Eagle River’s First Black Resident
Henry Ashby was born into slavery August 1832 in Chariton County, MO. Henry was one of eight boys and three girls, one of the girls dying at a young age. His mother must have been a valuable asset to the owner, producing eight boys to work the fields for their owner (and only three girls).
When the Civil War broke out, Henry ran away from his owner and worked with the Union Army building fortifications for the 48thIndiana Volunteer Engineer Regiment at New Madrid, MO. In July of 1862 Henry mustered with the Wisconsin 6th Light Artillery Battery at Huntsville, TN.
Henry traveled with the 6th Light Artillery down to Corinth, MS in September, 1862. On October 1, 1862 Henry was injured by powder burns to his eyes. The 6th Light Artillery joined General Grant’s army and fought at Port Gibson and at the siege of Vicksburg. After the victory at Vicksburg, Henry joined General Sherman’s army and participated in “the Battle in the Clouds” which threw the Confederates out of Chattanooga and sent them all the way back to Atlanta, GA.
In July, 1865 the 6th returned to Madison, WI and on the 18th were mustered out of the service and released. Henry drops under the radar between 1865 and 1885 when he reappears in Eagle River. Henry worked as a porter for Samuel Smith at the Smith Hotel, later working for an attorney, Daniel Riordan.
Henry tried to get a pension from the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions, but failed in his attempts. Henry had given his service record to his commander, Henry Dillon of Lone Rock, WI. Dillon disappeared with Henry Ashby’s service record and Henry never got his pension. Henry died in 1907 and his pallbearers were six of Eagle River’s most prominent citizens.