Tag Archives: William Eliot Ashley

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.

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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.

Little Rock Look Back: Founding Fathers of Little Rock

Fathers DayThere are several men who can be considered founding fathers of Little Rock: William Lewis, the first settler, who stayed for a few months in 1814; Roswell Beebe, who acquired most of the land and laid out streets as well as providing land for public buildings and a cemetery; Amos Wheeler, who was the first postmaster and later a land agent; Jesse Brown, who founded the first school and later served as mayor; and William Woodruff, the founder of the Arkansas Gazette.

There are three other men who were not only founding fathers, but also actual fathers to other leaders. They are: Dr. Matthew Cunningham, Major Nicholas Peay and Chester Ashley.

Dr. Cunningham was one of the first residents of Little Rock. He arrived in 1821 and was shortly joined by his family.  Dr. Cunningham would be Little Rock’s first physician. His son Chester was the first child born in Little Rock.  Dr. Cunningham later served as Little Rock’s first mayor from January 1832 to January 1833.  His stepson, Charles P. Bertrand, later served as Mayor of Little Rock from January 1855 to January 1857.  This is the closest Little Rock has ever had to a father and son both serving as Mayor.

Major Nicholas Peay arrived in Little Rock in 1825.  He quickly became engaged in civic affairs and served as a trustee of Little Rock (a precursor to a city council).  In the 1830s, Major Peay served on the Little Rock City Council. In that capacity, he also served as Acting Mayor of Little Rock.  His son, Gordon Neill Peay, would serve as Mayor of Little Rock from 1859 to 1861.  A grandson son, Ashley Peay, was a Little Rock alderman in the 1920s. A great-great-grandson, Joseph B. Hurst, served on the Little Rock City Board from 1967 to 1970.

Chester Ashley never served on the Little Rock council or as mayor.  He was, however, an early leader of Little Rock.  He actually arrived in 1820 and brought his new wife here in late 1821 (a few months after Mrs. Cunningham arrived).  One of Little Rock’s first attorneys, he was instrumental in the settlement of a competing land ownership disputes. In 1844, he was appointed to be one of Arkansas’ U.S. senators. He served in the Senate until his 1848 death.  His son William E. Ashley, served as Little Rock’s mayor from January 1857 to January 1859 and again from January 1861 until September 1863.

With Bertrand, Ashley, Peay and Ashley in the office of Mayor, from January 1855 until September 1863, Little Rock was governed by second generation leaders.

Descendants of the Cunningham and Peay families still reside in Little Rock today.

Little Rock Look Back: 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.