Ashley Family of New Bedford, MA

ASHLEY (New Bedford family). Among the first settlers of Rochester, Mass., and their families appear the names of Joseph Ashley and his wife Elizabeth and their children. There had settled at Springfield as early as 1639 Robert Ashley; and from the fact that many of the early settlers of Springfield were drawn from Roxbury by Pynchon, perhaps Mr. Ashley had been there previously a short time. One Thomas Ashley resided at Cape Ann (Gloucester) in 1639; he was admitted an inhabitant of Boston in 1658, and was probably the Thomas Ashley of Maine, 1654, who, says Savage, may have removed in 1658 to Boston, where his wife Joanna died Dec. 27, 1661, and he married the last of the next month Widow Hannah Broome. At Wells, Maine, lived William Ashley, whose name is given among those who were inhabitants of that place from 1641 to 1687. He was appointed constable there July 4, 1659.

Joseph Ashley, the head of the Rochester family alluded to in the foregoing, is made by some members of the Rochester-New Bedford branch of the Ashley family the son of William and Elizabeth (Batson) Ashley and grandson of Thomas Ashley, who was a brother, of Robert Ashley, of Springfield. Accepting this, Joseph Ashley of Rochester is made generation (III) in the genealogy that follows.

This article, however, is to deal with the one branch only of the New Bedford family – that whose head was the late Joshua B. Ashley, a manufacturer of New Bedford, and one of her active, enterprising business men, one of whose sons, Hon. Charles Sumner Ashley, has long been one of the leading business men and prominent public officials of his native city, serving as chief executive officer of New Bedford, as well as in the city council, on the board of alder-men, and as postmaster.

From Joseph Ashley of Rochester the genealogy and family history of the New Bedford family mentioned, chronologically arranged, follows:

Joseph Ashley, son of William and Elizabeth (probably), married (first) in Falmouth, Mass., 5th of 8th month, 1704, Elizabeth Percival. Their children were:

  1. Thomas, born Feb. 21, 1704-05;
  2. Jethro, born Jan. 11, 1706-07;
  3. William, born Sept. 12, 1708;
  4. Elizabeth, born June 4, 1710-11; and
  5. Mary, born March 12, 1718-19. The father married (second) in Rochester, Mass., Jan. 5, 1728-29, a daughter of William Hall, supposed to be Mary, widow of a Mr. Whitridge, and the children of this marriage were Joseph and Abraham.

Abraham Ashley, son of Joseph, is supposed to have married (first) Nov. 27, 1733, Elizabeth Rogers, and (second) Mary Whitridge. His children were:

  1. Percival, born in 1740;
  2. Deborah, born in 1749 (married Benjamin Heath);
  3. William, born Dec. 22, 1761;
  4. Mary (married Ichabod Johnson);
  5. Barnabas (married Rebecca Ashley); and
  6. Lydia (married Elijah Braley)

Percival Ashley, son of Abraham, born in 1740, married in Rochester, Mass., Aug. 7, 1761, Ann Bishop. Their children were:

  1. John, born in 1762;
  2. Hannah, born in 1763;
  3. Percival, born Sept. 23, 1769;
  4. Abraham, born Jan. 1, 1772;
  5. Jethro, born in 1775;
  6. James, born Feb. 3, 1777;
  7. Mary, born Nov. 13, 1778;
  8. Simeon, born June 6, 1782; and
  9. Bishop, born Oct. 5, 1785.

John Ashley, son of Percival, born in 1762, married Dec. 22, 1782, Charity Sherman, of Freetown, Mass., daughter of John and Ruth (Allen) Sherman. Their children, all born in Rochester, Mass., were:

  1. Joy, born Sept. 22, 1784;
  2. Thomas, Jan. 15, 1786;
  3. Lydia, April 21, 1789;
  4. John Sherman, May 3, 1790;
  5. Anna, Aug. 26, 1802; and
  6. Charity, July 22, 1810.

John Sherman Ashley, son of John, born May 3, 1790, married in Rochester, Mass., June 17, 1815, Mary G. (Gouch) Brown. Their children, all born in Rochester, were:

  1. John Sherman, born March 30, 1817;
  2. Rhodolphus, May 19, 1818;
  3. Joshua B., Sept. 8, 1820; and
  4. Caroline Brown, July 4, 1822.

Joshua Bishop Ashley, son of John Sherman, born Sept. 8, 1820, in Rochester, married Susan Sanderson, born Aug. 31, 1824, daughter of William and Ruth (Allen) Sanderson, of New Bedford, and the following children blessed the union:

  1. Susan Sanderson, born Feb. 28, 1844, in New Bedford, Mass., married May 23, 1871, Thomas McPherson;
  2. Hannah, born July 20, 1845, died in infancy;
  3. William Walter, born June 20, 1846, died November 20, 1865;
  4. Robert Eugene, born Sept. 15, 1848, died Nov. 10, 1877;
  5. Ellaphine was born Nov. 12, 1852; Carrie S., born May 4, 1855, died Aug. 29, 1856;
  6. Charles Sumner was born Sept. 5, 1858;
  7. Joshua B., born April 2, 1863, married Annie M., daughter of Thomas H. and Torrey (Bryant) Hersom, and has children, Joshua B. and Zelma;
  8. John Sherman, born Nov. 7, 1864, died Dec. 29, 1864. The parents died, Mr. Ashley May 13, 1906, the mother May 31, 1896.

Charles Sumner Ashley, son of Joshua Bishop and Susan (Sanderson) Ashley, was born Sept. 5, 1858, in New Bedford, Mass. He was educated in the public schools of his native town, being graduated from the Parker street grammar school, and at the Friends’ Academy. It had been the intention of his parents that he should attend college, but he had by that time decided to follow a business career. To this end at the age of seventeen years he engaged in the market business in association with Fred Covell, their location being on Purchase street, under the name of Covell & Ashley. Owing to ill health. Mr. Covell withdrew from the firm, Mr. Ashley continuing the business, and through his efforts and ability it was developed into one of considerable proportions, extending into wholesale lines in smoked meats, etc. Later on he disposed of this business and in partnership with Stephen D. Pierce, under the firm style of Ashley & Pierce, engaged in the clothing and furnishing goods line at Nos. 72-74 William street, where his energy and business capacity contributed to build up a large trade.

With tastes and qualifications peculiarly fitting him for public life, and having early made a study of political problems and conditions, Mr. Ashley was carried into the arena of politics at an early age and his now nearly thirty years of public service in his native city, much of it as chief executive officer, is in many respects without a parallel. He started out as a Democrat on broad and liberal lines, in which he has continued. When he came into official position, at the age of twenty-six, party lines were not closely drawn in New Bedford, nor have they been since, and candidates for city offices have received support from citizens without close regard to political faith. In 1884 he was chosen one of the common council under Mayor George Wilson. The next year he ran for alder-man in Ward Three, but although he ran ahead of his ticket he was defeated by a small plurality. In the following year, however, he was more successful and was the only alderman elected on the ticket. Moreover, as showing his popularity and the confidence reposed in him ïby his constituents, it may be again stated that he polled more votes than did Mr. Rotch for the mayoralty. In 1887 he was again elected to the upper branch of the city government by a very flattering vote.

In the fall of 1888 a number of Mr. Ashley’s friends, disliking with him the fusion movement participated in by the Citizens’ party that year, urged him to accept a nomination at their hands for the mayoralty. He finally accepted, but . much against his inclinations. At that time, when referring to Mr. Ashley, who was to lead the Independent Citizens’ party, Chairman Brownell said in part:

“In Charles S. Ashley we have a type of the energy, enterprise, industry and telling push which characterize our Western cities and it is by the power, work and industry of such men that our thriving Western cities have made such a rapid growth and enjoyed such a marvelous prosperity as to excite the wonder of the whole world. Had our less enterprising brothers gone West that great territory would not have been traversed by railroads, nor the prairies changed to wheat and corn fields, the forests to vineyards with cities, yes, metropolitan cities, with from 40,000 to 200,000 inhabitants and less than twenty-one years old. These great strides in progress have been accomplished by men possessing the same elements of success that we find in our fellow citizen, our candidate for mayor, Mr. Charles S. Ashley.”

The brief speech of Mr. Ashley in accepting this honor is given here, as it is so characteristic of the man:

“My record as an alderman for the last two years you know as well as I. If that record is satisfactory to you and if you are willing to accept my platform I will accept the nomination. It is no boy’s play with me, but business. I go in to win and for work. If you are willing to accept me clean and clear from any incumbrance whatever, without any promises of any kind, I accept your nomination gratefully and gladly.”

Although defeated at the election by a surprisingly small plurality, the flattering vote accorded Mr. Ashley was looked upon by his adherents as a victory; and in the following year, under the same political auspices, he again failed of reaching the mayor’s chair.

In 1890 came Mr. Ashley’s triumph, when bis friends, not disheartened and strong in their faith in their candidate, again placed him at the head of their ticket, and he was elected mayor of New Bedford by a plurality that was highly satisfactory to his constituents. Mr. Ashley was one of the youngest mayors the city had had, but his administration was characterized by vigor, independence, assiduous attention to all measures that would in his belief be for the welfare of the community. Of his time and labor he gave freely to the arduous and perplexing duties of the office, and gained the good will of many who had not supported him for the office by his evident earnestness of purpose and unselfishness of motives. It was his full determination to decline to stand as a candidate for a second term, but the persistence of his friends and their belief that no other available candidate would be so sure of success at the polls finally prevailed upon him to accept. The result justified their anticipations, for he was elected by an increased plurality.

The election each year in New Bedford for the office of mayor is held in December for the term beginning in January following. Mr. Ashley was again the standard bearer of the Independent Citizens’ party for mayor in 1896, 1897, 1898 and 1899 and was each time elected, by flattering pluralities, and, as will be seen by the following editorial from the Mercury of Dec. 6, 1899, was then judged to be at the acme of his popularity:

“It is obvious that a very large majority of citizens are satisfied with the administration of Mayor Ashley. He carried every precinct in the city and his reelection is by a magnificent plurality, which must be a source of gratification to him. He has now been a candidate for mayor eight times and completes his fifth term this month. And he is now at the acme of his popularity, as the unprecedented vote of yesterday teils. Not only does his total vote break all the records, but his plurality is larger than any mayoralty candidate ever received even in years when candidates have been without formal opposition.

“In a general way the opposition party relied upon a general criticism of extravagance to accomplish Mayor Ashley’s defeat, but if its spokesmen had any plans for economy they lacked the courage to declare them and no impression was made. The other issues relied upon were shopworn goods and did not appeal to the voters. We congratulate Mr. Ashley upon his reelection and wish him a pleasant and successful administration.”

Mayor Ashley was again elected chief executive officer of New Bedford in 1900 by over 1,200 majority, and it was the expression of one of the leading local papers at the time that he had become a “specialist in administering the affairs of the city, and their interests pending which require a thoroughly trained and equipped man in office the coming year,” and that the choice was a “discerning one.” In the following year – 1901 – he was again chosen mayor, this time by a plurality of 1,516 over his nearest competitor, being carried along on the top of the wave which arises in his favor in December of every year. In 1902 he was reelected by the largest, vote he had ever received – his plurality being 1,983. That year and the year before the “Ashley” party defeated Andrew P. Doyle, the candidate of the Independent party; and of this said the Mercury:

“It was in truth a famous victory and a remarkable tribute to the administration of the city affairs by Mayor Ashley’s vote broke all records and he carried every precinct. Such a result, following eight years’ service as mayor, must be a grateful endorsement to the chief executive. Mayor Ashley’s success can be traced to the fact that the affairs of this city are excellently well managed. He is public-spirited and enthusiastic in her interest, and his voice has never been raised to malign and bespatter her fair name. We are confident the citizens have chosen wisely.”

In December, 1903, Mr. Ashley received nearly half of the entire registered vote of the city for mayor, his majority being greater than the plurality of any candidate for mayor in the municipal history of New Bedford. On Dec. 7, 1904, Mr. Ashley was reelected, and on the first Monday in January, 1905, he began his eleventh term as mayor of his native city. On this occasion said one of the local papers editorially:

” ‘The supernal tide’ rolled in at 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon and landed Mayor Ashley in the office of mayor for another year. Next month Mayor Ashley will accordingly enter upon the eleventh year of his service as mayor of New Bedford, an extraordinary record, the more remarkable that the mayor’s vote increases from year to year. Even the fact that this year was his thirteenth candidacy, a number which might have daunted a superstitious candidate, did not break the spell he has cast upon the citizens, and his vote was the largest, with one exception, ever recorded in his favor. This is the more impressive when it is considered that men who hold office for so long a term are bound to make enemies of disappointed aspirants for office and favor-seekers, that many careless voters like to elect new men just to ‘see what they will do,’ and that a certain envy and jealousy for the successful are mean human characteristics.”

Mr. Ashley declined to run for mayor in December, 1905, but was forced by his many friends to run again in December, 1906, and was chosen for the twelfth term, receiving the largest vote that had ever been given up to that time to a candidate for such office in his city. After a rest of two years Mr. Ashley, in December, 1909, was again chosen chief executive officer of New Bedford.

“The fact that after twelve years’ administration of the office of mayor Mr. Ashley is summoned back to the public service, is almost without precedent in the annals of Municipal government in the United States. It is because a majority of the citizens recognize that he possesses peculiar and expert ability as a chief executive, and we trust this service may bring no disappointment in the year to come.”

Mr. Ashley was reelected in December, 1910, by the largest vote ever given any candidate for election in the city and he carried his entire ticket.

Mr. Ashley also served as postmaster of New Bedford during the years 1893-94-95, resigning to run for mayor. In the social life of the city he has been no less conspicuous than in its public service. He is genial in temperament, with an unceasing flow of good spirits, and a friendly hand for all. Without doubt he is one of the most popular public men and officials New Bedford has ever had.

Mr. Ashley is both an Odd Fellow and a thirty-second-degree Mason, a Shriner, and an Elk. He is also a member of various clubs, among them the Wamsutta, Dartmouth, Boston Athletic, Boston City, and the Mayors Club of Massachusetts, and of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company.

In November, 1879, Mr. Ashley was married to Annie Butler Luce, who was born Aug. 16, 1858, daughter of Thomas Luce, of New Bedford. To them came children as follows:

Hannah Butler, born May 20, 1881, was graduated from Dana Hall, Wellesley, in 1901.
Ralph Eugene, born Sept. 14, 1884, married Roberta Sherman, of New Bedford.
Charles Sumner, born Jan. 6, 1887, was graduated from the Peekskill (N. Y.) Military Academy and from the Colorado School of Mines, and for a time was located at a mine in Arizona, but is now engaged in the insurance and real estate business in New Bedford, with his brother R. Eugene, under the firm name of Charles S. Ashley, Jr. & Co. On June 3, 1911, he married Helen Porter Wood, of Middleboro, Mass., daughter of George Wood.

Susan Brown, born Feb. 28, 1888, died in June, 1889. The mother of these died June 6, 1890, and the father remarried, marrying (second) Julia A. Purington, widow of Philip Purington and daughter of Asahel and Julia Howard of Bridgewater, Massachusetts.

Representative Men and Old Families of Southeastern Massachusetts: containing historical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and genealogical records of many of the old families. 3 Volumes. Beers & Chicago. 1912.

2 thoughts on “Ashley Family of New Bedford, MA”

  1. I purchased a crate of vintage photos most cabinet cards and others came across one of pretty girl on back it says ‘Helen Porter Wood 1903’. Photos was taken in Boston. Did a little research learned she graduated from Wellesley College and married Charles Ashley Jr. which led me here.

  2. Mr Charles Ashley, A nice writing on Mr Ashley I would like to read about his mark on the city , I know about the school named after him, and the streets, I would like to know about his accomplishments. I have read about the management of the city. The city was a great city back then it was standing on her own back then.

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