William Henry Ashley

William Henry Ashley

William Henry Ashley

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William Henry Ashley (1778, Powhatan County, Virginia–March 26, 1838, Boonville, Missouri) was a pioneering fur trader, entrepreneur, and politician. Though a native of Virginia, Ashley had already moved to St. Genevieve in what was then called Louisiana, when it was purchased by the United States from France in 1803. That land, later known as Missouri, became Ashley's home for most of his adult life. Ashley moved to St. Louis around 1808 and became a Brigadier General in the Missouri Militia during the War of 1812. Before the war he did some real estate speculation and earned a small fortune manufacturing gunpowder from a lode of saltpeter mined in a cave near the headwaters of Missouri's Current river. When Missouri was admitted to the Union Ashley was elected its first Lieutenant Governor, serving from 1820 to 1824.

In 1822 Ashley and business partner Andrew Henry—a bullet maker whom he met through his gunpowder business—posted famous 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 to this call became known as "Ashley's Hundred." Between 1822 and 1825, Ashley and Henry's Rocky Mountain Fur Company, did several large scale fur trapping expeditions in the mountain west. Ashley's men are officially credited with the American discovery of South Pass in the winter of 1824. Ashley devised...
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