Asa Mercer was the youngest of 14 children born to Aaron and Jane (Dickerson) Mercer, who had been married in 1812 in Harrison County, Ohio. Asa was born June 6, 1839 near Princeton, Bureau County, Illinois.
Both of Asa's parents died by the time he was 10 years old but his father had left sufficient funds for Asa to complete his education. He graduated from Franklin College of New Athens, Ohio in 1860.
When Asa was about 13 years old his brothers, Thomas (born March 11, 1813) and Aaron Jr. (born June 23, 1824) left Illinois with their families for Oregon Territory. They traveled with a group known as the Bethel Party. Thomas eventually made his way to Washington Territory where in October of 1852 he obtained a donation land claim near the settlement of Seattle.
In the summer of 1861 Asa went to Seattle to visit his brother Thomas. When he arrived Seattle was in the mist of clearing land for the Territorial University. All available men in the area were helping so Asa joined his brother in removing tree stumps. After the completion of the buildings, which made up the Territorial University, Daniel Bagley, chairman of the commissioners of the University, selected Asa, the only college graduate, as sole teacher and first president. His pay was $200 for a five month term.
The citizens of Seattle deplored the fact that there was a scarcity of women in their town, the proportion being nine men to one woman. Asa, a young, single man, too was concerned at the shortage of "refined" women. He took it upon himself to discuss the situation with Governor Pickering and the other members of the territorial legislature. Asa had a plan to go back to the New England states where, due to the war, there was an abundance of young, single women. There he would recruit young ladies to come to Washington Territory where they could work as teachers, dressmakers, and milliners. The public treasury did not contain enough funds to sponsor Asa's trip, but private funds were secured from several of Seattle's public minded citizens. So early in 1864 Asa made his first of two trips to New England to recruit ladies to become citizens of Washington Territory.
Asa's first trip to the East was a successful one. He returned with eleven ladies who were all promptly accepted into the community. Nine of the eleven married within two years. One young lady died within months of her arrival, another never married but was very prominent in Washington education, and one returned to San Francisco. The people of Seattle were so pleased with Asa they they elected him to the Territorial Legislative Assembly. In March of 1865 Asa was persuaded to once again head east to recruite more women.
Unforunately Asa's second trip did not prove to be as successful. Financial backing had been sought from Abraham Lincoln, who was a long time friend of the Mercer family. Asa arrived in New York to find that Lincoln had been assassinated and President Johnson refused to lend him aid. After overcoming many obstacles, and with the help of General Ulysses Grant, passage was arranged for Mercers group on the streamship Continental. Asa left New York on Jan 6, 1866 with about two hundred ladies. He had inteded to take 200.
On July 15, 1866 Asa married one of the young ladies from his second expedition, Miss Anne Elizabeth Stephens, born December 4, 1839 to Edward & Mary Stephens. Asa and Annie were married at the Methodist Protestant Church in Seattle by Rev. Daniel Bagley. They had 8 children; Janet Marie born 1867, Thomas Cecil born 1868, Anita Loretta born 1871, Ralph Dickerson born 1874, Asa Stanislaus born 1876, Bowman born 1877 and twins Joseph & Mathew born 1881.
In 1867 Asa and his wife moved to Astoria, Oregon. From Oregon they moved to Texas where he owned and published several newspapers before settling in Cheyenne, Wyoming where he was publisher and editor of the "Northwestern Live Stock Jornal". In 1895 the Mercer family left Cheyenne and went to Paintrocck Valley in northern Wyoming where Asa and his sons successfully developed a farm and cattle ranch in the Big Horn Basin.
Asa died Aug. 10, 1917 in Buffalo, Wyoming.
The ranch Asa started in 1895 remains in the family.