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Spectacles Shoal, ON  Lighthouse destroyed.   

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Spectacles Shoal Lighthouse

Red Horse Rock and Spectacle Shoal are two obstructions in the St. Lawrence River west of Gananoque. Red Horse Rock is located just off the southwest tip of Beaurivage Island, while Spectacle Shoal is located one kilometre northeast of Red Horse Rock.

The General Report of the Commissioners of Public Works for 1852-1853 noted that lights had recently been established at Grenadier Island, Fiddler’s Elbow, Lindoe Island, Gananoque Narrows, Jack Straw Shoal, Spectacle Shoal, Red Horse Rock, and Burnt Island, permitting the mail boats to operate at night between Brockville and Kingston.

Due to the proximity of the lighthouses on Red Horse Rock and Spectacle Shoal, one keeper was assigned to look after them. Hiram Cook was listed as keeper of the lights in 1856. He served until 1858, when Daniel Bryant took charge of the lights. James Ward replaced Bryant as keeper in 1863, but only served a matter of months before John Buck was made keeper of the lights in 1864.

The following report on the two lighthouses appeared in the Annual Report of the Department of Marine for 1876:

(JOHN BUCK, Keeper.)

In the former there are two dual-burner fountain lamps on a circle, and no reflectors. The lantern is three feet in diameter; glass 14 x 16 inches. The tower is 22 feet high from the ground, and 14 feet square, while the light is 28 feet high. It is very well kept. Red Horse Rock Lighthouse is of the same description, and has the same number of lamps and no reflectors. They are both on piers, and are under the care of the same keeper. As they require painting, I left paint and oil for the purpose, and the painting is now in progress.

New cribwork was built under Red Horse Rock Lighthouse just prior to the opening of navigation in 1888 at a cost of $207. In 1890, the cribwork foundation of Spectacle Shoal lighthouse was rebuilt from the water’s edge at a cost of $180.

In 1880, the Annual Report of the Department of Marine noted: “By Order in Council of the 10th August last, Mr. William Jackson was appointed keeper of the lighthouses at Spectacle Shoal and Red Horse Rock, at a salary of $400 per annum, in the room of Mr. John Buck, superseded.” Keepers could be dismissed for a variety of reasons including negligence, absence without leave, and political partisanship.

In February 1880, the Gananoque Reporter noted that the Department of Marine and Fisheries was investigating charges against Keeper Buck in an article entitled “Great Buck Hunt.” On July 17, the paper reported that Keeper Buck had been dismissed for leaving the light without permission and placing “intemperate and improper persons” in charge of the lights on multiple occasions. “There seems to be but one opinion on this matter among the people of Gananoque of both political parties,” the article stated, “and this is, that Mr. Buck has been most unfairly dealt with, and dismissed without real cause.”

William Jackson served as keeper from 1880 until 1901, and then John A. Landon looked after the lights until 1904, when the lights were converted to automatic acetylene lights and responsibility of them was given to Manley Cross, the keeper of Gananoque Narrows Light and Jack Straw Shoal Light. The lights on Burnt Island and Lindoe Island were also automated around this time, so Keeper Cross had charge of six lights in the area.

In 1912, the government decided to place keepers again at the four lights that had been automated, and Abraham Meggs was appointed keeper of Red Horse Rock Lighthouse and Spectacle Shoal Lighthouse. Thomas Ferris, the last keeper of Red Horse Rock and Spectacle Shoal, served from 1925 until his retirement in 1947, by which time the lights had been automated. Keeper Ferris had been in charge of Burnt Island Lighthouse since 1914, so he was actually responsible for three lights after 1925.

A red, skeletal tower replaced the wooden lighthouse on Spectacle Shoal in 1936, and that light was automated at that time. Beaurivage was one of nine islands in the area that were made into St. Lawrence Islands National Park in 1904. In 1965, John Stevens, a park architectural historian, wrote an inspection report on Red Horse Rock Lighthouse and noted that if the lighthouse were to be removed from active duty, the tower should be removed to an island in the park and be preserved. Just two years later, in preparation for celebration of the Canadian centennial, the Coast Guard tied a rope around Red Horse Rock Lighthouse and pulled it off its foundation as part of an effort to beautify the river. In its place, a white circular tower with a red top was placed on the rock.

In 2021, a white cylindrical tower with a green upper portion was displaying a flashing green light with a period of four seconds on Red Horse Rock. The light is known now as Beaurivage Island Light. A white cylindrical tower with a red upper portion was displaying a flashing red light with a period of four seconds on Spectacle Shoal in 2021. This light is known now as Spectacles Shoal Light.

Keepers: Hiram Cook (1856 – 1858), Daniel Bryant (1858 – 1863), James Ward (1863), John Buck (1864 – 1880), William Jackson (1880 – 1901), John A. Landon (1901 – 1904), Manley R. Cross (1904 – 1907), Jennett Cross (1908 – 1912), Abraham Meggs (1912 – 1924), Thomas Ferris (1925 – 1947).


  1. Annual Report of the Department of Marine, various years.
  2. “Spectacle Shoal and Red Horse Rock Lighthouses,” Mary Alice Snetsinger, Thousand Islands life.com.

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