Pitt Ross of Albuquerque

Among early New Mexico surveyors one of the most widely known was Pitt Ross. Not only did he play a leading role in the development of Albuquerque from a small settlement into a modern city, he also helped to advance surveying from a more or less skilled activity into a recognized and regulated profession. He came to New Mexico at a time when the arrival of the railroads brought people in increasing numbers and the need for competently executed surveys was greater than ever before.

Pitt Ross (he had no middle name) was born on December 8, 1855 in Milwaukee the third of seven children of Edmund Gibson Ross, who made history as Senator of Kansas by casting the deciding "no" vote in the 1868 impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. As an infant Pitt was taken on a wagon train of "Free Staters" to Kansas, where he grew up and received his education in Topeka and Lawrence. During his early years he was associated with his father and brothers in the newspaper publishing business. In June of 1885 he came to New Mexico, where a month earlier his father had been appointed Territorial Governor (from 1885 to 1889) by President Cleveland.

For a year and a half Pitt was employed in the office of Surveyor General George W. Julian in Santa Fe. In February 1887 Julian commissioned him Deputy Land Surveyor and he settled in Albuquerque where he began to practice surveying and civil engineering. As he had inherited the determined and uncompromising character of his father he soon became, in the words of Ralph Emerson Twitchell: "one of the most efficient and best known representatives of the profession in the State".

From 1899 to 1906 Pitt Ross was City Engineer of Albuquerque and a year later was elected to the office of county surveyor, serving in that capacity three times in 1907-1908, 1911-1916, and 1923-1924. In time he became an authority on the Rio Grande, having first surveyed and reported on the conditions of that river during his father’s governorship in the 1880’s.

In 1917, the legislature of the State of New Mexico passed an act to regulate the practice of surveying under which Governor W. E. Lindsey appointed three prominent members of the profession to the newly created Board of Examining Surveyors, a distinction that went to State Engineer James A. French, Pitt Ross of Albuquerque, and Lee S. Miller of Santa Fe.

The Board held its first meeting October 17 and 18, 1917 in the State Engineer’s office in Santa Fe and examined applications submitted by surveyors from across the state for licensing. Pitt Ross received license number 1, an honor that speaks louder than words about his standing as a surveying professional.

Pitt Ross was married in 1881 in Lawrence, Kansas to Maria Clementine Wilson and the couple had three children, only one of which survived childhood. His son Edmund Ross was educated as a mining engineer at UNM and entered his father’s business (Ross Engineering) where he became a prominent engineer and U.S. mineral surveyor in his own right.

Ross Engineering, later Ross-Beyer Engineering, also launched the careers of Pitt’s grandson Edmund P. (Ned) Ross, a registered engineer and professional surveyor who today lives in retirement in Albuquerque, and of Ned Elder who was married to a sister of Ned Ross and whose son Ross Elder still heads the Elder Co. Ned Elder not only enjoyed a distinguished surveying career (we was chairman of the Land Survey Division of ACSM and member of the ACSM Board of Directors) but was a founder of our own society, in which he served as president in 1966/1967 and where he was elected New Mexico Surveyor of the Year in 1985.

When Pitt Ross died in Albuquerque on March 2, 1925 he had surveyed in New Mexico for forty years. He left behind an acknowledged and strengthened profession, that he had served so well.

About the Author

Fred Roeder, LS

Fred Roeder lives in Tularosa, New Mexico. He emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1957 and spent most of his surveying career in the Southwest, working for the U.S. Forest Service. Now retired, he started writing a regular column for the New Mexico Professional Surveyors Newsletter in 1988. In 1994, NMPS produced Antepasados, a book of his columns. Many surveyors are good writers, especially about technical or legal matters. However, it's not often that we find a surveyor/story-teller who can present historical facts in a manner that makes them fun to read. Fred Roeder is such a writer and we are pleased to present more than 80 of his stories here. Bibliography is a list of the books Fred used in his writings, and includes a numbered index of the articles. Index is a list of all the articles Fred has written and when. Editor's pick: The King Who Had No Title
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