Ashley, William Henry, c.1778–1838, American fur trader and politician, b. Virginia. In 1820 he was elected lieutenant governor of Missouri. He sent fur-trading expeditions up the Missouri River to the Yellowstone in 1822 and 1823; the parties included Jedediah Smith and other mountain men. A detachment of the second party under Thomas Fitzpatrick went through South Pass to the Green River valley. In 1825, Ashley accompanied another expedition that crossed from the upper Platte to Green River and began its exploration. In its valley he held the first rendezvous of the mountain fur traders and trappers. In 1826 he led an expedition that reached the vicinity of Great Salt Lake. Having acquired an ample fortune, he retired from the fur trade and devoted himself to politics. He was defeated for the governorship of Missouri in 1824 and 1836, but from 1831 to 1837 was U.S. Representative and an able advocate of measures favorable to Western development.
See H. C. Dale, The Ashley-Smith Explorations (1918); B. De Voto, Across the Wide Missouri (1948).
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