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Object ID # 1962.046.001
Object Name Key
Title The Presque Isle Lighthouse Key
Lexicon category 2: Building Furnishings
Date 1910s
Year Range from 1895
Year Range to 1920
Made Handle made by John MacKenzie
Place of Origin Unknown
Description Presque Isle Lighthouse key, formerly used at Sarawak Township. It is a stumphole style large iron key, with a round loop end. A dog-chewed wooden grip strung on wire was added to it in the 1910s. The lighthouse was built in 1873.
Note: Circa 2009, signage, etc. spells it as Presqu'ile, but historically, the placename was spelt as Presque Isle. See RELATED for other items pertinent to Mr. MacKenzie, the lighthouse keeper.

Provenance The key was used at the Presque Isle Lighthouse, Sarawak Township, Grey County. The lighthouse was built in 1873, and the first keeper was John MacKenzie. The second lighthouse keeper was his son, John A. MacKenzie. He had a collie dog named "Buller", who carried the lighthouse key for him, hence the wooden handle. Buller was alive in the 1910s. He could do all sorts of tricks, such as carrying a pail of water, leading livestock, waking up the lighthousekeeper, and so on. The Presque Isle lighthouse building eventually became a cottage and was torn down in the 1970s. The placename became "Presqu'ile" in the late 20th-century.
The last owner, Gordon Agar (Eager) resided in Sarawak Township. John A. MacKenzie, the second lighthousekeeper, was his maternal uncle. Gordon's grandfather, John MacKenzie was the first lighthousekeeper.

In the late 19th-century and early 20th-century, Presque Isle was a busy little port, as steamships would stop at its wharf for wood fuel. In the 21st century, its name is now spelt as "Presqu'ile", and it is situated in the municipality of Georgian Bluffs.

The following sketch of John MacKenzie was printed in the Grey County Subscribers to the 1880 H. Belden Illustrated Historical Atlas of Grey:
"Mackenzie, John, general agent, shipper, and telegraph agent; also discharges the duties of Postmaster and Lighthouse Keeper at Presque Isle. Owns Lot 41, Concession 3 and Lot 40, Con. 22, Townships of Sarawak and Keppel. Was the first Reeve of the Township of Sarawak. Is a Canadian; born 1837. Settled in Grey Co., 1861."

Told by John A. MacKenzie

At rising time each morning Buller walks quietly into my bedroom, stands upon his hind legs, reaches over and touches me gently with his paw, never missing a morning. If I wish to take another nap, I tell him so, and to come back in a little while again; he will do so in about 15 minutes. If told to awaken anyone else in the house, he will go to them and bark to awaken them. Now that navigation is open (he having always carried the key to and from the light-house at Presque Isle), he brings the key in his mouth when he comes to waken me to put out the lights after daylight. If water is wanted, just say "Buller, take the pail and get some water," he at once goes to the bay, dips the pail into the bay himself, and comes back with the water.

When any of the family are late getting home at night and require the lantern, just light it and he takes it out to the barn. He will hold it for you to see to put the horses away as well as a boy can. Then, too, while you are getting the feed ready, just untie the horses, tell him to water the horse; the dog takes the halter strap in his mouth and away he goes to the bay to water. He would almost pull the heads off the horses if they stop to take a bite of grass on the way. As to cattle, it is his work for years to bring the cows to the barn, to be milked, and take them back to the pasture again. If any visitors are stopping with us, and they are away in the park or strolling on the beach or fishing, when the meals are ready, just say, "Buller go and call them to come to dinner", and it is done, as many a tourist can testify.

If you wish an errand run to a neighbor, just give the dog a note saying what you want. He takes it and soon is back with the answer. If you shoot a duck in the bay, he will bring it to you; if you are rabbit hunting and he is running a rabbit, if you can't get a shot just call to Buller to wait and he will stop right where he is. When the rabbit misses the dog, it will soon stop, too, and look back for him, and I have been able to walk up close to the rabbit on these occasions. He will open and shut doors, gates, fetch and carry anything; stay and watch articles whenever and wherever told to do so.

If out shooting blackbirds, this dog will carry a basket, gather the birds, put them in the basket and will be with you ready for the next shot to pick up the game. If there is any new thing you want to have him do for you, just show him how to do it as you would a person, and the dog has it learned right away. As for fool tricks such as blowing his nose, carrying the cat outdoors, catching a hen, carrying an egg in his mouth into the house, fetch your shoes to you, pull off your oilskins, overalls, pants, stockings, or any old thing he is asked to do. When showing my mare and colt at the Fall Fairs, this dog will hold the mare in the ring while I show the colt; will lead the mare to the ring, take her back to the barn when shown and carry the blankets and whips. He is about ten years old.

I came near forgetting to mention an instance showing the wonderful intelligence of this dog. All lake captains will recollect the dense fog and smoke of 1908. When we tried to keep the Presque Isle fog horn blowing for all the boats that we possibly could, the regular line boats, and especially the C.P.R. boats as they passed to and from Owen Sound in the morning and evening, someone was on hand to blow the horn. The result was the dog came to know the whistles of the C.P.R. boats, owing to them invariably saluting the light and old friends here. On the occasion I will mention, the MANITOBA, Capt. John McIntyre, was delayed owing to the thick weather around St. Mary's River and did not arrive abreast of Presque Isle light until three or four o'clock in the morning. The weather being thick, the MANITOBA was giving fog signals; the dog recognized the whistle and came into my room, barking, and woke me up in time to return the signals to the steamer.

While at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, in the Fall of 1910, among the different things this dog would do to amuse the spectators was carry my lantern down through Midway to show me the way. Buller would sit in the bow of the boat, hold up the lantern, and ride around the "Shoot the Shute". When the boat came to the wharf, the dog got out, set down the lantern, took up the painter of the boat, towed the boat around to the starting place again, then would go and get the lantern. He could be seen leading the mare with her colt around the grounds, showing them in the ring, and leading the mare in the parade before the Grand Stand. I would give him a note and a pail and send him for scraps of meat to the restaurant for his meals. One gentleman (Bless him!) offered a dollar if this dog could get him some coal oil for his lantern. Needless to say, he paid the dollar over to the dog, and it was safely handed over to me by this wonderful dog. This dog can be seen at the Toronto Exhibition in September again, if all goes well.

A wonderful thing is how this dog can tell the time so well. For the last two months from commencement of the spring work I have been getting up at 5 o'clock a.m., and Buller has not missed a morning touching me with his paw, he not varying ten minutes in the two months. All I need do is get up one morning at the hour I wish to and the dog will waken me at the same hour after that.

When only a year old he did a very cute thing; he was given a full pail of apples to carry, and finding it too heavy to carry clear of the ground, he touched the bottom of the pail on the ground without letting go of the handle, tipped it over to roll out enough apples to lighten the pail, then trotted off with it to the house."

Collection Household Equipment, 19th-c Collection
Material Metal/Wood
Dimensions W-4.331 L-8.661 inches
Found Sarawak Township (formerly), Township of Georgian Bluffs, Grey County
People MacKenzie, John
MacKenzie, John A.
Agar, Charles
Subjects Sarawak Township
Keys (Hardware)
Search Terms Presque Isle (Presqu'ile)
Sarawak Township
Function A door key for a Grey County, Ontario lighthouse building. The iron key has been attached to a wooden piece with wire, so that a dog can carry it in his mouth for his master.