Mississagi Strait Lighthouse
The Mississagi Strait Light House, is located at Gore Bay in Manitoulin Island, which was first built in 1873. It was traditionally made in order to guide ships through the much difficult rocky strait that separates Manitoulin Island from Cockburn Island on Georgian Bay. Manitoulin Island can be accessed by two different means, the first being the swinging bridge located a few kilometers from Espanola, and also by taking the ferry from Tobermory. A magnetic reef that’s situated off Cockburn Island had interfered with the compasses of several ships, causing a chain of shipwrecks. Some of the major ships that were effected by this magnetic reef had included the Agawa, the Maple Court, Quebec, and legends have it La Salle’s Griffin.
Before the establishment of the Manitoulin Lighthouse (AKA Mississagi Strait Lighthouse), the Department of Marines had additionally imposed contracts for the building of six imperial towers as well as a Lighthouse on Badgeley Island, St Joseph Island, and along with the Mississagi Strait Lighthouse. These major contracts were additionally issued within the year of 1855, which were the result of high and unpredictable expense of building the six imperial towers, and these light house projects. It was also between 1866, and 1918, when a total of nine lighthouses were built on Manitoulin Island and six on surrounding islands, most of which can also be seen to this day.
One of the very first descriptions of the light-house had also been published in 1877, and had reported the following:
" A new light house was erected last summer on the south-west end of Great Manitoulin Island, Lake Huron, for the purpose of general navigation, and to also guide vessels through the Mississagi Strait. The light that was used had been a fixed white catoptric light, generally consisting of two mammoth flat wick lamps, with 20-inch reflectors, and one circular burner lamp, with 20-inch reflectors, and can also be seen at a distance of about 15 miles. One of the very first lighthouse keepers was John Miller who had been appointed as keeper of the light, at a salary of $300 per annum, and the light was first exhibited on the 12th day of August in 1873. Mr. John Miller had also resided at the Light-house with his own family, and had four children, that lived at the lighthouse for just over four years before resigning in November 1877. Mr. John Mill had also enjoyed splitting wood and selling it to passing steamers for fifty cents a cord as this would increase his overall salary of only $300.000 per annum".
After the Indian Treaty of 1861, it was reported that the first white settlers arrived in Dawson Township within the year of 1879. By this time it was reported that the Mississagi Wreck had consisted of the bow nosed up on the beach. In view there was part of the deck, with the hull that had planking sides, in which the planks were caulked with lead. Reports which were made on the wooden beams had also stated that they were fastened with large wrought-iron pins, and threaded bars. Without any hesitation it was also stated that the early white settlers would additionally mine this wreck. By doing so it was stated that they had pried the planks apart in order to get the lead caulking from the seams. During this process it was also at this time when they had melted the lead down in order to make net sinkers, for fishing purposes. Other plans had also escalated when they had chopped the wood beams and timber to get the iron bars from the shipwreck. These had additionally been taken to the blacksmith, who had cut them in half, sharpened them on one end, and than used as harrow teeth in order to till the soil. (Le Griffin, Le Salle's Griffin).
Mr. John Miller was later replaced by William Cullis and his family who had become the main lighthouse keepers in November, 1877. Mr. Cullis was also known to have a family of four children, and while under Mr. Cullis care the superintendent of the Lights above Montreal came for a visit. He had reported that the lighthouse was in very good condition, and that the family was re-plastering the kitchen, as the old plaster did not have any hair mixed in with the lime, and had started to fall off. At some point of this time, Mr. Cullis would purchase a 27 foot sail boat in order to obtain supplies at the remote location in which he resided. It was during this time period when the isolation was getting to Mr. Cullis, and in return he had fired back with a $10 reward to the person that was able to create a trail to the property which was later completed by a man named Mr. Robinson who lived on Bass Lake, and was able to cut through the dense forest with a team of oxen in order to claim the reward that Mr. Cullis was offering.
When the Indians at the time had seen this wreck in the 1800’s, it had a mast still on it, and it was later in 1879, when the first fisherman in Dawson Township had seen it that only the bow was observed on the beach. It was also at the same time as these discoveries that the skeletons of three men were found in a cave by the wreck. One of these skeletons that was encountered had been measured more than 7 feet tall. Records have also stated that La Salle’s crew had contained one man that had giantism, and corresponds with the indicated skeletal remains found. Other artifacts that were encountered had included a few tokens, and buttons that were by the remains, which were later lost.
One of the main reasons for establishing this lighthouse was due to the fact that the Missisagi Strait was a dangerous place with a much narrow channel between Cockburn Island and Manitoulin Island. The North Channel of Lake Huron rather runs between Manitoulin Island. St Joseph, Drummond, and Cockburn Island's wit the main shores of Northern Ontario. At one point in time and till present day, this passage is additionally preferred by several sailors as a main navigation route that's still being used to this day. Its also commonly protected from the every changing harsh weather that is generally faced in the openness of Lake Huron, while the North Channel also has its own dangerous that include protruding rocks, magnetic reefs, and many other obstacles that are associated with this waterway. Upon entry of the North Channel it was commonly stated that many of the sailors who came this way had done so by entering from the southern entrance through the Mississagi Strait in between the west end of Manitoulin Island and Cockburn Island.
La Salle’s Griffin was rather classified as a massive steamer, and was among one of the very first ships to set sail on the Upper Great Lakes. La Salle’s Griffin would additionally become one of the many shipwrecks to have occurred along the Mississagi Strait. It has also been stated that the La Salle’s Griffin came to rest near the shoreline of the Mississagi Strait Lighthouse. The La Salle’s Griffin was also a massive ship, built entirely from white oak in Niagara, and was operated by La Salle and his crew that came from France.
It was after the Quebec that a fish freighter out of Sarnia, had ran around on the magnetic reef in heavy fog during the year of 1881. During this time period it was also reported that the hand operate foghorn at the lighthouse was replaced by a coal fired foghorn plant. Reports on this new Foghorn Plant had also stated that the machine was able to deliver a 10 second blast every minute during times of low visibility which was common for such a big area. One of the main ways that this foghorn was operated had been by steam power, in which complaints had came in from various sailors stating that the foghorn was not considered satisfactory. Further complains that came in from sailors had soon resulted in replacing the steam powered foghorn with a steam whistle known as the "Wild Cat". This major new addition was generally completed with a piston that had allowed the tone of the alarm to change. In its beginning this alarm became as a low bellow and would shortly after rise to a screech before it had returned to the lower note. By making these changes it would additionally provide a range of frequencies that could be more easily hear by sailors of Lake Huron. Surveys that were completed by sailors annually had also reported that most of them had stated that this foghorn was quite satisfactory The very first lighthouse keepers to have look after this structure were additionally housed in extreme isolated conditions. By this time it was also stated that the surrounding townships of the area had not been settled, in which supplies were being brought in twice a year by boat. Most of this at the time was done during the opening of navigation and the closing of the season. Georgian Bay at this time was quite a busy place as ships were loaded with lumber, and headed for the United States.
La Salle had arrived at the head of Lake Ontario in January, 1679, and made the portage around Niagara Falls to Lake Erie, or rather to the upper Niagara River, stopping at about 6 miles from the falls on the American side. It was on this side of the river that he would additionally built the schooner Griffin, in which some say 40 tons, while others 60 tons burden. The precise location where this historic craft was built, had been a matter of much conjecture among the best American Historians, but the best authorities had now seem to have settled down on a point on Cayuga Creek near its mouth, as the precise spot, which is in Niagara County, NY, where the village of La Salle is now located.
Work that was carried out in the building of this major historical vessel had been done during the winter months of 1678-79, with vigor by the companions of La Salle. Most of his companions were also reported to have been absent most of the time at Fort Frontenac, attending to his private affairs. During its building it was stated that Tonty and Hennepin had been place in charge of its major construction work. However, it was the permission that was granted by the chief men of the Seneca Tribe of Indians, as there many individuals of the tribe who did not approve of the building of La Salle’s Griffin. As plans were moved forward it was reported that these hostile Seneca’s had a plan of their own, by burning the growing vessel of the La Salle’s Griffin. Problems were generally an issue with the establishment of La Salle’s Griffin by not only the Seneca’s but also the other tribes. By this time it was reported that many decided to quit as they became dissatisfied with the disagreement between the native aboriginal tribes. Nevertheless, work was carried on by Tonty and Hennepin, and the newly constructed vessel was almost ready to be launched in May, 1679. As this major construction project had continued, it made the Seneca’s even more jealous of its construction, and by this time they would once again threaten to burn the newly constructed vessel. With threats being aimed at burning the La Salle’s Griffin, it was predicted that new plans were made for a much earlier launch of the vessel. This at the time was additionally carried out by a ceremony, as she had easily slid off into the Cayuga Channel of the Niagara River. At about this time it was reported that a party of Iroquois Indians, returning from the chase, were greatly astonished at the spectacle that they had witnessed, and they could not repress their admiration for the Frenchmen, who had built such a large floating fort within a short time period. The La Salle’s Griffin, also known as Le Griffin, was determined to have sank somewhere along the Mississagi Strait, where apparently her hull was discovered near the Mississagi Strait Lighthouse.
More changes were made within the year of 1897, when the Foghorn at this point in time had been enlarged in order to allow for another locomotive boiler that was constructed. A contract was additionally made at this time in which the new enlargement of the foghorn was undertaken by John Englis & Sons of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. On November 1st, 1906, the "Wildcat" steam whistle had also become replaced with a diaphone that had operated on steam powered compressed air. The Canadian Fog Signal Company would also supply the main parts for this enlargement at a cost of $5,747, and was completely installed within a newly built Fog Horn Plant. It was stated that this newly built plant was additionally located at about 125 feet south of the Manitoulin Lighthouse, which had costed in excess of $4,893. This plant had also been made to a height of 33 feet above the waters of the Mississagi Strait. With completing this expansions it was stated that the resonator have given two 3 second alarms every 45 seconds.
It was also during the summer of 1910, when a great fire had spread across the are, burning much of the southern shore of Manitoulin in its path. As this had occurred it was stated that the smoke was so thick that many fisherman had attached cowbells to their buoys so that they could find them. At the time their was no roadways built that connected Manitoulin Island with the mainland as the Canadian Pacific Railway would become expanded into this area. Many stations at this time were additionally establish along the North Shore as the primary route of navigation was either by taking the train or by steamboat. The Lighthouse had also been operated and manage by Mr. Ball, who was force to run the fog horn so much that he had ran out of coal, and had to purchase some from passing steamers on the Mississagi Strait.
It was from 1913 to 1946, when the lighthouse was under the management of William Grant, who was the main lighthouse keeper at this time. William Grant had the benefits of seeing on of the very first phone lines to be installed during the year of 1918. Mr. William Grant also had another assistant known as Kinzie Grant, and the Grant family, who had written about his dad William Grant. Mr. William Grant had enjoyed carving things from wood, and one day he had carved a miniature replica of the lighthouse and Griffin These were also reportedly carved from the beams of the Le Griffon Shipwreck that was not located to far from the lighthouse along the shoreline of Lake Huron. It was a boring day as a storm a brewed insight and Mr. William Grant had ran out of wood to carve, so he decide to get some. He had additionally went down and over the rocks to the boat house that used to be in the cove by the cottage. As he went down over these rocks, his boots slipped and he shortly after fell, which resulted in sever injuries. Mr. William Grant was also unfortunate as he hadn't put his jackknife away, which resulted in him falling on it as he slip on the west slippery rocks of the cove. By this time had had also pulled out the blade from the area that he had injected it into his skin, but could not stop the bleeding from the wound. He still continued to work as Mr. William Grant could not force himself to get medical aid, and he was busy at shoveling coal while getting weaker and weaker from the amount of blood that he had lost prior to injecting the knife blade into his skin, and taking it out. He still survived this tragic accident not a moment to soon as he seek medical attention, and was quite lucky to be a life due to how much blood he had lost from the jackknife wound.
As the American Prohibition Era came to a rise from 1920 to 1933, rum runners had additionally hid their cargo on nearby islands, and the remote shore of Manitoulin Island. Within 1918, the very first telephone was installed, and it was by 1970, when electricity had been added to the Mississagi Strait Lighthouse. It was also during 1916, when new expansions were underway, and the old fog horn plant was converted into a newly establish oil house.
Within 1930, Roy Fleming of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, had acted under the authority of the Ontario Department of Public Works, who had inspected the Mississagi Strait wreck. He additionally found parts of a ship’s hull, being 30 feet long and 15 feet wide during his expedition. It was also noted that there were two sister keelsons, which were nearly a foot square and eight ribs, and the Keel was missing. By this time it was noted that long threaded bars were observed to be thirty-seven inches long, and 1-3/16 in diameter. These were additionally used in order to fasten the Keelsons to the ribs and missing keel. The top of these bars were also reportedly headless, as the bottom end had been threaded with hand filled threads, and were fastened with a large square nut. The wreck of the La Salle’s Griffin is regarded as a historical tradegy as the remaining wreckage was not taken to Meldrum, or Gore Bay for preservation. However, at the time it was reported that there were no historical museums on Manitoulin Island at the time. It was during a sever storm in the year of 1942, when the proposed wreck was washed away from the beach and became lost.
After the wreck had been washed away in a sever storm during the year 1942, it was by 1959, when the site along with the snapshop of the area was once again located. This time it was taken under a whole new expedition that was carry out by Archie Wickett with the help of four divers from Detroit. In order to preserve this location it was indented to place a large boulder on each side of the wreck above the highwater mark of Georgian Bay.
By 1946, the Lighthouse was once again being operated by a new lighthouse keeper known as Mr. D. N. Sullivan, who was a vetran of World War 2. He also had continued to serve the area as the main lighthouse keeper from 1946 to about 1970, when electricity had reached the lighthouse at Meldrum Bay. Keeper Sullivan had to also hike the eight miles between Meldrum Bay, and the lighthouse, but by 1940's, he had improved the roadway to the area so that he could use his Model A to drive to and from the station. Many lighthouses during the 1960's and 70's were also considered to have been automated and the need for the lighthouse keepers had shortly after vanished. This was additionally replace by using solar power, as energy could now be stored in batteries that had eliminated the costs of hiring a lighthouse keeper.
Meldrum Bay which in close proximity to the lighthouse offers some great fine dining, and accommodations along the shore line of Lake Huron's Meldrum Bay. One particular restaurant that's located at the Meldrum Bay Inn offers some of the best dinning services overlooking the water of Lake Huron. Although a bit costly, the food is excellent and prepared to the finest by professional chefs that work here during the open season which is typically late Spring to late Fall. The Restaurant at Meldrum Bay Inn also offers bar services for those who aren't driving or being accommodated in the area. Depending on the volume of people its intended to book a reservation as the restaurant does get busy during the tourist seasons. To this day Meldrum Bay also acts as an active harbor and fishing port for those journying off to the unknown waters of Lake Huron.