The Lost Port Alberni Lighthouse

 Ever since I saw the extract below from the archived BC newspapers I have been reading, I was very curious about the location and/or name of the lighthouse in the present day.

The party who went to Alberni to survey a lighthouse land reserve have returned. They report about 170 Chinese miners at work, only 40 of whom pay the Government tax. [Colonist, 1878-07-19]

 

This could not have been Port Alberni as it was not incorporated as a city until 1912, but there was an Alberni Post Office there which opened May 01, 1885 and closed July 01, 1891. And, GeoBC states in a search of Alberni:

Relative location: In City of Port Alberni, head of Alberni Inlet Barkley Sound, Alberni Land District.

Wikipedia also states:

In 1967, the neighbouring towns of Alberni (on the north) and Port Alberni (on the south) amalgamated to form the city of Port Alberni.

Location of Alberni in Port Alberni

So, Port Alberni and Alberni are in the relative same place, Alberni being the earliest settlement, but that still does not give me an answer as to the whereabouts of the lighthouse. Today there is no Alberni lighthouse, although there are numerous markers and buoys in the Alberni Canal leading to the Pacific Ocean. At the end of the canal, acting as a landfall light and marker for Alberni Inlet is Cape Beale lighthouse. Is this the location? No, because it was erected in 1874 and this newspaper article is written in 1878.

Location of China Creek, south of Port Alberni

The newspaper mentions Chinese miners. Where were they? According to GeoBC again, there were Chinese miners at Gold Creek (later named China Creek), just south of Port Alberni.

“….about 1865 a store was operated by a Chinese near the mouth of China Creek. The main reason for the store was the presence of a good few Chinese miners engaged in placed mining on the creek, then known as Gold River. It has been roughly estimated that some $200,000 in gold values were recovered from the creek by Chinese….” (Frank Kelly, “Wealth Beneath the Island” published in Victoria Colonist, 8 July 1956.) 

The newspaper article does not say ‘the party’ came overland, so it is likely that they came by boat, passed present Cape Beale and entered the Alberni Canal. And that is it – no more mention of an Alberni lighthouse that I can find.

That is one of my main problems when researching the BC lighthouses – names change and locations change and some lighthouses are known by local names or nicknames. I have tried to find them all, but there are a few that have me stumped.

Mike McDowall, summer co-ordinator of the Maritime Discovery Centre, shows off the lighthouse that turns 10 this summer. Photograph by : Heather Thomson (Alberni Times)

But wait, there is an Alberni lighthouse today! It is not a recognized Aid to Navigation and it is a conglomerate of parts put together as a Tourism Attraction, but it sure looks like a lighthouse. This, and the newspaper article quoted above are what got me started on this search, as I thought they could be related, but no such luck.

 More on this story here from the Port Alberni Times.

– with thanks to my friend Lillian Davidson for the information on the Alberni lighthouse.

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