ASKIN, JOHN BAPTIST (also known as Jean-Baptiste), militia officer, and office-holder; b. 10 April 1788 at Detroit, son of John Askin Jr; m. 17 Oct. 1814 Elisa Van Allen of Haldimand County, Upper Canada, and they had eight children; d. 14 Nov. 1869 at London, Ont.
The maternal ancestry of John Baptist Askin is uncertain. His mother was a woman living in the Indian country west of Detroit, whose identity is not recorded. The London Daily Advertiser, in its obituary of Askin, stated that his mother was a full-blooded Indian and added that he took “great pride in his descent from the original lords of the forest.” Actually, however, she may have been a white captive. His grandmother, the consort of John Askin*, was presumably an Indian woman named Manette.
In 1810 John Baptist Askin went with his father to St Joseph Island (near Sault Ste Marie, Ont.) and spent two winters trading in the St Croix River and Lac du Flambeau regions of northern Wisconsin. Following the outbreak of the War of 1812, they served under Captain Charles Roberts* in the capture of Michilimackinac from the Americans on 17 July 1812. In August John Baptist led a band of Indians to aid Major-General Isaac Brock* at Detroit but arrived after Brigadier-General William Hull, the American commander, had surrendered. Askin later served as an interpreter under Colonel Henry Procter* at the battle of Frenchtown (near Monroe, Mich.) on 22 Jan. 1813.
According to the London Free Press, Askin worked after the war as an assistant commissary officer until 1819. Settling in Vittoria, Norfolk County, Upper Canada, he was appointed clerk of the peace in 1819 and clerk of the district court in 1820, holding both offices until 1849. He was also a deputy clerk of the crown until 1859 and issuer of licences.
In 1831 Askin was appointed to the board of education for the London District along with John Rolph and others, and in 1832 he moved to London, after the district court was transferred from Vittoria. Here he established himself as a prominent resident, living on a large estate in Westminster Township, now part of London. He issued certificates of settlement for Colonel Thomas Talbot*, and in 1833 took a leading part in the establishment of a mechanics’ institute in the town. Askin was the first president of the Middlesex Agricultural Society, and held the position for 30 years until he stepped down in 1867.
As early as 12 Dec. 1837 Askin had started raising volunteers and taking part in actions to suppress the rebellion led by William Lyon Mackenzie. Given command of a militia battalion on active service for a limited period, he was promoted colonel on 3 Feb. 1838. His military activities were not notable, consisting largely of destroying the press and type of the St Thomas Liberal, a paper published by John Talbot*, who fled to avoid arrest. Askin also took part in Sir Allan Napier MacNab’s action against Dr Charles Duncombe at Scotland, Upper Canada.
Askin’s Indian ancestry apparently proved to be no handicap and his paternal family connections, in a society in which connections were important, aided his career. Askin and his family were welcome in the best houses in London.
PAC, MG 24, G33; I26, 7. UWO, Westminster Township (Middlesex County, Ont.), assessment roll, 1869 (mfm. copies in PAO, RG 21, A). Daily Advertiser (London), 15 Nov. 1869. The John Askin papers, ed. M. M. Quaife (2v., Detroit, 1928–31), I, 68–69. London Free Press, 16 Nov. 1869. L. H. Irving, Officers of the British forces in Canada during the war of 1812–15 (Welland, Ont., 1908), 211. Ontario Register (Madison, N.J.), I (1968), 46.