Lighthouse History

In 1880, the Canadian Parliament appropriated $2000 for the construction of a lighthouse at Cape Bear. 

John Whalen was awarded the contract and completed the lighthouse for $1374.00 on land purchased from Thomas Munn for $75.00. The original lantern and lighting apparatus cost $1,044 and were shipped to the island in seventeen cases.

The wooden, tapered tower is 12.4 meters (40.7 feet) in height from base to vane and is square in design. The elevated terrain on which the lighthouse stands contributes to the light’s focal plane of 22.6 meters (74.1 feet).

A diagram of a catoptric light

Original technology

The lighthouse originally housed a revolving red catoptric light that produced a bright flash every thirty seconds and could be seen from a distance of twelve miles.

The First Keeper – 1881 to 1893

Thomas H. Munn was the first Lighthouse Keeper. He received an annual salary of $300. 

Thomas married Janet Emery (1848 – 1871). After her death, he remarried to Margaret MacKay (1843 – 1912). They had a daughter, Joanna (born at the lighthouse), and a son, John Thomas.

According to family tradition, Keeper Munn fell from the lantern in 1890 and was bedridden for three years before he passed away in September of 1893. During this period, his wife Mrs. M. Munn (from Oct – Dec. 1893), and his son John T. Munn (from 1894 – 1896), cared for the light.

The Second Keeper – 1896 to 1905

William Harris and his family resided at the Lighthouse while he was the Keeper. He and his wife Annie (nee Jorden) had several children. William died at the age of 57.

In 1905, a Marconi Wireless Telegraph Station was built adjacent to the Cape Bear Lighthouse.

The Third Keeper – 1905 to 1912

Martin Luther Jorden was the third Keeper. He married Ada Beck and they had several children, including one set of twins. The family lived at the lighthouse.

The Fourth Keeper – 1912 to 1924

Hiram Hyde of Murray Harbour was the fourth Lighthouse Keeper.

When he passed away, his body was laid out for viewing in the base of the tower.

The Fifth Keeper – 1824 to 1926

Clarence R. White, a veteran of World War I, was the fifth Keeper. He married Margaret (Peg) Richards, and they had three children together. Their son, Gordon, died as a child, shortly after Clarence himself had died of Tuberculosis.

The Sixth Keeper – 1926 to 1959

In 1926, the Federal Government advertised the position of Lightkeeper, with an annual salary of between $600 and $900. Ewart Allen Keeping got the job. 

After World War I, Ewart had gone out West where land was being offered to those coming home from the war. His future bride, Florence, did the same, and they were married there in 1919. They had 9 children. Ewart was a school teacher in British Columbia and Alberta until it was suggested to him to apply for the lighthouse keeper job back home in Prince Edward Island.

During World War II the Lighthouse proved useful for spotting German U-boats that neared the coast. Several were seen along the shore, but disappeared while being tracked. 

Ewart retired in 1960, the same year that electricity reached the lighthouse.

The arrival of electricity in 1960 brought automation and change to the lighthouse. 

In 1963, the building that had been home to its Keepers and their families was moved a quarter-mile up the road. For a time, it was used as a cabin for overnight guests. The building still stands, and can be seen from the lighthouse.

As a result of coastal erosion, the lighthouse had to be relocated in 1946.

In 2015, it was moved again to its current position. You can watch a short clip about the move on YouTube.