William H. Ashley ~ Fur Trader, Explorer
William H. Ashley arrived in Missouri from Virginia penniless and destitute.
He settled in Ste. Genevieve & eventually to Washington County where he
became a successful business man. In 1817 he was on the
Board of Trustees for the Potosi Academy. He became a partner of
Andrew Henry & the notorious
John Smith "T". Mr. Ashley's
enterprises consisted of mining & manufacturing gun powder from a
load of saltpeter mined from a cave near the headwaters of the
Current River. He was also Justice of the Peace for the Ste.
Genevieve district & was a Captain in the Missouri Militia
during the War of 1812.
Ashley moved to St. Louis in 1819 where he helped organize the Christ Episcopal Church. He was also a real estate developer & director of the St. Louis branch of the U. S. Bank.
As a fur trader he was a leading figure in the organization & operation of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company during the 1820's. He posted advertisements in St. Louis newspapers seeking one hundred "enterprising young men to ascend the river Missouri to its source, there to be employed for one, two, or three years." The men who responded became known as "Ashley's Hundred." Two of these men were the famous mountain men Jedediah Smith & Jim Bridger. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company is credited with the re-discovery of South Pass which was the key to the settlement of Oregon & California. He discovered Ashley Lake which was later renamed Utah Lake. He established Fort Ashley on it's banks to trade with the Indians. Ashley also invented the rendezvous system in which Indians, trappers & traders would meet annually to exchange furs, goods and money. The first documented rendeezvous occurred in 1825.
As a politician Ashley was Missouri's first Lt. Governor. Also he served in the U.S. House of Representatives 1831 - 1834.
He was married three times: 1) Mary Able 2) Eliza Christy 3) Elizabeth M. Wilcox. Ashley never had any children. He died of pneumonia at age 54 & is buried in Cooper County overlooking the Missouri River.