Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Farmer and Tavern Keeper – Robert Ashley

B. about 1615 in England
M. about 1641 in Springfield, Massachusetts
Wife: Mary Horton
D. 29 Nov 1682 in Springfield, Massachusetts
Emigrated: before 1639

There is no verified information about the origins of Robert Ashley other than that he was from England and born roughly in 1615. All we know of him comes from the town records of Springfield, Massachusetts, where he lived for the last 42 years of his life.

Robert first turned up in the records of Springfield, Massachusetts on January 13, 1639 when he was listed as a town member required to pay for the expense of the minister's residence. This established that Robert was a farmer in the community; he later became one of the largest landowners in Springfield and was involved in many transactions of property.

Robert appeared in Springfield records as selectman, overseer of highways and town constable, amongst other duties. He married a woman named Mary Horton, a widow (some researchers have said her maiden name is Eddy). It is presumed they married in Springfield in 1641. They had six children born between 1642 and 1652.

In 1646, Robert was licensed as tavern keeper of Springfield. He was granted an acre and a half of land for this purpose in 1651, with the provision that the land would be turned over the town when he stopped being the tavern keeper. The town records showed that Robert and his wife were cited in 1655 for selling liquor to the Indians:

"To Robert Ashley and his wife keepers of the ordinary in Springfield: Whereas it is famously known how the Indians abuse themselves by excessive drinking of strong liquors whereby God is greviously dishonored, and the peace of this Plantation in great danger to be broken: And whereas you have noe Lycence formally and according to Law to sell eyther wine or stronge waters to English or Indians: These are therefore to will and require you uppon yor perill that you henceforth forbear to sell eyther wine or strong waters to any Indians, though for selling to the English wee would not restrayne you, but doe allow yrof: Springfield June 27, 1655."

On December 31, 1660, Robert retired from the tavern keeping business, turning his business and property for it over to a man named Samuel Marshfield. Then he moved to the newer part of Springfield on the west side of the Connecticut River. He built a house there on a hill where it would be protected from flooding of the river.

Town records show that Robert was involved in many minor disputes over the years. In 1640, Robert was involved in a transaction that was apparently against the rules: he sold a canoe to someone outside the community. Along with two other men who also sold their canoes, he was ordered to get the canoe back. In 1659, he filed a complaint against a man named Richard Fellows for keeping a sword that belonged to him. In 1660, Robert was charged by a man named Miles Morgan for "wrongly impounding his swine." And in April, 1665, Robert Ashley and several others were fined for absenting themselves from town meeting.

By 1669, Robert was feeling the effects of age and he petitioned to be excused from required military exercises; this was granted. He made out his will on October 9, 1679, and he died three years later on November 29, 1682.

Famous descendants of Robert Ashley include Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes, J.P. Morgan, Clint Eastwood and Bess Truman.

Children:
1. David Ashley – B. 3 Jun 1642, Springfield, Massachusetts; D. 8 Dec 1718, Springfield, Massachusetts; M. Hannah Glover (1646-1722), 24 Nov 1663, New Haven, Connecticut

2. Baby Ashley – B. 3 Jun 1642, Springfield, Massachusetts; D. young

3. Mary Ashley – B. 6 Feb 1643, Springfield, Massachusetts; D. 9 Mar 1701, Westfield, Massachusetts; M. John Root, 18 Oct 1664

4. Jonathan Ashley

5. Sarah Ashley

6. Joseph Ashley – B. 6 Jul 1652, Springfield, Massachusetts; D. 18 May 1698, Springfield, Massachusetts; M. Mary Parsons (1661-?)

Sources:
The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 1879
Genealogical and personal memoirs relating to the families of the state of Massachusetts, Vol. 3, William Richard Cutter and William Frederick Adams, 1910
GeneaStar: Famous Family Tree and Genealogy [website]

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