John Wood’s map of Hanover County published in 1820 shows Lankford’s Mill near the southern border of what became Ashland, near Stony Run Creek. Legend has it that young Henry Clay brought his family’s grain here to be ground into flour.

During the 1830s, a little known startup company named the Richmond Fredericksburg and Potomac Railway Company began buying land in the sparsely inhabited areas north of Richmond near the Slashes of Hanover and the Clay Springs.  (“Slash” was used to describe a tract of wet or  swampy ground covered with brush and trees.) The company had been incorporated in 1834 and by 1836 had built tracks from Richmond to Lankford’s mill on the Stony Run, near where the company owned a huge stand of pine and hardwood.

Like many other railroad companies, the RF&P created a resort a couple of hours journey from Richmond near Lankford’s Crossing inside a beautiful grove of trees.  By the early 1850s, the resort was quite popular. By the early 1850’s the Slash Cottage mineral springs resort and hotel was quite popular, and new Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac Railway Company (RF&P) President Edwin Robinson decided to subdivide the surrounding land along the track. Residential lots would be sold to those who would agree to two covenants: first, that no “spiritous liquors, nor a mixture thereof, shall at any time be sold” by the purchaser without the permission of the RF&P; and second, that the purchaser will complete the erection of a four-room house within 18 months. If a purchaser broke either covenant, the sale would be declared void. As incentive, each lot came with a free or discounted ticket for the head of the family of a least 3 members to and from Richmond on the Accomodation Train.

In April, 1855, not content with the humble name of Slash Cottage, the village formally changed its name to Ashland in honor of Henry Clay’s home in Kentucky, named after the ash trees that grew on the property. Ashland, Virginia was a charming village.

An 1854 plat for Ashland shows an irregularly shaped village with a grid of streets. The railroad tracks ran from NE to SW through town with a wye for turning trains near the center of town. The NE part of the town included the "cottage lot" where Slash Cottage resort was located and where the Randolph-Macon College campus is located today.

The town fathers asked the state legislature for town status. On Feb. 19, 1858, the Virginia General Assembly incorporated the Town of Ashland, endowing it with the powers to form an elected town government and the right to tax residents to pay for municipal improvements. That same year, the resort reincarnated itself as the formally incorporated “Ashland Hotel and Mineral Water Company”.