George Robinson, Vancouver Island Pioneer

Olympia, And Onward

Some time in early 1871, George Robinson sold his property and his business in Victoria and moved to Olympia, Washington Territory. His Masonic records show that he "demitted" - i.e. left as a member in good standing - in January, 1871. It is probable that he moved to Olympia shortly thereafter.

We do not know why he left Victoria. Perhaps he was embittered at his failure to achieve success and wealth in coal mining; perhaps he was persuaded that opportunities were better in Olympia; or perhaps it was just his restless nature that impelled him to make the change.

It is also possible that he considered the move to be only a temporary one, for he could have returned to his Masonic lodge at any time, and he left his Masonic regalia in the keeping of his daughter, Amanda Theresa. During the intervening years, Lodge No. 1187 became Lodge No. 5 BCR and finally assumed its present title, Victoria-Columbia Lodge No. 1. Having been passed down through two further generations, George's regalia were donated by his great granddaughter, Jean Whittaker, to the Lodge's collection of mementoes, where they are now displayed with the accoutrements of other illustrious pioneer members such as Thomas Harris, Robert Burnaby, Eli Harrison and Thomas Shotbolt.

So to Olympia went George Robinson and his wife Caroline and their three small children. Here he resumed his practice of dentistry, at which according to a later letter he seems to have been successful and happy. The Archives and Records Management Division, Secretary of State, Olympia advises that the family is listed in the Territorial (Washington) Census Rolls for 1871, having been enumerated on the 10th March of that year.11

But again for unknown reasons, the family did not stay in Olympia. We have some evidence that Caroline was determined to return to England, and this may have been the prime reason for their moving onward. Caroline and both girls went first, arriving in Hastings, Sussex and there setting up house in Westfield House, South Terrace. George and his small son remained but a short time in Olympia, then followed. The Archives and Records Management Division reports there is not trace of the family in the census of 1873.

Amanda Theresa had been staying meanwhile with schoolmaster Cornelius Bryant and his wife Elizabeth at Nanaimo. We believe that she remained with the Bryants when Cornelius was accepted as a probationer in the Methodist ministry in 1870 and left Nanaimo to be an itinerant missionary. His first posting was to New Westminster, his second a return to Nanaimo, and his third to "Chilliwhack" as it was then spelled. It was at Chilliwhack that Amanda met and married Cory Rider, who owned a farm some twelve miles from the city.

We are less certain how Victor Ernest fared. He would than have been almost eighteen years old, and it is quite likely that he was entirely on his own. Perhaps his Aunt Maria, who was then Mrs. Harvey Snow, was asked to keep an eye on him in loco parentis. His sudden and untimely death in 1884 caused a hiatus in family history; stories which he would have related to his children had he lived were never told.

George and Caroline Robinson lived out the rest of their lives in England. We know that George always had the notion that some day they might return to his beloved West Coast, but Caroline was definitely not in favour, and managed to delay such a move until even George was forced to admit that they were too old and settled to go.

Those other members of George's family who came out to Nanaimo remained on the West Coast for the remainder of their lives, and all found their final rest in the old Nanaimo cemetery. These were his nephews Mark Bate and Cornelius Bryant and niece Elizabeth Bryant, all of whom arrived on Princess Royal in 1857; his niece Lucy Bate who arrived in 1862, and his nephew Thomas Bryant who arrived in 1888. All of these left their marks in the pioneer annals of British Columbia.

Meanwhile, back in England, George Robinson was still not the man to remain long in one place, nor to be employed long with one firm, or even to stay at one occupation. To follow his movements further, we must refer to two letters which remain from Victor Ernest's scant collection of photographs and documents.

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