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Knapp Point, ON  Lighthouse best viewed by boat or plane.   

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Knapp Point Lighthouse

Wolfe Island, the largest of several islands located at the confluence of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, is situated just off Kingston and is accessible by ferry from both Canada and the United States. In passing along the northern side of Wolfe Island, just east of Kingston, mariners must avoid a small peninsula that extends from the Island. The tip of this peninsula has had three names through the years, Brown’s Point, Brophy’s Point, and Knapp’s Point, all of which are the surnames of families that lived in the area.

Knapp Point Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
The Department of Marine constructed a lighthouse on the point in 1874 and provided the following information on the tower in its annual report for that year:
Another light-house was erected during last season on Brown’s or Knapp's Point, Wolfe Island, in the interests of the navigation of the St. Lawrence, and a fixed white light, visible at a distance of 10 miles, was shown on the 15th July last. This light is also on the Catoptric principle. The tower is a square wooden building, 20 feet high, and painted white. The cost of construction, including lighting apparatus, up to the 30th June last, was $1,261.20. Mr. John Boyd, who lives in the vicinity of the light-house, has been placed in temporary charge, until a permanent keeper is appointed.

The sum of $308.50 was expended on the lighthouse in the latter half of 1874, bringing the total cost to $1,569.70. Joseph White built the square, pyramidal tower under contract for $725, while G. Garth & Co. provided the lantern room for $492.00 and E. Chanteloup supplied the needed lamps and reflectors for $203.50. It appears the government failed to purchase the land on which the lighthouse stands, as in the Department of Marine’s report for 1878, it is noted that a representative of the late William Brophy was awarded $200 for land and W. H. Sullivan was paid $60 for arbitrating the settlement.

In early 1875, Patrick McAvoy, a blacksmith, was hired as keeper of the lighthouse at an annual salary of $100. A glimpse into his life at the lighthouse is provided in the following inspection report for 1877:

Mr. Patrick McAvoy, the Keeper, has a family of eleven children.

Is a white square wooden tower, 20 feet high, and shows a fixed white catoptric light, having three mammoth flat-wick lamps, with two 18-inch reflectors and one 14-inch reflector; size of glass, 36 x 30 1/4-inch. This light is very well kept indeed. New glass is required for two sides of lantern. Mr. McAvoy was instructed to convert oil shed into a sleeping room, and to procure material with which to line the building.

As no keeper’s dwelling had been built with the lighthouse, converting the oil shed into a sleeping room would have allowed Keeper McAvoy to remain at the light during the night. A keeper’s dwelling, which remains standing next to the lighthouse, was finally built in 1879 by John J. McGrath of Sunbury for the sum of $765.

Aerial view of Knapp Point Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy Canadian Coast Guard
Save for a year when he had Thomas Sturdy look after the lighthouse, Patrick McAvoy served as keeper of Knapp Point Lighthouse until passing away from pneumonia on December 20, 1888. Catherine McAvoy was placed in charge of the light after he husband’s death “until a permanent appointment” could be made.

Hugh McLaren was appointed keeper of Knapp’s Point Lighthouse on April 12, 1890, and he served until his passing on February 8, 1896, when his son Allen was made responsible for the light. During Hugh McLaren’s service, the Watertown Daily Times noted in November 1892 that a daring robbery was perpetrated on the keeper by an American vessel that anchored off Long Island Park and stole over $100 worth of nets belonging to the keeper.

After Allen McLaren left lightkeeping in 1905 to run an island hotel known as Hitchcock House, Joseph J. Brophy was appointed keeper. In 1912, Kingston’s British Whig noted that Keeper Brophy was fired because he was a liberal and that William Card, Jr. had been appointed keeper in his stead.

Some sources say that J.S. Webster, who served from 1922 to 1930, was the last keeper of the lighthouse, but according to published Light Lists, a hand-operated foghorn was in use at the lighthouse until 1947, which implies a resident keeper was still there. Also in 1947, the characteristic of the light was changed from fixed white to flashing white, which may have been due to automation of the light.

Knapp’s Point Lighthouse was deactivated in 2000, and the adjacent keeper’s dwelling is now privately owned.

Keepers: John Boyd (1874 – 1875), Patrick McAvoy (1875 – 1878), Thomas Sturdy (1878 – 1879), Patrick McAvoy (1879 – 1888), Catherine McAvoy (1888 – 1890), Hugh McLaren (1890 – 1896), Allen J. McLaren (1896 – 1905), Joseph J. Brophy (1905 – 1912), William W. Card (1912 – 1917), W.L. Allison (1917 – 1918), Malcom McDonald (1918 – 1922), Joseph J. Brophy (1922), J.S. Webster (1922 – 1930).

References

  1. Annual Report of the Department of Marine, various years.

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