Ashland is the county seat of Ashland County. In 1815, William Montgomery established the town, although the first residents had settled within the town's future boundaries by 1811. Originally known as Uniontown, the community became known as Ashland in 1846, the same year that the Ohio government established Ashland County. That same year Ashland had 1,300 residents, five churches, sixteen stores, two newspapers, and a private academy for both boys and girls.
Ashland more than doubled in size over the next forty years, reaching a population of 3,004 people in 1880. That same year, four newspapers existed in the community, as well as nine churches and two banks. Various manufacturing firms existed in Ashland, most of which produced items needed by farmers in the surrounding countryside. Ashland also is home to Ashland University, founded by the United Brethren Church in 1879.
In 2000, Ashland was the largest community in Ashland County, with a population of just over twenty-one thousand residents. This was approximately forty percent of Ashland County's entire population. The county remains heavily agricultural today. Most residents in the county seat continue to sell products or provide other services to people in the surrounding countryside.