Grande Clairiere


1885, a 30 year old priest named Jean Gaire decided to leave France for Canada and help others move to this new country.

By 1888, homesteaders from Eastern Canada, Great Britain and Europe had settled much of the land along the Souris River. Father Gaire, arrived at Oak Lake Parish on July 10, 1888 and set off in a southwesterly direction, in search of a suitable location to start a new community.

They found a large clearing that pleased the young priest. A few Metis families lived nearby, so he decided to settle and called the place "Grande Clairiere."

Father Gaire applied for a homestead.

He described his first church service in his memoirs: "At 9 o'clock my three Metis families were there - 6 adults and 10 children. I have neither choir nor children to serve Mass; I say a low Mass, all the time admiring the simple, open piety of these brave people." 

Soon his new community had a few more Metis families and some settlers from Loire in France. The population tripled in three months!

By April 1889 settlers began to arrive.  There were now 43 homes and close to 150 people!!
During the winter of 1889-1890, Father Gaire returned to France for a month as "Immigration Agent" for the Canadian government. On March 23, 1890, forty French and Belgian immigrants came to Grande Clairiere.

By 1893, the community had a post office, a church and rectory; and had started building a school.


Father Gaire's dream was to have more than an ordinary school; he wanted a boarding school where children from distant missions that had no educational facilities, could be accommodated.

In the spring of 1898, construction began on the first convent. The sisters arrived in Grande Clairiere on August 11 and school opened on August 18 with 20 pupils registered.

In 1903, his dreams in Grande Clairiere fulfilled, Father Gaire requested a transfer to a new mission in Wauchope, Saskatchewan.

The Railway Village


The three-story convent in Grande Clairiere was built in 1906.  


The Grande Clairiere community got a new look when the Canadian Northern line from Hartney to Virden passed through in 1906. The train brought better mail service and better delivery of supplies.

Already known for its large church, and convent, it now became a village with
stores, garages and even a bank.


Store operated by Claude Rey and Marcel Martine.

The Bank of Hochelaga opened as “la Banque Nationale” by Father Pierquin and originally located in the Rectory. Later changed to La Banque d’Hochelaga.

The Grande Clairiere District

Grande Clairiere Highlights

St. John’s Catholic Church
Grande Clairiere 
700.B.1 / 1907

The frame church features tall spire and cross with a statue in front gable of St. Louis de Gonzague, a gift from Mr. & Mrs. Desire Vinck Sr. The church was once associated with a convent/school managed by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions.



Bank of Hochelaga
S 34 – 6 - 25
700.D.1 / ca. 1910


Opened as “la Banque Nationale” by Father Pierquin and originally located in the Rectory. Later changed to La Banque d’Hochelaga and located in this building, which was located just north of the Rectory.

Gaston Boulanger was the manager.

The building was moved to a nearby farm.

Pallard Store
NE 24-6-25
700.D.2  / 1909

The store was built by Frank Vassart and operated by:

1912 – Marcel Martine & Claude Rey
1925 – Francois Pallard
1942-67 – Amedee Boulanger

The pressed metal ceiling and some original shelving is still evident in the building that has been Moved from the village of Grande Clairiere to a farm.

Bertholet Blacksmith Shop
Grande Clairiere
700.D.3 / ca. 1910

Closed in 1976, the structure contains some blacksmith tools and fixtures.

Grande Clairiere School
Grande Clairiere
700.E.1 / 1925

Established by the Grande Clairiere Parish, the school was closed in 1966 and used as a clubhouse for baseball tournaments.

Grand Clairiere Cemetery
Grande Clairiere
700.F.1 / 1888

Nearby is a fieldstone cairn listing the priests who served the community from 1888 to 1995.


Jean Gaire Parish Hall
Grande Clairiere

Florent Gregiore was the overseer for the building. An addition and renovations were completed in1974 and 1985.

Maple Lakes Drain
Grande Clairiere area. Connecting Maple Lakes to the Souris River.

Constructed to drain Maple Lakes as part of a Water Management Plan