The community hall remains the centre of activities, from socials to suppers and other functions.
Grande Clairiere History
In July 1888, a young priest from France, Father Jean Gairie, made his way across the Atlantic Ocean to arrive in Montreal. From there he would travel across Canada to Winnipeg and then eventually Oak Lake and would then set off on Horse and Buggy to what we now call Grande Clairiere.
From then, all sorts of people arrived, growing this small community to an astounding population of 600 people! People had to settle else where because there was no land left to settle on, such as across the Saskatchewan border and more easterly of Grande Clairiere, around Deleau.
A few milestones set in Grande Clairiere:
In 1890, construction of the first church began. This church was only 5 x 10 meters long and 5 meters high. This church proved to be too small for the growing community and by 1891 the church was enlarged to 10 x 26 meters and 9 meters high and seated 300 people. In 1919, there was extensive damage to the church, resulting in major repairs to the building. In 1923, a bell tower, front entrance and sacristy were constructed to complete the church we know today.
In 1903, Archbishop Langevin blessed a bell in Grande Clairiere. The bell weighed 500lbs and was purchased by the parishoners and blessed with the name of "Jeanne in honour of Father Jean Gaire.
In 1893, a new rectory was built and the old one was transformed into the first school established in Grande Clairiere. It was only in 1898 that the school opened on August 18th with 20 pupils registered. By 1914, the convent had 3 stories as well as 60 students enrolled. Tragedy hit in 1923 when the convent burned down. Thankfully it was over Christmas break and no one was injured. The school was temporarily held in Hardy’s pool room until a new two story school was completed in the fall of 1924. The school was in operation until 1966 when it was closed and the children took the bus to Hartney school.
By 1905, the population of Grande Clairiere had greatly diminished to only 60 families due to land else where that had homesteads available as well as richer soil.
In 1928, a parish Hall was built, named the "Jean Gaire parish hall” and in December of the same year, was it’s first opening. For the next 45 years, the hall would host Christmas concerts, card parties, box socials, parish suppers and many more activities.
During the 1930’s, the people of Grande Clairiere suffered from the great depression and shared many of the extreme difficulties experience across Canada. World War 1 broke out the difficulties continue.
In 1973, Sunday evening bingo began and it’s success enabled hall renovations. An addition of 12x50 feet was built, electric heat was installed and the kitchen and bathrooms were updated!
In the fall of 1977, a new oil heating system was installed in the church and the interior redecorated. In 1979, the exterior of the church was painted and new shingles were installed!
Businesses over the years in Grande Clairiere consisted of two general stores, in which one, housed the post office, the Gus Hardy machine shed, built in 1914 which machinery was sold as well as coal. In 1915, a pool hall was added onto the shed. There was also a bank and a service station. One gentleman also provided several services from his home including a flour mill, shoe repairs and a blacksmith shop. The last business to close its doors in Grande Clairiere was Vital Bertholet’s blacksmith shop in 1976 when he passed away.
This is only a taste of all the history that exists for Grande Clairiere.
Sources: "Settlers, Sand and Steeple" Grande Clairiere and District 1888 - 1988