Wyoming’s First Prominent African-American Businessman, Tilford Ashford
As we observe Black History Month, here's the remarkable story of Wyoming's first prominent African-American businessman, Tilford Ashford.
Ashford was born in Missouri during the Civil War. In 1884, at the age of 22, he arrived in Cheyenne and opened a barber shop.
In 1894, Ashford expanded his holdings by purchasing The Ashford Saloon on 17th Street. He was the first African-American to own a saloon in the state of Wyoming. His brother William Ashford took over the barber shop, which continued to thrive.
Ashford was also a leader in the growing African-American community and was active in local politics.
As a high ranking Mason, Ashford often associated with many of the most powerful merchants and elected officials in town, many of whom courted his endorsements to sway black voters.
His wife Eunice helped organize the Federated Colored Woman's Club of Wyoming and was actively involved with several local charities.
Tragically, in 1909, Ashford was shot in the back by a disgruntled patron outside of his saloon and died at the age of 47.
He was survived by his wife and three children. To this day, he is remembered as one of the first, and most influential, African-American merchants in Wyoming.