Manning Nootka Light c. 1900s

The post below is a sort of research post. I do not have enough information to make it a really interesting story – right now it is more of a mystery – and I am searching for more information.


Nootka light was lit for the first time on March 15, 1911 1 and was manned by Herbert T. W. Smith until October 06, 1918. Herbert, from what I can find out was the storekeeper at Friendly Cove, Nootka, and lived on nearby Saavedra Island (named after the Spanish Commandant at Nootka in 1793). The story goes that Herbert lived on Saavedra and rowed to work daily. Maybe tending store and the lighthouse?

Saavedra Island is now home to a fishing camp - photo credit at bottom*

The story also says that Saavedra Island was given to him by the Canadian Government (for war service, or?) and he chose Saavedra over Bligh Island (also in Nootka Sound) as it was closer to Nootka. 

Rumour has it that he established a light near Friendly Cove as a navigational marker for Nootka Sound back in the early 1900s. Then the government took it over and started building the lighthouse in 1910. 2

If anyone has information on the early days of Nootka light or Herbert Smith, I would love hearing the tales, and eventually posting them here. The above information comes from a close friend who knew the descendants of the Smiths. 

One of the other facts from my source is that Herbert had a grandson named Dave Smith. Dave Smith’s family lived on Saavedra Island until approximately 1986 when they either lost it to taxes or sold it to a fishing lodge. Dave and his wife May went to run, or own, the Kelsey Bay store.

So, with all these facts, does anybody have any concrete information? My friend and I, and I hope many readers would love to hear from you with facts and maybe photos.



1 Leebro, Captain Hunter, is back in port bringing the motor lifeboat from Banfield Creek. Resident Engineer H C Killeen, of the Marine Dept, who made the round trip, reports that the lighthouse being constructed at Nootka is practically completed, and the lantern will be placed in position in a few days. Leebro has been on West Coast Vancouver Island for 16 days, and encountered much rough weather. [Colonist, 1911-02-11]

The new lighthouse, with a 3rd order light, erected at Friendly Cove was visited. It is erected on San Rafael I, one of the San Miguel group, where the Spaniards built a fort in 1789 armed with 16 guns. The only sign apparent today of the old fort is a brick-lined well, sunk by the Spaniards nearby. In 1859 a Russian silver dollar, inscribed Catherine II, 1775, was found about 1′ below the surface on the site of the fort. This was picked up by Indians preparing a potato patch, and was brought to Victoria by Captain McKay in Schooner Morning Star. [Colonist, 1911-03-09, p. 14]

2 New Lighthouse for Nootka Sound… [Colonist, 1910-09-30, p. 14]


*Saavedra Island seaplane photo credit – Skywagon Photo Gallery

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