, California


The Ashworth Family of Mariposa ,
written by
Ben Pierce

   I am not an expert on the subject but according to the records available to me the first Ashworth family member to reside in Mariposa County was David Croghan Ashworth. David was known to all by the initials "DC". His descendants still affectionately call him that today. David came to California from Missouri during the Gold Rush in 1849. He crossed the country along the Southern trail with his second wife Jessina Francis White. The Ashworths came across the trail with two children. The oldest child was David's ten-year-old daughter from a first marriage. Her name was Louisa Ashworth.  The second child was David Marion Ashworth. David Marion was the son of DC and Jessina. David Marion was almost a year old when the family started along the Southern trail. According to family tradition another child, Janie Ashworth made the crossing with them.  Janie was five years old at the time. The story is told that Janie died outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico by falling onto a picket fence while playing on the trail.. DC
   The Ashworths first entered California at the Gila River crossing along the current day California/Arizona border. The travelers then followed the El Camino Real up the coast to San Jose. The family resided for a short time there. Later that year David settled near what is now the town of Coulterville. In the spring of 1850, he lived for a short time at Mormon Bar, and then in the town of Mariposa, where he resided until 1855. He then moved to the hills east of town and engaged in farming and stockraising. He eventually accumulated 1500 acres in the Big Spring Hill area where the family ranch was located.

   In Mariposa, DC Ashworth made the acquaintance of Benjamin Butler Harris. Harris had this to say about DC Ashworth in his book "The Gila Trail".

D.C. Ashworth possessed much shrewdness and horse sense, was a dead rifle shot, never borrowed but always formed his own opinions, and, withal, was utterly without book knowledge and barely able to write his name. In reply to a query, he averred that the origin of gold in California was due to its being "thrown up by volcanic corruption's and clandestinely hid all over the country." Hearing the County Clerk and myself avow that the sun was stationary and that the world revolved, pronouncing us fools first, he then screwed his rifle in a vise aimed at the sun, which, some hours later, showed to be out of gun line. He nasally reported the fact that the sun had moved, that the rifle never lied, savagely daring anybody to challenge its veracity. He argumentatively added that if the world turned over when it got upside down it would spill all the water from the wells and there would be the "damnedest scatterment of people you ever seed in all your born days." "Besides," he added, "I drove an ox-team all the way fr
   At another time, he recounted to me a quarrel he had that forenoon with his neighbor for dogging his hogs. He explained that the altercation became so hot that he sprang the triggers and leveled his rifle. to my interruption, "In the name of God, D.C., you didn't kill a man about a few hogs?" "No," he nasally replied, " but I left him considerably cussed." Asked at another time why lightning rods were pointed, he readily answered, "You must rickolect that lightning is a mighty quare thing. It might strike a thousand times at that sharp pint before it could hit it." He once declined the gift of a circus ticket, saying, "I never went to but one show--It was when I was a boy in Missoury. I came to the conclusion that the damned things were got up to take money.

   He accounted for the electric phenomena, puzzling to some scientists, that, brighter and larger than the Milky Way, several nights bisected it right-angularly, as being either "lazy lightning or a fast star that had outrun its shine."

   In the year 1852, James Ashworth, the older brother of DC, crossed the country from Missouri along the Oregon Trail and settled in Mariposa for a while. His family moved to San Jose and was one of the first families to settle in that area. The Ashworth house still stands in that city and is listed on the National Historic Register of Places. Some of James' family moved north to San Francisco and survived the quake in 1906.

   David and Jessina Ashworth added to their family in the next few years. The children in order of birth were Emma Jane, Martha Ann, Phenas, Joel Beauregard, Narcissa or Nora as she was called, Stonewall Jackson, Eliza America, and William Lee Ashworth. The older children, Louisa and David Marion, moved on. Louisa married John Milburn on June 5th, 1856. The Milburns had eight children. Times were hard back then in the town and disease and accidents were prevalent. The Milburns lost many of their children to both. One son that lived to adulthood, Joseph Milburn, married Lucy Peregoy, the daughter of Yosemite hotelier Charles Peregoy. Lucy became Mariposa's first librarian. David Marion married Mary Elizabeth Preston on October 23rd of 1872. David Marion moved his family north to Bear Valley.  David Marion's daughter, Maude, married Frank Trabucco. Frank and Maude Trabucco ran a store and post office that still stands in Bear Valley today.

   Emma Jane Ashworth married Joseph Dick on September 23, 1869. She was married seven days and then passed away. We do not know the details of this tragic event and it deserves further research.

   Not much is known of Martha Ann Ashworth except that she moved south to Raymond and was a cook at the Wawona hotel for many years.

   Phenas Ashworth became a rancher. In the book "Stagecoach to Yosemite" written by Annie Reynolds and Albert Gordon, relates the following;

   Phenas Ashworth was left-handed and the fastest draw with a gun. He often brought the cows over the mountain in the summer and took them out again in October or November to lower pastures. Phenas' reputation as a fast draw was earned early in his youth.. Joaquin Murietta had been stealing horses from the Ashworth ranch in Mariposa County; he had to be apprehended. Young Phenas joined a posse in the chase after the troublesome outlaw, and although Murietta wasn't caught during that pursuit, his days were numbered.

   The third son, Joel Beauregard Ashworth, was also known as Bouie Ashworth. He worked as a blacksmith and later built the Cannonball stagecoach that is now on display at the Mariposa History Center and Museum. Joel worked for many years at the Wawona Hotel.

   Nora Ashworth married Tom Gordon, the son of Peter Gordon. Peter Gordon was one of the original Mariposa pioneers. He owned and operated the Gordon hotel in town for many years and was well known. Tom became one the Washburn brother's first stage coach drivers and drove the stage from Raymond to Wawona. The story of this family is told in the book "Stagecoach to Yosemite" co-written by Tom's grandson Albert Gordon. The book is a good source of information about the Ashworth family and relates Albert's experience of growing up in Wawona. Albert's father, Eddie Gordon, also became a stage driver on the Raymond to Wawona route. Eddie worked at the Wawona hotel for many years.

   Stonewall Jackson Ashworth known by all as Jack Ashworth first worked for the Yosemite Stage and Transportation Company as a stable boy. At 24 he was promoted to stagecoach driver. Jack drove the stagecoach for 47 years and had the honor along with Tom and Eddie Gordon of driving the last stagecoach out of Wawona. From then on the route was driven by automobile. Jack Ashworth went on to live a long life and passed away in Merced at the age of 98.

    Eliza America Ashworth married Lewis Wass. Lewis Wass came to California from West Virginia in the early 1880's.  Lewis and Eliza settled on a portion of the DC Ashworth ranch. The ranch still owned by the Wass family is located off of Allred Road. Lewis was a farmer and sold vegetables to the stores in town.  Eliza was a homemaker and raised a family of 6 children.

   William Lee the youngest of the Ashworth children lived to the age of 36. He contracted Tuberculosis, which was common in that day.

   William Lee was three years old when his father David passed away on December 25th of 1870. David C. Ashworth's obituary from the Mariposa Free Press reads as follows.

Mariposa Free Press, December 24, 1870 page 2 column 2


Christian festivities in Mariposa were marred by a sad and gloomy episode. On Sunday last it became the melancholy duty of our citizens to pay the last tribute of respect to two old residents of this County, one of them an early settler of Mariposa and both pioneers in California. There are few among the people now living in Mariposa County, none who have been here ten years or more who didn't know David C. Ashworth, or "old D.C." as he was familiarly termed. Mr. Ashworth came to California in 1849, pitching his tent at first near what is now the town of Coulterville. In the spring of 1850 he moved this side of the Merced and lived for a short time at Mormon  Bar, and then in the town of Mariposa, where he resided till 1855, when he located among the hills east of town and engaged in farming and stockraising. Mr. Ashworth was an unlettered man, but possessed of a fund of "old hard sense" and was strictly honest. D.C. Ashworth's word was as good as his bond, and through his entire life his name was a proverb o

    Jessina Ashworth would outlive her husband by many years. She lived to be 96 and passed away on April 26, 1922.

    The Ashworth family is still remembered today in Mariposa. DC Ashworths cattle brand is on display at the Mariposa County courthouse and the family has the honor of having a local road named after them. Many descendants of this family still live in the area.

   The author is the great-grandson of Lewis & Eliza Wass. He does not claim to be an authority on the above matters and has gleaned much of his information from vital statistics and published accounts. He welcomes any additions or corrections to the above information. He enjoys collecting photographs of the Ashworth family and is interested in hearing from any one interested in sharing the family history. He can be reached by email at mariposafamily@gmail.com

posted Dec 15, 2001

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