The French were the first Europeans to penetrate the western region of Canada and extend their sovereignty and institutions onto the prairies. They were the first to come into this native territory, the first to establish commercial relations, the first to establish a military presence, and the first to establish missions and schools.
Pierre Gautier de Varennes, Sieur De La Verendrye, and his sons had a dream to discover the “ Western Sea” and between 1731 and 1739 they were active in building the first trading posts on the prairies promoting the fur trade and gathering information and pushing back the frontiers of New France as far as Manitoba. Under their watch much of the fur trade was diverted to the St. Lawrence River from Hudson Bay. La Verendrye was credited with the naming of our lake, as it resembled the shape of a bonnet.
It was 160 years after La Verendrye that a number of French Canadians either from Quebec or Acadie came to this area. A number of them lived in the United States prior to moving to the Lac du Bonnet area. About 1899 some of these early French settlers obtained work with the Lac du Bonnet Mining, Manufacturing, and Developing Company under Walter Wardrop, and later J.D. Mc Arthur. Under this company they built and worked the brick factory and sawmill. Work was also obtained at the Pinawa Dam.
Religion and the church are very important to the French communities. Father Louis De Gonzague Belanger is credited with building the first Notre Dame du Lac Parish in Lac du Bonnet. The building was constructed in 1904 with the help of Louis Bruneau and other church members. Lac du Bonnet’s first school was opened in 1903 -1904 with the school being bilingual until 1916.
Many settled in and near the village of Lac du Bonnet, whereas other French families homesteaded in surrounding districts known as Maple Creek, Landerville, and Crescent Bay.
is a district about 12 miles NW of Lac du Bonnet, homesteaded mainly by the French settlers.Maple Creek was named after the large number of huge Manitoba maple trees (Box Elder) along the banks of a small creek that twisted and turned through the district emptying into Crescent Bay (before Mc Arthur Dam).
Settlers were attracted by the offer from the government for $10.00 homesteads consisting of 160 acres. At this time there were no roads and it took two days from Lac du Bonnet by wagon through swamp and bush. Small mixed farming was done in Maple Creek, with men taking on extra work in bush camps cutting pulp.
Francois and Marie Lussier were two of the earliest homesteaders in 1919. Omer Lavoie operated a small sawmill in Maple Creek, and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Belair operated a small store on their farm until they moved to Lac du Bonnet in 1950.
In 1937 while Maple Creek School was being built across the road from the Lussier farm, a temporary school was held in their former log home. The new school was built by Edgar Paul, Armand Tetrault, and Noel Henri. It was used until 1965 after which the rural school children were bused to Lac du Bonnet.
Lussiers old log cabin then became a chapel where a priest would come on a mission during the months, when the weather was favorable, to hold baptismal and mass.
Maple Creek Cemetery is located on the Francois Lussier homestead farm and holds graves dating back to 1930.
is a district about 7 miles NW of Lac du Bonnet. The area was first settled by a majority of Ukrainian and Polish settlers as early as1905 with some French families homesteading by 1910.
Landerville School and teacherage were built about 1918 with Mrs. Henley as the first teacher. Landerville also had a community hall, at the corner of Landerville and Maple Creek road, and a small country store run by Bill Kabaluk, across from the school yard.
Landerville Cyclone May 10, 1921
The weather was a dull grey prior to the lunch period. It looked like a storm was brewing over the small community of Landerville, seven miles north of Lac du Bonnet. About 1:30 pm all fury broke out. As the cyclone uprooted nearby trees, moved Landerville School off its foundation, and totally demolished the teacherage.
“ I was playing outside with my cousin Jean, who was about my age. Suddenly the sky became very dark and a wind came up. Then we noticed a huge dark V-shaped cloud complete with large raindrops. We were rather frightened and about to go indoors, when we heard frantic cries up the road. One of our cousins, Francis, A boy from the school, was hysterical and telling us that everyone at the school was dead. Immediately the men and whoever could help rushed to the school. They found that a cyclone had smashed Uncle Stanley’s house and lifted the school from its foundation”.
Stanley Pitre was the school teacher at the time.
An excerpt from Marcel Pitre’s book “Pitre Family Reunion July 1999
is about 6 miles north of the village of Lac du Bonnet named for the crescent shaped bay on the west side where the Winnipeg River expands to form Lake Lac du Bonnet.
Crescent Bay School was constructed in 1934 with Miss Ann James as the first teacher. French families that settled in this district were Bruneau, Picard, and David among others.
A large portion was flooded in 1953 when Mc Arthur Falls Power Plant began operations.