|Davieaux Island, ON|
Description: Measuring twenty-six kilometres east to west and ten kilometres north to south, Michipicoten Island is the third-largest island in Lake Superior and is blessed with numerous lakes and a fine bay on its southern shore known as Québec Harbour. As the island is sixty kilometres from Michipicoten Harbour, the nearest port on the mainland, fishermen and lighthouse keepers would typically remain on the island all season rather than risk unnecessary crossings.
As it needed to be seen at a greater distance, the main light was originally equipped with five No. 1 circular-burner lamps set in twenty-inch reflectors while the light on Agate Island had two flat-wick lamps set in sixteen-inch reflectors. Peter McIntyre, who had previously served as keeper of Point Pelee Reef Lighthouse, was placed in charge of the Michipicoten Lights, which were placed in operation in the late summer of 1872. The total cost for the two lights at Michipicoten Island and the one on Porphyry Point came to $7.549.37. A fog bell was added to the main light in 1873 to help mariners find the harbour during foggy weather.
The following description of the two lights was made by Darius Smith, Superintendent of Lighthouses above Monteral, after visiting them in 1878:
Arrived in Quebec Harbour on the 25th July, at 11.30 p.m., and landed stores and oil; it is a square wooden tower, 32 feet high from base to vane [with dwelling-house attached], and shows a white fixed catoptric light from an iron lantern 8 feet in diameter, containing three mammoth flat-wick lamps, with 20 inch reflectors; size of glass, 30 x 36 inches. A bell tower is in operation here, weight of bell is 960 lbs.; the machinery is in very good order.
In 1913, Keeper Charles Davieaux hatched a plan to make millions off of Michipicoten Island that he shared with the editor of Rod and Gun in Canada:
I am a light-house keeper at Michipicoten Island, Lake Superior. The Island is about 18 miles long by 6 miles wide and contains over 30 lakes and streams which are abundantly furnished with brook trout and beautiful scenery. The scenery is most picturesque; there are many strange caves on the Island, which abound with rabbits, weasels and muskrats. Some forty years ago there were plenty of fur bearing animals such as beaver, lynx, otter, mink, fishers, bears, caribou, marten and red, black cross and silver foxes. About this time the Indians did so much killing of these animals that they became exterminated, leaving only the rabbits, muskrats, weasels and foxes. Ten years ago there were plenty of foxes but as there was no law to prevent any one from poisoning foxes men set poison all over the Island and the foxes were also exterminated.
When the fog bell, tolled by machinery, broke in 1898, it was discontinued rather than repaired, as the harbour was no longer frequented by much shipping. This changed in 1917, after the Department of Public Works deepened the channel leading into the harbour to create a harbour of refuge for lake steamers that was “commodious and absolutely sheltered.” Enhanced navigational aids were deemed necessary for the improved harbour. A reinforced concrete tower was built on Davieaux Island, to replace the main lighthouse on the east point of the entrance to the harbour, and two range lights were built on the north shore of the harbour to replace the light on Agate Island. The old lighthouse from Agate Island was relocated to serve as the front light of the new range, and a square, forty-two-foot-tall tower was erected 600 feet inland to serve as the rear range light. Mariners could use Davieaux Island Lighthouse to approach Michipicoten Island and then follow the new range lights to safely pass between Davieaux Island and Hope Island and enter the harbour.
Construction of a new lighthouse on the summit of Davieaux Island, formerly known as Long Island, south of Michipicoten Island, to the west of the course into the dredged cut at the entrance to Quebec Harbor of Refuge, Lake Superior, was completed in September, 1918.In July 1919, a fog bell was established on the east end of Davieuax Island, sounding one stroke every eight seconds as needed.
Charles Davieaux and his wife raised seven children at the remote station, one of whom, May, a daughter, died on the island at the age of seven. Keeper Davieaux built boats on Michipicoten Island, and the first one he worked on was a launch for his son Edwin. After learning that Edwin, who had gone off to fight in World War I, had drowned at Camp Borden, Keeper Davieaux named the boat the Ste. Claire after his youngest daughter. “Our house was on mainland,” Claire recalled, “and father would row across the bay every evening where he would have to spend the night. He would have to wake up around midnight and climb to the light and wind the giant spring which would turn the light until morning.”
The keeper of Davieaux Island Lighthouse and the Québec Habour Range Lights resided in the residence that was part of the old main light until a new dwelling was built at the front range light in 1938 and then on Davieaux Island itself in 1965.
The hexagonal concrete tower atop Davieaux Island remains active, displaying a white flash every twenty seconds, while a pair of skeletal towers exhibit fixed red range lights for entering Québec Harbour.
Keepers: Peter McIntyre (1872 – 1881), Hyacinthe Davieaux (1881 – 1910), Charles Davieaux (1910 – 1933), Joseph Davieaux (1933), Joseph T. Miron (1934 – 1943), Fred Hurley (1943 – 1944), Norman Cormier (1945 – 1958), Roy Ellis (1959), Gordon F. Dawson (1960 – 1964), Bob Nelder (1965 – 1967), Milton Hughes (1967 – ).
Located on the summit of Davieaux Island just off the entrance to Québec Harbour on the southern shore of Michipicoten Island. The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Joel Cooper, used by permission.