Joseph Askew, my great-great-great-grandfather, was one of the first people I focused on when starting my family history work over 35 years ago. My grandmother Harriet (Askew) Prettyman (Joseph’s great-granddaughter) spoke about him and the hotels he built and ran, even though he died over a decade before she was born. My great-great-uncle Gordy Askew (Joseph’s grandson) sent me photocopies of newspaper articles and a couple of published biographical sketches of Joseph. Joseph Askew was a man who left a large print on the world around him, and was (and is) known to many people who never had the occasion to meet him personally.
While I have focused on Joseph Askew for decades, I realized only recently that I’ve been primarily focusing on his ancestry, bypassing much of the history of the man himself once I had gathered the basic biographical facts on him. It’s about time that I look more deeply into his life, learning about who he was and what he was like. This post won’t go too much in that direction; rather, this will be more of an appetizer, presenting a couple of photos of Joseph that I recently scanned and a few details of his early life.
Joseph Askew was born in Gosforth, England, on April 11, 1840, as the sixth child (in a family that would grow to ten children) of Joseph Askew and Ann (Turner) Askew. He grew up in the Gosforth area, and when he was 17, he went to Glasgow, Scotland, and helped build the Dumbarton water works system. Afterwards, he worked in Newcastle upon Tyne and in London on their water and sewer systems. He also went to France to work on railroad tunnels south of Paris.
He returned home and married Jane Eilbeck on August 25, 1862. He worked as a store keeper for a year after his marriage, and then got into the iron mining business in Frizington, where we worked for 14 years, finishing as sinker and shaftsman. In 1875, he and Jane and their first six children (they would eventually have thirteen children) sailed from Liverpool aboard the ship “City of Montreal,” arriving in New York City on March 20, 1875. Joseph and his family went directly to Wadena County, via Duluth, and settled on a homestead about five miles east of the village of Wadena.
To keep this first Joseph Askew post short, I’ll save further details of his life for another post. For now, I’ll leave you with this surreal and as yet unexplained photograph of Joseph and an unidentified man in a young peddler’s cart.
To be continued….