Back to top

Wilkins, Ross

Dickinson College Alumnus - No photograph currently available
Ross Wilkins was a Dickinson College graduate who became a respected and long-serving federal judge in Michigan. He was born in Pittsburgh the son of a former quartermaster-general of the United States Army and nephew of another Dickinson man, William Wilkins, Secretary of War under President Tyler. Ross Wilkins graduated from Dickinson in the class of 1816 and studied law. He practiced in Pittsburgh, married the eighteen year old Maria Duncan in 1823, and moved west to Michigan Territory in 1832. The Federal District Court of Michigan was founded in July 1836 and the following year President Andrew Jackson took notice of the energetic Democrat and named Wilkins to the bench that he would serve for over three decades, making his home in Detroit. He was above average height, slim, and handsome, and wore his hair long like his uncle William. Well-respected in court as fair minded, he also controversially involved himself with the Canadian insurgency movement of the late 1830's, proffering legal and vocal support from across the border. In addition, he was a devout Methodist lay preacher and a powerful advocate for temperance. Always an active supporter of Democratic policies, he nonetheless became a strong Unionist Democrat at the outbreak of the Civil War, and chaired the 1861 mass meeting in Detroit held in support of President Lincoln's April 14th call for volunteers. He retired from the bench the day before his seventy-first birthday in February 1870 and died in Detroit just over two years later. (By John Osborne)
Life span: 
02/19/1799 to 05/17/1872
Dickinson Connection: 
Class of 1816


How to Cite This Page: "Wilkins, Ross," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,