John Wesley Ross was appointed in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison to the three member District of Columbia Board of Commissioners, on which he served for the remainder of his life. 1n 1893 the Board elected him President of the committee, which is a position which was used in D.C. in lieu of a Mayor or City Manager. He had previously acted as D.C. Postmaster and as president of the District of Columbia Public Schools Board of Trustees.
John was born into a political family and was raised in this atmosphere. He attended private schools in Lewistown as a youth, followed by a few years in Seminary before entering Illinois College in September 1856, where he acted as president of the Phi Alpha Society before graduating. He then attended Harvard Law School in 1864-65, followed by his admission to the Illinois Bar and the commencement of his Lewistown law practice.
In 1869 he was elected as the Fulton County Representative to the Illinois State Legislature, where he served for four years. During this period he married Emma Brown Tenney, daughter of a well-known New Hampshire and District of Columbia hotel proprietor, They started and raised a family of five children, while commuting between the Ross home in Illinois, the Tenney home in New Hampshire and the hotel in Washington, D.C.
Their base moved more permanently to the east after John was admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court and relocated his practice to the U.S. Capital, but Emma died a few years later on 31 January 1879. John and the children continued living in the National Hotel in D.C. with the Tenney family for a time, but the children often visited and spent time with their grandparents in Illinois and New Hampshire.
John married Isabel Toner of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1888, and they rented a home in D.C., where the children, now grown, maintained a base, and Isabella also still commuted between here and her family home in Pittsburgh until John's death in 1902.
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