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Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (S)
Sutherland, Alexander and family

Following,are,some references,to the Scottish, Sutherland family. of Alexander Sutherland. b. 1805, Wick Scot., who, immig. abt. 1832,first settling, around Cobourg, Ont., then Port Burwell, Ont. Can., and this branch of a Sutherland family, and their association, as lighthouse keepers for generations, at Port Burwell, Ont. Can. Letter, regarding History of the Main Light-Port Burwell, Ontario, Canada- from B.B.S.Basarke, P., Eng; Head, Fixed Aids Marine Aids Division On their file 8010-1510(CGAA-S)-Transport Canada  Coast Guard,Ottawa, Canada.sent too N.Kechnie,-May 18,1978.Excerpts of this
letter, 2004  by, N.K.                              


The first lighthouse at Port Burwell, Ontario, was built by Alexander Sutherland, in the early 1800,sat his own expense, to serve his fleet of sailing vessels.  The first government-paid lightkeeper, in 1840, was of another name(unknown), but shortly after 1843, the Sutherlands re-assumed the duties of Lightkeeper, and five generations served in this capacity.

The 65 -ft. wooden lighthouse stood at the end of the village's main street and the light originally was kerosene-burning. Conversion to gas was made some time before 1850, and to electricity in 1950.           

Additional aids to navigation were established over the years at Port Burwell(2sets of range lights; a single light on the west breakwater, and a fog alarm).,and at the close of navigation,1962, it was decided to discontinue the main light and to dispose of the old lighthouse.  In June,1963, the matter of disposal of the lifhthouse and land reserve was referred to the National Historic Sites Division, of the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, in the event that their historical importance might be deemed sufficient for that assume responsibility.

       A description of the land reserve is as follows:     

"The main light is situated on the southeast corner of lot no.14 on the west side of Robinson St.,Port Burwell, in the Twp. of Bayham and is in the East riding of the Co. of Elgin, Ont. " The lighthouse reserve or lot on which a lighthouse has stood since the year 1840 is intended to be a lot 33 feet by 33 feet containing an area of four square rods referred to in a deed of sale from Mahlon G. Burwell to Levi Lewis registered on 14th Oct.,1910, under the No.16219 as having been reserved by the Crown as a lighthouse site."

Before a decision was received from the National Historic Sires Division, the Village of Port Burwell, in 1964, made application to take over the old light site, clean the grounds, repair the lighthouse and restore it, as a Centennial project. As the prime interest of the National Historic Sites Division is to deter any efforts to demolish structures of historical value, the Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources was in favour of transferring the lighthouse and site to the Village of Port Burwell. Accordingly, an Agreement (No.74649), dated Feb.23,1965, was drawn up whereby Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada conveyed by Letters Patent ( D.O.T. No. 75044) to the Corporation of the Village of Port Burwell a parcel of land together with the lighthouse structure thereon at Port Burwell, " to maintain and keep in a good condition of repair the said land and the said lighthouse in perpetuity, as a historic site and monument".  There was no monetary consideration.

N.K. notes from Barb (nee Sutherland) mentioned, that Jack Sutherland, had told her the Original Alexander Sutherland, came from Scotland in the Scottish Regiment in 1812 or 1837. When it was over, they offered the soldiers land in lieu of payment. Alexander Sutherland, first settled in Port Colburn or Port Cobourg, then moved down to Port Burwell,Ont. Can.  Alexander had a fleet of sailing ships throughout the world. He was to have built, the lighthouse for his own convenience, and because he owned it, was given the title of the lighthouse. Barb mentioned, that there was a write up, in the London Free Press (date unknown pres.)on the lighthouse, and another write up at one time, in the St.Thomas Times Journal newspaper. N.K. 2004- over the years, there may have been numerous write ups on the lighthouse, which if gathered,would provide some interesting history,a future project worth following through.   N.K. recalls, a family story, of a large storm on the Lake, in Ontario, which caused a lot of Alexander Sutherlands schooners too sink.(There is likely, a record of that somewhere, that could be researched).      

From a newspaper clipping-(1987-newspaper -----Journal)-Large picture,of lighthouse from former newspaper arcticle,listed as from the 1960,s on the pg.of the 1987 arcticle, with a smaller picture of Barb Kechnie, Weldon Fanjoy and BettyKipp,and husband, upper left corner of larger picture of whitehouse.

History Repeats-Just as Alexander Sutherland often lit the beacon light in Port Burwell lighthouse during his term as keeper of the light which began in 1848, some of his descendents prepared to relight it Saturday in the restored lighthouse. in front of the namesake of the early light house keep,Alexander Sutherland. (Barb,Weldon,Betty,Bill)   

BURWELL  LIGHT SHINES AGAIN                                                          
by Ellen Ashton-Haiste-T-J Staff Reporter

Port Burwell-The lever was pulled and, with a pop and a puff of smoke, a beacon, not seen since 1962, once again shone out over Lake Erie from the harbor village of Port Burwell. Working the lever were descendents of Alexander Sutherland, one of the early "keepers of the light" at Port Burwell.
Watching from a large tent across from the lighthouse were a few hundred spectators including local residents and members of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association. The 500-member association, dedicated to the preservation and accumulation of history of lighthouses, held its annual meeting during the weekend in Port Burwell, which joined the association just last year.

The lighting ceremony Saturday marked the completion of a $54,000 restoration project for the historic lighthouse, first built in 1840.

Original Cost Higher                                                        
Original estimates for the complete restoration were much higher, at about $75,000.  A report on the structure by engineering firm Proctor and Redfern Ltd.,London, Ont., recommended replacement of rotted timbers, new concrete,foundations and possible(end of pg.cut off)  But thanks to the Amish community for providing materials and to Amish Mennonite Leroy Eicker with the work with assistance from his family, the final cost reduced considerably.

The work was also subsidized by a Ministry of Citizen and Culture grant, recognizing the heritage value of the lightouse. The lighthouse was closely associated with the development of Port Burwell as a shipping centre in the 1830's. Increasing maritime traffic, schooner and steamer cap,petitioned for the erection of lighthouses in several of the Lake,s north-side ports.

In 1837, a legislative committee recommended constructing lighthouses in several of the ports including Burwell and Port Stanley.

The Port Burwell light was the first provincial light on the lake, finally completed in 1840 at a cost of $500. It was a wood-frame, 46-foot octagonal towere with a wick oil lamp visible for several miles out. Later, natural gas was used for the light and, in 1950,s was converted to electricity.

Provincial government plans to remove the lighthouse in 1948 were met with determined resistance by viligant residents, and in 1962, Port Burwell purchased the structure from the  government for $1.00.       Paper,on the Opening of the Restored Original Lighthouse,Port Burwell, June 20, 1987.written by Barbara Jean Sutherland.

The lighthouse and the harbour are closely interwoven with my memories of growing up in Port Burwell. Our family has had a long association with the lighthouse. Our Gret-grandfather and great uncles were the first Sutherlands to supervise and attend the lighthouse. Our grandfather, the first whom I remember, held the position for 45 years.  Our dad,Jack, served for nearly 9 years. Our brother, Jack, carried on the duties of lightkeeper for 20 years. Our youngest brother, Ort, kept the tradition when he became assistant lightkeeper at Port Stanley for 10 years.  Our brother, Jack, lightkeeper for 20 years, took civic responsibility seriously. He had served as a member of the Tillsonburg School Board. As a member of the Transportation Committee, he rode the school buses to see that they operated as cost efficient as possible. Later,he served a term as chairman of the Tillsonburg Board. he had served in Korean War and was, along with several others, responsible for the Port Burwell Legion built. At, the time of his death at 39 in 1967, Jack was reeve of the village and he would have been very proud to have been here today. Earlier, along with Mr. Rowley, reeve at the time, he was instrumental in having this original lighthouse saved from the wrecker,s hammer and in having the lighthouse designated as a historic site.   Our father, Jack, light keeper,by appointment, for nearly 9 years, but lightkeeper, in fact, as he helped carry on the duties during the last few years of his father,s long tenure of 45 years, would have also, loved to have been here today. Our dad was Chairman of the local school board at the time of his early death, at 46.  Grandpa Sutherland was lightkeeper for the longest period, beining 45 years, and his long service was rewarded by the honour of receiving a King George medal for long service. I remember the occasion very well. It was held in the west park on the hill, known as Iroquois Park. The most memorable part of the ceremony to me at the time, was Grandpa Sutherland rounding up all the grandchildren there, the Fanjoy boys, Uncle Don boys and Betty, Jack and I, to offer us each a nickel if we,d stand at the back of the crowd and yell"That,s our Pop!" as he stepped forward to receive his medal. Needless to say we all willingly earned our nickel.

To refer back to my opening statement about childhood and memory. The ultimate treat I remember, was going with Daddy to light the lighthouse light. he,d turn on the gas on the ground floor, we,d trudge up the stairs where he,d turn on the gas, strike the wooden sulphur match, and light the light, being very careful not to break the asbestos mantle. Many here will remember how fragile they were. What a view of the harbour from the top.! In December the outer breakwalls were shrouded in ice. In summer, The Ashtabula, the Columbia and the Ben.E.Taitand other large ships entering the harbour were much more impressive from the top of the lighthouse than from the pier. As, anyone my age will remember the Ben E.Tait and her captain were very popular with the young set. The captain would come to Nidel Ives and treat all the local kids to an ice cream cone.  The first kid to spot the Ben E. coming in would spread the word, and we,d all assemble at ives and the Captain didn,t disappoint us. The harbour at this time was dredged annually to a depth of 30 feet to accomadate these large coal carriers.

As well, I remember when the hydro was off, Dad had to crank the auxiliary fog-horn, by hand, of course, until either the fog lifted or the power returned to run the elctric fog-horn. The outer pier lights were run by gas that came in large cylinders. Many a stormy sea had to be bucked in the white lifeboat, that usually rested on the pier by the lighthouse, to ensure the lights would flash their message aross the water to ships at sea.

Dad kept the lights burning past the mandatory closing date of December 15 and began the next season before the offical opening date of March 15 so that fishermen might use the port in safety. One memoralbe early spring when I was in my early teens, the wind cleared the ice from the harbour and the lake appeared ice-free to the horizon, as I remember. The fishing tugs went out to get an early start. The wind shifted and the ice was blown shoreward. All the tugs but one mad it safely home. The days stretched onward with no sign of that one tug.  Ceil Martin, Captain, along with his father and, I believe, one other crew member were out there somewhere but no one knew whether the tug was crushed by the ice or if they were safe.  The telegraph wires hummed. Reporters came from the Toronto papers. Port Burwell,s drama was on every newscast on the radio.   I saw my first airplane at the time, that being the one sent out too search. I beleive it was the first time an aircraft was used on Lake rie for search and rescue.  Finally, after many days, without foood or heat the tug was located and supplies were dropped. Will any of us who lived here then, ever forget the prayers, the worry and the excitement of the safe return of Cecil Martin,s tug?

There was tragedy, too. A few years later, I was cleaning the front windows of William,s, now Stephenson,s store on a bright sunny afternoon. I paused to watch a fish tug coming homeward. Suddenly it blew up.  Two young fishermen, Bud Smith and LeRoy Walker lost their lives; the Captain, although badly burned, survived.

On behalf of the Sutherland family, I'd like to thank Mr.Varty and the others whom I understand were responsible for this lighthouse restoration.  

In closing, may I say that, yes, we lighthouse Sutherlands, are proud of our roots and neve forget our heritage in Port Burwell.  Any childhood friends know, how as children, we watched for any sign of fog or a large ship coming in.  We would hightail it for home to alert our Dad. He, usually beat us to it, for as we panted up the beach hill, we,d hear the bawling of the fog-horn, locally known as,"Sutherland,s calf."
  Given by:   Barbara Sutherland Kechnie

I saw your site, asking for contributions, regarding, Scottish, Canadians, and felt that the Sutherland family, might be of interest to others. This information, is some history, which I collected to add, to family history, hopeing it will be of interest, Nancy Kechnie email, at :


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