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ASHLEY, William Henry

1778–1838

Biography

ASHLEY, William Henry, a Representative from Missouri; born in Powhatan County, Va., in 1778; attended the common schools; moved to St. Genevieve, Mo. (then Upper Louisiana), in 1803; engaged in the manufacture of saltpeter; became a merchant and later a surveyor; moved to St. Louis, Mo., in 1808; brigadier general of militia during the War of 1812; traded with the Indians and dealt in furs; unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1824; founded an organization which in 1830 became the Rocky Mountain Fur Co., and conducted trading and exploring expeditions to the headwaters of the Missouri River; elected as the first Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and served from 1820 to 1824; elected as a Jacksonian to the Twenty-second Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Spencer D. Pettis; reelected to the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Congresses and served from October 31, 1831, to March 3, 1837; did not seek renomination in 1836 but was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Missouri in 1836; died near Boonville, Mo., March 26, 1838; interment in an Indian mound overlooking the Missouri River, near his home, on the Lamine River, in Cooper County, Mo.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Missouri Historical Society

St. Louis, MO
Papers: 1811-1975, 2 boxes and 2 oversize folders. The papers relate to William Henry Ashley's interest in the fur trade, the manufacture of gunpowder, and mining; improvement in navigation on the Mississippi River in the vicinity of St. Louis; land speculation and real estate in St. Louis; politics; Indian trade; and the West. The papers also include William Ashley's diary dated March 25-June 27, 1825 (his trip to the Great Salt Lake) (diary is published in Dale L. Morgan, editor, The West of William H. Ashley [Old West Publishing Co., 1964], pages 104-117), and the diary of Harrison G. Rogers regarding the expedition to the Pacific coast with Jedediah S. Smith (entries from August 15, 1826-January 27, 1827; May 10, 1828-July 1828). A finding aid is available in the repository.

American Antiquarian Society

Worcester, MA
Papers: In the Donald McKay Frost Papers, 1937-1951, l box. The papers contain Donald Frost's monograph, entitled "Notes on General Ashley, the Overland Trail, and South Pass," which was published by the AAS in 1945.

New-York Historical Society

New York, NY
Papers: April 17, 1835. 1 letter. Official correspondence. Finding aid in repository.

University of California
The Bancroft Library

Berkeley, CA
Papers: In Documents Relating to Austin I. Raines and the First U.S. Consul at Monterey, California: Typescript and photostats, 1832-1835, 6 items in portfolio. Persons represented include W.H. Ashley.
Microfilm: In Missouri Probate Court (Saint Louis County) Selected Estate Files for Men Prominent in the Fur Trade and Exploration of the Early West, 1810, 2 microfilm reels. Persons represented include William Henry Ashley.
Microfilm: In the Benjamin O'Fallen Letterbook and Related Materials, 1783-1859, 1 microfilm reel. Other authors include William Henry Ashley.
Microfilm: In United States War Department Selected Items Relating to the Fur Trade and the Santa Fe Trail from Records of the Secretary of War and Adjutant General's Office, 1823-1830, 1 microfilm reel. Persons represented include W.H. Ashley. These documents are photocopies from originals at the National Archives Microfilm Collection Records of the Secretary of War (RG 107) and Records of the Adjutant General's Office (RG 94).
Microfilm: In United States War Department Selected Manuscripts Relating to the Missouri River Military Frontier, Indian Affairs, and the Fur Trade, 1818-1832, 1 microfilm reel. Persons represented include William H. Ashley. These documents are photocopies from originals at the National Archives Microfilm Collection Records of the Secretary of War (RG 107) and Records of the Adjutant General's Office (RG 94).

Utah State Historical Society

Salt Lake City, UT
Microfilm: 1827-1828, 1 microfilm reel. A diary of William Henry Ashley.
Papers: 1835, 1 page. A letter from William Henry Ashley to Albert Gallatin written on April 17, 1835. In the letter, William Ashley writes on the fur trade.
Microfilm: In the Archives of the Fur Trade and Santa Fe Trail [microfilm], n.d., 1 microfilm reel. Other authors include William Henry Ashley. An inventory is available in the repository.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Ashley, William Henry. British Establishments on the Columbia & the State of the Fur Trade. Edited by Donald R. Johnson. Fairfield, Wash.: Ye Galleon Press, 1981.

------. 'The Diary of William H. Ashley." Edited by Dale L. Morgan. Bulletin of the Missouri Historical Society 11 (1954-55): 9-40, 158-86, 279-302.

Clokey, Richard M. William H. Ashley: Enterprise and Politics in the Trans-Mississippi. 1980. Reprint, West Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.

------. "The Life of William H. Ashley." Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1969.

Dale, Harrison Clifford. The Explorations of William H. Ashley and Jedediah Smith, 1822-1829. Glendale, Calif.: A.H. Clark, 1941. Reprint, with the original journals edited by Harrison Clifford Dale; introduction to the Bison book edition by James P. Ronda. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Frost, Donald McKay. Notes on General Ashley, the Overland Trail and South Pass. 1945. Reprint, Barre, Mass.: Barre gazette, 1960.

Glavert, Ralph Edward. "The Life and Activities of William Henry Ashley and His Associates, 1822-1826." Master's thesis, Washington University, 1950.

Love, Martin M. "William H. Ashley, Land Speculator." Western History Quarterly 6 (April 1975): 241-3.

Morgan, Dale L., ed. "The Diary of William H. Ashley." Missouri Historical Society Bulletin 11 (1954-55): 9-40, 158-86, 279-302.

------. "New Light on Ashley and Jedediah Smith." Pacific Historian 12 (May 1968): 14-23.

------, ed. The West of William H. Ashley; The International Struggle for the Fur Trade of the Missouri, the Rocky Mountains, and the Columbia, with Explorations beyond the Continental Divide, Recorded in the Diaries and Letters of William H. Ashley and His Contemporaries, 1822-1838. Denver: Old West Publishing Company, 1964.

Moss, James E. "William Henry Ashley, A Jackson Man with Feet of Clay:Missouri's Special Election of 1831." Missouri Historical Review 61 (October 1966): 1-20.

Wetmore, Alphonso, and Charles Keemle, eds. "Biographical Notice of Genl. William H. Ashley." Bulletin of the Missouri Historical Society 24 (July 1968): 348-54.

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