Little Rock Look Back: Founding of Rose Law Firm

On November 1, 1820, Robert Crittenden and Chester Ashley signed an agreement to form a “Partnership in the Practice of Law.”  This document is the genesis for what is now known as the Rose Law Firm, the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi River.

Crittenden and Ashley were both political leaders.  At the age of 22, Crittenden was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas Territory by President James Monroe.  Ashley would serve as a U.S. Senator from Arkansas from 1844 to 1848.  His son William E. Ashley was the first Little Rock mayor to be born in Little Rock.

Both Crittenden and Ashley have counties in Arkansas named in their memory.  In addition both Chester and Ashley streets in Little Rock are named for the latter.

In 1832, Crittenden and Ashley dissolved their partnership, though each continued practicing law.  George Watkins joined Mr. Ashley in 1837.  By 1865, U.M. Rose joined partnership. The name Rose has been in the firm’s name ever since.

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Little Rock Look Back: Mayoral Election of 1866

Following the cessation of Little Rock municipal government in September 1863, there was no mayor of Little Rock for the remainder of the Civil War.

In the late summer of 1865, plans were announced for the resumption of local government, and elections were set for October 16, 1865.  Former mayor William E. Ashley (the first mayor of Little Rock to be born in Little Rock) had expressed his intention to run for the office.  W. S. Oliver had also announced his candidacy. On that day, however, the elections were suspended by military leadership over Arkansas. There were issues related to the governance of Arkansas under Reconstruction.

Details in the Arkansas Gazette were vague. However whatever the actual issues were seem to have been resolved. A new election date was set for January 1, 1866.

On November 4, 1865, William E. Ashley issued a notice that he was withdrawing from the race. He had apparently been in ill health for a period of two months. As he was recovering, he found himself needing to devote his time to his business affairs he had neglected during the illness.

A week later, Ashley was the lead signatory on a letter sent to Dr. J. J. McAlmont (a local physician and pharmacist) asking him to be a candidate for mayor. There were a total of twenty-nine men who signed the letter including several former members of the City Council.  Dr. McAlmont sent a letter accepting the offer and announcing he would be a candidate.  Both letters were printed in the Arkansas Gazette.

On January 1, 1866, the election took place.  The Gazette reported approximately 600 people voted and that Dr. McAlmont won.  It did not give a vote total for him or any opponents.   He would serve in office for a year.

Little Rock Look Back: LR City Hall Suspends Operations in 1863

A few days after the defeat at the Battle of Little Rock, the City of Little Rock ceased operations on September 21, 1863.

Planning for this had started in August, which would suggest that civic leaders were none too confident in the ability of Confederate forces to hold on to the city.  At the August 24, 1863, City Council meeting it was reported that the City’s funds (presumably Confederate) had been “placed in the hands of a reliable party who is well known to the Council.”  The identity of this “reliable party” has never been disclosed.

On September 21, the Council met and took three votes.  The first was to suspend the operation of City police (which at the time was not an official police force, it was a constable and some volunteers). The second was to suspend the collection of City taxes.  The final vote was to adjourn.

There is no record of Mayor William Ashley being present at this meeting.  Recorder A. J. Smith (the equivalent of City Clerk today) was not present.  The minutes were signed by “J. Ash, Deputy.” Records do not indicate if that gentleman was officially Deputy Recorder or if he had simply been deputized to take minutes at the meeting.  The five City Council members present were C. P. Bertrand (a former mayor and step-son of Little Rock’s first Mayor, Matthew Cunningham), S. H. Tucker, W. B. Walt, I. A. Henry (would would also serve on the first City Council after the war in 1866), and Lou George.

Birth of William E. Ashley in 1823 – first LR Mayor to have been born in LR

On August 6, 1823, future Little Rock Mayor William Eliot Ashley was born in Little Rock.  He would go on to become the first Little Rock Mayor to be born in Little Rock.  Ashley was the son of Mary and Chester Ashley; his father would later serve as a U. S. Senator from Arkansas.  He was the second of the couple’s seven children.

Though he was raised in Little Rock, he did receive some schooling out of state. The State History Commission has correspondence between eleven year old William, studying in New York, and his father. Part of the letter is a request for money.

On October 26, 1846, he married Frances Eliza Grafton at Christ Episcopal Church.  They were the first Little Rock residents to be married in that church.  The couple had five children, including triplets.  Only one of the children, Frances (who was one of the triplets) survived to adulthood.

Ashley was first elected Mayor of Little Rock in 1857. After completing a two year term, he was succeeded by Gordon N. Peay (another scion of a prominent Little Rock family).  In 1861, Ashley returned to the office of Mayor.  He was reelected to a third term in 1863.  In September 1863, following the defeat of Confederate troops by the Union forces at the Battle of Little Rock, the City of Little Rock ceased operations.  On September 21, 1863, Little Rock municipal government closed its doors, stopped collection of taxes and disbanded.  Thus Ashley’s third term ended.

In addition to his interest in local government, Ashley was a member of St. John’s College Board and a director of the newly-formed Little Rock Gas Company.

William Eliot Ashley died on August 16, 1868, at the age of 45.  He was buried in Mount Holly Cemetery (which sat partially on land that had once belonged to his family). His parents, wife and children are all buried in Mt. Holly as well.

Interestingly, for someone who grew up in a prominent family, there does not appear to be a surviving likeness of Mayor Ashley – either in painting or photograph.  Several exist of his parents, but none of him.

Little Rock Look Back: Founding of what is now Rose Law Firm

Rose Law FoundersOn November 1, 1820, Robert Crittenden and Chester Ashley signed an agreement to form a “Partnership in the Practice of Law.”  This document is the genesis for what is now known as the Rose Law Firm, the oldest law firm west of the Mississippi River.

Crittenden and Ashley were both political leaders.  At the age of 22, Crittenden was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas Territory by President James Monroe.  Ashley would serve as a U.S. Senator from Arkansas from 1844 to 1848.  His son William E. Ashley was the first Little Rock mayor to be born in Little Rock.

Both Crittenden and Ashley have counties in Arkansas named in their memory.  In addition both Chester and Ashley streets in Little Rock are named for the latter.

In 1832, Crittenden and Ashley dissolved their partnership, though each continued practicing law.  George Watkins joined Mr. Ashley in 1837.  By 1865, U.M. Rose joined partnership. The name Rose has been in the firm’s name ever since.

Little Rock Look Back: LR City Hall Ceases Operation in 1863

LR1863 minutes of closureFollowing the Battle of Little Rock, the City of Little Rock ceased operations on September 21, 1863.

Planning for this had started in August, which would suggest that civic leaders were none too confident in the ability of Confederate forces to hold on to the city.  At the August 24, 1863, City Council meeting it was reported that the City’s funds (presumably Confederate) had been “placed in the hands of a reliable party who is well known to the Council.”  The identity of this “reliable party” has never been disclosed.

On September 21, the Council met and took three votes.  The first was to suspend the operation of City police (which at the time was not an official police force, it was a constable and some volunteers). The second was to suspend the collection of City taxes.  The final vote was to adjourn.

There is no record of Mayor William Ashley being present at this meeting.  Recorder A. J. Smith (the equivalent of City Clerk today) was not present.  The minutes were signed by “J. Ash, Deputy.” Records do not indicate if that gentleman was officially Deputy Recorder or if he had simply been deputized to take minutes at the meeting.  The five City Council members present were C. P. Bertrand (a former mayor and step-son of Little Rock’s first Mayor, Matthew Cunningham), S. H. Tucker, W. B. Walt, I. A. Henry (would would also serve on the first City Council after the war in 1866), and Lou George.

Little Rock Look Back: Mayor William Ashley

W E Ashley signature

On August 6, 1823, future Little Rock Mayor William Eliot Ashley was born in Little Rock.  He would go on to become the first Little Rock Mayor to be born in Little Rock.  Ashley was the son of Mary and Chester Ashley; his father would later serve as a U. S. Senator from Arkansas.  He was the second of the couple’s seven children.

Though he was raised in Little Rock, he did receive some schooling out of state. The State History Commission has correspondence between eleven year old William, studying in New York, and his father. Part of the letter is a request for money.

On October 26, 1846, he married Frances Eliza Grafton at Christ Episcopal Church.  They were the first Little Rock residents to be married in that church.  The couple had five children, including triplets.  Only one of the children, Frances (who was one of the triplets) survived to adulthood.

Ashley was first elected Mayor of Little Rock in 1857. After completing a two year term, he was succeeded by Gordon N. Peay (another scion of a prominent Little Rock family).  In 1861, Ashley returned to the office of Mayor.  He was reelected to a third term in 1863.  In September 1863, following the defeat of Confederate troops by the Union forces at the Battle of Little Rock, the City of Little Rock ceased operations.  On September 21, 1863, Little Rock municipal government closed its doors, stopped collection of taxes and disbanded.  Thus Ashley’s third term ended.

In addition to his interest in local government, Ashley was a member of St. John’s College Board and a director of the newly-formed Little Rock Gas Company.

William Eliot Ashley died on August 16, 1868, at the age of 45.  He was buried in Mt. Holly Cemetery (which sat partially on land that had once belonged to his family). His parents, wife and children are all buried in Mt. Holly as well.

Interestingly, for someone who grew up in a prominent family, there does not appear to be a surviving likeness of Mayor Ashley – either in painting or photograph.  Several exist of his parents, but none of him.