The Islands: Lighthouses: Pigeon Island: Headlines

Pigeon Island Headlines

Copyright Pat McAvoy-Costin 2004


Daily News, (Kingston), 17 Nov 1868

p.2 Marine - The Charity Shoals - These shoals, on which the schooner S. Richardson (sic) struck yesterday, situated a little east of Pigeon Island, are much dreaded by the mariners of the lakes, who are constantly complaining that no light has been yet placed as a beacon upon the island. Every year a vessel or two is lost there, while very many touch upon portions of the shoal which in their present unmarked state it is difficult to avoid, and receive more or less damage. A light upon the desired point would nearly complete the necessary chain of beacons of the shoals and islands of the entrance to the harbor of Kingston and the St. Lawrence, and make plain the passage from the lake outside.



Daily News, (Kingston), 23 Nov 1870

New Lighthouses - New lighthouses have been erected as follows by the Canadian Department of Marine: One on Pigeon Island, about four miles from Wolfe Island on Lake Ontario, furnished with a powerful revolving light, which shows at intervals of one minute and ten seconds. It will be visible for fifteen miles in clear weather. .These lighthouses have been constructed since the end of May last, and will no doubt do much to improve navigation in Canadian waters.


Daily News, (Kingston), 6 Sep 1871

p.2 Ashore - The Royal Mail Line steamer Spartan, from Oswego to Kingston, went ashore at Pigeon Island during the night. Messrs. Calvin & Breck's steamer William went to her assistance this morning, having in tow with her the schooner Gazelle to receive the Spartan's cargo if it was found necessary to lighten her.


The steamer William and schooner Gazelle returned from the steamer Spartan, ashore on Pigeon Island, this (Wednesday) afternoon, and arrived at the wharf about three o'clock, bringing with them the passengers and their luggage. There were about one hundred and fifty passengers on board the Spartan when she struck. The following are the particulars of the catastrophe obtained from the passengers and purser of the Spartan:- The latter reports that the weather last night was rather hazy and a fresh breeze prevailed when the Spartan neared Pigeon Island, and no light was visible except a small glimmer, which appeared to be a long distance from the vessel, and was only seen at intervals. The vessel, which was in charge of both the captain and mate at the time, was running at full speed, which was slackened upon finding that the water commencing to shoal; not sufficiently soon, however, to prevent the vessel striking with a heavy shock. The purser further states that subsequent inquiries showed that the lamp at the lighthouse had exploded, and the keeper, being unable to replace it immediately, had substituted a candle, the deceptive light of which was the cause of the accident. Several of the passengers who were on deck at the time of the vessel striking, however, gave a different version of the occurrence, and stated that the light on the island was plainly visible, and that the vessel appeared to be steered right on to the shore with unaccountable carelessness. One gentleman remarked that he had watched the light for some time before the vessel struck, and wondered at the vessel continuing a course so plainly wrong. However, it is probable that the captain of the Spartan will be able to give a satisfactory account for the accident.
When the William neared the stranded vessel she found it was impossible to get alongside, consequently the Gazelle took on board the passengers and their luggage, and was towed with them on board into port. The William with the Hercules will at once return to the Spartan, towing the Gazelle, which last will take out the Spartan's cargo in order to lighten her. The Spartan is only insured against fire. When the passengers arrived they were too late to take the afternoon trains, and the majority of them claimed their hotel expenses from the company for the night. This the manager here refused to allow, and the dissatisfaction shown among the passengers was great, and made itself evident by remarks by no means complimentary to the steamboat company.

Mr. James ECCLES, lighthouse-keeper of Pigeon Island, states that the lamps had never worked properly, and last night the reflectors were destroyed, but the light was kept burning and was visible at a long distance. The land was plainly to be seen from the Spartan's decks, and it is difficult to account for the captain steering directly towards it. It is usual to give the island a wide berth. The Spartan is badly damaged, and will be got off with difficulty.


British Whig, (Kingston), Dec. 28, 1881

p.3 Has Written About It - The Collector of Customs says he notified the Marine Department some time ago that the lights on Pigeon Island were out, but he received no reply. Two years ago he made a similar report to the authorities. Probably the woman in charge of them has left.


British Whig, (Kingston), Dec. 30, 1881

p.2 Death On Wolfe Island - Mrs. James Eccles, about 60, her husband drowned in Bateau Channel while returning from Pigeon Island.



British Whig, (Kingston), April 25, 1883


Capt. Dandy has made the first round trip across the lake. The schr. B.W. Folger left port last week with barley for Big Sodus. She laid at anchor under Four Mile Point until Sunday morning, and after getting clear of the ice made a rapid run for the Point. The vessel brought back 280 tons of coal for James Swift. She was completely covered with ice and snow. Considerable ice is passing down the river. Capt. Dandy will be given the hat for first entrance into Big Sodus. The Captain had a narrow escape from going on Pigeon Island owing to the lights not being lit. This is the second time he has had to complain of this light.


British Whig, (Kingston), Dec. 12, 1883

Pigeon Island Light - For some time the Pigeon Island light has not been lit. There are vessels still on the lake and the Captains complain that when the light would be of service they cannot have it. There is danger, if the light is not relit, of some vessels running on the shoals.


British Whig, (Kingston), Aug. 16, 1884

Incidents Of The Day - The keeper of the Pigeon Island light caught 140 bass and a 28 lb. muscalonge last Monday. The entire catch was taken from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Weekly British Whig, (Kingston), April 2, 1885

p.1 Reed's Bay Ripples - R. Davis, lighthouse keeper, Pigeon Island, is getting a new sailboat for the service. She is first-class in every respect and does credit to her builder, W.C. Wills, who is also building two steam yachts for city gentlemen, to be propelled with Shipman engine.


British Whig, (Kingston), Nov. 1, 1886

p.1 Incidents Of The Day - In the fog of Friday, a propeller headed down for Cape Vincent almost ran on Pigeon Island. Though she neglected her three minute whistle signal the lighthouse keeper, Mr. Davis, was on the lookout and warned her off with the fog signal.


British Whig, (Kingston), April 30, 1888


Captains say that in some places the ice in the lower part of the lake is fifteen feet thick and grounded. The ice on the north end of Pigeon Island is piled so high that it completely shuts out the light.


British Whig, (Kingston), Nov. 25, 1890



The str. Khartoum will load wheat today for points down the canal.

Arrivals: schr. B.W. Folger, Fairhaven, coal; sloop Laura D., Cape Vincent, light.

Clearances: sloop Minnie, Gananoque, lumber; schr. Queen of the Lakes, Deseronto, wheat.

Mr. Shangran, 2nd mate of the prop. Munro, had one of his fingers cut off while unloading freight at Montreal.

The following barges have gone into winter quarters at the M.T. Co's dock: Minnedosa, Lancaster, Europa, L'Union, Jennie, Senator, Albina, Cleveland, Wheatbin, Star, McCarthy and Corncrib.

The schr. B.W. Folger, Capt. Bates, arrived this morning from Fairhaven with coal for Swifts. The captain says the lake was very rough until 12 o'clock when the wind died away. He kept his boat at Four Mile Point until daylight this morning.


The Captain of the Walker Encounters It Today

The Heavy Sea Prevented A Rescue - Coming To Kingston for a Yawl and Apparatus

The Distressed Craft is the Polly M. Rodgers

As the tug Hiram A. Walker was off Pidgeon (Pigeon ) Light this morning, about a quarter past 6 o'clock, on her way to Oswego, Capt. Mandalay noticed a large 3-masted vessel on the shoal in a bad position, the waves now and then breaking over her deck and almost hiding her from view. It was impossible to do anything at the time, the tug not having a yawl big enough to withstand the heavy sea then running. The men on the standed vessel were hauling up their colors inverted, as a token of distress. The Walker put about and started for Kingston to procure help to save the crew. She arrived here at 8 o'clock and made the news known. A large force of men were engaged to assist in the rescue. The large yawl of the Minnedosa was brought around to the tug, plenty of ropes and tackle secured and at 9:30 o'clock the Walker started out again on her life-saving expedition.

Pidgeon Light is a long shoal about 16 miles west of here. A lighthouse, on a little barren island, marks this place, one of the most dangerous on the lakes.

It is since learned that the disabled craft is the schooner Polly M. Rodgers. She was in tow of the tug Wilson and had coal from Charlotte to Ogdensburg. She broke away last night and drifted ashore. The decks are now only above water and the crew is in a dangerous condition.

The Latest Particulars - The tug Walker on arriving at the wreck the second time found the seas sweeping over the Polly Rodgers in immense waves and the crew left on her had put on life preservers and were preparing to swim for it as they expected the vessel to go to pieces every minute.

The Minnedosa's yawl was quickly manned by Capt. Gaskin, Geogehan, and Fleming, and George and Albert Davey. They took the 4 men off. The captain of the boat had previously taken the yawl and left for Pidgeon Island accompanied by the mate with his wife and child who the life-savers noticed waving their hats on the island to attract their attention. C. Marseau on seeing the yawl going away from the Rodgers became discouraged and jumped overboard with his heavy coat on and with no life-preserver. Strange to say he swam half a mile through the icy water to the island.

The Walker picked up the men who were on the boat and then got the party on the island and left for the city, where the unfortunates arrived at half-past twelve o'clock. They were properly cared for. They were Captain S. Laflamme; mate Joseph Pursey, wife and child; Seamen A. Gilbert, I. Smith, C. Marseau, of Ogdensburg, N.Y.; F. Peterson, Montreal, and I. Steane, Lisbon, N.Y.

It appears that the Polly Rodgers left Charlotte yesterday with the barge Mohawk in tow of a tug with coal for Ogdensburg, and sometime in the early part of the night the Rodgers broke loose from the rest and drifted around until two o'clock this morning when she struck Pidgeon shoal. She was driven there by the southwesterly gale that was raging at the time. Before going ashore she had sprung a leak and had 3 feet of water in her hold. She had been on the shoal with the seas pounding against her for four or five hours before being sighted by the Walker.

The crew was just about to swim for it when the life-saving crew arrived.

Another Story Of It - Between 8:30 and 9 o'clock yesterday morning the tug Wilson, Capt. W. Leonard of Ogdensburg, with the barges Mohawk and Polly M. Rodgers ( Rogers ?), left Charlotte, bound for Ogdensburg. In the afternoon, when abreast of Oswego, the breeze began to freshen, and soon to keep increasing in force as the day wore away. It came from the southwest a quarter from which sailors dread a gale. The crews of the boats in question did not become alarmed until about 6 o'clock in the evening when they found themselves rocking recklessly in a roaring sea.

Soon everything moveable floated off the boats and were washed away. Every minute the sailors expected to see one or all the boats sink. The sailors stood bravely to their posts.

Capt. LaFlamme says that when they got inside of the Galoops the Rodgers and Mohawk labored very hard and the creaking of the tow lines could be heard above the storm. The Rodgers fell back into the trough of the sea. She was then abreast of the Main Ducks, with her foresail up, the wind beating against it with tremendous force. The line holding the Rodgers to the Mohawk snapped.

In the midst of a fierce gust of wind the sails and rigging went out. One anchor was dropped in 5 fathoms of water and was dragged as if it were a chip.

The captain did not drop the other anchor because he did not think it would prove of any service. The vessel ran hard on the rocks three quarters of a mile from the shore.

The only course open to the captain when his boat rolled on the rocks was to get to land and telegraph to the owner for assistance. He therefore, lowered a yawl and jumped into it. Mr. Fursey, his wife and child begged so hard to go with the captain that he could not refuse and took them along. The rest of the crew were left on the boat. When they got to Pidgeon Island the captain intended taking a fishing smack and sail to Cape Vincent, but he found the island a very desolate place, and he and those with him sought the hospitality of the lighthouse keeper, Mr. Davis.

They were received by Mr. Davis in a courteous manner. He provided them with hot drinks and they soon became fond of their isolation. Their quarters were more comfortable than they expected to find in such a barren spot.

The shipwrecked crew were found in the Lakeview house drying their soaking wet clothes before a comfortable fire. They state that they made every signal possible from the time they struck the shoal to attract the attention of the light-keeper. They blew their fog-horn and burnt 2 or 3 mattresses soaked with kerosene oil in their endeavours to make their situation known, but it was not till the Walker hove in sight that they found that anyone knew, and when they saw her put about and make for Kingston again they thought the last hope was gone.

Nothing was saved from the wreck; every one of the men lost all the clothes they had.

F. Peterson, of Montreal, has been 7 years in the employ of the owners of the wrecked vessel and during that time has been shipwrecked 3 times.

The crew were glad to reach the city and do not wish to repeat the experience of last evening.

The Rodgers will go to pieces if the wind continues high, but it it falls she will be saved. If the weather is peaceful tomorrow Mr. Hall will direct that efforts be made to release the vessel, which contains 570 tons of coal.

The Rodgers was built at Charlotte 20 years ago. A few years ago it was decided to convert her into a tow barge and the transformation took place. This season she carried 33 cargoes, and the present is the first time she has met with a mishap.

Capt. W. Leonard, commodore of the fleet did what was best last evening in proceeding to the city, when the barge broke away.

The crew left for Ogdensburg this afternoon by way of Cape Vincent.


New York Times, March 8, 1927

Canadian Reported Drowned on Sinking Ship Lived 10 years Thereafter in


BELLEVILLE, Ontario, March 7 (AP). - A letter received today notified relatives of Captain John Wesley Smith that their kinsman was not drowned ten years ago, as they had believed, when his vessel foundered, but had gone to Harrah, Okla., and built up a prosperous business. The letter announced the death of Captain Smith on Feb. 22 last.

Ben Wilson, Master of the Masonic lodge at Harrah, who wrote the letter, was quoted as saying that Captain Smith had told him "some of the secrets of his life" and had asked him to "notify the folks back home when he died."

Captain Smith was believed to have drowned with eleven others when the coal schooner George Marsh, of which he was skipper, foundered off Pigeon island, near Kingston, Ontario, on Aug. 8, 1917. The only reason given for his concealment of his identity for ten years was that he wanted to start life anew.


Oswego Palladium-Times, Tuesday, March 8, 1927

Death Discloses He Had Lived 10 Years in West After His Boat Foundered Near Pigeon Island
John S. Parsons* and other Oswegonians who have been following transportation on Lake Ontario for many years were greatly interested today in a dispatch from Belleville, Ontario, saying that relatives of Captain John Wesley Smith had been notified Monday that their kinsman had not been drowned ten years ago as they believed, but he had escaped when his vessel foundered, gone to Harrah, Okla., and built up a prosperous business. The letter announced the death of Captain Smith on February 22d this year.

Captain Smith was well known in local marine circles having been in the coal trade for many years between Oswego, Kingston and Bay of Quinte points. At one time he sailed the well known schooner The Oliver Mowatt. Captain Smith was believed to have been drowned with 11 others when the coal schooner George A. Marsh, of which he was skipper, foundered off Pigeon Island, near Kingston, Ont., Aug. 8, 1917. The only reason given for Captain Smith's concealment of his identity for ten years was according to the Belleville dispatch, he wanted to start life anew.

Ben Wilson, master of the Masonic lodge at Harrah, Okla., who wrote the letter of notification, was quoted as having said that Captain Smith had told him "some of the secrets of his life" and asked him to "notify the folks back home when he died."

HARRAH, Okla., March 7 (AP) - Captain John Wesley Smith, who, relatives at Belleville, Ont., said today was believed to have drowned August 8, 1917, carried the secret of his disappearance with him to his death here February 22d of this year.

Ben Wilson, master of the local Masonic lodge, related that he had known Smith for a number of years, and that he believed he was the only man in Harrah who had Smith's confidence. Smith never spoke of his past life, Wilson said.

He described Smith as "a mighty nice, old fellow" about sixty years old.

George Cousins, another member of the crew, reached shore on a floating case but died of exposure soon afterward.


Thanks to:
Marine History of the Great Lakes, Great Lakes Newspaper Transcriptions, transcribed from the Kingston News 1851-1870.Transcribed by Rich Neilson.

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