William E. Ashbrook was born on October 13, 1820 in Clark County, Kentucky. His parents were Levi and Mary Dooley Ashbrook. In 1853, William E. Ashbrook relocated to New Orleans where he worked as a stockbroker, however, he did not remain in the Crescent city for long. By 1858, Ashbrook was a resident of Kenton County and a candidate for sheriff. Ashbrook served as Sheriff of Kenton County for two terms. He then relocated to New Orleans until the outbreak of the Civil War when he returned to Covington.
Ashbrook also served for a decade on the town council and was Covington Waterworks Commissioner for four years. During the Civil War, Ashbrook was placed in charge of the Covington stockyards. He was very successful at this last position and was eventually a co-owner of the yards located on Russell between 15th and 16th Streets. He was a member of the Baptist Church and as a director of the City National Bank.
In the late 1860s, Ashbrook built the Denison Hotel at the corner of Banklick and 15th Street. In November 1870, the building caught fire was severely damaged. A number of guests were forced to jump from windows to escape the blaze, and two were severely burned. The building and its contents were insured for $4,800.
William E. Ashbrook married Mary Gage Owen on November 20, 1860. The couple had five children (two sons and three daughters). The family home, built in c. 1860, was located at 1010 Russell Street. The home was three-stories tall and built in the Italianate Style. Russell Street at this time was a newly developed residential district for the well-to-do residents of Covington.
William E. Ashbrook died on June 10, 1882 in St. Louis, Missouri while visiting a brother-in-law (Mr. W.G. Larimore). The funeral took place at the family home with Reverend W.H. Felix of the First Baptist Church presiding. A procession then transported the body to Linden Grove Cemetery. Services at the cemetery were conducted by members of the International Order of Odd Fellows.
Covington Journal, November 26, 1870, p. 3; June 19, 1882, p. 2; Bricking, Chuck, Covington’s Heritage, KCPL; Dailey Commonwealth, June 15, 1882, p. 2; The Biographical Encyclopedia of Kentucky (Cincinnati: J.M. Armstrong & Company) 1878, p. 228-229.