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James Mitchell Ashley was best known as a U.S. congressman and abolitionist who laid the foundation to pass the 13th Amendment, outlawing slavery.
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Ashley’s interests then turned to the railroad industry. From 1877 to 1893 he served as president of the Toledo, Ann Arbor and Northern Railroad company. During this time he also ran for the United States House of Representatives in 1890 and 1892, but lost both elections.
Ashley married Emma Smith in 1851. His family, including his namesake James Ashley Jr., resided in Ohio and Michigan.
In 1863, Ashley experienced a severe diabetes attack. Though he survived, he fell ill again three years later. Ashley died in Alma, Michigan, on September 16, 1896. His body was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio.
In 1897, a eulogy held at the Unitarian Church in Ann Arbor described Ashley’s personal character, stating that he was a large man, "intellectually, physically and morally. There was nothing petty, small or mean about him."
His impact as a railroad industry leader was felt in the communities he affected. Ashley Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the train station still stands, was named in his honor.
Ashley is the great-grandfather of the late Thomas William Ludlow Ashley, a U.S. representative from Ohio.
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