George Robinson, Vancouver Island Pioneer


One of the pioneer residents of what is now Vancouver Island, British Columbia, was George Robinson (1825-1895): coal mine manager, photographer, prospector, dentist; an enthusiastic enquirer into all things physical, chemical and astrological; restless, energetic, temperamental, and an insatiable collector of articles which touched on his wide range of interests.

It is partly through the remainder of one such collection - a thick scrapbook bearing the notation George Robinson His Book 1832, a New Testament published in 1825, and a few letters written by him and by his second wife, that we know so much about George Robinson today. The pages of Victoria, Nanaimo and San Francisco newspapers, together with records kept by the Hudson's Bay Company - especially the log of the first voyage of the Company's barque Princess Royal - do much to round out our knowledge of this dynamic figure.

The scrapbook yields details of George Robinson's parents and siblings. Joseph (1777-1840) and Esther Robinson (1783-?) were married on February 10, 1803. Of their 11 children, he was the 10th and the second to be named George, the first George having died at a year and a half. In those far-off days, when childhood diseases took heavy toll, it was an accepted custom to give a later sibling the same name as had been given to a child who had died in infancy.

We are fortunate that the second George Robinson survived to grow to young manhood, and in time to become enamoured of Ann (1824-1856), the youngest daughter of the neighbouring Saunders family.

In 1844, when George Robinson was nineteen and Ann Saunders was twenty - on Ann's twentieth birthday, to be exact - they were married. Their marriage licence1 which still survives states that he was employed as a machine clerk at Springs Mine, Dudley. We also note with interest that Ann Saunders was illiterate, as she signed the Register with an "X".

The two witnesses shown on the marriage certificate ( Thomas Bryant and Maria Robinson) will reappear many times in our narrative. Maria Robinson (1816-1896) was one of George's elder sisters. Thomas Bryant (?-1879) was his brother-in-law, being married to his sister Sarah (1807-?). Their sons Cornelius and Thomas Bryant will also play a part, as will son Mark and daughters Elizabeth and Lucy of his eldest sister Elizabeth Bate (1805-1875).

George and Ann were blessed with two children. These were Amanda Theresa, born 23 January 1849, and Victor Ernest, born in 1853 though we do not know the exact date. As far as we can tell, they lived in or near Dudley and were quite happy except that George's restless and ambitious nature would not allow him to remain long in one small place. Amanda was still to be but a small girl and Victor but a baby when the opportunity for which George sought would present itself.

The opportunity would be through employment with the Hudson's Bay Company.

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