Biography of Rev. Edward Ashley

Rev. Edward Ashley, a prominent Protestant Episcopal clergyman in South Dakota, was born on December 12, 1854, in Road Hill, Wiltshire, England. He emigrated to the United States in 1873, settling in Muskegon, Michigan. Initially working as a carpenter, he later became a missionary teacher among the Sioux Indians in Dakota Territory, and was ordained a deacon in 1877 and a priest in 1881. Ashley served on various Indian reservations and became rural dean and examining chaplain for the state. He married Elizabeth Ann Martin in 1877, and they have five children. Ashley is also active in Masonic and fraternal organizations.

Rev. Edward Ashley, one of the prominent and honored members of the clergy of the Protestant Episcopal church in South Dakota, is a native of England and comes of stanch old English stock. He was born at Road Hill, Wiltshire, on the 12th of December, 1854, and is a son of Jacob William and Charlotte (Watts) Ashley, 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, the father having been a sawyer by vocation. The subject of this review secured 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 years, 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 the 9th of May, 1874, he began his services as a missionary teacher among the Sioux Indians in the territory of Dakota, in the meanwhile taking up the study of theology and being ordained a deacon in the Protestant Episcopal church on the 27th of November, 1877, by Rt. Rev. William Hobart Hare, bishop of the missionary district of Niobrara. In 1879 he 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. He was a missionary on the Crow Creek reservation from 1874 to 1879, thereafter was similarly engaged in service on the Sisseton reservation from 1881 to 1889, in which latter year he assumed his labors in his present important field. He has been successful in his work among the Indians, and his life has been one of consecrated zeal and self-abnegation, while in the early days he endured manifold vicissitudes, hardships and dangers in his earnest efforts to bring within the fold the unfortunate ward of the government. He has been at all times mindful of those “in any way afflicted in mind, body or estate,” and has worked unceasingly, while he finds that his temporal reward has not been denied, in that he has brought spiritual enlightenment and grace to many of those to whom he has ministered in his divine calling. Since 1885 he has held the office of rural dean and examining chaplain of the missionary district of the state, as previously noted.

On the 6th of October, 1877, at Frome, Somersetshire, England, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Ashley to Miss Elizabeth Ann Martin, who was born in that county, on the 26th of August, 1854, and who has proved a gracious and helpful coadjutor to him in his labors as a missionary. They have five children, Charlotte Jessie, Winona, who is the wife of Gervais Coulter, of Culbertson, Montana; and Edward Athelstan, Martin Anselm, William Cuthbert, and Robert Laud. The respective dates of birth are as follows: December 21, 1878; December 9, 1881; April 22, 1884; February 18, 1886, and July 28, 1891.

In politics Mr. Ashley maintains an independent attitude, giving his support to those men and measures of whom and which his judgment approves. Fraternally he has attained the degrees of ancient-craft, capitular and chivalric Masonry, in the York Rite, while in 1903 he passed the thirty-third degree in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, being identified with South Dakota Consistory, No. 4, at Aberdeen, while he is also identified with the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, the Modern Woodmen of America, and the Modern Brotherhood of America. He is a man of genial and gracious presence and makes and retains friends in all classes, while among the Indians of the state he is well known, respected, and admired.


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top