Ashland, the First Saunders County Seat

William H. Ashby

Relatively few ex-Confederates chose to locate in Nebraska Territory following the close of the Civil War. One who did was William H. Ashby, a lawyer, civil servant, newspaperman, and land speculator, who lived from 1865 to about 1912 in southeast Nebraska.

Ashby was born in Livingston County, Missouri, in 1841 and grew to manhood in Missouri. He began the study of law at the age of eighteen. In 1861 he enlisted in the Confederate Army and served under Gen. Sterling Price. Seriously wounded at Vicksburg, he was promoted to the rank of captain and served to the end of the war.

Ashby was in Nebraska City by August 1865, where he began the practice of law. He moved to Beatrice in 1869, where he resumed his law practice, which was to occupy him intermittently during many years of residence in Nebraska. Ashby also entered the newspaper field. With J. M. Hoggshead he purchased a half interest in the Blue Valley Record and changed its name to the Beatrice Clarion, conducted as an independent publication until its sale in the spring of 1870. Later, in 1879, he was associated with the Beatrice Leader.

Ashby had a varied political career. The Morton-Watkins history of Nebraska noted that “at one time or another [he was] an ardent member of every one of the parties.” Ashby ran for office in Gage County as a Democrat in the early 1870s. In 1876 he attended the Republican state convention, where he was defeated by Thomas Majors for nomination as contingent congressman. In 1879 he attended the Greenback Party state convention, where he was said to be the “chanticleer” of the convention. Ashby was also married in 1879­on the Fourth of July-to Zilla Shaw of San Francisco.

Ashby held several appointive offices. In June 1875 President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him a member of the Allison Commission (headed by U.S. Senator William B. Allison), which was to discuss with the Sioux the possible purchase by the government of the Black Hills. Ashby and Congressman Abram Comingo of Missouri, another member of the commission, spent several months preparing for the meeting. But the Sioux were in no mood to sell the Black Hills, and the Allison Commission ended in failure. In January 1877 Ashby was sent by the U.S. government as a special agent to Panama, the West Indies, and South America to investigate irregularities in the importation of sugar.

In 1881 he and Samuel Wymore bought land adjoining the new Gage County town of Wymore and divided the purchase into town lots. After he sold his Wymore property in 1886, he returned to Beatrice and resumed his law practice. He retired to Berkeley, California, about 1912.

(June 2006)

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

Education Digital Learning Resources

Find games, lists, and more to enhance your history education curriculum.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

History Nebraska Services

Digital Resources

Find all of our digital resources, files, videos, and more, all in one easy-to-search page!

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.