This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. Probably the most well-known local persons associated with the war were the young drummer boy Avery Brown and Captain Rudolph Ruel who organized a company made up entirely of Delphos men. But there are many more names listed in local history books and many more who are not listed at all.
Recently we came across a pencil drawing of a Civil War soldier labeled “self portrait of Capt. J Ross.” Immediately, a question came to mind. “Was he from Delphos?” Several sources failed to give us the answer, but we finally found a John W. Ross on Ron Kunz’ Delphos History web page under cemetery listings. He was born in 1826 and died in 1880 so he was the right age. There was also a GAR after his name which means he was in the Grand Army of the Republic, the official name of the Union Army during the Civil War. We were pretty sure we had our man.
Further searching lead again to Kunz’ site under Bob Holdgreve’s “Window to the Past.” An 1877 Delphos Herald article told of a Mr. John W. Ross, a hydraulic engineer for the Delphos Iron Works, who held a patent for the “Delphos Turbine” water wheel which runs on a horizontal shaft. He had recently traveled to a paper mill in Massachusetts to install what was probably the most powerful water wheel in America at that time. Another article told of a German visitor who, after looking at many different turbine water wheels around the country, was most impressed with the Delphos Turbine and ordered several to be shipped back to Germany. Our talented artist was also a very good engineer.
Of course, that led to another question. “Where was the Delphos Iron Works located?” We found our answer by using the Sanford Fire Insurance Maps which are available online if you have a library card. The earliest maps were dated 1884 and they showed the location on the corner of Water (now 4th) and Franklin streets, site of the present Franklin Elementary School . A further search of the 1888 maps showed a vacant lot there. Hmm, what happened to the company between 1884 and 1888? John Ross died in 1880, so was that a factor? The original Franklin School was built in 1889, so was that a factor?
The museum has a nice display of Civil War items located in the second floor Military section. We are open every Saturday & Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. and every Thursday from nine to noon.
Printed in the Delphos Herald November 12, 2011