Their first son, Robert, born April 6, 1834, Rochford, Essex, is my great great grandfather.

At age 17 (1851),  Robert was working as an agricultural labourer living with his family in Mascall’s yard, West Street, Rochford, Essex.  His father (Robert) was also working at that time as an agricultural labourer.

After being recuited by Thomas Skinner, at age 18 1/2, Robert boarded the ship Norman Morison on August 15, 1852, in London and after 5 months at sea arrived in Esquimalt harbour on January 16, 1853.  From the Hudsons Bay Archives I received his Appointments and Service Record; which is as follows:

1852/1853    Out to Fort Victoria by Norman Morison in steerage as a single man, recruited by T. J. Skinner.
Sharing Berth No. 3 with William Weston, William Page, John Grant, Daniel Thomas and John Baikie.
1853-1855     Labourer, Puget Sound Agricultural Co. (Constance Cove Farm)

“And they arrived in Victoria in a blinding snowstorm. It was night, pitch dark, the waters in the harbour showing white caps in the dim light of the ship’s lanterns. When morning dawned the storm had not abated, but the ship’s boat was launched and they were rowed ashore.  No one but Indians on the beach. The fort gates locked. The palisades grimly forbidding.”

Through the BC Archives Textual Records, I also have the document that he signed for John Graham to get out of his contract with the HBC in 1854.  Part of it says ” And for your further security as the payment of the same – Robert Stubbings, Labourer, Constance Cove Farm – binds himself conjointly that the above sums be paid as stipulated in this letter and that on payment of the cash installments, as before mentioned, that I will be discharged of the contract I have with the PSAC in Vancouver Island.” signed witnesses James Stewart, Thomas R?, John Graham – my mark and Robert Stubbings.
Dated May 22, 1854 at Craig Flower, Vancouver Island.

A Little History

The success the Puget Sound Agricultural Company had enjoyed was disrupted in 1846 with the Oregon Boundary Dispute. This dispute resulted in the division of the 49th parallel as the line separating British and American Territory.

The hopes of the Hudson’s Bay Company, as well as the new  Puget Sound Agricultural Company  were shattered. Their lands in Oregon would no longer be held for Britain. The main headquarters at Fort Vancouver were lost to the Americans and the remaining farm of Fort Langley and three small dairy farms around Fort Victoria could in no way be expected to make up for the loss.

There was also a need for more farms north of the boundary line, so with this opportunity, and in urgent desperation the Puget Sound Agricultural Company decided to set up farms on Vancouver Island. James Douglas now in charge of the western headquarters of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company divided the ten acres reserved for  agricultural use around Fort Victoria into four farms. The  four  farms were Craigflower farm, View Field Farm and Colwood Farm and Constance Cove Farm. Bailiffs and their
families were sent out from the old country to take charge of the farms. With all possible speed, they established View Field Farm  in 1850, Colwood  in 1851, as well as both  Constance Cove Farm  and Craigflower Farm  in 1853.

From Charles Lilliard’s book “7 Shillings A Year: The History of Vancouver Island” he writes:

“Viewfield was established in1850 and never did well.  In 1855 only 35 of the farm’s 600 acres were cleared; there were 14 Europeans on the land, but nine of these were children.  This was the poorest of the four and it did not survive beyond 1860.  Constance Cove Farm was little better off and when it was taken over by the HBC in 1865; T.J. Skinner and his family moved to the Cowichan Valley.”

Each farm comprised six hundred acres and each one had a large complement of men and machinery. In Mr. Dean’s diary he speaks of two hundred and twenty colonists, Scotch and English, coming to Vancouver Island, the former for Mr. McKenzie’s farm, the latter for Mr. Skinner’s place.

The Vancouver’s Island Colony Land Sales Annual Report shows that on November 7, 1856 Robert bought Lot 26 of Thomas Skinner’s Section 26 (20 acres – Constance Cove Farm), which was next door to Dr. John Sebastion Helmcken’s Section 27.

While at Constance Cove Robert was living with a native woman.  Whether they married or not, I don’t know, but they had two children:  Mary Ann born October 2, 1859 and George born 1864.  It is unclear what happened to the mother as from Peggy Nichols “From the Black Country” volumes its says:

“It was on the farm that Mary Ann and her brother George were born.  They came to Nanaimo when Robert’s contract was fulfilled.  Their B.C. born mother did not accompany them here.  Robert worked for a time in the sawmill.  He missed the farm and moved to Lasqueti Island where he raised sheep for market with Albion Tranfield.”

As George, Robert’s son was born in 1864, my assumption is that they must have stayed on the farm for 8 years or so, arriving in Nanaimo between 1865 – 1867 and as he missed the farm bought property on Gabriola Island.

  • 1853 – arrival on Norman Morison to Constance Cove Farm
  • 1855 – T J Skinner sells Robert a 5 acre? section of Constance Cove Farm lot/section 26
  • 1855  to 1859 – meets Indian woman from nearby Esquimalt Band
  • 1858 – Royal Engineers huts, the first permanent structures here, and the acreage between Land and Skinner’s Cove (now part of Naden), were turned over to the Navy.
  • 1859 – Mary Ann is born on October 2
  • 1864 – George is born
  • 1865 to 1868 – Did their mother die?  They left for Nanaimo.  Did he sell the land to the Navy right next door?
  • 1868 – On July 8, 1868, Rear-Admiral George Fowler Hastings of the Royal Navy purchased an acre of land from the Puget Sound Agricultural Company
  • 1868 – land pre-emption on Gabriola Island with Robert Gray (on South Bay);
  • 1869 – BC Directory – Nanaimo;
  • 1871 – BC Directory – Nanaimo;
  • 1872 – marriage to Margaret (an Indian) in Nanaimo on December 12th;
  • 1874 – BC Directory – Nanaimo;
  • 1874 – marriage of Mary Ann Stubbins to George Sage February 14th;
  • 1875 – Voters List – Gabriola;
  • 1877 – BC Directory – Gabriola;
  • 1881 – Census – living in Nanaimo District;
  • 1882 – 1890 – land pre-emption on Lasqueti Island (NW 1/4  & NE 1/4  Section 3); John Heath shows as pre-empting NE 1/4 Section 3 before 1882;
  • 1882/1883 – BC Directory – farming on Lasqueti Island;
  • 1882-1886 – marriage of George Stubbins to Sarah Jane;
  • 1886 – birth of George Stubbins’ daughter Lily, not listed on BC Archives;
  • 1887 – Wellington Directory – farming on Jedediah Island;
  • 1890/91 – birth of George Stubbins’ son Robert, not listed on BC Archives;
  • 1896 – Voters List – farming on Lasqueti Island;
  • 1899 – Robert’s death in Nanaimo on July 22nd (see newspaper articles at the end);
  • 1901 – Sarah Jane’s death in Vancouver on September 2nd;
  • 1904 – death of George Stubbins and son Robert by drowning, in Steveston, July 21st;
  • 1913 – marriage of Lillian Stubbins to James Riddell, Lasqueti Island, March 13th
  • 1917 – Margaret’s death on Lasqueti Island on April 8th;
  • 1948 – Mary Ann Stubbins Sage’s death in Victoria April 24th.

Nanaimo Free Press Articles

Nanaimo Free Press, July 29, 1876
Gabriola Island

On Monday last Mr. T.L. Fawcett, government agent, accompanied by the Rev. G. Mason and Miss Mason, visited the East end of Gabriola Island.  Mr. Fawcett held a meeting of the settlers at Mr. Stubbin’s house, for the purpose of deciding how the government grant of $500 should be expended.  It was decided that the money be equally divided between the East and West ends.  J. Martin was appointed foreman for East and H. Heath for the West end.  Under the shade of two large and wide-spreading maple trees, near the public school house, the Rev. Mr. Mason baptised four of the settler’s children and after the baptismal service delivered an earnest and eloquent exhortation to the settlers present.  Great preparations had been made by the Gabriolians to welcome their visitors, and the substantial repast provided by the wives of the settlers was very creditable.  Before returning to Nanaimo, Mr. Fawcett visited all the settled portions of the Island for the purpose of assessing the real estate and personal property.

Nanaimo Free Press, May 22, 1889
The Drowning Accident!
The Rescuers Search For The Bodies!!

The parties who so valiantly went to the rescue of Cowper and Davis yesterday afternoon have been suitably rewarded by them.  The rescuers were George Stubbins, Tommy Spealmer, and Alexander Jones.  This afternoon several boats went out to the scene of the accident and attempted to find the bodies, but up to the time for going to press, they had not returned.  The task is almost a hopeless one, as the tides and currents are to strong of Gabriola Island that there is no telling how far the bodies may been carried by this time.

Free Press, October 19, 1892
Lost On Lasqueti

Ignatio Millan, supposed to have his life!  The following letter received by Chief Constable Stewart from R. Stubbings of Lasqueti Island, indicates that Ignatio Millan, generally known as Miller the Chilanian, has lost his life.

October 18, 1892
Mr. Stewart

Dear Sir: – I am sorry to have to inform you that I am afraid that Miller, the Chilanian is lost.  He let William Rous’ house on Lasqueti Island on Saturday morning the 15th, to go out hunting and had not returned when this was written.  It is very seldom that any one stays out all night on the Island when hunting and he had no food nor extra clothing with him, for he went away in his shirt sleeves, we are afraid some accident has befallent him.  Either he has fell from a rock or shot himself.  W. Rous has been out for three days after him.  The second day he came to me and we have both been out the last two days, in every directions tht we think he could have gone but can find nothing of him, so we thought it would be as well to let you know tht he is missing.

Yours truly,
Robert Stubbings

P.S. Please let the Editor of the Free Press know.  I have sent this by Andrew Olsen as we cannot come down ourselves, as we wish to search further.

The following description of the missing man is kindly furnished by Chief Stewart:

Ignatio Millan, Aged 25, native of Chili, height 5 ft 5 inches, weight 136 lbs, grey eyes, brown hair, dark complextion, scar on nose.

Nanaimo Free Press Articles that I have found:

Death of Robert Stubbins

Another of the pioneers of the Province crossed the boundary this morning and passed into the Great Beyond.  Robert Stubbins, who was well know throughout the district, died at an early hour this morning at the reidence of his son-in-law, Mr. George Sage.  The deceased was a native of London, England, aged 64 years, and came out to Vancouver Island in the early days for the Hudson Bay Company as herdsman at their farm at Craigflower, near Victoria.  He has been in this city and district for a great many years, but of late years has been farming and sheep raising on Lasquiti Island.  The funeral will take place from the residence of Mr. Geo. Sage, Newcastle Townsite, on Sunday afternoon, at 4 o’clock.  Hilbert & Son will conduct the funeral.

Funeral of Robert Stubbins

The funeral of the late Robert Stubbins took place from the residence of his son-in-law, Mr. Geo Sage of New Castle Townsite yesterday afternoon.  The pall bearers were Messrs. Geo  Bevilockway, S. Waddington, Thos Whithers, Wm Hoggan, John Thompson and Jas Gillespie.  Rev W W Baer officiated and Hilbert & Son had charge of the interment.


Stubbings – Sopwith Family Tree


Robert Sopwith (b. 1756, Rochford, Essex) and Martha (b. 1753, Rochford Essex)
married 1777/1778, Rochford, Essex, England

children are: Sophia, Robert, John, James, Mary, Thomas, Susannah, Robert, Martha, Sarah, Charlotte, Maria, Anne, John and Arthur

James Sopwith (b. 1781, Rochford, Essex) and Mary Coppen
married January 24, 1804, Rochford, Essex

children are: James, Eleanor, Sophia, Mary Anne, Caroline Elizabeth, Emma Sophia, Charlotte and Louisa Jane


Robert Stubbings (b.1808, Rochford, Essex) and Mary Anne Sopwith (b. 1812, Rochford, Essex)
married October 9, 1833, Rochford, Essex

children are: Robert, Ellen, Mary Ann, James, Elizabeth, William, John, Emma, George and Frederick