry, and entered the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company at the suggestion of Sir George Simpson* who had met him at the Londonderry home of his uncle, Dr Frank Rogan. Coming to Canada too late in the season to proceed to the northwest, Ross taught school in Cornwall until the spring when he went to Norway House. His posting to that place as an apprentice clerk is listed in the minutes of the Council of the Northern Department of the company held at the Red River Settlement in June 1843. While with the company Ross served at many posts including Norway House, York Factory, Fort Simpson, Fort Norman, and Fort Resolution. In 1856 he was appointed a chief trader and from 1858 to 1862 was at Fort Simpson in charge of the Mackenzie River District. He retired in 1871. In 1860 he had married Christina Ross, daughter of chief factor Donald Ross; they had three children.
Ross was in the Red River Settlement at the time of the disturbances of 1869–70 and according to Alexander Begg*, the diarist, was one of an unofficial group which advised against the formation of a provisional government. This group suggested that the HBC continue to govern and that the people elect an executive council to negotiate with Canada the terms by which they should enter confederation.
Ross’s primary significance is in the field of natural history rather than the fur trade. Like many company men he contributed much to the early scientific knowledge of the northwest. While at Fort Simpson he made valuable collections of mammalia, insects, and birds, forwarding specimens to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh, and the British Museum in London. Ross’s Goose was named after him in 1861. He was a foundation fellow of the Anthropological Society in 1863, and became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society the following year. In addition he was a corresponding member of the New York Historical Society, a correspondent of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in 1861, and of the Natural History Society of Montreal. A list of some of his scientific papers is found in the Catalogue of scientific papers (1800–1863) compiled by the Royal Society of London and published in 1871. A short essay on the fur trade and transportation in the north, which he wrote when he was 18, was published in the Beaver in 1955.
PAM, Biographical files. Begg’s Red River journal (Morton). HBRS, XVI (Rich and Johnson). [B. R. Ross], “Fur trade gossip sheet,” Beaver, outfit 285 (spring 1955), 52 (originally published in the Fort William Daily Times-Journal, 27 Dec. 1928). B. W. Cartwright and Angus Gavin, “Where the Ross’ Geese nest,” Beaver, outfit 271 (Dec. 1940), 6. Robert Kerr, “For the Royal Scottish Museum,” Beaver, outfit 284 (June 1953), 32. J. M. Sherk, “HBC pioneer Bernard Rogan Ross,” Beaver, outfit 257 (Dec. 1926), 25.