Joseph Gaskins and Mary Coleman?

by | May 3, 2019 | 6 comments

I was reading through some court records yesterday, when I came across this entry dated 9 Dec 1799:

Ordered that notice issue to Mary Gaskins to appear at the Next Term and show cause to why the nuncupative will of Joseph Gaskins decd. should not be Established.

Who was Mary Gaskins?  My 6th great-grandfather, Joseph Gaskins, married Zipporah Squires 21 Sep 1782.  Zipporah has become rather infamous among family researchers due to the phrase “her son Fisher” in Joseph’s will.  But, maybe, she wasn’t the only scandalous person in this marriage.

Joseph Gaskins, mortally ill, dictated a nuncupative will to friends, John Morgan and James Askins, on the evening of 28 Nov 1799.  A couple of days later, on the 30 Nov, the two of them deposed the will before Isaac Guion, who was a Justice of the Peace.

State of North Carolina}
Craven County             }
                                      Personally appeared before me Isaac Guion one of the Justices of the peace for the County aforesaid on this 30th day Novr. 1799. John Morgan and James Askins, who being Sworn on the holy Evangelist of almighty God doth say that being with Joseph Gaskins, who was sick, but of sound mind on the Evening of the 28th Instant, desired that the deponents should declare as follows to be his last will and Testament, that a half Lot of land in New Bern and fifty acres of land in the Pocoson, believed his mothers, should be sold to pay his Debts, which if not enough, twenty acres of land he bought from Hillary Parsons, should be also sold, at Vendue to the highest bidder, further he desired that all the residue of his Estate should be left in the hands of his wife Zipporah Squires, for the support of her and the Children he had by her. Bauly [sic Baily], Holland, David Isaac, Joseph Amos until the youngest shall become of age unless she shall marry then the Estate to be taken out of her hands and be equally divided and for her to have a childs part and give her son Fisher forty shillings in Testamoney whereof we have hereunto subscribed our hands in New Bern this 30th November 1799.

                                                                 James Askins
                                                                 John J Morgan [the J is his mark]
Sworn by the Subscriber
before me 30th Novr. 1799
                Ic Guion JP

Fast forward to 14 Mar 1800.  The will was admitted to probate and Zipporah was granted administration of the Estate “with the will annexed.”  Her securities for the £100 bond were John Gaskins (relation unknown) and Amos Cuthrell.  That same day, 

Mary Coleman calling herself the wife and relict of Joseph Gaskins deceased came into Court and dissents [word I can’t make out] the will of said Gaskins.

Whoa!  Immediately after this statement, which had my mouth hanging open, the court adjourns until the afternoon. The second item after the recess grants “the administratrix of Joseph Gaskins” permission to sell the perishable part of his Estate.  I presume they’re talking about Zipporah.  Then nothing. Nada. What happened? Who as Mary Coleman and why did she claim to have been married to Joseph?  



  1. Levtzow


    This is a great website. I have enjoyed exploring for the past 24 hours. I’m related to Thomas Gaskins (who fathered an illegitimate child). I’m still trying to fit these pieces together. So many questions.

    Was Zipporah the daughter of Amos Squires and Joseph the son of Fisher Gaskins? What are the birth dates of their children?

    Thanks for all the hard work it takes to create and maintain this great website.

    John Levtzow

    • Becky Sumrell

      Hello, John and thank you.

      Yes, Joseph was the son of the Fisher Gaskins who died in 1758 and wife, Ann. He also had a sister named Ann who married Thomas Phillips and I’m thinking that the John Gaskins who helped with the administrator bond may have been a brother, after Fisher’s death. I can’t prove that, but it’s the only thing that makes sense.

      As for Zipporah, her parentage is a puzzle. There was more than one Amos Squires, probably as many as four active in the records at, more or less, the same time. She was, probably, the daughter of one of them, but which is the question.

      Your Thomas was the son of Fisher’s brother, another Thomas. Thomas, Sr. was married twice. Both of his wives were daughters of William and Ann Bright. The second wife’s first name was Hannah, but the name of his first wife is unknown. We know that his eldest son, Harman, was with his first wife, but the other children (William, Thomas, Fisher, Elizabeth and Sarah) are more of a puzzle. Personally, I lean towards William and Thomas also being from the first wife, but there is nothing to prove this.

      Hope that clarified something, at least.


  2. Harry

    Hi Becky,

    Thank you for this post.

    Do you have any information on David Isaac Gaskins? He is my ancestor and moved with his brother Fisher Gaskins from North Carolina, then to South Carolina, and finally settled in Georgia. His parentage is usually attributed to Thomas Gaskins, Sr., and Hannah Bright, but I am wondering if David Isaac is the illegitimate child of Thomas Jr., who has a bastardy bond with Zipporah Squires from 1778.

    On a related note, I have seen some sources say that Joseph is David’s father, but if Joseph wasn’t mentally stable this makes that claim dubious.

    Any information you can provide would be extremely helpful.

    Thank you!


    • Harry

      Sorry: I now see this was “mortally ill,” not “mentally ill.” Sorry about that! I suppose the mystery is solved (although if you have any more information related to the Gaskins family, that would be wonderful).

    • Becky Sumrell

      Hello, Harry. First, David Gaskins and Isaac Gaskins were two separate people. And they were both sons of Joseph Gaskins and Zipporah Squires (see the will above). From Craven County Court Minutes:

      14 Jun 1802
      Ordered that David Gaskins aged 14 years 15th Dec last & Francis Tindal aged 16 Nov. last be bound to Richd. Carter to learn the trade of sail making.

      16 Jun 1802
      Ordered that Joseph Gaskins aged 11 years be bound to Richd. Carter to learn the trade of sail maker.

      16 Mar 1804
      Ordered that Francis Tingle an orphan aged 15 years – Joseph Gaskill an orphan aged 12 years – Isaac Gaskin an orphan aged 13 years be bound to Richard Carter to learn the trade of a sail maker.

      10 Jun 1807
      Amos Gaskins and John Sheffield two orphan boys aged 12 years were bound to Eli Smallwood John Stanley and Francis X. Martin to learn the trade of ropemaking.

      And, second, I am not completely sold on Zipporah Squires, mother of Fisher Gaskins, and Sarah Squires, mother of the illegitimate child of Thomas Gaskins, Jr., being the same woman. Regardless, the above court record concerning Joseph’s relationship with Mary Coleman implies a period of separation between Joseph and Zipporah, so it is possible that Fisher may not have been his. The wording of his will certainly implies he was suspicious.


      • Harry

        Thanks for your response. Yes, my ancestor was born in or around 1778, which would make him too old to be the David or Isaac of Joseph Gaskins.

        The family history is that Thomas Gaskins was the father of David Isaac, but I find no hard proof of this (although a lot of circumstantial evidence). It may be that David Isaac is the famous illegitimate child of Thomas Gaskins and Sarah Squires: it certainly seems to point in that direction, given the timeframe and the frequent references to a brother named “Fisher” in my research. Either way, it’s very hard to untangle, especially in my spare time and since I’m not in the area.

        Please feel free to connect with me separately, as I would like to do more research and would be open to hiring someone. I think my email is posted separately as I have to enter it to post on this site.

        Thank you again!


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