Not that long ago, there was hope that Ontario, Canada’s 1884 Hope Island Lighthouse would be saved. We even wrote about it in a story titled “More Hope for Hope Island” in the May 2000 edition of Lighthouse Digest.
But there is no longer any hope for Hope Island Lighthouse. It has been demolished. The Canadian government decided that the buildings at the lighthouse station were too far gone to be saved, so they hired Priestly Demolition of King, Ontario to level the buildings, remove the debris, and bring the lighthouse site back to its natural state on the 400-acre island in the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron near Midland, Ontario.
Back in 2002, some work was done by a group called the Huron Lightstation Preservation Society to cap the lighthouse tower and secure the site to protect it from further deterioration from the elements. However, the group folded and no further work was done at the lighthouse.
A previous effort to save the lighthouse back in the 1970s also failed. At that time, a Dr. Bob Stebbins became the owner of the abandoned lighthouse when he was the only bidder for it at a government auction. But there was one stipulation to the auction; he had to move the lighthouse within one year or its ownership would revert back to the government. When Dr. Stebbins found out that it would cost $100,000 to move the lighthouse, he gave up on the plan.
For the most part, family life at Hope Island Light Station was similar to other island lighthouse stations, with the exception of its fourth lighthouse keeper, a fellow named John Hoar, who was described by Archille Marchildon, the son of the fifth keeper, as a “crazy bugger.” John Hoar, who was originally the lighthouse keeper at Christian Island Lighthouse, became the lighthouse keeper at Hope Island in 1891 when he switched positions with Allan Collins, the third keeper of Hope Island. However, a dispute between Collins and Hoar escalated to the point where the Lighthouse Superintendent had to intervene.
But the dispute did not stop, and John Hoar, who was described as an ill-tempered man, kept the dispute going to the point that he was fired from his job, and in 1893, he was replaced by Thomas Marchildon. However, Marchildon couldn’t take his job right away; he; was held at bay by a shotgun-wielding Hoar who refused to give up the lighthouse to its newly appointed keeper. It took a few weeks for reinforcements to arrive on the island, and John Hoar eventually relinquished control of the lighthouse. But John Hoar’s bizarre behavior did not stop. He stayed on the island and built himself a log cabin to live in while pursuing a fishing career. For reasons unknown, one time he even took a shot at keeper Thomas Marchildron. Exactly what else happened in the meantime is unclear, but what is known is that keeper Thomas Marchildon wrote a letter to the authorities stating that John Hoar had committed a rape on Hope Island and should be considered dangerous and possibly insane. Shortly thereafter, John Hoar was arrested and jailed, charged with having improper relations with a thirteen-year- old girl.
Daniel Campkin, project manager for Priestly Demolition said that although the demolition project was a pretty straightforward demolition job, a significant amount of planning and work had to be done just to get the barge with all the equipment out to the uninhabited island.
The work included demolition, removal and disposal of the lighthouse, boathouse, fog signal building, generators building, wharf, and the two keeper’s homes. Mr. Campkin said “The buildings were in very rough shape. We could only salvage a few items, such as doors. The lantern had been removed from the tower years ago. All debris from the demolition including the wood, concrete and brick had to all be removed from the island requiring the barge having to make several trips to the mainland. The lighthouse site then had to be rough graded as close to its natural state as possible and they had to relocate existing rip-rap along the shoreline.”
Reportedly, on his deathbed former lighthouse keeper John Hoar had admitted to murdering two local fishermen - Francois Marchildon and William Lacourse - and dumping their bodies into a well that Hoar himself had dug on the island. A subsequent search by the authorities at that time did not turn up any bodies.
The crew from Priestly Demolition also did not discover the remains of any bodies, but Mr. Campkin did say that he was sometimes bothered by the island’s strange atmosphere.
Now those who visit Hope Island in the future will never know that an active light station once existed there for the benefit of saving the mariner at sea.
This story appeared in the
Jul/Aug 2018 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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