James Mitchell Ashley (1824 - 1896) MP

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Birthplace: Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Death: Died in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan
Managed by: Doug Robinson
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About James Mitchell Ashley


James Mitchell Ashley (November 14, 1824 – September 16, 1896) was a U.S. congressman, territorial governor and railroad president.

Early life

Ashley was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, to John and Mary A. (Kilpatrick) Ashley. He married Emma Jane Smith in 1851 and together they had four children. He is the great-grandfather of U.S. Representative Thomas W. L. Ashley and a number of other descendants, including James Ashley IV, a portraitist living in Chicago. James IV recently completed a portrait of his great-grandfather, which will soon be permanently installed at the University of Toledo Law School.

Ashley was mostly self-taught in elementary subjects. His early employment included clerking on Ohio and Mississippi River boats. In 1848, he settled in Portsmouth, Ohio, where he became editor of the Portsmouth Democrat. In 1849, he was admitted to the Ohio Bar but did not practice. About this time he moved to Toledo, Ohio, and got involved in the wholesale drug business.

Political career

James Ashley was an active abolitionist who traveled with John Brown's widow on the date of Brown's execution and reported the event in the still-extant local newspaper, the Toledo Blade. In 1858, he was elected to U.S. House of Representatives of the 36th United States Congress as a Republican. While in Congress (the 37th through 40th), he served as the chairman to the Committee on Territories. He took an active role in supporting the recruitment of troops for the Union Army during the American Civil War.

During his term, he wrote a bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, introduced the first bill for a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, and initiated impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson (1867). He was defeated for re-election in 1868. During the Civil War, he authored the Arizona Organic Act.

Following his defeat, Ashley was appointed the Territorial Governor of Montana and served until 1870. He then returned to Toledo.

Ashley was the builder and president of the Ann Arbor Railroad.

In early 2010, Ashley was proposed by the Ohio Historical Society as a finalist in a statewide vote for inclusion in Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol.

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James Mitchell Ashley, US Congress's Timeline

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Age 30
Age 40
Age 72
Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan
Woodlawn Cemetery, Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio