In 1891, a few settlers, residents of Grande Clairière, came to make homesteadd at what they called la Quatrième Coulée (the 4th creek). Amongst these settlers, were Alphonse Copet, Cyrille Delaite, Joseph Delaite, Cyrille Libert and others.
In the spring of 1892, these settlers left Grande Clairière full of enthusiasm, with baggage, their cattle, and ploughs. After trying without success, to break land at Alphonse Copet's, they returned to Grande Clairière discouraged.
Cyrille Sylvestre and his four sons took up homesteads at St. Maurice, they had definite intentions on settling there.
In 1889, the families of Honoré George, Fortunat George, Edouard Delaite, and Jean-Bapiste Stringer arrived at Grande Clairière from Luxembourg, Belgium. They later took up homesteads at St. Maurice.
During the winter of 1893, the Jean-Baptiste Moreau family was the first family to spend the winter as isolated settlers.
In 1894, the Moreau family was joined by Sylvestre, Stringer, Carbotte, and Revet families. These settlers stayed to break the land. Soon Georges, Tinants, Legros, Pierrards, and Stevenots arrived to reinforce the colony.
By 1897-1898, 110 settlers worked and prospered around what came to be named St. Maurice de Bellegarde.
In 1900, four families from Chicago arrived; the Garands, the Bertrands, the Raymonds, and the Fourniers.
It's impossible to list all the families which made up the St. Maurice mission, but these are a few of the most common names; Blérot, Thirty, Legros, Racine, Lamotte, Langlois, Gérinroze, Renard, Delvenne, Cop, Petit, Martin, Gentes.
Father Napoléon Poirier, the colonizing priest, recruited several French-Canadian families from 1903-1924, such as Gervais, Larocque, Lavigne, Sylvestre, Poirier, and more...
Photo donated by André George
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WHY THIS AREA?
When Father Jean Gaire, a young priest, founded the parish in Grande Clairière, Manitoba, in 1888, St Maurice de Bellegarde didn't exist. By 1892, settlers came from Grande Clairière to the Quatrième Coulée to do an in-depth study of the area to determine its suitability for settlement. They concluded that the soil was rich, that there were immense pastures with an abundance of hay in the sloughs. The trees offered protection against forest fires, and the land would grow and reproduce. This seemed like a magnificent countryside, watered by a wonderful creek with superb ponds enriching the surrounding lands. They were home.
THE FIRST HARVEST
Land was broken with oxen, horses, and hand ploughs. In 1894, the first crop was milled. In December, the harvesting machines arrived at St. Maurice. Thanks to favorable weather, it was possible to save the crop. They had to haul it to the nearest rail line, 25 miles to the east, at Reston, Manitoba.