Throughout maritime Canada there are countless pretty little white and red wooden lighthouses that look like they came off an assembly line. Popularly known as “pepperpot” or “pepper shaker” lights, these towers often guide the way to some of the most picturesque harbors anywhere. Abbott’s Harbour Light in West Pubnico, Nova Scotia is one of these picture-perfect pepperpots in a postcard setting, providing a worthwhile stop for tourists on the province’s Lighthouse Route. For generations of Acadian fishermen and boaters it has signified home.
A beacon at the south end of Abbott Island was first lighted in 1884, and it was later moved across to the mainland. The new location was not ideal and the light was again relocated when the present 30-foot lighthouse was built in 1922. It’s said that local resident Julien d’Entremont would help mariners by waving a lantern on shore near his fish shed before the lighthouse was erected in its current location.
Sieur Philippe Mius d’Entremont was among the first French settlers in the New World. He came to Acadia in 1649, and two years later he founded Pubnico. Today nearly everyone in the area is related to the d’Entremonts. Guillame-Henri d’Entremont served as keeper of Abbott’s Harbour Light from 1887 to 1939, and he received a medal from King George V in 1935 for his long and faithful service. Charles-Angus “Charlie” d’Entremont kept the kerosene-fueled light from 1939 to 1961. Near the end of his lightkeeping career Charlie d’Entremont had his wages increased from $12.50 to $20 per month. John Joseph Surette became keeper until 1973 when the light was automated. The lighthouse has been decommissioned in recent years.
Guillaume-Henri d’Entremont lived a good distance from the lighthouse, so over the years he hired people to tend the light. Some of these men were residents of nearby Miniques Hill. The name “Miniques” comes from the first inhabitant of the hill, Dominique d’Entremont. Laurent d’Entremont wrote in the Yarmouth Vanguard newspaper that his mother remembered visiting her Uncle François d’Entremont, who for a time had the job of lighting the lighthouse at night. François welcomed the local children to climb to the top of the tower for a view of Lobster Bay.
In 1990, Father Clarence d’Entremont and other members of the West Pubnico Historical Society created Lighthouse Park (Parc du Phare). The small park with picnic tables and benches, with the lighthouse as its centerpiece, is enjoyed by many people each year.
For the past three springs the Abbott’s Harbour Lighthouse has been a part of the annual Nova Scotia Lighthouse Festival called “Lights Along the Shore.” And the West Pubnico Historical Society has begun negotiations to gain ownership of the lighthouse. Pubnico will be quite involved with the Congres Mondial des Acadiens (World Acadian Congress) in 2004, and according to Josette d’Entremont of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society, “This little pepperpot will be a very busy and popular spot during that time!”
My own grandparents left Pubnico in the early 1900s. I have no memories of a visit to West Pubnico when I was four years old, despite my mother’s old 8mm movie showing me chasing a flock of sheep over a hill. So a visit I made in 2000 represented a homecoming of sorts. I didn’t have much time to spend in West Pubnico, but I visited the cemetery and spoke with a friendly older man from the local area who knew plenty about the d’Entremonts and their kin. And I had a very pleasant visit to the Parc du Phare.
After researching, photographing and writing about lighthouses for 15 years, it brought up emotions I had never felt before when I saw the sign near the lighthouse that listed d’Entremonts as longtime keepers. And my direct ancestors figure prominently in the area — Dominique d’Entremont was my great great grandfather, and François was my great grandfather. To me, this lighthouse will never be just another “pepperpot.” It stands as a beacon guiding me to my Acadian roots.
This story appeared in the
January 2003 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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