Edward Ashley was born at Road Hill, Wiltshire, on September 12, 1853, the son of Jacob William Wheeler Ashley and Charlotte Watts, both of whom passed a large part of their lives in England, coming to this country and settling in Michigan in 1872. While in England they were communicants of the established church, in whose faith they reared their children. His father having been a sawyer by vocation.
Edward received his preliminary educational discipline in the common schools of his native land, and thereafter learned the trade of carpenter. He came to the United States in 1873, at the age of nineteen, landing in New York City on the 1st of September, reaching Muskegon, Michigan, where he secured work at his trade, while simultaneously he pursued in a private way the studies of a college course, including the classics. On May 8, 1874, he began his services as a missionary teacher among the Sioux Indians at Crow Creek in the territory of Dakota.
At some point Edward returned to England where on October 6, 1877, at Frome, Somerset, Edward Ashley married Elizabeth Ann Martin, who was born in that county, on August 26, 1854. Sailing from Bristol aboard the SS Aragon the couple arrived in New York on October 23 1877 and returned to South Dakota where Edward was ordained a deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church on November, 27, 1877, by Rt. Rev. William Hobart Hare, bishop of the missionary district of Niobrara.
The couple’s first child, Charlotte Jessie Winona Ashley was born on December 21, 1878. The following year Edward entered the Seabury Divinity School, at Faribault, Minnesota, where he was graduated in June, 1881, with the degree of Bachelor of Divinity, while on the 3rd of the following month he was ordained to the priesthood, receiving holy orders at the hands of Rt. Rev. William H. Hare, now bishop of the diocese of South Dakota.
The couple’s second child Edward Athelstan Ashley was born on December 9, 1881 at Sisseton where Edward was engaged on the reservation from 1881 to 1889. Edward held the first service in St. Mary’s Church at the Agency in 1882.
In 1884, he reported to Bishop Hare, ‘I have gained one thing which is a satisfaction to me, the confidence of the people. There is a considerable ignorance and apathy to overcome and it is uphill work, but then it is God’s work and in His own good time He will give the increase of our planning and watering.’
In 1885 he was appointed to the office of rural dean and examining chaplain of the missionary district of the state. In the same year he supervised the building of the church of St. James in Waubay and a third child Martin Anselm Ashley was born on April 22. Two more churches, St. John the Baptist, west of Browns Valley and St. Luke’s of Veblen was built in 1886 and fourth child, William Cuthbert Ashley was born on February 18.
In 1889, Edward Ashley was transferred to Fort Bennet, on the Cheyenne River Reservation where he would be in charge of seven missions. It was here on July 28, 1891 that the couple’s final child Robert Laud Ashley was born.
Elizabeth Ashley died on December 28 1915 in Brown County, South Dakota and on 05 May 1917 at Wakpala, Corson, South Dakota he remarried Harriet Elizabeth. In 1922, Edward Ashley became Archdeacon of the Niobrara Deanery.
The Reverend Edward Ashley D.D. died on March 30, 1931 at Aberdeen, Brown County, South Dakota, United States.
© Brian Tompkins 2007