Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Sister Islands Lighthouse

By Susan G Mathis

In 1859, Congress provided funds for the Lighthouse Board to set a beacon light on one of Sister’s Islands, a string of three tiny islets that run parallel to and just south of the international boundary line separating the United States and Canada in the St. Lawrence River. Unfortunately, in 1863, before title to the island could be obtained, the funds reverted to the treasury.

In 1867, the islands were purchased from Charles and John F. Walton for $142.33, and the Sister Islands Lighthouse was built in 1870 on an eastern shoal along the channel that passed on the Canadian side of the islands. Constructed of dark gray limestone from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, quarries, a fixed white light of the sixth-order, illuminating an arc of 360 degrees, first shone from the new lighthouse from forty-seven feet above the river on September 15, 1870.

The first lightkeeper, William Dodge was a cabinet maker, tax collector, and census gather after his stint as captain during the Civil War where he broke his foot badly.

Built to withstand the harsh northern New York St. Lawrence River winters, the Sister Islands Lighthouse, keepers cottage, and a small shed, housing a bathroom and storage area had a steeply pitch roof, gable dormers, and limestone lintels and sills. The forty-seven-foot lighthouse tower adorned the cottage.

In 1875, a sixty-seven-foot-long retaining wall and a dry-stone causeway connected the three tiny islands. In 1884, a twenty-six feet-deep well was sunk through the granite island for a water supply.

Living in such severe conditions is not for the faint of heart. The Lighthouse Board required the lightkeepers to be on the island year-round, even when the river froze over and the light was not needed. Amazing people, these lightkeepers!

In my latest Thousand Island Gilded Age story, A Summer at Thousand Island House, Addi accompanies Lt. Worthington and his son, Jimmy, on an inspection of Sister’s Island Lighthouse. It’s an exciting day, full of interesting aspects of Sister’s Island, the lighthouse, and the lighthouse inspection processes.

About A Summer at Thousand Island House

By Susan G Mathis

She came to work with the children, not fall in love.

Part-nanny, part entertainer, Addison Bell has always had an enduring love for children. So what better way to spend her creative energy than to spend the summer nannying at the renowned Thousand Island House on Staple’s Island? As Addi thrives in her work, she attracts the attention of the recreation pavilion’s manager, Liam Donovan, as well as the handsome Navy Officer Lt. Worthington, a lighthouse inspector, hotel patron, and single father of mischievous little Jimmy.

But when Jimmy goes missing, Addi finds both her job and her reputation in danger. How can she calm the churning waters of Liam, Lt. Worthington, and the President, clear her name, and avoid becoming the scorn of the Thousand Islands community?


Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty-five times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books. She has eleven in her fiction line including Mary’s Moment. Find out more at www.SusanGMathis.com.


  1. Thank you for posting today. Thanks for including the picture; the building is stunning!

  2. Great blog about the Sisters Lighthouses. I passed it on to a friend who loves lighthouses and has a collection. Thanks for the great information!