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Île de Bellechasse, PQ     

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Île de Bellechasse Lighthouse

Île de Bellechasse is a long, thin, rocky island located just off the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River, roughly opposite the eastern end of Île-d’Orléans. In 1828, a special committee, which was appointed by the House of Assembly of Lower Canada to determine if lighthouses should be established on the Pillars, the Islands of Belle Chase, Point Saint Laurent on Île-d’Orléans, or other places below Quebec, asked Captain Bayfield of the Royal Navy his opinion on the matter, and he replied, “It is perfectly ridiculous to establish a Light on Bellechasse Island, but a small Light on the end of Pointe Saint Laurent would be useful, as it would enable vessels to run through in the night between it and the Beaumont shoals.”

Île Bellechasse Lighthouse in 1935
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
In 1860, the Parliament of the Province of Canada set aside a sum not exceeding $40,000 for the erection of new lighthouses on Brandy Pots Island, Long Pilgrim Island, Grande Isle de Kamouraska, Bellechasse Island, and Crane Island to help mark the navigable river channel below Quebec. Nineteen tenders for the work were received, and a contract was awarded to Louis Dery of Quebec for the construction of all five lighthouses. Lanterns and lighting apparatuses were ordered from England for the five lighthouses, and materials were made ready during the winter of 1860 – 1861 so that work could commence in the spring.

Three of the five lighthouses, including the one on Île de Bellechasse, were completed during 1861, and much progress was made on the remaining two. The following description of Bellechasse Island Lighthouse was given shortly before it was activated in 1862:

Bellechasse Island. — On the north-east end of this Island, at a point about 30 feet over the water-surface, a light tower has been erected, 29 ½ feet in height, with a sleeping apartment for the keeper attached to it. It consists of a square structure of wooden framework, with an octagonal lantern on it, 270 degrees of which are illuminated by means of 5 lamps, and a like number of parabolic reflectors – each 23 inches in diameter. The centre of the light will be about 64 feet over ordinary water surface.

A storm in October 1869 carried away a portion of the stairway that led down the rocky island to the river, and Mr. Cote and two men were landed on the island later that month to rebuild the missing portion of the stairs.

When Keeper Edward Thivierge complained in 1876 that the lighthouse leaked, he was told to have the clapboard siding nailed down, puttied, and painted. This must have been insufficient as by 1878, two sides of the tower had planks placed over its clapboards to make those sides watertight. Keeper Thivierge was pleased with the improvement and requested that the other two leaky sides receive the same treatment.

Keeper Thivierge didn’t have to worry about the leaky lighthouse much longer as he was superannuated in 1880 and replaced by Jean Baptiste Galibois, who was initially paid an annual salary of $320 and would look after the light until 1903.

Just prior to the opening of navigation in 1903, the fixed white light at Île de Bellechasse was changed to an occulting white light that was alternately visible for fifty-one seconds and eclipsed for three seconds. This change was brought about through the installation of a fourth-order lens that was illuminated by a lamp that burned petroleum vapour under an incandescent mantle.

Bellechasse Island Lighthouse was automated in 1964, and then replaced in 1969 by a skeletal tower. Today, a flashing yellow light is shown from a square, skeletal tower.

Keepers: Edward Thivierge (at least 1866 – 1880), Jean Baptiste Galibois (1880 – 1903), Joseph O. Bilodeau (1903 – 1918), P. Bilodeau (1918 – 1920), E. Aubert (1920), F. Dupuis (1920 – 1926), C.F. Gaumond (1926 – at least 1937), Lauréat Gaumond (1946-1963).

References

  1. Annual Report of the Department of Marine, various years.
  2. Report of the Commissioner of Public Works, various years.

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