|Pilier de Pierre (Stone Pillar), PQ|
Description: The Traverse is a tricky section of the south channel of the St. Lawrence River below Quebec. Here, the tides are strong, rocks abound, and good anchorages are hard to find. Two small, rocky islets, known as The Pillars, are located at the south end or head of the Traverse, about three miles from the southern shore of the river. Stone Pillar is a quarter of a mile long and barren, while Woody Pillar, lying a mile and a quarter west of Stone Pillar, has trees on its western side.
The schooner-rigged Brillant was moored at the foot of the Traverse in 1831, but the following year, Trinity House of Quebec, “considering the inefficiency of the Floating Light at the North East entrance of the Traverse, without an auxiliary Light at the South West entrance of that narrow Channel,” called for a lighthouse on Stone Pillar.
This additional light was not approved until 1841, when an act was passed allowing two pence to be collected from all vessels departing Quebec or Montreal between 1843 and 1845 for ports outside the province. The money thus collected would be used to construct lighthouses on Stone Pillar and on the Island of Bicquette.
Appropriately, a circular stone tower, designed by Charles Atherton and built under the direction of Joseph Archer, was erected on Stone Pillar. The tower’s lighting apparatus, containing fifteen lamps and reflectors, revolved every minute-and-a-half to produce a flashing light that was first exhibited on September 28, 1843. Besides housing the light, for its first twenty years, the tower also served as the residence for the keeper.
The increasing speed of vessels navigating the St. Lawrence made it desirable in 1894 to shorten the period of rotation of several flashing lights along the river. The characteristic of Stone Pillar was thus changed from a white flash every ninety seconds to a white flash every thirty seconds.
The inspector’s report in 1893 noted that the stone dwelling house at Stone Pillar was old and in bad order and was to be renewed. This work was carried out in 1895, when a new dwelling was built at a cost of $975.
A serious fire at the station in July of 1913 destroyed the 1895 dwelling along with the lantern and lighting apparatus. A replacement dwelling was built under contract by J. E. Forin for $4,444.44, and a new lantern and single flash, long focus reflector were provided and installed atop the tower for $3,383.21. The characteristic of the lighthouse with its new lighting apparatus was a fixed white light for three-and-a-half seconds, intensified by a flash, followed by a three-and-a-half-second eclipse.
Just 1,900 feet south of Stone Pillar is Algernon Rock, a rocky spine barely visible at high tide. Shortly after midnight on June 1, 1857, the 277-foot-long Canadian, owned by the Montreal Steamship Company, ran aground on this dangerous ledge. The vessel was a total loss, but all aboard survived.
It was then decided to install a sixth-order lens in the tower, and a fixed white light commenced operation at Algernon Rock on April 20, 1880. The keeper at Stone Pillar Lighthouse was also responsible for the light on Algernon Rock, but it was understood that he would hire an assistant to take care of it. In 1905, the wooden pier, which had been sheathed in iron plates as a protection against ice, was refaced with concrete. The light was made unwatched in 1927, and then in 1947, the wooden tower was demolished and replaced with a metal, skeletal tower.
Antonio Bourgault, the last keeper of Stone Pillar Lighthouse, served for thirty-four years, longer than any of his predecessors. During his tenure, the keeper’s dwelling burned down on November 20, 1955, and Bourgault was forced to live in a small shed until the station was de-staffed in 1960.
With the financial support of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Friends of Port-Joli, a non-profit organization formed to promote the maritime heritage of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, worked to restore Stone Pillar Lighthouse between 2006 and 2008. As part of this effort, the tower’s door and windows were replaced along with the glass in the lantern room. A solar-powered LED lighting system was installed in the lantern room, and the joints in the tower were repointed. The Friends also installed informational signs at a rest stop along QC-132 near Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, where the public can get a distant view of the tower and learn about its intriguing history. To complete the restoration of the station, the Friends would eventually like to rebuild the keeper’s dwelling.
Keepers: Charles Julyan (1843 – 1854), Thomas Roche (1854 – 1859), Henry Harding (1859 – 1862), D. Vaughan (1862 – 1869), Damase Babin (1870 – 1874), Louis Damase Babin, Jr. (1874 – 1901), Georges-Octave Leclere (1901 – 1911), E. Francouer (1912 – 1921), Joseph-Francis Giasson (1921 – 1926), Antonio Bourgault (1926 – 1960).
Located on a rocky islet in the St. Lawrence River off Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds/tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds/tower closed.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, used by permission.