Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Very Old Friends and How They Were Parted: Schooner Days DCCCXL (840)
Toronto Telegram (Toronto, ON), 27 Mar 1948
Full Text
Very Old Friends and How They Were Parted
Schooner Days DCCCXL (840)

by C. H. J. Snider


This was the old lighthouse at Port Credit, which sent a just-discernible glint towards the smaller one at Bronte for generations. The two lights were 13 miles apart and barely visible to each other because of the low candlepower of their coal oil lamps and the intervening projection of Marigold Point. Before these lighthouses were built the two ports had to rely upon lanterns hung on poles when vessels were expected. Both lights are "out" now, Port Credit's since 1918, Bronte's since the big gale last New Year's. Both suffered by fire, although Bronte's survived that. Port Credit's didn't, being burned down many years after it was darkened and abandoned by the Dominion government.


For eighteen years Port Credit lighthouse stood on its crib alone in the lake, a blinded sentry left behind in an enemy raid. For forty other years it had stood at the outer end of the eastern pier of stone-filled cribs which protected the harbor entrance and had storehouses, fish sheds, net reels and a dwelling or two and a big cottonwood tree at its inner or landward end. Still earlier a row of grain warehouses—B. R. Clarkson's—stood there. They were swept away by fire in the 1880's. About the same time a flood like the 1948 Etobicoke freshet carried vessels out into the lake and damaged the piers. They were repaired but succeeding governments neglected them until the lake broke through on both sides and only the fangs of the east and west piers were left the entrance channel filled with silt and sand. Makeshift dredging was done by or for the government in a jug-handled trade, the mud being merely mounded on the ruins of the east pier with the result that pier and all washed back into the channel with the next blow.


Incidentally, a noble canvas in the most recent OSA exhibition showed what a pounding Lake Ontario gives all the works of man. The scene here was Toronto Island breakwater. It was as savagely magnificent as Lands End, Finisterre, or North Cape in a gale, and it was pure Ontario.

The picture, reproduced above, was by Rowley Murphy, a sailor of forty years experience, as well as an artist. The purple dusk of the storm sky, the liquid green of wave masses driven two hundred miles by the scourging of the November blast, has never been depicted with greater truth nor with greater vitality. The realism compels one to wonder how the artist escaped drowning, how he captured in such perfection the shifting shades of emerald and clotted foam and how he kept his canvas dry. Such a gale destroyed the Bronte lighthouse. Such a gale destroyed Port Credit's piers and harbor entrance.


They are dredging Port Credit again, this month, by the dragline method. Anything that deepens the harbor entrance is commendable. All our natural harbors are worth millions to the country as tourist attractions and recreation centres for the citizenry who pay the shot. But the reward of effort will be lost unless the dredged entrance is protected by two permanent piers of steel and concrete. Government policy on harbor works appears to do as little as possible, as late possible, and never so well that the job has not to be done over again. It is to be hoped that harbor work at Bronte, Oakville, Port Credit, Frenchman's Bay, Port Darlington, Port Hope and elsewhere will be a golden exception to this rule.

The faithful keeper of Port Credit light to the night of its darkening was Capt. John Miller, a shipwright who built or rebuilt and sailed the Enterprise, Hope, Morning Star and Coronet, all stonehookers, and was one of the proprietors of the shipyard on the west bank, inside Goose Bay, where yachts and hookers were alike wintered at $10 a season. He also built or rebuilt the village school and the Methodist church. John Miller was one of the prize products of Methodism, and died at a good age in favor with God and man. The guiding light of his example, like the lamp of his lighthouse, never failed to shine.

When the piers washed away he used to row out in his skiff at nightfall to light up, and again early in the morning to put the light out, and save the government a few spoonsful of the coal oil which they doled out at the rate of thirteen gallons a year, and, mind you, don't waste it.

Often the old man and his fuzzy little terrier dog were capsized at the channel entrance by seas bursting as high as the lighthouse itself. But as Capt. John said, "The sea that's big enough to capsize this skiff is big enough to wash us back home safe," so they were never drowned. Capt. Miller lighted the lamp for the fast time on Oct. 31st, 1918.


Sir,—After reading Saturday's Schooner Days, I thought perhaps you would like a snap of the Lighthouse that Mr. John Miller kept so faithfully lit. We watched it burn down, as if we were losing a very old friend. My son, Bert, took this snap shortly before it was burned. I lived about two miles from the village, and as small girls, my sister and I used to watch for the light to go on. At that time there were no other lights.


21 Front St.. Port Credit.



MAGNIFICENT LAKE PIECE AT THE OSA shows how a port can be destroyed. The snapshot sent by a Port Credit lady demonstrates the futility of "mounded mud" for protection of work which should have been done once for all. Thirty or forty years ago silt dredged from the entrance channel at Port Credit and dumped upon the broken piers just washed back in and filled the channel again. A Bronte pier was also washed away.


PORT CREDIT LIGHTHOUSE, given over to the gulls, 1918.

Snider, C. H. J.
Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
27 Mar 1948
Language of Item
Geographic Coverage
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.39011 Longitude: -79.71212
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.55011 Longitude: -79.58291
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.621111 Longitude: -79.378611
Richard Palmer
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by [more details]
Copyright Statement
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Very Old Friends and How They Were Parted: Schooner Days DCCCXL (840)