John Wayne Ashmead, a lawyer of Philadelphia, was appointed by Attorney Generals George M. Dallas and Ellis Lewis during their terms, deputy for that city, a position under the then organization of the State similar in all respects to that of the present District Attorney. In 1849 he was appointed by President Taylor United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and during his period of office conducted on behalf of the Government the noted proceedings against Castner Hanway, indicted for treason in resisting the enforcement of the provisions of the fugitive slave laws. He was counsel for James Stephens in the leading case of arsenical poisoning in this country; represented Capt. Richard W. Meade, tried by court martial for the loss of the United States steamer San Jacinto, on the Bahama Banks, January 1, 1865; was counsel for James Murphy, of New York, in his claim against the republic of Chili for the seizure of the brig Townsend Jones and her cargo, at Valparaiso, April, 1859. All of these cases have been published in pamphlet forms and Mr. Ashmead's speeches therein reported [verbatim]. An account of John W. Ashmead is given in Martin's History of Chester, as also in Thompson Westcott's ‘Rich Men of Philadelphia Forty Years Ago," a series which Westcott, who died in 1888, did not live to complete.
Samuel T. Wiley, Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, ed. Winfield Scott Garner, (New York: Gresham Publishing Company, 1894), 318.