Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Askin, John

Prominent fur trader and merchant John Askin was born in Ireland in 1739. He came to North America in 1758 with the British Army as a sutler, a merchant who sells provisions to soldiers. He eventually came to work at a fur trading post at Fort Michilimackinac, where he developed a close friendship with fellow traders Isaac Todd, James Mcgill, and Alexander Henry. In 1781, upon forming a trade partnership with Robert Hamilton and Richard Cartwright, Askin moved to Detroit.

From 1786 to 1789 he operated as part of a group of trading companies known collectively as the Miamis Company. Declining animal populations soon resulted in the fur trade’s failure in Detroit and the bankruptcy of the Miamis Company. With the help of his trade partners, Askin was shielded from financial ruin and entered the shipping business of the Great Lakes. Askin also engaged heavily in land speculation, often using alcohol to induce Native American populations to sell their land.

While living in Michilimackinac, Askin fathered three children by an enslaved Odawa woman named Manette, who he later freed. It was not uncommon for traders to father children with Native American women in order to better establish a trading relationship with native groups. After moving to Detroit, he married a French woman, Marie Archange Barthe, and had nine children. It is reported that he treated and educated all his children well. Records indicate that Askin bought and sold several native and black slaves throughout his career and employed at least one indentured servant.

He was appointed Justice of the Peace of Detroit in 1789. The British surrendered Detroit to the Americans in 1796, and Askin’s position changed, becoming Justice of the Peace for the Western District of Upper Canada. He moved to Sandwich, Ontario (present-day Windsor, Ontario) for this position in 1802 and he remained there until his death in 1815. When Askin moved to Canada, his American farm and slaves passed to his son-in-law, Elijah Brush.



Reconstruction of John Askin's ship, the WELCOME

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