CB Rouss

Rouss City Hall, N Cameron Street, Winchester, Virginia

Rouss City Hall, N Cameron Street, Winchester, Virginia

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CB Rouss

We complete this brief visit to Winchester, Virginia with a look at another of the city’s benefactors. In the last post we saw how John Handley had left money for the education of the poor. Today, being February 11, we join the whole City of Winchester in celebrating CB Rouss Day. To quote the city’s web-site: this is the day to “Celebrate his generosity, his extraordinary vision, and his unwavering devotion to Winchester.”

Charles Broadway Rouss was born in Frederick County, Maryland in February 1836. His parents, Peter Hoke and Belinda Rouss were of Austrian decent. The family moved to the Shenandoah Valley in 1841 where they purchased land about twelve miles west of Winchester. Between ages ten and fifteen CB Rouss attended Winchester Academy. Upon leaving, he worked for Jacob Senseny, who owned a store on Court Square in Winchester. He earned $1 a week.

In addition to working as a clerk for Mr. Senseny, Rouss supplemented his income by selling pens and needles in the city’s market. By 1854, he had accumulated sufficient capital to engage in a business of his own. On his 18th birthday he used his savings of $500 to open his own store. By 1860, his net worth was in excess of $20,000.

The Civil War changed Rouss’s fortunes and by the war’s end he was $11,000 in debt. He left the family estate and set off for New York. His first attempt in business in New York failed. The New York merchants were unwilling to lend Rouss the capital needed for the business. The goods he managed to acquire were also sub-standard and remained unsold on the shelves. The second try was more successful. He managed to pay off all his debts, becoming the owner of a 40-store empire. By this time he was worth more than $200,000.

The economic crash of 1875 once again changed Rouss’ fortunes. With $50 in capital he started his third business. This were action houses based around a mail-order catalog. Soon he was collecting over $40,000 in gross sales revenue daily.

When Rouss died in 1902 he was worth over $10 million. Although Rouss had lived in New York longer than he ever did in the Winchester area, it was the towns of his early life which benefited from his estate. He provided $30,000, almost half the price, towards the cost of a new city hall. Another $30,000 was for the purchase of Thatcher Spring (now Rouss Spring) which served as the city’s main water supply until 1956. He also gave $25,000 to the cities various fire departments. As with many of the beneficiaries of his generosity, the fire department bears his name.

Rouss Volunteer Fire Company, South Braddock Street, Winchester, VA

Rouss Volunteer Fire Company, South Braddock Street, Winchester, VA

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Summary
CB Rouss
Article Name
CB Rouss
Description
From humble beginnings, CB Rouss built a empire worth over $10 million which he partially used for the benefit of Winchester, VA
Author
Publisher Name
Mark Summerfield
Publisher Logo

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