Ross is situated on a flat southwards of the Totara River within a semicircle of high bush-clad hills. The flat lies open to the north-west and extends out 1 to 3 miles to the shores of Westland Bight. The town is the terminus of a railway from Greymouth, the nearest port, and 15 miles from Hokitika. The main South Westland highway, after following a more inland route than the railway, reaches Ross 20 miles south-west of Hokitika.
The district of which Ross is the centre was once the scene of intensive gold mining. The main rural activities are now sawmilling, lime-crushing, and farming, including dairying and sheep and cattle raising. Two sawmills are working within the borough. Lime is quarried on the north-eastern boundary of the borough.
Gold was discovered in the district in 1864. A short-lived rush to the Totara River followed. Towards the middle of 1865 further discoveries were made in gullies at and near the site of the present borough. In August the main activities were centred on Jones Creek. A settlement sprang up on a terrace east of this creek, but following the cutting of a direct access track to eliminate a difficult route which ran via the beach, Totara River mouth, and an estuarine lagoon, a town site was marked out by J. Rochfort on a lower terrace west of the original “canvas town”. It was called Georgetown. Shortly afterwards, as a compliment to George Ross, Provincial Treasurer of Canterbury, the name was changed to Rosstown. About 1866 the name was shortened to Ross. For many years the mines at and about Ross continued to yield much gold. During the early 1900s production tapered off. The auriferous beds were found to dip steeply seawards and, as workings extended towards the sea from Jones Gully mouth, the more difficult it became to cope with water seepage. All accessible alluvial beds were gradually worked out. By 1917 active mining had ceased. Ross was constituted a borough in 1878.
POPULATION: 1951 census, 471; 1956 census, 549; 1961 census, 503.
by Brian Newton Davis, M.A., Vicar, St. Philips, Karori West, Wellington and Edward Stewart Dollimore, Research Officer, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington.