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Mini Bios of People of Scots Descent
Robert Ferris Biography

This biography appears on pages 866-869 in "History of Dakota Territory" by George W. Kingsbury, Vol. IV (1915) 

Extensive and important are the business interests which Robert Ferris controls as a member of the firm of Ferris Brothers of Yankton, South Dakota. He was born October 11, 1870, at Burnfoot Hill in Ayrshire, Scotland, his parents being Moses and Margaret (Barris) Ferris, who were natives of the north of Ireland and were there reared and married. They removed from the Emerald isle to Ayrshire, Scotland, and in 1879 came to the United States, settling in Lowell, Massachusetts. Their family included the following named: W. J., now a resident of La Crosse, Wisconsin; Thomas, who is located at Osage, Iowa; James W., living at Watertown, South Dakota; Mrs. William L. True, of Dells Dam at Columbia, Wisconsin; and Robert. 

The last named attended school in Scotland until nine years of age. Afterward he pursued a course of study in the grammar schools of Lowell, Massachusetts, and in the night schools of that city. In early 
life he learned and followed the machinist's trade and gradually advanced in that connection from a machinist in the shops to a position where he was given charge of the erection of electrical equipment on the road. He was afterward made salesman of electrical machinery and in 1901 became associate director of the Electric Light and Power properties, of which he has been one of the owners, He is a member of the firm of Ferris Brothers, owners of electric light and power properties, having had properties at Monmouth, Illinois; Franklin and Union City, Indiana; Osage and :Eldora, Iowa; and Yankton and Watertown, South Dakota. In addition to being president of the Watertown Light & Power Company he is secretary of the Osage Light, Heat & Power Company and secretary-treasurer of the Yankton Light, Heat & Power Company. 

On the 10th of October, 1906, at Yankton, Mr. Ferris was united in marriage to Miss Helen. S. Donaldson, a daughter of Fred Donaldson, of Yankton, and a graduate of Yankton College. Her people were early pioneer settlers of this part of the state. The children of this marriage are Elinor Roberta, Edmund Arthur and Robert Martin.

In his political views Mr. Ferris has always been a stalwart republican. He has an interesting military chapter in his life record inasmuch as he was a member of Company C, Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, and a member of the Massachusetts Ambulance Corps in 1908. Fraternally he is connected with the Elks and in Masonry has attained the Knights Templar degree and the thirty-second degree of the Scottish Rite in the Consistory. He is a past president of the Yankton Commercial Association and was formerly a member of the Union League Club of Chicago. 

Mr. Ferris has always carried large responsibilities and is a keen student of commercial affairs. It was this which led to his nomination by the local banks for the position of class B, director in group 1 of district 9 of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. The Dakota Herald in a comment upon the nomination said: "Mr. Ferris is not only a man of methodical, analytical mind, but is possessed of the powers of business initiative to an unusual degree. The testimony of his abilities is the steady and consistent expansion of his own business projects. A great many make money, because of fortunate speculations or strict economy, of whom it cannot be said they are good business men. They. gain results from the magnitude or fortuitous placing of their investments, rather than from the logical planning of their enterprises, and a conservation of its every possibility by strict attention to detail. It can be written of Robert Ferris that he is a 'good business man, under the strict interpretation of that expression, and if the honor which is being sought for him should be accorded, Yankton will never be called upon to apologize for its representation on the reserve board." Another paper wrote: "Mr. Ferris is eminently fitted for the duties of the position. He has a clear, analytical mind, is a close and accurate reasoner and is fitted in mental powers and temperament for the exacting duties of the office. He has for many years been connected with large business and his uniform success on conservative lines in the handling of public utilities has brought him in touch with the financiers of that part of the country within the district he would represent if chosen. He has enjoyed liberal credit and has built up some splendid enterprises. His chances for success seem extremely good and it is certain that no better man for the position could be found in the whole district." 

Mr. Ferris is a typical business man of the present day. He is alert, ready to meet any emergency and equally ready to grasp any opportunity, and thus it is that he has become firmly established in the public regard as one of the representative citizens and business men of Yankton.



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