LEON BARRON’S LIGHTHOUSE LORE (August 8/03)

During the Kings Historical Society lighthouse tour on August 24, Leon Barron will participate by giving a talk on the history of one of the old lighthouses that once stood on the Habitant River at long vanished Borden’s wharf.

It was a logical, appropriate choice for a speaker. Few local residents know as much about Bay of Fundy and Minas Basin lighthouses as Barron. In many years of research, he has gathered a near-encyclopaedic collection of lore on local lighthouses. That may seem to be an exaggeration. But when I met Leon recently he brought along two huge folders containing local lighthouse history and other marine lore. The folders represented only a fraction of the lore he’s found in the Journal and Proceedings of the House of Assembly.

Talking with Leon and reading the file, I discovered that we’ve had lighthouses on the local shoreline for over 150 years. To be exact, it was in the year 1848 when the first lighthouse was erected in Kings County. This was at Black Rock and Barron tells me it was “the first lighthouse east of Digby Gut.” The second lighthouse in this area was constructed at Horton Bluff a few years later, in 1851.

Barron said that at the time the Black Rock lighthouse went up there was “a lot of controversy for a long time on where it should be located.” When the government was looking at lighthouse sites, Barron said, some of the locations suggested were Black Rock, Isle Haute and Partridge Island near Parrsboro, which was then part of Kings County.

“There was a lot of wrangling and arguing, by sea captains, pilots and such over where to place lighthouses in this area,” Barron says. “I remember one story about the proposal to place a light on Partridge Island. This sea captain or pilot opposed it, saying it ‘would do nobody any good and would be an entire waste of taxpayer’s money’ and a lighthouse was never built there.”

Barron points out that a logical place for a lighthouse would have been Cape Split, but one was never built there. “There’s nothing in the old records (of the provincial House of Assembly) to indicate a light at Cape split was even suggested,” Barron says. “Instead, they built a lighthouse on Isle Haute, apparently figuring that a sea captain coming up the Bay of Fundy could see this light and use it to avoid the treacherous shoreline at Cape Split.”

While talking with Barron I made a few notes on local lighthouses. On the Isle Haute lighthouse, for example, the House of Assembly records indicate it was first proposed in 1840. When it was finally built in 1878, its first keeper Nelson Card (not Leon Card as I erroneously reported last week) received a salary of 100 pounds yearly.

The first lighthouse keeper at Horton Bluff was Robert King. King’s yearly salary was exactly half of that received by the keeper on Isle Haute. We can only speculate that the Isle Haute keeper was paid more because it was considered more hazardous, and certainly a more isolated, location than Horton Bluff.

As recently as 100 years ago there were two lighthouses on the Habitant River channel below Canning. They apparently weren’t all that far apart but they serviced two wharfs, one connecting with Saxon Street, the other with Canard Street which at the time weren’t joined as they are today.

 

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