Illness at Sisters Island c. 1929

As told to me by – Allen Herbert Smithman (Grandson of Henry Herbert Smithman who was Senior Keeper at Sisters Island 1927 – 1929)

Sisters Island lighthouse c. 1929

Henry Herbert Smithman was a keeper of the lighthouse at Sisters Island (November 30, 1927 – February 27, 1929) until he became sick and was moved to a hospital in Victoria, B.C. where he died. I believe, although unconfirmed, that he died of rheumatic fever because my father, one of the four boys that were living at the light alone with their mother (my grandmother) Elizabeth Kate, contracted the same illness but was nursed back to health at home on the light.

My grandmother told me the story that when my grandfather died the “powers that be” would not allow her to stay on at the lighthouse as women were not strong enough to take care of a lighthouse. The cute part was that she was the one looking after the light for the past weeks as well as taking care of her four sons ranging in age from about three to ten. Continue reading

Drowning at Lawyer Island c. 1904

Lawyer Island Lighthouse; photo - CCG Prince Rupert

In the Lighthouses of British Columbia guestbook I came across an entry by an “M. W. Harding”. He stated that his grandfather had been the first lighthouse keeper on Lawyer Island, near Prince Rupert, BC, and had accidentally drowned. I contacted Mr. Harding and got more information from him about his grandfather’s death. – JAC

– Ned Harding (Grandson of Thomas Harvey who was Senior Keeper at Lawyer Island 1921 – c.1905)

I have some information regarding the Lawyer Island Lighthouse. This information was given to me by my mother who was the daughter of the original keeper. The keeper’s name was Thomas Harvey who took care of the light starting approximately 1901. He was married to my grandmother in 1898 and my mother was born in Vancouver in 1899.

My mother and grandmother were also at Lawyer Island from about 1902. The grandmother’s name was Hannah G. Harvey, and my mother’s original name was Frances T. Harvey. The light was tended by this duo until 1904 when my grandfather was lost in the sea while rowing to Prince Rupert as was his practice from time to time.

CCGS Quadra; photo - CCG

When he failed to return, the light was tended by my grandmother. She kept the light operating for about two weeks after he disappeared. She also lit a huge bonfire on the beach to attract attention to her plight. After the incident, she and my mother were returned to Vancouver on the Coast Guard Ship “Quadra”.

I have no knowledge as to who the new lightkeeper was after my grandfather was lost. We have little more than this account since it appears little other history remains of this light and the Coast Guard has been no help. When I grew up as a youngster I was apprised of this account by my grandmother and my mother, both of them sadly long since passed.

Book – Women on a Lighthouse? You Bet!

In the early days women were not listed as lighthouse personnel, even though they often did the work of a second man. A lady in the US has written a book about the “Ladies of the Lights” on the Great Lakes. The following quote from the Great Lakes Echo will explain more:

However, the people who operated the lighthouses, often in bleak and isolated conditions, are less known – especially the 52 women who served as keepers and assistant keepers for more than a century on lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron and the Detroit River. Continue reading