St. Ignace Island is situated along the northern shore of Lake Superior at the entrance to Nipigon Bay and is the second largest island in that lake, after Isle Royale. Though the lighthouse was named St. Ignace, the square, wooden tower was actually situated on Talbot Island, off the southern shore of St. Ignace Island.
The lighthouse was completed during the summer of 1867, and William Perry was appointed its first keeper. At the close of the navigation season in November of that year, Keeper Perry extinguished the light and started for a post of the Hudson’s Bay Company in an open boat. He never reached his destination, and the following spring, his body was found on the mainland in Nipigon Bay about fourteen miles from the post he was trying to reach.
Thomas Lamphier was placed in charge of the lighthouse in 1868, and a suitable residence was built on the island that year so the keeper would not have to leave the station at the end of the navigation season. The cost of the new dwelling was $643.74. Keeper Lamphier died in June 1871, and Andrew Hynes was appointed keeper in his place at an annual salary of $400.
At the close of navigation in 1872, Keeper Hynes left the station and endured much fatigue and difficulty in reaching the mainland. It took him eighteen days to travel fifty miles to reach Silver Islet, and after he arrived there, he died from the effects of exposure. St. Ignace Lighthouse was established, in part, for the benefit of fisheries in that area, but as they had not proved to be as valuable as anticipated, the light was of very little importance. Due to this, and the fact that two lighthouse keepers had perished trying to reach the mainland from the station, the decision was made to discontinue the light.
In 1875, the Department of Marine contracted Joseph White to build two lighthouses on Battle Island and Lamb Island to mark, respectively, the eastern and western entrances to Nipigon Bay. The lights were expected to be finished during the 1876 season, but due to “unexpected difficulties encountered by the contractor,” they were not placed in operation until 1877.
While delivering the lantern rooms to these two new lighthouses in 1876, Darius Smith, Superintendent of Lights above Montreal, noted in his report that the discontinued St. Ignace Lighthouse and its dwelling were in apparent good order. The following season, Smith stopped at St. Ignace Lighthouse and removed two lamps and the oil tank from the station. He reported that two window frames had been removed from the dwelling, the door had been broken off the lantern room of the lighthouse, and everything was going to decay.
There was talk of trying to use St. Ignace Lighthouse at another location when it was discontinued, but this never happened.
Keepers: William Perry (1867), Thomas Lamphier (1868 – 1871), Andrew Hynes (1871 – 1872).