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 Cap-de-la-Madeleine Lower Range, PQ    
Description: Cap-de-la-Madeleine, situated on the east bank of the Saint-Maurice River and the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River, was its own city until it was amalgamated into the City of Trois-Rivières in 2002. Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers) is situated on two rivers, the west bank of the Saint-Maurice River and the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River, but was named for the fact that two islands divide the Saint-Maurice River into three streams where it meets the St. Lawrence River.

Cap Madeleine Lower Front Range Light circa 1900
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
Cap-de-la-Madeleine was founded on March 20, 1651 and named by Jacques de La Fertém, abbot of Sainte-Madeleine de Châteaudun in France. The community is famous for its basilica, Basilique Notre-Dame du Cap, dedicated to Our Lady of the Cape. Thousands of pilgrims are drawn to the basilica each year as it marks the site where two miracles were performed: the Miracle of the Ice Bridge and the Miracle of the Eyes.

The winter of 1878 – 1879 was unusually mild and prevented the transportation of stone blocks across the St. Lawrence to build a new church at Cap-de-la-Madeleine. Father Desilets asked his congregation to pray for ice to cross the river, and in March 1879, large pieces of ice flowed down from Lake Saint-Pierre and formed an ice bridge at Cap-de-la-Madeleine that could be used for hauling the stone across the river.

On June 22, 1888, a small fieldstone church was dedicated as “Our Lady of the Cape Shrine.” That evening, two fathers and a handicapped man form Trois-Rivières were praying in the shrine when they all witnessed the statue of Mary on the main altar open its eyes for five or ten minutes.

Two sets of range lights, Cap Madeleine Lower and Cape Madeleine Upper, were established in 1843 on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River just downstream from Cap-de-la-Madeleine. The lower lights were located three miles below the cape and spaced 200 yards apart, while the upper lights were two miles below the cape and spaced 235 yards apart. All four of the towers used for exhibiting the lights were described as white, wooden towers.

Cap Madeleine Lower Back Range Light circa 1900
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
Paul Manuel served as the first keeper of the Lower Range from 1842 to 1888, when responsibility for the front and rear lights was divided between two men. Land for the Lower Range was acquired from Joseph Moise Deconcour in 1857 for £3. In 1875, the front tower had to be moved back forty-five feet, owing to the caving in of the river bank, and in 1877, it had to be moved back another sixty feet. As the light was now on private land, an eighteen by twenty-five foot parcel had to be purchased for thirty dollars from Zenobie Toupin, who would become keeper of the rear light in 1888.

Pascal Montplaisir served as the first keeper of the Upper Range from 1842 until his death in 1877, when Antoine Montplaisir took charge of the lights. Besides his annual salary, Keeper Pascal Montplaisir also received twelve dollars in rent money each year as he owned the land on which the towers stood. In 1870, the lamps and reflectors used in the towers of the Upper Range were found to be “not at all in the order in which they should be,” and Keeper Montplaisir was cautioned to be more particular in his service. After mariners complained about the weakness of the Upper Range Lights, the lamp in each tower was changed from a No. 1 flat-wick lamp to a No. 2 circular-wick lamp. Each of these lamps was set in a twenty-inch reflector and consumed about 100 gallons of oil each season.

Continued erosion at the lower range necessitated the following work in 1891, as documented in the Annual Report of the Department of Marine:

In consequence of the encroachment of the river on the site of the front range light tower of the lower range at Cape Madeleine, in the County of Champlain, on the north shore of the River St. Lawrence, between Quebec and Montreal, it was necessary to remove the building, and advantage was taken of this to improve the range by increasing the distance between the two towers, and also by increasing the height of both buildings. The front range light has been moved 290 feet N. 60° 30” E. from its former position, and now stands 230 feet back from the river bank, at a point 2 ½ miles below Cape Madeleine parish church. The building consists of a wooden tower, square in plan, surmounted by a polygonal lantern, and is 20 feet high from its base to the vane on the lantern, the whole painted white. The light is fixed white, elevated 44 feet above the level of the river, and should be visible 6 miles in the line of range. The illuminating apparatus is catoptric. The back range tower is distant 536 feet N. 60° 30’ E. from the front one, and shows a similar light, elevated 54 feet above the water, which should also be visible 6 miles. The building is 36 feet high. The two lights in range lead into the upper entrance to the channel north of Provencher Shoal. The work involved in these improvements was executed under contract by Mr. F. A. Verrette of Three Rivers, whose contract price was $530.

Cap Madeleine Upper Range Lights
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
A third set of range lights, known as Cap Madeleine Village, was established near Cap-de-la-Madeleine in 1904 to mark the ship channel through Becancour Traverse. Day beacons in the village had previously marked the channel during daylight hours, and these were adapted for night navigation by hoisting a lantern up each of them starting in October 1904. The front beacon was located about 1/3 mile below the village church, with the rear beacon situated 2,250 feet N. 87° W. from the front beacon. The following year, new structures were built for the range in the form of a twenty-three-foot-tall, square, wooden building, with an octagonal lantern, for the front light, and a sixty-three-foot-tall steel, skeletal tower, with an enclosed wooden watchroom and a square wooden lantern room, for the rear light. Cape Madeleine Village Range received new towers in 1917. The new front tower had a square lantern instead of an octagonal one and was three feet taller than its predecessor. The new rear tower was similar in description to its predecessor but stood twenty-three feet taller.

The Lower Range received new towers of the following description in 1906:

New towers were built for the lower range lights at this place, and the old range lighthouses taken down. The front lighthouse stands on the north shore, 400 feet back from the water’s edge, 250 feet N. 83° W. from the site of the old front lighthouse, and 2 ½ miles below Cap Madeleine village church. It is a square wooden building with sloping sides painted white, surmounted by an octagonal wooden lantern painted white with the roof red, and is 30 feet high from its base to the top of the ventilator on the lantern. The light is a fixed white catoptric light, elevated 51 feet above the summer level of the river and visible 7 miles in line of range.

The back tower stands 2,880 feet N. 59° E. from the front lighthouse. It consists of an open steel framework, square in plan, with sloping sides, painted brown, surmounted by an inclosed wooden watchroom and a square wooden lantern. The side of the framework facing the channel is rendered more conspicuous as a day beacon by being covered half way down with wooden slatwork. The sides of the lantern, the watchroom and the slats are painted white, and the lantern roof red. The tower is 87 feet high from its base to the top of the ventilator on the lantern. The light is a fixed white catoptric light, elevated 108 feet above the summer level of the river, and visible 7 miles in the line of range.

This work was performed by day’s labour, under the superintendence of the Montreal agency, and cost $3,863.90.

Cap Madeleine Upper Range was discontinued in 1937, and the following year a new range, known as Cape Madeleine Wharf Range was established near the church in Cap-de-la-Madeleine. Originally, the Wharf Range consisted of lights exhibited from steel poles to which diamond-shaped, slatwork daymarks were attached.

Today, the lights at Cap Madeleine Lower Range and Cap Madeleine Wharf Range are displayed from skeletal towers.

Keepers:
Cap Madeleine Lower

  • Both: Paul Manuel (1842 – 1888),
  • Front: Moise Manuel dit Hebert (1888 – at least 1923).
  • Back: Zenobie Toupin (1888 – 1892), Elzéar Arcand (1892 – 1904), Pierre Toupin (1905 – 1907), Godfrey Vaillancourt (1907 – 1912), Thos. Arcand (1912 – at least 1923).
Cap Madeleine Upper
  • Both: Pascal Montplaisir (1842 – 1877), Antoine Montplaisir (1877 – 1904), Dom. Montplaisir (1904 – 1905)
  • Front: Godfrey Vallaincourt (1906 – 1907), Pierre Toupin (1907 – 1912), D. Montplaisir (1912 – at least 1923).
  • Back: Elzéar Beaumier (1905 – 1912), L. Loranger (1912 – at least 1923).
Cap Madeleine Village
  • Front: Thos. Rocheleau (1912 – at least 1923).
  • Back: Earnest Lacourse (1906 – 1912), I. De Grandmont (1912 – 1917), G. De Lottinville (1917 – at least 1923).

References

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

Location: Located on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River, roughly five kilometres northeast of Cap-de-la-Madeleine.
Latitude: 46.393389       Latitude: 46.400379
Longitude: -72.462435   Longitude: -72.454712

For a larger map of Cap-de-la-Madeleine Lower Range Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: Cap-de-la-Madeleine Lower Range Front Light is best seen by boat, but the rear light can readily by seen by car. From Cap-de-la-Madeleine, travel northeast on QC-138 for 5.4 km (3.4 miles) and then turn left on Route de Red Mill. You will see the rear tower on Route de Red Mill after 650 metres.

The range lights are owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds/towers closed.

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