William Ashley

An Ashley era mountain man
(1778 - 1838)

Entrepreneur in St. Louis who organized fur expeditions into the Yellowstone country in 1822 and 1823.  General of the Missouri Militia, and Lieutenant Governor of the newly created state of Missouri.


            William Ashley, a friend of the Indian Superintendent William Clark, believed fortunes were to be made in the fur country of the upper Yellowstone. (For more on Ashley, click here) Ashley was not the least bit intimidated by the feverish competition he could expect from American and British rivals.  In 1822 he rounded up 100 able bodied men who were willing to go into the wilderness, offered to pay them $200 per year, then sent them up the Missouri with three long boats and enough provisions for a year.   The boats were sixty feet long, and 14 feet in beam. 

   The first boat, guided by his partner Andrew Henry, reached its destination.  The second foundered in the ferocious whirlpools and eddies of the upper Missouri (a loss of $10,000), and the third, captained by himself, reached the confluence of the Missouri and the Yellowstone, the site where years hence other men would build Fort Union.  Ashley would eventually sell his shares in the company he founded to Thomas Fitzpatrick and Jim Bridger, who took ownership, in 1834, of the trading post that later became known as Fort Laramie.