Welcome to the Lighthouse Point Trail
Note: With many thanks to Allan Smith, long-time Metis summer resident, who helped preserve the past by setting out much of the description of places along this and the Metis West and East Trails by interviewing their owners.
The first road you come to after exiting Route 132 at Route du Phare (Lighthouse Road) used to form part of old Route I, known as the Royal Route. You now go from rushing traffic, barely aware of the turn-off north, to peace and tranquility. Park in the small parking lot and walk or bike, because ahead is a private road where only residents may use cars. Follow the flat and winding two-kilometer (1¼-mile) lane, with lots of hidden surprises As you wander, you’ll find yourself going back through 200 years of history ending up at the Metis Lighthouse. And you’ll learn just how long many of the residents – generations of them – come back to the Point, as it’s known to those with homes there, every year.
Please remember this is a residential area: respect property lines and inhabitants’ privacy. Use the private road at your own risk and please do not leave valuables visible in your car.
Built in 1886 by William Yuile, this house’s centre section was prefabricated and floated down the river at high tide (William Yuile later moved to ‘The Village’ – ‘downtown Metis Beach’. The Stevenson family owned the house for three generations, before it was acquired by Ron and Kay De La Ronde in 1967. The house is currently owned by Rick and Carolyn Taylor (daughter of Rev. Robert Pentinga, who served as minister at both the Leggatt’s Point and Little Metis Churches for many years).
Did you know… ? Building movement was a ‘thing’ in Metis for over a century, in addition to reusing parts of old buildings in new locations.
As you turn to the right, you will see a house named Bayfield. Built in the 1850s (and now considerably renovated), this house was bought in 1898 by William Henry Nowers. He was reportedly a friend of William Dawson, who spoke so highly of the Metis area that many of his McGill colleagues, with their families and Montreal friends, also began a steady annual pilgrimage to the area.
In fact, William Nowers’ two sisters-in-law married two Trenholme brothers, one of whom – Norman William Trenholme – was a law professor at McGill in the mid-1880s and the university’s solicitor, later serving as Dean of McGill’s law faculty from 1888 to 1895). The Nowers and Trenholmes are just two examples of the area’s summer residents who married other summer residents (and the Allens, Trenholme descendants, still come to Metis). It must be something in the AIR (or water…).
William Nowers and his wife had five children: three of the siblings built the cottages you see across the road by the bay, all of which are still owned and occupied during the summer by Nowers’ descendants.
- Did you know…? In 1950, Bayfield was moved back from Route 1 (the Royal Road) to its present location to make way for an Anse-des-Morts-to-Les-Boules bypass (now Route 132). Why? Matane’s municipal council wanted to resolve what had become a serious problem of speeding and congestion along the “very narrow and tortuous” road through Metis Beach and Les Boules (now combined into Métis-sur-Mer), especially between Anse-des-Morts (aptly named Dead Man’s Bay for lives lost on this treacherous part of the St. Lawrence River, but increasingly becoming a death road) and Metis Beach. The sole policeman stationed on the highway to stop excessive speed was credited with issuing a quarter of all tickets in Matane County. The petition also mentioned disturbances by Metis tourists: sound and traffic issues, as well as accidents between cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. The council asked for urgent action because “[d]rivers were increasingly impatient and in bad spirits [that] pushed them to excess speed and imprudent manoeuvres” (Le Progrès du Golfe, 13 janvier 1956). Several years later, Route 132 was completed, helping protect the people – and arguably the feel – of Metis.
- Did you know…? This house had a surprise visitor – or rather visitors – one day. Harriet Stairs, the owner of the house, was asked (in pre-GPS days) by a passing traveller, with three young sons, how to get to the lighthouse. The Stairs and visitors ended up spending a happy afternoon together. The guest? Pierre Elliot Trudeau and his sons, Justin, Alexandre, and Michel.
Built in 1924 by George Sim (local farmer, carpenter, and jack of all trades as many local residents had to be), the house was previously owned by the Blues and the Palmers. Mrs. Palmer’s mother, Katie, had married Walter Blue; Katie had emigrated from England as a young woman, with a letter of reference to William Nowers, as the story goes, and she may have lived with the Nowers family in Montreal for a while, possibly joining them on one of family trips to Metis. Virginia Bohm Winn and husband Robert Winn restored this house.
- Could there be a connection… ? There were local Blues: the Blues who ran Blue Tea Room and Blue Cabins on the Grand-Métis to Leggatt’s Point Trail, however, no relation.
A daughter of William Nowers (12 Lighthouse Road), Mrs. Reiffenstein had this house built in 1925, also by George Sim. The cottage name is a merging of the initials of the first family who lived there: ‘Win’ for Winifred Reiffenstein, born Nowers, ‘A’ for Agnes, her daughter, and ‘CO’ for Clement Ogden, Winifred’s husband and Agnes’ father. Virginia Winn (see # 9 above) is Agnes’ daughter and a granddaughter of Winifred and Clement.
- Did you know… ? Winifred’s birth on August 17, 1877 was celebrated in two congratulatory letters to her mother Susan (Susie) White Nowers from Susan’s sisters. The two sisters – Sarah Angelina Hedge and Lucy Wilkes Hedge – had married two brothers who also visited Metis in summer: Dr. Edward Trenholme and Judge Norman Trenholme.
In 1898, then Seigneur David Ferguson had this home constructed, just down the road from his, for his sister. It was built in part from lumber from the ship Estevan, a ship that had sunk and broken apart. In 1916, the house was bought by Beatrice Nowers Asbury. Mrs. Asbury was sister to Mrs. Reiffenstein, mother of Frances Asbury Jamieson and grandmother of Catherine Jamieson Pawley, who owns this house today.
Did you know? Re-using was a necessity in days of scarce resources, and what could be recovered from ships that foundered almost always was salvaged and re-used.
Built in 1886 by William Yuile, this house’s centre section was prefabricated and floated down the river at high tide (William Yuile later moved to ‘The Village’ – ‘downtown Metis Beach’. The Stevenson family owned the house for three generations, before it was acquired by Ron and Kay De La Ronde in 1967. The house, now called Connemara, is currently owned by Rick and Carolyn Taylor (daughter of Rev. Robert Pentinga, who served as minister at both the Leggatt’s Point and Little Metis Churches for many years).
Look across the road and to the west, and you will see a house built in 1860 for Thomas Astle, Seigneur Macnider’s first farmer, and a barn beyond. The house, still called Farm Cottage, was bought by J. Arthur Mathewson in the 1930s. J. Arthur Mathewson first come to the area with his grandfather, James Adam Mathewson, who is credited with being, in 1854, the first tourist to visit the area. You can read more about the Matthewsons to learn about just some of the family interrelationships.
Hilda Stephens and her sister, Marietta Freeland, bought the house in 1964 after having rented it for five years. Every Wednesday until Hilda‘s death in 1999, Farm Cottage was the meeting place of a Metis painting class and some Metisites’ artwork still hangs in the house’s Art Room. Looking out to sea from Farm Cottage, you can see seals and, at low tide, the “Iron Reef’, so called because in 1870 a sailing vessel carrying iron rails sunk off the coast. The rails destined for the railroad are still buried in the sand by the reef.
The property was a working farm until the 1950s, and the children at Lighthouse Point were frequently taken on hayrides, perched on top of the bales as they were being transported to the barn.
Hilda Stephens and her sister, Marietta Freeland, bought the house in 1964 after having rented it for five years. Every Wednesday until Hilda’s death in 1999, Farm Cottage was the meeting place of a Metis painting class and some Metisites’ artwork hung in the house’s Art Room. Looking out to sea from Farm Cottage, you can see seals and, at low tide, the “Iron Reef’, so called because in 1870 a sailing vessel carrying iron rails sunk off the coast. The rails destined for the railroad are still buried in the sand by the reef.
Farm Cottage and the surrounding property, including the barn, are now owned by Hugh and Celia Verrier. The barn was completely transformed into a spacious summer home.
Built by Stanley Meikle (read more about the Meikles) for Jesse Stevenson in 1956, it was bought by Ian and Arlene Motley, the son of long-time summer Little Metis Beach Presbyterian Church organist Philip Motley, after Jessie passed away. Behind the house was a sunken garden – the second of two Lighthouse Point seigneurial manor houses. Built by Seigneur Ferguson, and one of the few in the area built of cut stone, it sadly was torn down in 1935.
- Did you know… ? In 1854, the new seigneur, David Ferguson, built a third manor house, which fell into disrepair after the Seigneur’s death and was ultimately demolished, so unfortunately only vestiges exist.
- Did you know… ? Like many places with ties to the past, Metis has what no self-respecting area would go without – at least one ghost. Metis had at least two – one at Sunnyside on Leggatt’s Point Trail and the other one associated with the Manor House, where hooves have been heard late at night when no horses were to be seen (some say this was a trick of the way sound carried across the bay). This did not seem to deter young locals very much, as the locale also had a reputation for being a ‘Lovers Lane.’
In the early 1890s, both these houses were owned by Dr. Arthur Patton (read more about the Pattons), who sold #25 to Arthur Barry in the late 1930s.
The house now numbered 25 originally served as an inn for travelers getting off the boats that stopped at Lighthouse Point (one of the earliest inns in Metis), with the central part of the house dating back to the 1860s, when it was brought across the bay by barge from the Mount Patton area. It was put on its present site and joined up with another cottage in the early 1900s. Summer residents used to be rowed ashore and then taken by horse and buggy to their destinations in Metis to the east and Grand Metis to the west. Mr. Barry bought the land for his daughter, Marguerite Hansard, who left it to her children Hugh and Pippa Verrier. In the 1980s, it was owned by John Candy (not the actor), who ran a store in the house. It is now owned by Hazen Hansard (Hazen‘ s father, Hugh, had inherited the house from his mother, Marguerite) and his wife, Karen (De La Ronde) Hansard. May be mixed up – check
While not visible from the road, the house on this property was built close to Seigneur Archibald Ferguson’s manor (see 17 Lighthouse Road) for Murdock Laing in 1870. It was known to some as the Laing Homestead. When Professor Armstrong, who taught at McGill University and was one of the McGill professors joined William Dawson and other McGill luminaries in the area, later bought the house. Professor Armstrong later gave the property to Dorothy Armstrong, before it was sold several times.
- Did you know… ? Professor Armstrong was surely one of the first sufferers in Metis of a severe wound received from the dangerous game of golf on a nine-hole links course on nearby Patton Point.
- Did you know… ? James M. and Florence B. Laing, son and daughter-in-law of Murdock Laing, rented at Lighthouse Point until moving to a house they had built in Metis Beach in 1929. Their son, Murdoch McLeod Laing, was one of many young men with a tie to Metis who lost their lives during World War 1. He was killed at Courcelette, France, in 1916, while serving with the 24th Canadian Infantry Battalion. In memory of Murdoch, her only son, who had graduated from the McGill School of Architecture, she endowed McGill’s Murdoch Laing Prize. Under the terms of her will, the prize is to be “paid to the student … of the School of Architecture who shall be adjudged by the faculty of the School to have presented the best plans … for a modern city house, both as to economy of construction costs and effectiveness of planning.”
Built in the first half of the 1800s by Peter Leggatt, this house was first owned by Archibald Ferguson, who had bought the seigneurie from William McNider. The house then went to his brother, David, the last Seigneur, when the seigneurie was divided into Grand Metis and Little Metis. David left it to his son, John. In 1899, Alexander McCormick bought it for his daughter, Ada McCormick Forbes, and the house has stayed in the Forbes family ever since.
- Did you know… ? In the 1890s, according to a story told by Mabel Page (of Page Tea House fame on the Leggatt’s Point Trail), a tidal wave hit the narrow isthmus area leaving the house on an island. The tidal wave also threw up and beached a whale on Lighthouse Point.
Built in 1910 by George Sim for Dr. Walter Patton, this house was passed on to the Misses Patton and then sold to Walter Attridge in 1945. Named “Outremer”, land beyond the sea, it is now owned by Heather Attridge Niderost and her husband, Adrian Niderost. Beside the big house – Outremer – was a boat house which was later converted into a cottage.
The Niderosts also own the land across the road. Not accessible to the public is a pond and to the right – a clearing, once a field where Mr. Mathewson grazed cattle. Further off still to the west across the ground towards the sea is the foundation of the original Lighthouse Point McNider Manor House built in 1818 (the first McNider manor house was built the same year by a wharf built on the bay at the mouth of the Mitis River, however, then Seigneuresse Angelique MacNider, loved Lighthouse Point and had a second house built on its west coast). Described in Alice Baldwin’s book, Metis, Wee Scotland of the Gaspé, it was from here that John McNider, and later his brother, Adam, gave land grants to Scottish settlers who built homes for themselves on the second and third concessions. In 1826, Bishop Mountain stayed here. In 1854, reportedly during Christmas celebrations, the large manor house burnt to the ground.
- What was the life of a Seigneur’s wife like? Here are a few excerpts from the diary of Angelique MacNider.
- Enjoy reading Heather (Attridge) Niederost’s account of her families coming to Metis – her mother’s life in the area seeming somewhat more challenging than that of a Seigneuresse!
- From the early 1800s to the 21st century, read a modern account of the people coming to Outremer as the house celebrated its centenary, and of an artists’ retreat.
This is one of the few young houses, by Metis standards, having been built in the 1970s by Betty Galbraith-Cornell for her and her husband, Jim Houghton. Harkening back to the arrival of houses or parts of houses the century before, the home arrived on a flatbed. Betty Galbraith-Cornell was a Quebec landscape artist and member of the Canadian Society of Artists. Her daughter, Diane Cornell, said Betty “followed her muse.” Diane added: “One of her favourite places to paint was Métis Beach on the Gaspé coast, a popular summer spot for English Montrealers.”
Did you know… ? We are unsure how our family first started going to Métis, but legend has it that Great Uncle Willie won a property there in a card game and dispatched the female members of the family to check it out. Whatever the case, the fifth generation is still drawn there every summer.”
This house is another of the oldest ones on the Point, predating even the first lighthouse. It was built in the 1860s and bought in the early 1900s by T.L.H. Saunderson. Later owned by Helen Saunderson Lafleur, it is now the property of granddaughter Diane Lafleur. Di’s paternal grandfather was Dr. Henri Lafleur, Professor Emeritus at McGill’s faculty of medicine. He was associated with Sir William Osler, and went with him to Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore, as its first resident physician. Dr. Lafleur married Olive Masson Grier, daughter of George A. Grier, and they occupied the Grier house (404 Beach Road on the Metis West Trail) on the ridge above what is now the Tingley enclave (397 Beach Road). The Lafleurs y had three sons: Henri, John, and Arthur, Di’s father. Arthur was introduced to Di’s mother, Helen Saunderson in Metis, and the rest, as they say, is history.
- You made it! The Metis Lighthouse: Flashing light and foghorn
After growing pressure, a lighthouse was built on Point-Mitis near where once had stood the 1822 residence of John MacNider. Opened in 1874, the lighthouse – 40 feet high, made of white-painted wood, topped by a 7.5-feet-in-diameter iron light tower painted red – was constructed for $3,518. The first lighthouse keeper, J. Jules Martin, lived in quarters at the base of the tower.
Between 1908 and 1909, the wooden lighthouse was replaced by a reinforced concrete tower (one of the oldest in Canada), to support a heavier, more powerful light (Fresnel lens). The new tower – 82 feet (25 metres) high – was topped by an iron lantern 12 feet (3.6 metres) in diameter. In 1923-1924, the cement structure was doubled, making the circular lighthouse octagonal. It remains virtually unchanged today, and still red and white.
- Did you know… ? The light produced three flashes, with a one-second delay between each flash, followed by 4¾ seconds off, to help mariners proceeding along the St. Lawrence know where they were at night or in the driving rain. Cap-Chat had two flashes, and Pointe-au-Père – four.
The greatest danger to shipping in the area, however, was fog. Until the early 1900s, navigation was still often by a method called ‘dead-reckoning’ – and dead often were they who ran up against nearby shoals in foggy weather. In 1918, a tender was issued for the construction of a structure to house the new foghorn. Like the light flashes helping sailors figure out where they were, the Lighthouse’s foghorn sound also was distinguishable from others on the Saint Lawrence River by length and number of mournful warning wails.
As more modern navigation methods (radar, sonar) developped, foghorn use was discontinued in 1971. It’s a sound that is still missed by some and should be heard by everyone at least once in a lifetime.
- Did you know… ? With the loss of the foghorn, vacationers no longer had an early warning that they could officially (and cosily) sleep in because it wouldn’t be a great morning to get up early to play golf!
The light was automated in 1978, meaning the end of a long line of lighthouse keepers. A number of the buildings were then used as a research facility by the Canadian Forest Service until 1995. For lots more about the lighthouse, visit the Metis Lighthouse website.
- Did you know… ? “Although lighthouse keepers were not well paid, they did earn a regular salary, so being named a lighthouse keeper was considered a stroke of luck, especially considering the qualifications needed: “have good eyesight, good morals, know how to read and write, and have a good knowledge of basic arithmetic.”
It was nonetheless a hard job; caring for a lighthouse and its optical equipment required skill and diligence. The main duty of the lighthouse keeper was to stand guard throughout the night to make sure that the lamp burned brightly and never went out. The keeper was often alone while keeping vigil, but his family helped with the other duties in running the lighthouse. The keeper and his family usually lived in a cottage attached to the lighthouse.”
- For a real feel of life at the lighthouse, read these reminiscences of Paul Gendron, son of a Metis lighthouse keeper, as he talks about the significant work keeping the light and foghorn going, and the risks of being a lighthousekeeper, where you were expected to save or help save passengers and crew of people in trouble on the water at any time of day or night.
Sources and helpers:
Many thanks to:
- Allan Smith
- Su Garin
- Paul Gendron