How To Use This Site

This website is essentially an archive of primary documents with some secondary interpretations added on, and it is organized into thematic sections. One of our goals is to offer users a taste of archival research, so within each section the documents are organized as we found them and as they would be likely be in any archives, by document type and then by date.

These are the real documents, retyped or resized, but otherwise exactly as they appear in the archives. You will encounter these documents in much the same way as would any historian who goes into the archives. You have to do the detective work to piece together the story of what happened, why it happened and what the outcomes were. Like any mystery, the documents contain clues, contradictions and even some misinformation when eyewitnesses got it wrong.

Where necessary we have added comments in [square brackets]. Where we could not read a word we indicated this by [illegible] and where we have guessed at a word we have added [?] after it. If we have excerpted a section from a larger document the gaps are indicated by [...]. If the authors used abbreviations which we understood but are not in common use today, a question mark will appear as you mouse over, and by hovering an explanation will come up.


The Who Killed William Robinson? website is split into five main sections which can be seen at the top of this page under the headings: Home, The Murder, Historical Contexts, Archives, and Interpretations (Figure 1). These headings are clickable, and provide you with the only way to navigate through each area. If you find yourself getting lost, simply glance up at the top bar and see which heading is highlighted in white.

Figure 1
Figure 1: The top menu
Figure 2
Figure 2: The left menu

Three things will happen when you click on one of the headings at the top -- the top bar will change to reflect the new section, the menu on the left-hand side of the page will change, and the content in the centre of the page will change as well. The left menu will now have a button labelled "Welcome" highlighted, as well as the other selections available in the section of the site you are in (Figure 2), i.e., the left bar in the Home section will have eight selections, of which "How to Use This Site" will be highlighted (because that is what is currently being viewed).

Clicking on a left menu selection will change the content in the centre, and will present you with a list of primary or secondary sources to view (Figure 3), under headings indicating what kind of source(s) are available. Once one of the sources has been clicked, it will be displayed in the centre of the screen. After you have finished reading it and want to get back to the list of sources, simply click on the "Return to parent page" link at the bottom of each source (Figure 4).

Figure 3
Figure 3: Listing of primary and secondary documents
Figure 4
Figure 4: Returning to the
main listing

Every document will have a link to “About This Source”. This will tell you why the source was created, how to understand what it means and how to find out more about it. It may also help you determine how much credibility to give to the information in the source.

If you want to go back to the last page you viewed, then your browser’s “Back” button will also work. Use your browser’s “Back” button if you want to return to a document that is not the “parent page”.


The citation indicating the source of every document and where you can see the original is indicated at the end of every document. For maps, photos and paintings the citation/caption is available by mousing over the image.


We have written brief descriptions of the main characters who appear in the documents. These are accessible from the “Cast of Characters” link on the left menu in "The Murder" and “Historical Contexts” sections. All of the documents on the site have been assembled together in the section called “Archives”, so everything can be found there organized by source type and date. The "Historical Contexts" section is there to help you understand what crime and punishment and settler society were like on Salt Spring Island between the 1850s and 1870s, and the “Beyond This Site” link will take you to other Internet and library resources that help fill it out. Images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The “Interpretations” section contains interpretations of the murder written by a range of experts. The experts have had access to the same documents as you do, or in some cases not even all of them. Not surprisingly, they do not all agree with each other. This section is protected by a password which your teacher may choose to give you after you have come to your own conclusions.