He was born in Aughnacloy in Ireland in 1739; his ancestors are believed to have originally lived in Scotland with the surname Erskine. He came to North America with the British Army in 1758. After the British took over New France, he entered the fur trade and operated a trading post at Fort Michilimackinac. In 1781, he formed a partnership with Robert Hamilton and Richard Cartwright; Askin was based in Detroit. From 1786 to 1789, he was part of a group of trading companies known as the Miamis Company. He was also involved in a shipping business and land speculation; he was one of the partners involved in the Cuyahoga Purchase along the south shore of Lake Erie. In 1789, he was named justice of the peace at Detroit. When Detroit was turned over to the Americans in 1796, he became a justice of the peace for the Western District and moved to Sandwich (Windsor) in 1802. Askin was connected to the Family Compact through a number of business and social ties, particularly associating with James McGill, who underwrote much of his debt. Through these connections, he assumed a number of political roles, including lieutenant-colonel for the local militia, member of the Land Board of Hesse, and local magistrate.
In 1795, Askin was part of a partnership with Ebenezer Allen and Charles Whitney of Vermont, Robert Randall of Philadelphia and several other British subjects in Detroit including William Robertson, which planned to buy the entire lower Michigan peninsula from the United States government.
Concession 2 lot 14, Barton Township; where present day Hamilton, Ontario is, was part of the original Crown Grant to John Askin on July 10, 1801. He sold to Nathaniel Hughson senior who sold to James Durand around 1806.
He died at Sandwich in 1815.
- Wooley, H. J. L. The Sword of Old St. Joe: Historical Sketches. Chapter 7. pp. 17–21.
- Clarke, John. Land, Power, and Economics on the Frontier of the Upper Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2001, 393-412.
- "Account of a Plot for Obtaining the Lower Peninsula of Michigan from the United States in 1795 by J. V. Campbell". Collections of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan together with Reports of County Pioneer Societies, Vol VIII. (second edition ed.). Lansing, Mich.: Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford. 1907 . pp. 406–411. Retrieved 2006-10-15.
- "Gore Park, Barton Township". Retrieved 2007-01-08.[dead link]
lived for 76 years