CB Rouss Day

Date: Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Celebrate his generosity, his extraordinary vision, and his unwavering devotion to Winchester.

“No community had such a friend as he was to us.”
- former Winchester Mayor R.T. Barton

Charles Rouss

Charles Broadway Rouss

Born: February 11, 1836 in Woodville, MD

Died: March 3, 1902 in New York City. Buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Winchester.

Parents: Peter Hoke Rouss and Belinda Baltzell

Married: Margaret Keenan on August 26, 1858 in Winchester

Children: Charles Hoke Baltzell Rouss, Virginia
Duane Lee, Peter Winchester Rouss

Who was Charles Broadway Rouss?

The Winchester City Council continues to meet at Rouss City Hall and the volunteers of Rouss Fire and Rescue Company still respond to city emergencies.  “For more than 50 years he has been almost continuously closely identified in all that concerns the public here,” said former Winchester Mayor R.T. Barton at Rouss’ funeral in 1902.  Or, as Rouss biographer A.V. McCracken wrote in 1896, “There are bands, baseball clubs and every sort of organization in old Winchester which bear the name of the New York merchant…The name Charles Broadway Rouss will go down to unborn generations of Winchesterians as a synonym of all that is charitable, good and benevolent.”

Rouss’s Empire

At age 15, Rouss left Winchester Academy to work for Jacob Senseny, who owned a mercantile on the southwest corner of Court Square (now part of the Wilbur M. Feltner Building on the Old Town Mall).   Senseny paid Rouss $1 a week.  

Market HouseWhen not working for Senseny, Rouss sold pens and needles at the city’s marketplace (now site of Rouss City Hall – photo on right).  He saved $500 and opened his own store near the corner of South Loudoun and Boscawen streets on his 18th birthday in 1854.  By 1860, his worth topped $20,000.

By the Civil War’s end in 1865, he was $11,000 in debt.  In 1866, he left the family farm near Charles Town, WV and set off for New York to “fight Yankees with brains instead of bullets.”  New York merchants were unwilling to lend Rouss capital, but did give him “stale” goods that had sat unsold on their shelves.  The first day he sold $1,000 in goods.  Soon he was out of debt and owner of a 40-store empire, worth more than $200,000.

After the economic crash of 1875 and with $50 in capital, he launched his third empire, auction houses and soon he was collecting $40,000 in sales daily.  The mainstay of the auction business was his mail-order catalogue, the Monthly Auction Journal.  An 1897 copy of the catalogue lists everything from ammunition to zither strings in 72 pages.

When he died in 1902, Rouss was worth nearly $10 million.

Rouss’s Winchester Contributions

  • $30,000, almost half of the price, toward the cost of a new city hall
  • $25,000 to the city’s various fire companies
  • $30,000 to help the City of Winchester purchase Thatcher Spring, now Rouss Spring, which allowed the city to build its first water plant (served as the city's main water supply until 1956)
  • $17,500 for the fence and mortuary chapel at Mount Hebron Cemetery
  • $5,000 to the Winchester Memorial Hospital
 

Charles Broadway Rouss Day Activities

Tuesday, February 11, 2014:

  • 11:30 am – Noon      Wreath Laying (Location: Rouss Family Mausoleum, Mount Hebron Cemetery)
  • 1:00 – 2:00 pm          Birthday Cupcakes with Mayor Minor (Location: Rouss City Hall, main floor)
  • 5:15 pm & 6:00 pm   Rouss City Hall Historical Guided Tour (Location: meet in main floor lobby)

All month long           

  • C.B. Rouss Display (Location: Handley Regional Library Archives)

 

Source: Worthington, Don.  “Charles Rouss Was, Indeed, Monumental.” The Winchester Star.  6 March 1999

Government Links

City of Winchester, Virginia
15 North Cameron Street  •  Winchester, VA 22601
540-667-1815
© Copyright 2013 City of Winchester, VA