Coast Miwok Indians lived and were sustained by the land that is now called Ross Valley for hundreds of years. European diseases eventually decimated the Indian population. The settlement in 1817 of Mission San Raphael, with its vast land holding, also resulted in further incursions into areas occupied by the Coast Miwok Indians. After the Mexican Revolution of 1821, the "land grant" system of parceling out land gave rise to what we now know as Marin County. Ross was originally part of an 8,877-acre Mexican land grant to Juan B.R. Cooper in 1840 known as Ranch Punta de Quentin Canada de San Anselmo. The Town of Ross itself was named in honor of James Ross, who purchased the land in 1857 for $50,000. Ross built his home on Redwood Drive and moved there with his wife and three children. The land extended from what is now Corte Madera to Red Hill in San Anselmo. In the town that bears his name, Ross built his home on the property that is now the Marin Art & Garden Center. When James Ross died in 1862 his wife, Annie Ross, was forced to sell a portion of James Ross' larger land holdings to pay each of their daughters $10,000. The 297 acres she had remaining make up part of the Town of Ross today.
Once the Town was incorporated in 1908, one of the first actions of the new Town Council was to make it illegal to cut down trees without Town approval. Soon the streets were paved, streetlights erected, concrete bridges built over the creek and a firehouse constructed. Thanks to the foresight of our early leaders, the Town today rests under a leafy canopy that is unique in Marin County.
The shaded roads and lanes enhance this lovely town of grand estates and luxury custom homes. Large properties in park-like settings often have accommodations for horses, as well as tennis courts and swimming pools. Centered around the Ross Common is a small, very quaint commercial area featuring restaurants and shops. One enterprise, the Ross Grocery, has been operated by the same family since WWII.