Colonel William Ross was born in Monson, Massachusetts, April 24, 1792, where he resided until the age of 13, when his father, Micah Ross, moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
In 1820, Colonel Ross and his three brothers, Leonard, Henry, and Clarendon, moved to the Midwest, settling in an area on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, which Colonel Ross named “Atlas,” a derivative from the words “At last.” Atlas became the first county seat of what is now Pike County. But in 1833 the Illinois State Legislature passed a law stating that all county seats must be centrally located within said county. This resulted in the formation of a committee to locate more centrally located property in Pike County for the new county seat. Land was found at the cost of $200.00 but the committee had zero funds. Col. Ross then agreed to give the $200.00 for the purchase of the land. to show they’re thanks to Col. Ross the committee gave him the privilege of naming the new county seat. Ross chose Pittsfield after his hometown in Massachusetts.
In 1832, Colonel Ross fought beside Abraham Lincoln in the Black Hawk War, and he became politically prominent and in 1860 Ross was one of eleven delegates from Pike County that voted for Abraham Lincoln at the Illinois Republican Nominating Convention. During Colonel Ross’s life, he raised and shipped beef, owned three riverboats, a flour mill, and a general store. Served as postmaster, founded the first bank, and was instrumental in founding the Republican Party.
On September 30, 1858, Abraham Lincoln spent the night at Colonel Ross’s stately home on the east edge of Pittsfield. The next day Lincoln spoke for two hours on the town square.
Colonel Ross died May 31, 1873, in Pittsfield. His remains were laid to rest at West Cemetery, Pittsfield, Pike, Illinois.