Willard, Ashbel P.

Born: 1820-10-31 Oneida County, New York

Died: 1860-10-04 Saint Paul, Minnesota

Flourished: 1845 to 1860 New Albany, Indiana

Ashbel P. Willard, attorney and public official, was born in Vernon, New York and graduated from Hamilton College in nearby Clinton in 1842. Willard read law in his native Oneida County then lived for a time in Michigan, Texas, and Kentucky, before settling in New Albany, Indiana in 1845. There he practiced law and embarked on a political career. Willard, a Democrat, was a member of the New Albany city council, served in the Indiana House of Representatives, 1850 to 1851, won election as lieutenant governor of Indiana in 1852, and was elected governor of the state in 1856. He supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the determination of the slave status of U.S. territories by popular sovereignty. Willard married Caroline C. Cook in 1847 and the couple had three children. His wife’s brother, John E. Cook, participated in John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, and despite his pro-slavery leanings Willard unsuccessfully attempted to help Cook avoid execution. Willard died in office.

James E. St. Clair, “Ashbel P. Willard,” The Governors of Indiana, ed. by Linda C. Gugin and James E. St. Clair (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press, 2006), 124–31; Robert Sobel and John Raimo, eds., Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States 1789-1978 (Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978), 1:403; The Hamilton College Bulletin Complete Alumni Register 1812-1922 6 (November 1922), 48; Connecticut, U.S., Town Marriage Records, pre-1870 (Barbour Collection), 27 May 1847, Haddam (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, 2006); U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), New Albany, Floyd County, IN, 330; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 3, Indianapolis, Marion County, IN, 83; The Old Line Guard (Indianapolis, IN), 6 October 1860, 2:2.