Through the Ages: Port Colborne Lighthouses
First and Second Canal Era
A Map of Port Colborne: the termination of the Welland Canal on Lake Erie
A Map of Port Colborne: the termination of the Welland Canal on Lake Erie Details
During the First and Second Welland Canal eras, there were two main lighthouses and one east light at the entrance to Port Colborne harbour on Gravelly Bay. The first main lighthouse was built in 1833 on the west pier. It was destroyed by a storm in 1844, but its replacement was not completed until 1850.
Little details are known about the light on the east pier, including its date of construction. An east light appears on the 1837 map as part of the proposed improvements, and there was an east light in use by 1850.
Thomas McChesney built the first main lighthouse for 93 pounds, 15 shillings on the pier built by Thomas Merritt at a cost of 81 pounds, 4 shillings, and 10 pence. McChesney was also the first lightkeeper.
Entrance to Welland Canal
Entrance to Welland Canal Details
The 1850 lighthouse had originally been proposed in 1837, when John Simcoe Macaulay, John Willson, and Joseph Hamilton were appointed as commissioners to superintend the erection of a new lighthouse. More storms, along with debates over the placement of new breakwaters and piers, and delays in repairs and construction of improvements to the canal and harbour in Port Colborne, meant the new main lighthouse was not completed until 1850.
Port Colborne's lighthouses face storms on Lake Erie every year, including fierce gales and high water levels. During the First and Second Canal eras, Port Colborne experienced three particularly severe storms. Two caused significant damage to the piers and lighthouse, requiring major repairs, while the 1844 storm, which combined strong winds with a seiche, destroyed the west pier and lighthouse.
These early lighthouses simply provided lights to guide ships into the harbour. They were not equipped with any other means of signals, such as fog bells, whistles, or guns until 1878, when a fog trumpet was placed just east of the lighthouse.
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