After the 2004 AGM in Winnipeg, MB, National Secretary Ian M. Ross recorded the following in his minutes which were published in the Fall Issue (November, 2004) of the CRA-Canada newsletter: "President Don reported no success in soliciting ideas for the next National Project (desired to be in Ontario, as that province has not yet had one). Don, Ontario Commissioner Wendy Ross and Margaret Montgomery will contact Ontario members for ideas. Roger Stagg suggested commemoration of Dr. Ross of Ontario . . . founder of the Underground Railroad."
Your National Webmaster, Doug Ross, became interested and posted an inquiry on the Parry Sound North Star Website regarding Steven Duff's book Hunter of Dreams about Dr. Alexander Milton Ross, based on the doctor's own memoirs as well as contemporary magazine and newspaper articles.. Steven was advised that no final decision has been made about who the person will be, what form the commemoration will take, where the project should be located or how it should be publicized. However, he was asked to visit the CRA-Canada website and provide any input to support the outline. The subsequent email communications were shared with the Ontario members of the executive of CRA-Canada . . . and eventually with the National Executive as well.
Steven Duff indicated that he would certainly love to be involved in any project concerning Dr. Ross. His enthusiasm is reflected in the following reply:
I checked the website per your suggestion and was gratified in the extreme to see Hunter of Dreams mentioned. Since publication, I have been giving book talks and events of one kind and another, ranging from my home town of Parry Sound to Oakland, Maryland, and points in between, so if you would like something similar for your own event, do, please, count me in. My presentations can be any length up to, well, a couple of hours. When I get started on this stuff, all you have to do is wind me up.
. . . Last February, I got a call from a Mrs. Columba Brumby of McLean, Virginia, whose best friend is a Mrs. Gillian Blair of Lymington, England, a great-great-granddaughter of A.M.R. Mrs. Brumby had sent a copy of Hunter to Mrs. Blair, and since I couldn't sign it, I made a special souvenir bookmark for Mrs. and got a very nice letter in return. It reminded me of the movie Six Degrees of Separation.
. . . This is really exciting and I would enjoy being part of it. I look forward to further correspondence.
Copies of the information from Steven Duff were sent to the Ontario members of the Executive. Our recently elected 2nd Vice-President, Andrew Ross Thibodeau, reacted in a manner similar to others after reading the brief biography of Dr. Alexander Milton Ross and he replied, "Thank you for the CC on Alexander Ross as a possible recipient of our commemoration efforts. After reading his bio I think he would be a great candidate! I got chills just reviewing his accomplishments. Keep me informed about how I can be of help."
Time passed. On February 24, 2005, your National Webmaster, Doug Ross, decided to check with our National Secretary, Ian M. Ross (copies to Andrew Ross Thibodeau ; Wendy S. F. Ross ; J. Donaldson Ross ; Denis & Barbara Fletcher), to discover whether there had been any consideration about possible nominations for the Ontario Project. Doug wrote, "It appears that the author, Steven Duff, has some good contacts if an Ontario project involving Dr Alexander Milton Ross gets the approval of our membership. Steven is obviously not aware that our projects are often very slow to get off the ground. I told him to check the website page for any developments." Doug added he was aware that Wendy might still favour James K. Ross, one of the founders of the original Clan Ross (1911) and benefactor of the Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay, ON. Past President and National Historian Don Ross of Orillia had proposed the Commemoration of Ross Township as a pioneer settlement on the Ottawa River north of Renfrew, Ontario. Other candidates for the honour included Philip D. Ross who was appointed by Lord Stanley as a trustee for hockey's Stanley Cup, Sir George William Ross who was an Ontario Minister of Education and an Ontario Liberal Premier and a member of the Federal Senate, and Major-General H. Cameron Ross who commanded the UN Disengagement Observation Force on the Syrian Golan Heights and became Director General of the International Security Policy for the Canadian Department of National Defence.
Within 24 hours, Ian contacted Don and Wendy with this question. "As you two are the ad hoc committee seeking out and reviewing possible Ontario-based national projects for Clan Ross - Canada ... and Don, you e-mailed me a few weeks ago that you had 3 possible projects you were evaluating ... I just thought I would e-mail both of you to make sure that you were aware of the attached and that it was part of your current evaluation?"
The good-natured reaction of Steven Duff was "No problem. I'll just sit back and see how things unfold. I'll wait for a wee whilie until I hear anything more. 'A wee whilie', according to my 97-year-old Scottish aunt, is something of an equivalent to the Spanish 'Manana', but without the urgency. With that happy thought, I bid you good evening."
At the Executive Meeting by teleconference on April 24, 2005, the Executive concurred with the Ontario search committee's recommendation that the next National Project . . . to be located in Ontario . . . be a commemoration of Dr. Alexander Milton Ross, born in Belleville, Ontario, who was a prominent ornithologist and abolitionist who had helped develop the Underground Railroad. Andrew Thibodeau had done some preliminary work towards this end, and J. Donaldson Ross and he were to continue development of this project, hopefully in time for the 2006 AGM. It was also agreed that Andy would be the host of the 2006 AGM in London, ON.
There can be no greater tribute to the superb effort and organization by Andrew Ross Thibodeau than the coverage of the Friday Ceilidh at http://www.greatclanross.org/06agmCEILIDH.html and the Saturday Tours at http://www.greatclanross.org/06agmTOURS.html. The design of a plaque and the location of a suitable site to honour Dr. A. M. Ross, however, took a little longer to resolve.
Unveiling The Plaque
On June 20, 2009, the plaque honouring Dr. Alexander Milton Ross was unveiled in the Freedom Park of Chatham, Ontario, by Clan Ross and the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society. The park is about one block across the road from the Society's Heritage Room and Resource Centre in Chatham (177 King Street East).
Steven Duff commented, "Of my experiences involving Doctor Ross, this is truly the Holy Grail of all events." All concur with Steven's remark, and congratulate President Andy Ross Thibodeau and the Black Historical Society for a splendidly-organized day.
The participants walked in pairs from the Chatham-Kent Black Museum and Historical Centre to the Freedom Park, where there was an opportunity to walk around and read the plaques.
President Andrew Ross Thibodeau served as master of ceremonies and was assisted by author Steven Duff in unveiling the marble plaque. Gwen Robinson gave a brief history of the site and pointed to a nearby building where some of the remains of the early Methodist Episcopal Church were stored. She was assisted by Brenda L. Travis, President of the Chatham-Kent Black History Society, in displaying their Freedom Quilt. After Steven Duff concluded the formal ceremony with a few comments about his book, participants introduced themselves and took pictures before taking a leisurely walk back to the centre.
Following some refreshments, President Andrew Thibodeau of the Clan Ross Association of Canada accepted the thanks of the Society. Reverend Leona Segee-Wright (a remarkable singer) and Gwen Robinson gave a historical presentation of story and music about the Underground Railroad and the March to Freedom. Steven Duff followed with a talk about additional reference material for his book, Hunter of Dreams and answered questions from the audience.
Please CLICK HERE to hear a two-minute sample of the presentation by Reverend Leona Segee-Wright and Gwen Robinson for the Chatham-Kent Black Historical Society using Windows Media Audio/Visual [WMV].