|Baie Ellis Range, PQ|
Description: Ellis Bay, only of one two safe harbours on all of Anticosti Island, was known as Gamache Bay, prior to Henry Menierís ownership of the island. Fostering a reputation of half-ogre, half-werewolf, Louis Olivier Gamache settled at Ellis Bay in the early 19th century and became known as the Wizard of Anticosti. Gamache used his sinister reputation to protect his property during a time when the fur and liquor trade brought shady characters to an area without law enforcement.
In reality, he was not a ship-wrecker, nor was there any need for that, with nature hurling hundreds of ill-fated ships upon Anticostiís shores. Gamache did, however, make a tidy living by scooping up what was thrown his way, and while he did promote his fearful reputation, those who knew him, claimed he was a rough but kind man. His lonely life on Anticosti was punctuated with tragedy. His first wife and a child died of smallpox, and later, upon returning from an eight-day inspection of his trap lines, he found his second wife dead and his three children, ages six, four, and two, starving and cold.
Gamache died at the age of seventy, in September 1854, while taking his breakfast, a mug of undiluted navy rum.
Forty years later, there was a new owner of Ellis Bay, and two lights were established to legitimately bring ships into port.
In 1895, Henri Menier, a French sportsman who had made millions in the chocolate industry, purchased Anticosti Island as a private hunting ground. Over the previous ten years, he and his friend, Georges Martin-Zede, had explored the world on Menierís three-masted, 800-ton barque, LaValleda, searching for a sportsmanís paradise. When they acquired Anticosti, they decided to not only use it as a hunting ground, but to exploit its resources and create a mini-fiefdom.
Ellis Bay was the only location on the island favorable for a deep-sea port, and under Martin-Zedeís leadership, the village of Port Menier was formed on its shores. In 1903 - 1904, a substantial pier, nearly a kilometer long, was extended from Port Menier into waters deep enough for ships to safely harbour and unload their cargo.
Georges Martin-Zede wrote the following regarding the new range lights: "The shorter, [...] would end up at the wharf at Port-Menier, the other [...]near the villa [...]. These two lights would be fixed oil pressure lights and the illuminating areas would not exceed the two headlands at the entrance of the Bay: Cape Henry and Cape Agile. The Canadian government was informed of this improvement that was made for the islandís navigation service and was granted franchise rights: they would be considered as settlers and would not have to pay duties."
The 1906 Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries described them as follows:
The front light is shown from a tower standing on the outer end of the breakwater built out from the east shore of the bay. It is a cylindrical cast-iron tower, surmounted by a circular metal lantern, and stands upon a concrete foundation in the form of a frustrum of a cone. The foundation and lower are painted white and the lantern roof red. The light is fixed white dioptric of the fourth order, visible over an arc of 90 degrees, and is elevated 35 feet above high water mark and visible 11 miles. The back tower stands on land near the shore at the bottom of the bay, 5,000 feet from the front one. It is similar to the front tower, but is 52 feet high, and stands on a foundation about 10 feet high of stone masonry, in the form of a frustrum of a cone. The light is similar to the front one, is elevated 79 feet above high water mark, and visible 14 miles over an arc of 90 degrees.
The lights were listed as privately owned, but would be exhibited for strangers when information was received of a vesselís arrival.
The colony on Anticosti Island was never profitable, and when Menier died in 1915, his heir backed away from the project, and the island was eventually sold in 1926 to the Anticosti Corporation, who maintained the logging operations. Port Menier became a boomtown for a short period, but with the onset of the Great Depression, the townís population fell to about 400, and never again returned to its glory days. Consolidated Paper Corporation gained control of Anticosti Island in 1931 and merged with Bathurst Paper in 1968 to form Consolidated - Bathurst Limited.
Due to modifications to the wharf to improve docking facilities, the cast-iron towers had to be relocated in 1927. The towers were moved to a new alignment at the head of the bay, where the front range light was 500 yards from the shore and the rear tower was another 999 yards inland.
In 1974, the paper corporation sold Anticosti Island to the Canadian government for $23,780,000. The historic range lights were decommissioned some time after 1985 and replaced by a modern set of range lights (front, rear) that remain in operation. When the Menier Chateau site was being improved, local residents also restored the back range light and placed it nearby on a new foundation. With financing from the North Shore Sector of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Quebec and local contributions, the rear range tower was lowered from its crumbling base onto a bed of pine boughs during the winter of 1989 and dragged to its new site. During this process, its lantern room was damaged, and it was decided to replace it with the one from the front range light. The rear tower was sandblasted, painted white, and placed atop a new concrete foundation near the Menier Chateau during the summer of 1990, and interpretive panels were installed to share the history of the lighthouse.
The restored rear tower, which has been a privileged witness of port activities for more than a century, is rusted once again, evidence of the harsh weather conditions that have always plagued Anticosti Island. The front tower, which sacrificed its lantern room for the rear tower, remains standing in the woods just off the road to Baie Sainte Claire.
Located at Port-Menier, near the eastern end of őle d'Anticosti. The lighthouse is owned by Port-Menier. Grounds open, tower closed.
The lighthouse is owned by Port-Menier. Grounds open, tower closed.
Notes from a friend:Kraig writes:
With some time to kill before returning our SEPAQ Ford F-250 to the airport and catching our flight off the island, we drove around Port Menier and happened across this doe and fawn, two of the 166,000 white-tail deer on Anticosti Island. We had heard conflicting reports about the status of the original front range light so we decided to see if we could find any signs of it. We finally concluded that this rusted metal tower, which is located on the ground near the foundations of the Menier Chateau, seems to be about the right size and has the features to be the remains of the front tower. We thought of asking in the local tourist information centre if they knew anything about the old front range light but figured our very limited French would likely prevent an intelligible conversation on that topic.
See our List of Lighthouses in Quebec Canada
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, Sonia Michaud, used by permission.