Bon Portage Lighthouse, erected during the present year, is situated on the south point of Bon Portage Island, in Shelburne County. The tower is a square wooden building 28 feet high, and painted white. It is surmounted by an iron lantern 7 ˝ feet in diameter, with ten sides, glazed with plate glass 36 x 28 inches.
The lighting apparatus consists of four circular-burner lamps with 20-inch reflectors, and two flat-wick lamps with 18-inch reflectors, placed on two frames, the four circular lamps on the lower and the two flat-wick on the upper; they are arranged so as to form two triangles, having two circular lamps at the base and one flat-wick lamp for the apex, and these three lights coming into focus together produce a brilliant and powerful effect. Three spare lamps are on hand.
1874 Bon Portage Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy Nova Scotia Archives and Records
The light is a revolving red, showing a flash every minute, and making a revolution every two minutes. It is elevated 46 feet above high water, and will probably be seen in clear weather a distance of 12 miles. The light is to guide vessels into Barrington, West Bay and Shag Harbour. 315 gallons of oil were delivered at this station, and three galvanized iron oil tanks. The dwelling for the keeper is attached to the light tower, and an oil-store 12 x 16 feet has also been erected; a boat 13 feet long is supplied, and a well has been dug on the premises. Next year a landing will have to be constructed, and a road from the light-house, about half a mile long. The two will probably cost $200.
Mr. Arthur Wrayton was appointed keeper at a salary of $350, and the light was put in operation on 25th November, 1874.
Morrill and Evelyn, along with their baby daughter Anne, relocated to the island, where the couple would spend the next thirty-five years of their lives. In 1945, Evelyn penned the novel We Keep a Light, which detailed the island life lead by the Richardson family, which had grown to include three children. The book won the Governor-General’s Award for creative non-fiction.
During the period chronicled by Evelyn, the island had no electricity, but what was needed more in her opinion was a means to communicate with the mainland in case of an emergency. Just a year after the book was published, electricity arrived on the island along with a radiotelephone.
In 1964, significant changes came to Bon Portage as the old lighthouse/dwelling combination was replaced by a new lighthouse and a separate keeper’s dwelling. An additional dwelling had been built in 1955, after a fog signal was added to the station requiring the presence of an assistant keeper. The Richardsons also left their island home in 1964, bequeathing their property to Acadia University.
After the lighthouse was automated and destaffed in 1985, the university set up a research facility in the vacated structures, and in 1990 the station was officially named the Evelyn and Morrill Richardson Biological Research Station. The Richardsons’ two daughters, Anne Wickens and Betty-June, were in attendance at the dedication.
Head Keepers: Arthur M. Wrayton (1874 – 1881), William Wrayton (1881 – 1897), Leslie Hopkins (1897 – 1907), Angus C. Greenwood (1907 – 1913), M.M. Nickerson (1913 – 1917), E.A. Wickens (1917 – 1919), C.N. Nickerson (1919 – 1920), O.J. Langthorne (1920), H. Greenwood (1920 – 1923), E. Greenwood (1923 – 1928), L.C.M. Richardson (1928 – 1964).