Alexander Milton Ross
|Alexander Milton Ross|
December 13, 1832|
Belleville, Upper Canada
|Died||October 27, 1897
|Other names||The Birdman|
Alexander Milton Ross, (December 13, 1832 – October 27, 1897), was born in Belleville, Upper Canada and died in Detroit, Michigan, USA. He was an abolitionist who was an agent for the secret Underground Railroad slave escape network, known in that organization and among slaves as "The Birdman" for his preferred cover story as a bird enthusiast.
Alexander Ross’s father died when he was only 12 which made him quit school, and then his mother died when he was 23. Two years after her death, he married a woman named Hester F. Harrington.
In 1855 he received his M.D degree in medicine. He then worked as a war surgeon in America's civil war. Alexander became actively involved in the anti-slavery action in 1856. He would come up to the owner of a slave plantation and make a very bold lie: that he was only going to research and study some interesting birds around the owner’s estate. Then when night fell he would speak in secret to the slaves. Mr. Ross passed on the locations of Underground Railroad stations. He would tell them who to watch out for and who to trust. As he parted he would give each slave a knife, a compass, a few dollars, as much food as they could carry and perhaps a pistol.
Ross made at least five trips to the United States' southern states. In this time he managed to play an important part in the escapes of 31 black people. His services in the abolition movement and during the American Civil War were so self-sacrificing that they gained him tributes from abolition leaders and from Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln honored him in numerous dinner parties and banquets. He was honored by other well-known abolitionists as well. Many speeches were given in his honor. Alexander Ross died in Detroit, Michigan on October 27, 1897.
Alexander Milton Ross is the author of many books: Recollections of an Abolitionist (Montreal, 1867) ; Birds of Canada (1872) ; Butterflies and Moths of Canada (1873); Flora of Canada (1873); Forest Trees of Canada, (1874); Ferns and Wild Flowers of Canada (1877) ; Mammals, Reptiles, and Fresh-water Fishes of Canada (1878); Vaccination a Medical Delusion (1885); and Medical Practice of the Great Future.
He also appears as a character in the 1977 children's novel Underground to Canada which depicts four young slaves who, with Ross's help, escape to Canada via the Underground Railroad.
Wright, Rick (2009) Birder undercover: the life and times of Alexander Milton Ross Birding 41(2): 46-50