Joseph Askew threshing wheat

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Today’s post is the first of two Thanksgiving-themed posts. This first post is a harvest-related post, in which my great-great-great-grandfather, Col. Joseph Askew, is seen running a wheat-threshing operation in Minnesota in the late 1800s.

Before I go any further, I’d like to acknowledge the Wadena County Historical Society and their Executive Director and Curator, Rose Bakke. The photo that is the focus of today’s post is one from their Genealogical Research Center collections, and I would not have been able to find it or take a scan of it without the kind and generous help of Ms. Bakke. I spent a full day in their collections, making wonderful discoveries every few minutes, and I left wishing that I had an extra few days to learn even more from their impressive collections. The Wadena County Historical Society’s Museum is an inspirational place, and I’d like to sincerely thank Rose and everyone who’s had a hand in building, curating, indexing, and databasing their collections for keeping Wadena County history alive.

The photo shown below is photo # 3021A1 from the Wadena County Historical Society’s photograph collection.

Note the portable (horse-drawn) steam engine on the left, and the pile of logs that will be used to fuel the fire inside the steam engine. It must have been a warm and sunny day, as all the men have left their coats in a pile and they’re all wearing brimmed hats.

There is a typewritten caption affixed to the back of the photo:

Threshing scene on Hubbard Prairie with Co. Joseph Askew waving in foreground[.] The prairie was an important wheat growing area in early days and the grain was hauled to Verndale elevators. One or more of the Askew boys, as yet unidentified[,] are among the crew. Haulers used Nimrod as an overnight stopping place and were frequently detained at Verndale for a day or more awaiting their chance to unload.

This picture submitted by Mrs Wilfred Askew carries on the reverse side this inscription: “F. Fuller, View Artist, Rockwood.”

The cited Mrs. Wilfred Askew was almost certainly Selma (Throndson) Askew, the second wife of Wilfred Lawson Askew, Col. Joseph Askew’s middle son. Wilfred’s first wife, Harriet (Eddy) Askew died in 1909, long before the founding of either the Log Museum (apparently the original recipient of the donated photo) or the Wadena County Historical Society.

When I showed the scan of this photo to my great-great-uncle John “Gordy” Askew last week, I zoomed in to show him Joseph (see detail show below) and he pointed to one of the men behind Joseph (the second man to the viewer’s right of Joseph) and said “that’s my father.” Gordy’s father is my great-great-grandfather, Wilfred Lawson Askew.

Gordy’s identification of his father in this photo was invaluable, as I don’t know whether I would ever have been able to identify him definitively on my own in this photo. Joseph had two other grown sons, Will (William Henry Askew) and Sam (Samuel Clarence Askew), but I haven’t yet been able to identify either one in the photo.

This photo, going solely on the basis of his appearance, is currently the oldest photo I have seen of Col. Joseph Askew. I don’t yet have a firm idea of the date of the photo, but I believe it dates to the 1880s. Joseph and another man bought a half-share in a much more primitive threshing rig in 1877, and by the early 1890s, he was building a halfway house (later the Arlington Hotel) in Menahga. The prairie east of Hubbard is only about 8–10 miles northeast of Menahga, so it’s also possible that this photo was taken in the 1890s, while he was running the Arlington Hotel in Menahga and before he moved to Wadena.

6 thoughts on “Joseph Askew threshing wheat

  1. Hi Michael this is an absolutely awesome site . I am Col Joseph Askews great great granddaughter. William Henry Askew was my great grandfather and his daughter Isabelle was my grandmother. would love to hear from you and know if you plan on coming back to Minnesota at any time soon.

  2. There is no doubt that the guy in plaid shirt standing on wagon to the left one Col. Joseph Askew is an Askew. Looks identical to my grandfather.

    • Hi Josh,

      Sorry for the very long delay in responding. So he looks like Clifford Lee Askew—interesting. The plaid shirt guy looks so swarthy I wouldn’t have taken him for an Askew at first. Then again, that’s pretty close to how my own great-grandfather Clyde Askew apparently looked when he was making his living working outdoors from dawn til dusk. Later on, when he did more indoors work (like machining), he paled down several notches to the light-skinned Askew complexion I’m more familiar with. Quite some dynamic range in the Askew pigmentation!

      • On further thought, I wonder if the plaid shirt man is your great-great-grandfather Will Askew? I’ve got only one positively identified photo of Will Askew, so all I can say is there isn’t anything to rule out the possibility right now. That said, the guy standing on the threshing engine itself looks to be a better candidate for Will. Do you have photos of Will from his 20s and 30s?

  3. Yes I meant my great great grandfather William. He just looks very similar to my grandpa. And do you have an email I could send you a picture of him.

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