|Cape Bear, PE|
Description: After Parliament appropriated $2,000 in 1880, tenders were invited for the construction of a new lighthouse on Cape Bear, near the southeastern tip of Prince Edward Island. John Whalen received $1,374 for completing the lighthouse the following year on land that was purchased for $75 from Thomas Munn. The original lantern and lighting apparatus cost $1,044 and were shipped to the island in seventeen cases.
The wooden, tapered tower is 12.4 metres (40.7 feet) in height from base to vane and is square in design. The elevated terrain on which the lighthouse stands contributes to the light's focal plane of 22.6 metres (74.1 feet).
In 1891, leaks in the roof were patched, the cellar floor was taken up, the chimney above the roof was repaired, and the corner casings on the tower were removed and the shingling extended to the corners. A contractor bored a hole to a depth of sixty feet at the station in 1893 in an attempt to create a well, but now water was found. This work didn’t cost the government anything as the contractor undertook the task on condition of it being successful. A well was successfully dug in 1898 at a cost of $100.
In 1899, the keeper's dwelling attached to the tower was extended by 6.4 metres (21 feet) at a cost of $463.85. In 1947, Wesley Coles, a house hauler from Prince County, moved the lighthouse and attached dwelling due to erosion of the nearby cliffs.
The first keeper of the lighthouse was Thomas H. Munn, who received an annual salary of $300. Keeper Munn, according to family tradition, fell from the lantern in 1890 and was bedridden for three years before he passed away in 1893. During this period, his son, John, cared for the light. William Harris was appointed keeper at Cape Bear on November 11, 1896 and was succeeded by Martin L. Jordan in 1905.
Hiram Hyde of Murray Harbour was the fourth keeper of the Cape Bear Lighthouse, and when he passed away his body was laid out in the base of the tower. Wallace White recalls that he and a friend went to the lighthouse, as they had never seen a dead man. En route to the lighthouse, the two boys were chased by Vimy White with a stick after cutting through her yard. Wallace claims they were more afraid of her than they were of seeing a “real deceased man.”
Clarence White, a veteran of World War I, served as the fifth keeper at Cape Bear, and he was replaced by Ewart Keeping.
A Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station was built adjacent to the Cape Bear Lighthouse in 1905, one of seven such stations established by the Department of Marine and Fisheries around that time. Its principal purpose was to communicate with ships at sea and the ice-breaking steamers, Stanley and Minto, which linked Pictou, Nova Scotia with Charlottetown and Georgetown, Prince Edward Island. B. E. Hobbs operated the station from 1905 to 1912, and Thomas Bartlett then kept the station until it was relocated to Charlottetown in 1922.
During the Second World War, the Cape Bear Lighthouse proved useful for spotting German U-boats that approached the coast. Several were seen along the shore but disappeared while being tracked.
Electricity reached the station in 1960, the same year that Keeper Ewart A. Keeping retired after serving at the lighthouse since 1926. Following automation of the station, the dwelling was moved a quarter of a mile up the road in 1960, where it served for a time as a cabin for overnight guests.
A barn built around 1906 was removed in 1954, and an oil house built in 1939 was removed in 1959, when the last keeper retired.
In 1998, the Cape Bear Lighthouse was leased to the newly formed Northumberland Community Development Corporation, which restored the tower, added the Marconi Museum, and opened the complex to the public.
In September 2009, Northumberland Community Development Corporation was in discussions with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard over the need to move Cape Bear Lighthouse, as the nearby shoreline was being lost at the rate of roughly one metre per year. Northumberland Community Development Corporation would like to take ownership of the lighthouse and relocate it to a thirty-two-hectare parcel of land called Bill of the Cape, which has a spectacular view and more space than is available at Cape Bear. The proposed location would be able to accommodate tour buses, which would broaden the clientele base at the combination lighthouse and Marconi museum.
After surveying commercial fishermen and recreational boaters regarding the need for a light at Cape Bear, the Coast Guard decided to replace the Cape Bear Lighthouse with a light on a metal tower. A new square, skeletal tower was erected near the lighthouse in May 2011 and now serves as the official Cape Bear Light.
Cape Bear Lighthouse and Marconi Station Incorporated purchase fifty hectares of land roughly 400 metres east of lighthouse and hopes to move the structure in October 2014, after receiving ownership from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “It’s about the only thing we have left down in southern Kings County. It’s one of the last symbols,” said group president Wallace Jorden.
Keepers: Thomas H. Munn (1881 – Sept. 1893), Mrs. M. Munn (Oct – Dec. 1893), John T. Munn (1894 – 1896), William Harris (1896 – 1905), Martin Luther Jordan (1905 - 1912), Hiram Hyde (1912 - 1924), Clarence R. White (1924 – 1926), Ewert Allen Keeping (1926 – 1959).
Located on Cape Bear, on the southeastern point of Prince Edward Island. The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower open in season.
The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower open in season.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.