Fanny Rankin Appleton was born in Epping, UK in 1827. She was the daughter of Mary Ann Rankin and Joseph Appleton. When Joseph died, Fanny’s mother married George Conrad Gross around 1840. When Fanny’s mother died a few years later, George returned home to Leer, Germany with Fanny, her sister and brother, and his two daughters.
Sometime between the death of her mother and 1850, Fanny and George were married. They moved to New York where George ran a grocery store. After the death of a baby boy, the couple moved to Whitby to be closer to Fanny’s sister, Emma and George’s daughter, Caroline. Fanny and George enjoyed a privileged life in Whitby and were well-connected in the community. George ran a hardware store in downtown Whitby and built a castle-like residence nearby. According to local lore, Fanny was known as the 'Duchess of Whitby.'
Fanny and George had 10 children. She died at Whitby in 1900 and is buried in Union Cemetery, Oshawa.