Ashland County formed on February 24, 1846. Residents chose the name in honor of Henry Clay, a prominent member of the Whig Party during this period. Clay's home in Lexington, Kentucky, was named Ashland. Thomas Coulter established Perrysville, the first white settlement in Ashland County, in 1815, although individual whites had resided in the county for approximately fifty years before this date.
Ashland County is located in the north-central portion of Ohio. The county seat is Ashland. Ashland is the largest population center, with just over twenty-one thousand residents in 2000. This marked a five percent growth in the town's population since 1990, and the county experienced a ten percent growth, to a total population of 51,240 people, during this same time period. The county's next largest village is Loudounville, with a population of approximately 2,800 in 2000. An average of 124 people live in each of Ashland County's square miles.
The county is heavily rural, with farms comprising over sixty percent of Ashland County's 424 square miles. Ashland farmers rank fifth in oat production in Ohio and fourth in sheep raising. The next largest occupation is manufacturing, employing twenty-five percent of the county's work force. The county's average income was approximately 20,700 dollars per person in 1999, with just over eight percent of the population living in poverty.
Most voters in Ashland County claim to be independents, yet in recent years, they have overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates at the national level.
The county is home to Ashland University, founded by the United Brethren Church in 1879, and Mohican State Park. Among the counties most famous residents are John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) and Charles Kettering, an inventor. Ashland County residents Lorin Andrews was also the first Ohioan to volunteer for service in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He eventually became president of Kenyon College.