Silas Earl Ross Papers

Identifier: NC820

Scope and Contents

The Silas Earl Ross Papers reflect Ross' profession and life: his interests in Freemasonry, cemeteries, and the history of medicine in Nevada; and his tenure as University of Nevada Regent. Of particular note are autobiographical sketches; research notes and papers on prominent Nevadan Masons; the many speeches Ross gave; and business records of his father, Orrin Charles Ross. Also included are business records of the Perkins-Gulling Company which was the predecessor of the Ross-Burke Mortuary Company, and includes articles of incorporation, legal agreements, financial statements, and legislative bulletins and bills concerning the mortuary industry in Nevada. Series 12 includes newspaper clippings of articles about Ross and his interests. The scrapbook contains newspaper articles about the July 1864 Constitutional Convention of the proposed state of Nevada.

The photographs include images of historic cemeteries, cornerstone laying ceremonies and other miscellaneous events and people.

The microfilm was made from originals in the library of Mr. Ross, probably in the 1960s, and are only available in that format as the originals were not donated. Inscriptions on some of the materials indicate that the Masonic material originally belonged to Trenmore Coffin, father-in-law of Silas Ross. All of the microfilms are negative copies.

Series 11: Ross Family Business and Legal Papers, contains mostly documents having to do with Orrin Charles Ross, Sr., the father of Silas E. Ross. He owned two ranches, the Red Rock Ranch and the Home Ranch, with his business partner Robert Leigh. Orrin C. Ross, Sr. was also the executor of the estate of Robert Leigh. Documents pertaining to Leigh’s estate are also contained within the series.


  • 1864-1975


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

Silas "Si" Earl Ross was born in Glendale, Truckee Meadows to pioneer rancher and farmer Orrin Charles Ross in 1887. He attended public schools in Glendale and Reno, and then entered the University of Nevada, where he received his degree in Mining Engineering in 1909. After graduation he remained at the University to teach chemistry. During that time he worked in food, drug, and soil analysis for the State of Nevada.

In 1914, Ross became a funeral director, first as an employee of the Perkins-Gulling Company, and then as a partner in the Ross-Burke Mortuary. He was very active in promoting and developing professional standards and regulations for the mortuary industry and was a member of, and spoke frequently before, the National Funeral Directors Association and the National Selected Morticians organization. He retired in 1966.

Ross was very active in civic and fraternal affairs. He was a Reno city councilman for eight years, serving also as mayor pro tem. From 1932-1957 he was a member of the Board of Regents of the University of Nevada, serving the last seventeen years as their chair. He was also interested in Nevada state politics and was chair of the Republican State Central Committee for a number of years.

Silas Ross was particularly active in the Masons of Nevada. He joined in 1908 and earned the highest award, that of the 33rd degree. He became the Nevada Grand Master in 1923 and gave many speeches on the history of Freemasons in Nevada, the meaning of being a Mason, and on subjects appropriate to building dedications and the laying of cornerstones.

Because of his interests in Masons, funeral practices, and medicine, he collected, compiled, and wrote many brief histories on those subjects, as well as on historical cemeteries.

Ross married Emily Coffin (daughter of Trenmore Coffin) in 1913. They had one son, Silas Earl Ross Jr. (1916-1967) who was a Reno physician.

Silas Ross died in Reno in 1975.


3.75 Linear Feet (9 boxes, 1 oversize folder, 1 shared box)

Language of Materials



Silas Earl Ross (1887-1975) was a Nevada funeral director (Ross-Burke Company); member of University of Nevada-Reno faculty (1909-1914) and Board of Regents (1932-1956). Active in the Freemasons from 1908-1975, Ross served as the Nevada Grand Master. Ross also served as chair of the Nevada State Republican Central Committee and Reno City Councilman. He was married to Emily Coffin in 1913; they had one son, Silas Earl Ross Jr. (1916-1967). The collection includes autobiographical and biographical sketches and notes on Ross and other Nevada figures; research notes, speeches, and writings on Nevada physicians, hospitals, and cemeteries; and writings related to Ross' interests in Freemasons and the professionalism of the funeral industry. Of special note are business records of the Red Rock and Home Ranches owned by Ross' father Orrin Charles Ross, the Ross-Burke Mortuary, and the Carson Opera House Association; and the probate files of Robert H. Leigh.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Autobiographical Information; 2) Biographical Notes; 3) Nevada Physicians and Hospital; 4) Cemeteries; 5) Writings; 6) Mortuary Business; 7) Freemasons; 8) University of Nevada; 9) Glendale School; 10) Carson City and Virginia City Miscellaneous Research; 11) Ross Family Business and Legal Papers; 12) Newspaper Clippings; 13) Photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Papers donated by Mervyl Ross in 1975.

Related Materials

89-56: Silas Earl Ross Mortuary Records

Processing Information

Photographs formerly separated as collection number UNRS-P2003-03 to the Special Collections photo archives.

Guide to the Silas Earl Ross Papers
Susan Searcy
September 1987
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)