Minnie Patterson and the “Coloma” off Cape Beale 1906

– Reprinted  courtesy of The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Cape Beale - photo Justine Etzkorn

Cape Beale, . . . a lighthouse which later came to notice in a gallant and romantic rescue resulting from the actions of Mr. and Mrs. Paterson who kept the light from 1895 to 1908.

In December 1906, the United States barque Coloma left the Puget Sound with a cargo of lumber for Australia. There was a gale from the southeast and, cracking on to take advantage of this fair wind to clear the Straits of Juan de Fuca, the old wooden vessel sprang a leak when she encountered a heavy sea off Cape Flattery. With her decks awash, and the gear aloft carrying away as she pitched in an enormous swell, the Coloma was soon unmanageable and hoisted her ensign upside down in token of distress as she drifted down to leeward and the outlying reefs of Cape Beale.

In this position, and doubtless having let go her anchors to the bitter end, the barque was sighted from the lighthouse. The only chance of help lay in alerting the Quadra, then under the command of Captain Charles Hackett, which Paterson knew was lying at anchor in Bamfield Inlet, six miles away. The lifeboat, it will be recalled, was not on station at Bamfield until the following year. Telephone lines were down and the light keeper was unable to leave his foghorn which required constant attention. Although the trail was blocked by fallen trees and lay for much of the distance along a rocky shore. Mrs. Paterson at once insisted on making the journey herself. It was then night, and in darkness and dreadful weather she set off with a lantern and her dog, hoping against hope to be in time.

The plan was to get the news to James Mackay at Bamfield who would row off to the Quadra and raise the alarm. Arriving at the house physically exhausted, drenched to the skin and with her shoes and clothing ripped to pieces, it was found that Mackay was away from home repairing the telephone wires. Nothing daunted, Minnie Paterson and Mrs. Mackay themselves launched the boat and came alongside the Quadra as daylight came. Captain Hackett weighed anchor at once and the Quadra punched her way out of the Inlet against a heavy swell rolling in from the Pacific. Off Cape Beale the wreck was sighted, a boat was lowered under the command of the second officer Mr. James E. McDonald, and the distressed crew were recovered. No sooner had the boat returned to the Quadra than the derelict parted her cables and drove ashore to destruction. Mr. McDonald was promoted to chief officer shortly afterwards.

Immediately after her courageous action, and before the return of the Quadra with the shipwrecked men, Mrs. Paterson walked all the way back to the lighthouse. She had five children to look after and her husband was constantly at work in a period of rain and bad visibility. It was another week before communications were restored, and only then did the Paterson’s learn of the triumphal rescue which had resulted. Unfortunately, the results of Mrs. Paterson’s tremendous exertion soon made themselves apparent and she never entirely recovered, dying five years later.

More information and photos here on the Tofino History website.

Minnie Patterson – Canadian Heroine Remembered Again

You all know who Minnie Patterson was, don’t you? You don’t? Well, she was a real live Canadian lighthouse heroine who lived and worked with her husband on Cape Beale lighthouse. In 1906 she helped in the rescue of the people on board the barkentine Caloma. Read her story in Wikipedia here. More events on her life below.

Paterson’s story coming to Alberni

Minniesstory-Aug19-2086.jpg 

An engraved silver tray awarded by the Government of Canada and a tea set awarded by the crew of the SS Queen City are on display at the lighthouse on the waterfront. The items were awarded to Minnie Paterson, who in 1906 helped avert a maritime disaster on the West Coast. The story about Minnie is being told at the lighthouse on Sunday, Aug. 21. Start time is 2 p.m.


Published: August 18, 2011 4:00 PM 
Updated: August 18, 2011 4:32 PM

On Dec. 6, 1906, the barkentine Coloma was embattered by a southeast gale off the West Coast shore, her sails tattered in the unforgiving winds.

She drifted within sight of the Cape Beale lighthouse, where Thomas Paterson was manning the foghorn and the light.

The telegraph cable connecting the lighthouse to Bamfield was broken, so his wife, Minnie Paterson, eight months pregnant, walked for miles through the bush and pounding rain to alert the telegraph line-keeper of the impending maritime disaster.

She and the line-keeper’s wife rowed out to the government steamer Quadra, which then reached the Coloma just in time to save its crew.

Paterson’s is a fascinating story that is indicative of the rough life mariners lived on the West Coast.

But to hear the tale truly come alive, join storyteller Jennifer Ferris this Sunday, Aug. 21 at the lighthouse on the waterfront.

Ferris, based in Victoria, has told stories for 15 years.

Her interest and connection to the history of Vancouver Island has provided her with many storytelling opportunities, and she is excited to share this local tale.

The maritime centre has a permanent exhibit on Minnie Paterson and her heroic exploits. Included this year are two special items that Paterson received as rewards.

An engraved silver tray was awarded to her by the Government of Canada, while the officers and crew of the coastal steamer SS Queen City sent her a tea set—a teapot, creamer, sugar and tea waste bowl—in appreciation.

The items were donated to the Alberni Valley Museum last year, and curator Kirsten Smith said they were kept mainly as a souvenir, so they are in excellent condition.

The storytelling event begins at 2 p.m. at the lighthouse. Admission is by donation and refreshments will be provided.

For more information, please call 250-723-6161.

Or visit the website at www.alberniheritage.com and follow the links for the maritime centre.

 editor@albernivalleynews.com

Lighthouse History 04 – Cape Beale (1872-05-29 to 1909-01-23)

Cape Beale

The following extracts taken from early Victoria, British Columbia (BC) newspapers are credited to Leona Taylor for her excellent work in indexing the papers. Full information can be found here: “Index of Historical Victoria Newspapers“, 2007-09.

As I was collecting this information from the newspaper archive website, I noticed that many articles were in consecutive order and applied to Cape Beale, so I collected them all together here. It is a bit long, but interesting, as it describes the building of a lighthouse from the ground up as they say. Take note of the dates at the end of each article. it surely was not done overnight. More extensive information can be obtained from the actual scanned copies of the newspapers themselves on the above website.

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Lighthouse recommended at Cape Beale, will provide a first-class light and powerful fog whistle. [Colonist, 1872-05-29]

 

Steamer Sir James Douglas, with Mr Pearse, will sail for Cape Beale in a few days. Mr Pearse will select a site for the lighthouse to be erected at that point. [Colonist, 1872-10-22]

 

Dominion Government Steamer Sir James Douglas will sail for Cape Beale with Mr Pearse to select a lighthouse site. Cape Beale is a bluff about 125′ in height with a bold rocky shore against which the breakers incessantly beat. Access to the Cape can only be had by going outside the Straits and running into the mouth of Bamfield Creek where a snug little harbor exists. From Bamfield Creek a road or trail about 2 miles in length to the Cape will have to be made. [Colonist, 1872-10-26]

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