The subject of this sketch, John H. Ashley, came to Kansas in 1879, and bought one hundred and sixty acres of State Normal school land in Buffalo township for a consideration of eight hundred dollars. Mr. Ashley possessed but little capital other than courage and industry, those important factors essential to success in Kansas and from these accessories he has built one of the best country homes in the county. Mr. Ashley came from the state of Michigan, where he had followed the occupation of farming. He chartered a car through to Concordia, shipping a team of horses, about a year's supply of provisions and being in a timbered country, he had lumber on hand which was also brought through in the car. This they used in building their first residence, a house sixteen by twenty-four feet, in dimensions, one and one-half stories high with boards up and down and a barn of the same architecture. A brother-in-law, the Honorable S.C. Wheeler, had preceded them and through his glowing description of the state and its possibilities Mr. Ashley was prompted to follow and has not regretted the venture. He has been prosperous from the beginning, although he has met with some reverses, prominent among which was the burning of his barn in 1880 by prairie fire, including a year's supply of corn for feeding purposes.
Mr. Ashley's paternal grandparents were Leonard and Sally (McDougal) Ashley, of Canada. His parents were James and Polly L. (Magee) Ashley. His father, the Reverend James Ashley, a Free-Will Baptist minister, wasborn in Toronto, Canada, November 18, 1815. In the year 1826 the family emigrated to Huron county, Ohio, where, amidst advantages and disadvantages, the boy who had not yet attained his majority developed into manhood. His father was a farmer and unable to give his son superior educational advantages, apprenticed him to a blacksmith that he might weld a livelihood out of that avocation. At the age of fifteen years he was converted to the Baptist faith and in 1841 began a successful ministerial career. He was an earnest advocate of Christian principles and his sympathy, affability and colloquial gifts attracted all classes of people. New fields were opened, churches instituted and the Seneca quarterly meeting organized, where most of his pastoral and evangelical work was done and much good accomplished.
In 1855 he removed to Cass county, Michigan, where the remainder of his useful life was spent, laboring there for more than twenty-five years. During this period he preached twelve years in Sumnerville and in the meantime traveled a distance of eighteen thousand miles. In 1860 he was elected to the legislature, but would not consent to a second term because of the crookedness and corruptness of political affairs. He died March 23, 1882. Polly L. Magee was of Scotch ancestry and by her marriage with the Reverend James Ashley she became the mother of twelve children.
Our subject was born in Huron county, Ohio, in 1842 and was married in 1864 to Harriet Stephens, a daughter of David R. Stephens and the granddaughter of Lyman Stephens, who settled in Cass county, Michigan, in 1835, having emigrated from Oneida county, New York, via the Erie canal to Buffalo and thence to Detroit by boat, where they procured an ox-team, traveled overland and settled in Cass county. Mrs. Ashley's father was at that time thirteen years of age and drove a "breaking team" for the compensation of twenty-five cents per day. The state at this time was new and their place of abode was a cabin roofed with bark peeled from the trees with which it was densely surrounded. Their wordly possessions consisted of a yoke of oxen, a wagon and twelve dollars in cash, but they went bravely to work and with strong arms and willing hands transformed the wooded land into tillable and cultivated ground. During the first winter five hundred Indians camped near their house but were of a peaceable and friendly tribe. Mrs. Ashley's father was a successful farmer and, with the exception of one, the oldest settler of Mason township, Cass county, Michigan. He ran a threshing machine for more than twenty-four years and purchased the first grain elevator in that locality. In 1867 he brought the second portable steam engine into the county. He died in 1896, one year following his golden wedding, leaving a wife who still survives and lives on the old homestead in Michigan, where all her married life has been spent. Before her marriage she was Ellen E. Roberts. The two sons, George L. and John L., both reside at the old homestead.
To Mr. and Mrs. Ashley four children have been born, viz: Arletta May, the eldest daughter, is the wife of Lee Judd, a carpenter with residence in Oakland, California. Frank W., the eldest son, was married to Atha Gilbert, a daughter of J.H. Gilbert. who settled in Cloud county in 1883, and nine years later moved to Oklahoma, where he still resides near Hitchcock. Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert were both teachers, the former having taught between twenty-five and thirty years and is well known in the schools of Cloud county. Frank W. Ashley owns eighty acres of land near his father's place. The second son, Will S., is unmarried and assists his father on the farm. Mary LeEtta, a promising young girl of fourteen years, is at home.
Mr. Ashley served the last tell and one-half months of the Civil war in Company C, Second Michigan Cavalry, under Captain H.L. Hempstead and Colonel Johnson. During this time he saw active service and was in the battles of Franklin and Nashville. He was promoted corporal about a week after enlisting. His company won laurels during their brief existence as the recruits of Company C, which was organized in 1861. During his war experience Mr. Ashley had two horses shot from under him.
From the original little box house erected at the time of locating in Cloud county a commodious residence of nine rooms has grown, surrounded and enhanced by a luxuriant grove composed mostly of box-elders. Under the cooling shadows of these trees the old veterans and members of the Grand Army of the Republic of Concordia assemble annually to rehearse experiences and extend the hand of fellowship to old comrades. Mr. Ashley follows diversified farming and also gives considerable attention to fruit growing, and his prosperity is the result of his welldirected energies. He is a public-spirited man, a staunch Republican in his political views and takes an interest in everything pertaining to the promotion of all worthy causes. Mrs. Ashley is a woman of refinement and has been a true helpmate to her husband, assisting very materially in acquiring their present competency. The Ashley home is one of perfect harmony. FranK W. and his wife,, since their marriage of ten years ago, have lived at his father's home as members of one family, hence, instead of losing their son they gained a daughter.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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