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Cape St. Mary (Cape St. Mary's), NS  Lighthouse accessible by car and a short, easy walk.   

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Cape St. Mary (Cape St. Mary's) Lighthouse

The first Cape St. Mary Lighthouse was a wooden, octagonal tower with a height of 13.1 meters that served as both a coast light and also as a guide into St. Mary’s Bay for vessels bound for Grand Passage and Petit Passage. In 1868, the year the lighthouse was built, U. Doucette was paid $226 for “land and making a road,” DeChezeau & Co. was given $191.90 for supplies, and the first keeper Mathurin Robichau was paid $31.78 for building a fence.

1868 Cape St. Mary Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy Nova Scotia Archives and Records
A rectangular dwelling, 33 x 22 feet, was built near the tower for Keeper Robichau, who was paid $500 per year. A well and a barn were also part of the station.

Formerly a sea captain, Mathurin Robichau developed a keen interest in politics and in 1855 was elected as Clare's representative to the Legislative Assembly, where he lent his weight to confederation. Just a year after helping to make Canada a reality, Robichau left politics and became the first keeper at Cape. St. Mary. Benjamin, one of seven Robichau children, started to help his father at a young age and eventually took over his position. Together, father and son spanned sixty-two years of keeping the light at Cape St. Mary.

The original illuminating apparatus was described as “catoptric lights with parabolic reflectors and argand burners,” that revolved to produce a white and red flash every thirty seconds. A diaphone fog signal, projecting from one end of a gabled-roof building, was later added at Cape St. Mary.

The present lighthouse, a square tower built into one corner of a one-story building, was built in 1969 and produces a light with a signature of one white flash every five seconds. The lighthouse was de-staffed on March 31, 1989, when it became fully automated. Between 1868 and 1988, twelve lightkeepers served at Cape St. Mary including one woman, Mary Goodwin.

The Municipality of Clare took possession of Cape St. Mary Lighthouse and the surrounding 2.1 acres on January 10, 2017, as part of a divestiture process with the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans. The following summer, the municipality began work on transforming the site into a community park. A parking lot, interpretive panels, benches, and picnic tables were added to the site, while the lighthouse itself was covered in cedar shingles and painted.

During migratory bird season, the lighthouse is a great vantage point from which to view the mud flats below, which are a favorite stopping point for the birds. The steep cliffs below the light have many caves formerly used by rumrunners as hideouts.

Head Keepers: Mathurin Robichau (1868 – 1886), Benjamin H. Robichau (1886 – at least 1930).

References

  1. Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, various years.
  2. Lighthouses & Lights of Nova Scotia, E.H. Rip Irwin, 2003.
  3. "Park to be developed at Cape St. Mary lighthouse," The Tri-County Vanguard, July 25, 2017.

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