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Montmagny Range Lighthouse

Montmagny is situated on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, just east of Quebec City, and occupies both banks of the South River (Rivière du Sud). The Rivière-du-Sud seigneurie was originally granted in 1646 to Charles Hault Montmagny, the Governor of New France, and his name was later applied to the community.

St. Thomas de Montmagny Front Lighthouse erected in 1896
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
The area’s first church, named for St. Thomas, was built in 1685 at Pointe-à-la-Caille, but when erosion threatened the church and its cemetery, a new church was erected on the banks of the South River, where the present St. Thomas Church stands. The present church, the area’s fifth, was built in 1949 – 1952, after its predecessor burned in 1948. The parish is known as St. Thomas de Montmagny, and this name was often used to refer to the community.

The Department of Marine of assumed control of the light maintained on the government wharf at St. Thomas de Montmagny in 1883, and placed a pole, with a shed at its base, on the wharf. A lantern hoisted atop the pole had a focal plane of thirty feet above the river and showed white along the line of the channel for entering the harbour and green from all other points of approach. Jean Baptiste Robin was appointed the first keeper of the wharf light at an annual salary of fifty dollars.

In 1896, while Keeper Robin was still in charge, the wharf light was destroyed by fire, necessitating the erection of new navigational aids for the harbour:

On the 13th August, 1896, a fire destroyed the mast and shed from which a light were exhibited on the outer end of the Government wharf at Saint Thomas de Montmagny, and seriously damaged the wharf. The wharf has been repaired and the mast light has been replaced by a light shown from an inclosed galvanized iron lantern, standing on a square platform supported by an open frame work, above the slip at the outer end of the wharf.

The lighthouse building stands 26 feet above the wharf. The light is a fixed light elevated 26 feet above high water mark, showing white in the channel, and red to the westward of the channel. It should be visible towards the entrance of the harbour three miles.

A back range light has also been established on the west shore of the harbour, 1971 feet S. ¼ W. from the light on the wharf. It is a fixed white light, elevated 44 feet above high water mark and should be visible 3 miles in the line of range. It is shown from an inclosed galvanized iron lantern standing on an open wooden frame work tower, and is painted white. The height of the tower from the ground to the vane on the lantern is 36 feet. The two lights in range S. ¼ W., lead up the channel to the Government wharf and Price’s lumber wharfs, but the entrance should not be attempted by anyone not having local knowledge.

The two buildings were erected by the Department of Marine under the superintendence of Mr. E. P. Bender, who was in charge of the repairs to the wharf for the Department of Public Works. The total expenditure in connection with the construction of the two buildings has been $361.90.

St. Thomas de Montmagny Rear Lighthouse erected in 1896
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
In 1900, the colour of the range lights was changed to fixed red from fixed white, to distinguish them from electric lights in the vicinity, and catoptric illuminating apparatuses were installed in both lighthouses in place of the lenses formerly used.

In 1933, pole lights replaced the open framework towers with iron lanterns that were erected in 1896. These new lights were separated by just 200 yards instead of 657 yards, and their alignment was along a bearing of 170° instead of 164°. Square skeleton towers, having the spacing/alignment established in 1933 and displaying fixed red lights, were used on the range up to 2015, when a sector light was installed on the wharf.

Keepers: Jean Baptiste Robin (1883 – 1898), Captain H. Boulanger (1898 – 1910), Eugene Nicole (1910 – 1918), Ernest Nicole (1918), O. Caron (1918 – at least 1923).


  1. Annual Report of the Department of Marine, various years.

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