George Robinson, Vancouver Island Pioneer


We do not know what business took George Robinson south to San Francisco in 1858. The Hudson's Bay Company had interests in that city, and with the increasing use of steamships there was a rising demand for coal. It is quite possible that he was sent to explore the possibility of shipping more Nanaimo coal to California, with the Hudson's Bay Company store acting as agent.

At any rate, George Robinson was in San Francisco, and while he was there he attended a ball which was being given either by or for the French Consul, Monsieur Gautier. At the same ball was Madame Gautier's English Secretary, red-haired Caroline Dakens. George and Caroline met, and it seems to have been love at first sight. Two weeks later, after what was for leisurely Victorian times a whirlwind courtship, they were married. The San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin for Monday, August 22nd, 1858, carried the announcement of their wedding:

"In this city, August 19th, at the Church of the Advent, by Rev. R.M. McAllister, George Robinson, Superintendent of the Hon. Hudson's Bay Company's Coal Mines, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, to Caroline Dakens, of Tunbridge, England."

George Robinson was under contract to the Hudson's Bay Company, and Caroline Robinson was under contract to the Gautiers. A chance remark made to me by Caroline's daughter Georgiana in 1944 gave me a distinct impression that Caroline did not return to Nanaimo with George Robinson, but followed later, perhaps when her contract was completed. However, if her voyage to Nanaimo was in fact delayed, it was not for long. When George Robinson's niece Elizabeth Bate was married at Nanaimo on February 22nd, 1859, George and Caroline Robinson were two of the witnesses who signed the wedding certificate.

Remarrying does not seem to have persuaded George to stand back, keep a low profile and mark time until his contract ran out. Having discarded the blacksmith's hammer, he took up a political cudgel. From our viewpoint amid the comparative calm of present-day politics, he seems to have had ample reason for doing so.

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