The Ashley-Henry Men

William H. Ashley

Their names were legion; the hardy fur trappers who blazed new trails across the Rockies, but it all began with a Missouri newspaper ad. In 1822, William H. Ashley advertised in the “Missouri Republic” for 100 men to ascend the Missouri River, asking applicants to apply to him or to “Major Andrew Henry, near the Lead Mines in the County of Washington.” Thus, began the “Ashley-Henry Men”, whose ranks included such legendary men as Jedediah Smith, Jim Bridger, David Jackson, Tom Fitzpatrick, Mink Fink, William and Milton Sublette, James Clyman and Hugh Glass.

Ashley and Henry

Ashley and Henry had met and planned their venture at Potosi. Henry had come Missouri about 1800 and in the summer of 1809, went up the Missouri River with the first fur-trading expedition of the Missouri Fur Company. Returning to Missouri, he mined in Washington County and met William H. Ashley, a Virginia emigrant who was a lead miner and gunpowder manufacturer at Potosi. Ashley entered the business work in St. Louis as was elected Missouri’s first Lieutenant Governor in 1820 and from there joined his business acumen with the field experience of Henry to begin expeditions tat over the next four years ere to bring the Rocky Mountain fur trade to its peak.

Their company originated the rendezvous system of fur trading and as they worked, the mountain men explored the central Rockies, the Tetons and the South Pass, opening the “Way West” through which the great Overland Trail was later to pass. Henry returned in 1824 to his mines at Washington County near Palmer, where he died in 1833.

Ashley amassed a fortune in the fur-trade, served in Congress from 1831 to 1837, and died near Boonville in 1838, where his grave now rests on a bluff overlooking the rolling waters of the Missouri River – the “Wide Missouri” up which he and Henry and their men went in opening another new chapter in the American West.