|Pie Island, ON|
Description: Pie Island, known in French as Île Pâté or simply Le Pâté, is the largest of several islands that clutter the entrance to Thunder Bay. Le Pâté typically means a meat pie with a crust and refers to the westernmost mesa on Pie Island. This prominent mesa, which is cliffed on all sides and rises 438 metres above the surrounding water, is now protected as Le Pâté Provincial Nature Reserve.
A new light was put in operation on the 15th September last, on the west extremity of Pie Island, at the Western entrance to Thunder Bay, Lake Superior, District of Algoma.Besides building the light, A.W. Daby also earned an annual salary of $75 caring for the light, before Thomas Hamilton took charge in 1899. To help mariners navigate in thick weather, Keeper Hamilton was supplied a hand-operated foghorn in 1901.
The following changes to Pie Island Light were made in 1904:
This lighthouse has been removed from the point on which it stood near the wharf, on the west extremity of the island, to the second point northward, a distance of about ľ mile. In its new position it is immediately west of Le Paté, the highest part of the island. In its new location it stands 50 feet back from the water’s edge and 15 feet above the water.
Government records don’t list who served as keeper of Pie Island Lighthouse from 1906 to 1908, when James Forbes was hired. While Keeper Hamilton’s death was tragic, the demise of Keeper Forbes was gruesome. On October 21, 1911, the Syracuse Journal published an article stating that “Robert Forbes, the lighthouse keeper on Pie Island, 25 miles from Fort William, was murdered by two Indians, who then helped themselves to a gallon cask of wood alcohol and died from the excess. Forbes was found with head battered in, and the bodies of the Indians were not far away.”
The murderers, whose bodies were found in a cabin on Squaw Bay, were identified as Mose McCon, chief of a Squaw Band located north of Thunder Bay, and Fred Smith. The alcohol had been used at the lighthouse to clean the light.
X. Frank was hired as a temporary keeper on October 16, 1911, following the murder of Keeper Forbes, and J. Vernon assumed control of the lighthouse in 1912. Keeper Forbes served through the 1920 season, and on the opening of navigation in 1921, Pie Island Lighthouse was equipped with an automatic occulting white acetylene gas light shown from a seventh-order lantern lens. The light was made unwatched at this time, and the hand foghorn was discontinued.
In 1953, a twenty-three-foot-tall steel tower topped by a red lantern took the place of the wooden tower, but the original lighthouse was left standing. Today, the light on Pie Island is displayed from a cylindrical mast that sports a red-and-white rectangular daymark. The characteristic of this light is a white flash every four seconds.
In 2010, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced its intention to demolish Pie Island Lighthouse. Besides disposing of the old wooden tower, the work was to include dismantling the concrete pier foundations and performing soil remediation at the site. Tenders for the demolition were to close on August 3, 2010, and the work was to be completed by mid-September, but fortunately the destruction of the historic lighthouse was halted. Instead, the tower was spruced up and given a new coat of paint.
Pie Island Lighthouse stands on Crown land that was transferred to Fort Williams First Nation in 2011 to settle a 160-year-old land claim. The lighthouse may be relocated in the future.
Head Keepers: A.W. Daby (1895 – 1898), Thomas Hamilton (1899 – 1906), James Forbes (1908 – 1911), X. Frank (1911 – 1912), Joseph Vernon (1912 – 1920).
Located on the western point of Pie Island, 20 km (12.5 miles) south of Thunder Bay. 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 Charles Bash, Paul Morralee, used by permission.