Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, comprising a historical sketch of the County, by Samuel T. Wiley. Revised and edited by Winfield Scott Garner. Gresham Publishing Company: Richmond, Ind., and New York. 1894.
HENRY GRAHAM ASHMEAD was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 30, 1838. In the seventh generation he is a descendant of John and Mary (Currier) Ashmead, of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, who migrated to Pennsylvania early in 1682, and patented a tract of land in the present county of Montgomery, which they named Cheltenham in remembrance of their old home beyond the sea. His great-grandfather was a conspicuous mariner, holding the rank of captain in the Revolutionary navy, and an interesting diary which he kept, presenting a brief outline of his voyages and adventures between the years 1752 and 1782, has recently been privately printed in book form. His father, John Wayne Ashmead, a lawyer of Philadelphia, was appointed by Attorney Generals George M. Dallas and Ellis Lewis during their terms, deputy for that city, a position under the then organization of the State similar in all respects to that of the present District Attorney. In 1849 he was appointed by President Taylor United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and during his period of office conducted on behalf of the Government the noted proceedings against Castner Hanway, indicted for treason in resisting the enforcement of the provisions of the fugitive slave laws. He was counsel for James Stephens in the leading case of arsenical poisoning in this country; represented Capt. Richard W. Meade, tried by court martial for the loss of the United States steamer San Jacinto, on the Bahama Banks, January 1, 1865; was counsel for James Murphy, of New York, in his claim against the republic of Chili for the seizure of the brig Townsend Jones and her cargo, at Valparaiso, April, 1859. All of these cases have been published in pamphlet forms and Mr. Ashmead's speeches therein reported verbatum. An account of John W. Ashmead is given in Martin's History of Chester, as also in Thompson Westcott's "Rich Men of Philadelphia Forty Years Ago," a series which Westcott, who died in 1888, did not live to complete.
The mother of H. G. Ashmead was Henrietta Graham Flower, daughter of Richard and Henrietta (Graham) Flower, a descendant of William Flower, who came originally from England to the Fenwick colony, locating first at Salem, New Jersey, but about 1688 removing to Marcus Hook. Henry Graham Ashmead is named for his maternal great-grandfather, Henry Hale Graham, the first President Judge of Delaware county.
The subject of this skecth [sic] was educated at Chester academy, West Chester, Pennsylvania, and Saunders' institute, West Philadelphia, and was admitted to the bar of New York November 29, 1859, his parents then residing in that city. He began practice with his fellow student, Leon Abbett, since well known as twice governor of New Jersey, and now on the Supreme bench of that State, but his health becoming precarious, he was advised by physicians to abandon the profession, a conclusion with which he reluctantly complied, and embarked in outdoor uncongenial occupations in which he was unsuccessful. After the death of his father in 1868, the family returned to Chester, the early home of his mother. His natural bent being toward literary occupations, he became the first reporter and local editor of the Chester Daily News, and subsequently held a like position on the Delaware County Republican. In 1875 he wrote a brief history of Delaware county, which was published in Dr. William H. Eagle's "History of Pennsylvania." In 1882 he was appointed correspondent secretary of the Pennsylvania Bi-Centennial association, of Chester, and the same year wrote "Historical Sketches of Chester-on-Delaware," which was followed in 1884 with the "History of Delaware County." President Cleveland, August 3, 1885, appointed him postmaster of Chester, and while in charge of the office he organized the free mail delivery by carriers, that service going into effect for the first time, July 1, 1887. In 1887 a committee of citizens was appointed to present to Congress the claims of Chester for the location of a public building in that city. Mr. Ashmead, as one of the committee, was requested to prepare a pamphlet, which he did, entitled "Chester and its Suburbs," wherein, in a compact form, was given an account of the industrial establishments in the city and the immediate neighborhood, as well as statistics showing the importance of the port of Chester as an adjunct to that of Philadelphia. This pamphlet was distributed among the members of the House of Representatives and Senate of the United States, and from it was drawn the data on which the reports of the committees of the House and Senate, favorable to the measure, were founded. He has also contributed numerous articles to the periodical and newspaper press, mainly on historical topics. In Masonic circles Mr. Ashmead at one time took a very active part, having received the thirty-second degree in the Mystic Brotherhood.
Mr. Ashmead has been twice married. First to Rebecca Frances Warner, daughter of Captain Richard N. Warner, of Alexandria, Virginia, and second to Emma Campbell, daughter of James and Angelina (Garsed) Campbell. Her father, James Campbell, is prominently identified with the industrial history of Chester, and was its pioneer manufacturer. By the first marriage he had one child, John Wayne Ashmead, a young man of exceeding promise, who died shortly after attaining his eighteenth year.