St. Alban the Martyr

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Memorial Tiles: Christopher Robinson

ROBINSON, Christopher: 1763 - 1798

Christopher was the oldest son of Peter Robinson and Sarah Lister. The Robinsons, originally from Yorkshire, England, prospered in the American colonies and their sons, Christopher and Peter, were born in Virginia into an extended and well-established family. Their father died when they were still infants and their father’s brothers looked after them. The young Peter died at an early age.

Following in a family tradition, Christopher was sent to William and Mary College. When the American Revolution began, several prominent members of the Robinson family sided with the Loyalist cause and in 1781 Christopher ran away from school with his cousin Robert to join the Loyalist forces. They made their way to New York where Christopher was commissioned Ensign in the Queen’s Rangers, the regiment commanded by Col. John Graves Simcoe who later became Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, Christopher’s regiment was disbanded in New Brunswick on October 18, 1783. Christopher was the only one of his immediate family in the settlement. Christopher met Esther, daughter of well-known Loyalist clergyman, the Reverend John Sayre and they married before Christopher was twenty-one. He and Esther had six children together.

The children of Christopher Robinson and his wife Esther Sayre Robinson were Peter (1785-1838) who remained unmarried; Mary (1787-1863) who married Stephen Heward; Sarah (1789-1863) who married D’Arcy Boulton; Sir John Beverley* (1791-1863) who married Emma Walker, and later became Chief Justice of Upper Canada; Esther (1795-1811); and William Benjamin (1797-1873) who married Eliza Ann Jarvis.

Christopher had difficulty adjusting to his changed circumstances. The family eventually moved to Lower Canada and then, after a few years, on to Kingston where he was called to the bar. When his former commanding officer, Colonel John Graves Simcoe, arrived in Upper Canada and took up his duties in 1792, he appointed Christopher Inspector of Woods and Reserves in Upper Canada and later Christopher became Deputy General to the Surveyor General of Woods. In 1798, Christopher and his family moved again, this time to York (Toronto) and began building a home near the Don River to house their large family. Sadly, Christopher died three weeks later, leaving his wife and six young children with very little financial security.

Christopher Robinson died on November 2, 1798, just before his thirty-fifth birthday. It is said that his body was carried in its coffin on the shoulders of his friends through the thick pine forests from the Don River into York for burial.(1)

* John Beverley Robinson, grandson of Christopher Robinson and son of Sir John Beverly Robinson and Emma Walker, was Lieutenant Governor of Ontario at the time of the Centennial Celebrations of the landing of the Loyalists in Ontario.(2) He attended the Adolphustown celebrations and laid the cornerstone for the United Empire Loyalist Memorial Church of St. Alban the Martyr as part of the celebration.


1. Julia Jarvis, Three Centuries of Robinsons: The story of a family (Toronto, 1967), via

2. “Robinson, John Beverley,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Vol. XII.