William Robinson

Sylvia Stark's Reminiscences

Sylvia Stark's Reminiscences about William Robinson as told to Marie Stark Wallace:

Mr. Robinson and Giles Curtis were both slain about 1867 or 1868. Mr. Robinson, a very devoted Sunday school teacher, often sang this old sweet song to his pupils: "Children of the Heavenly King, as we Journey Let Us Sing." It was sung in the old tune with all the quavers of a spiritual. I have often heard my mother sing it just as they sang it in the old log cabin school house where she first learned it.

One Sunday he sang it to those brave children of the brave pioneers for the last time. He told Sylvia that the next Sunday would be his farewell meeting. He had written to his wife asking her to come west but she refused to come to a wild country where the Indians were hostile so now he was going back to her.

When next Sunday came and he failed to arrive, the congregation waited with growing uneasiness. Then a party went to his house at Vesuvius Bay where they found him slain in his cabin where he had lived alone.

William Robinson Arrives on Salt Spring Island

Confusion exists about the date and manner of the first Blacks' arrival on the island....Sometime in 1858 or 1859, a group of Blacks reportedly asked Governor Douglas for permission to found [a colony on Salt Spring Island] but were refused. ....It would be more sensible, Douglas felt, to promote a multi-racial settlement on Saltspring.

Saltspring's development was inevitable. By the late summer of 1858, many miners were already back in Victoria from the Fraser diggings. Too poor to resume mining or to return to their distant homes, they would somehow have to support themselves on or near Vancouver Island. A Scots-born lawyer, John Copland, had spent some years in Australia and was now especially concerned about the plight of other Australians, many of them were capable farmers, but could not get land. Settlement was only legal on land which the Crown had bought from the Indians and surveyed, and which cost an absurdly high $5 per acre. Since Douglas was always short of money, he had not been able to buy and survey enough land to meet the new demand, much less to sell it at a reasonable price. Copland therefore pressured the government to permit "pre-emption" of unsurveyed land by settlers who would not have to pay for it until it was surveyed--by which time the settlers would be prosperous enough to buy it.

...the government approved Copland's proposal, and on 26 July 1859 it authorized 29 settlers to pre-empt land on "Tuan Island" as Saltspring was sometimes called. While several of these twenty-nine were Black men, only one -- Armstead Buckner--was among the seventeen who the next day left Victoria to take up their claims. Buckner settled north of Ganges, near St. Mary Lake; he was followed by numerous others. Among these were Abraham Copeland and his son-in-law W.L. Harrison; William Robinson, a gentle and religious man; John Craven Jones, Fielding Spotts, William Isaacs, Levi Davis, Daniel Fredison, and Hiram Whims. Louis and Sylvia Stark arrived in 1860 and soon became prominent in the community.

William Robinson's Pre-emption Record

Pre-emption date: November 25, 1864. 100 Acres

Description: Range 2, Section 7, Range 3, Section 8, Vesuvius

Crawford Killian, Go Do Some Great Thing (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 1978) 101-2; Lands and Works Department, Vancouver Island Pre-emption Record for 1863 [and 1864], p. 101, Pre-emption number 780, CAA30.71.

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