Ashland dates back to the migration of the Poage family from the Shenandoah Valley via the famed Cumberland Gap in 1786. They settled upon a homestead along the Ohio River and named it Poage's Landing. It remained an extended-family settlement until the mid-1800s.  In 1854, the name of the city was changed to Ashland, after Henry Clay's Lexington estate, and to reflect The city's growing industrial base.
The city's early industrial growth was a result of Ohio's pig iron industry. It was not until 1854, that growth began to occur with the charter of the Kentucky Iron, Coal and Manufacturing Company by the Kentucky General Assembly. Major industrial employers in the first half of the 20th century included the Armco, the Ashland Oil and Refining Company, the C&O Railroad, Allied Chemical and Dye Company's Semet Solvay and Mansbach Steel.