WILSON GASKINS, a retired citizen of Harrisburg, Illinois, was born February 23, 1835, one mile and a half southwest of the present Harrisburg court house, a son of Southern Illinois pioneers.
William Howard Gaskins, his father, was a native of Kentucky, born in 1808. His father, a native of North Carolina, had moved to Kentucky and subsequently to Illinois, he accompanying them. In frontier style they established their home in Saline county. Among the other early pioneers of this locality was Harry Pearson, whose farm was two miles south of the Gaskins home, Mr. Pearson having come here from Sumner county, Tennessee, where on March 18, 1815, his daughter, Juliet Jane, was born. On February 19, 1833, William Howard Gaskins and Juliet Jane Pearson were united in marriage, and as the years passed by their home was blessed in the birth of sons and daughters to the number of ten, of whom Wilson, whose name introduces this sketch, was the oldest. The others in order of birth are as follows: Louisa, deceased wife of William H. Dove; Susan, deceased wife of Robert H. Davis; Melvin, who married a Miss Vincent, is deceased; Harriet, widow of William Huddleston, of Harrisburg; Malbury, a veteran of the Civil war, is a retired resident of Harrisburg; Bettie, wife of James Kane, died in early womanhood; Jonathan, who had served as deputy sheriff of Saline county, died in young manhood; Amerine, wife of J. C. Connell, died in middle life; and Elijah, a retired farmer, is now at the head of a meat market at Harrisburg, The father of this family had served in the Black Hawk war. While he was a farmer all his life, he was handy with tools and was recognized as the mechanic of the neighborhood. He was a fine base singer and a worker in the Baptist church, of which he was a consistent member for many years. His home was headquarters for the ministers who visited this locality, and not only the ministers but also many persons in other walks of life enjoyed his genial whole-hearted hospitality. While he had a strong
constitution, he was a victim of pneumonia, and died May 26, 1869. His widow survived him eight years, and died October 20, 1877.
Wilson Gaskins remained on the farm with his father until he was twenty-three years of age, when he began farming operations on his own account. As a boy he helped thrash the wheat by the old time method of having the horses tread it out, after which it was passed through a sieve. And he assisted, too, in the grinding of the grain: This in a horse power mill made by the father. Harrisburg, or rather where Harrisburg now stands, was then called Crusoe's Island; as the low land surrounding this site was not infrequently under water. Here young Gaskins spent many a day binding oats. He farmed and dealt in live stock for a number of years. Afterward he owned and operated a sawmill, and still later was engaged in the grocery business. His milling interests took him to various points along the Mississippi river, but for the most part his various operations have been conducted at Harrisburg, where he has from time to time made investments and erected buildings, including both business blocks and residences.
Mr. Gaskins has always been more or less interested in politics, always posted and always ready with a good argument. He has even been a staunch Republican and has often attended both the county and district conventions of his party, but he has never been an office seeker. For more than twenty-five years he has been a Mason in good standing, his identity with that order including the Royal Arch degrees.
Mr. Gaskins has been twice married. On January 27, 1860, he wedded Elizabeth E. Largent, a native of Scioto county, Ohio, and a daughter of John and Jane Largent. She died in March, 1882. The fruits of this union were three children: John Henry, who died in 1881, at the age of nineteen years; Mary Alice, wife of J. S. Ferguson, died October 26, 1908, and Moses B., of Harrisburg. The last named was born in 1865, and for some years has been interested in real estate and in the Harrisburg Fair Ground, also in a bakery in this city. Mr. Gaskins' second wife was Miss Jennie Johnson, of Tuscola, Illinois. They were married May 17, 1893, and her death occurred October 26, 1901.
All his life Mr. Gaskins has been an expert with the gun, and now, although past his seventy-fifth milestone, his aim is true and his love of the sport is as keen as ever. For some years he has been a member of the Hayti Hunting Club, of Hayti, Missouri, which place he visits annually in the hunting season. He has some fine trophies in the way of deer skins, one from a deer he shot after he was seventy-four and another after he was seventy-five.