Every community has its prominent citizens, and one of these in the progressive and prospering town of Gillespie, Illinois, is Dr. William M. Gross, who is also well and favorably known all over Macoupin County. Dr. Gross was born March 24, 1842, in Bollinger County, Missouri, and is a son of Christopher and Sophia (Yount) Gross.
The Gross family is of German extraction, and its founder in America came from the vicinity of Hamburg and settled, in colonial days, in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. There Christian Gross, the grandfather of Dr. Gross, was born, and many distinguished members of the family still reside in that State, a notable one being Prof. Samuel D. Gross of Philadelphia. Christian Gross moved to Lincoln County, North Carolina, and there reared a large family, one son, Christopher, being born there December 5, 1806.
Christopher Gross accompanied his parents to Bollinger County, Missouri, when five years of age and engaged there in farming until 1854 when he removed with his family to Saint Francois County, residing there until the latter part of the Civil War, when he removed to Hillsboro, Illinois. After the close of hostilities, he returned to Missouri and there spent his last years, dying at the age of 76 years. Christopher Gross was a plain, unassuming farmer, and through industry accumulated what in peaceful times would have been considered a competency, but the disturbed condition of the country and the cares of a second family somewhat reduced what was once an ample fortune. He was a man of great self-reliance, one who believed in the right of every man to his opinion, and was a stanch supporter of the Republican party from its foundation, having previously been a Whig. He was equally stanch in his support of the Old School Presbyterian Church. In every walk of life he commanded respect. He married, first, Sophia Yount, who was born in Bollinger County, Missouri, where she died in 1850, aged 33 years, leaving a family of five children, namely: Mrs. Margaret McDowell, deceased; Mrs. Sarah Ann Dennis, deceased; William M., of this biography; Jacob Amos, who died at the age of 50 years; and Peter, a resident of Gillespie. The children of his second marriage were four sons and two daughters, all of whom with one exception still survive.
When Dr. Gross was 12 years of age, his parents removed to Farmington, the county seat of Saint Francois County, and there he continued his education in the public schools and at Carlton College, where he remained until he had almost completed the classical and scientific courses. Dr. Gross made a specialty of mathematics at Carlton College and mastered the difficulties of differential and integral calculus with extraordinary ease. In the winter of 1863 he made a trip to California, going by way of New York and the Isthmus of Panama, which has been a bone of contention so long and at present is occupying the public attention. A man of his ability and energy soon found work awaiting his hand and brain, and he was fully occupied wither in teaching or mining, until after the surrender of General Lee. He then came to Hillsboro, Illinois, where his parents had in the meantime located and here he again began teaching school. In 1866 he entered upon the study of medicine at Walshville, Montgomery County, Illinois, under Dr. M. S. Davenport, and continued his reading with this leading physician, assisting also in the latter's practice, for two years, when he returned to Missouri and located in Wayne County. Some five years later, after a term of very successful medical practice, he went to Keokuk, Iowa, where he completed the prescribed course and was graduated in 1875 at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Gross came then to Macoupin County, Illinois, and practices his profession for three years in the village of Hornsby, removing then to Gillespie, where he has remained ever since.
Dr. Gross is prominently identified with not only the professional but also the business life in Gillespie, and is almost as well known for his ability in business enterprises as for his skill in his profession. Dr. Gross shares with many others a scientific comprehension of the wonders and value of electricity, and, to utilize it on certain lines, in 1896 he organized a company with a capital stock of $15,000, erected a plant and installed machinery. This industry still continued in successful operation. In July, 1903, he became interested in newspaper work, became part owner of the Gillespie Herald and is now the manager and a director of the Herald Publishing Company. So versatile is he in his activities, he has given an impetus to everything in his locality to which he has seriously turned his attention. Through his intelligent and well directed energies, the Gillespie schools have attained to a standard of excellence second to none in the State, their graduates being fitted to enter higher institutions without any preliminary preparation. Dr. Gross has made a careful study of electricity and has done much experimenting, and a part of his busy life has been given to lecturing on the subject. His contributions on various scientific subjects are welcomed by the leading periodicals and his opinion bears with it the weight of knowledge and experience.
On April 11, 1867, Dr. Gross was married to Mary C. Sitton, who was born in Montgomery County, Illinois, and is a daughter of the late Rev. A. J. Sitton, a Baptist clergyman. Five children have been born to his marriage, namely: Sarah Sophia, who married Milton Mitchell, a farmer living near Gillespie, and has seven children; Martha Frances, who is the wife of Frederick Opie of Gillespie; Edwin Guy, who married Maggie Hamilton, and resides in St. Louis, Missouri; Herbert, who is a student at Gillespie, in electrical engineering; and Dean, who is attending the public schools.
Politically Dr. Gross is a Republican. He cast his first presidential vote at the second election of Abraham Lincoln. He has consented to fill a number of the minor offices and gave his valuable services to the School Board of which he was president some eight years. Like his father, he is a Master Mason, having joined a Masonic lodge at Farmington, Missouri, at the age of 21 years. In religious belief he is a Baptist.