Collette Family Photo Gallery:
Collette Family Churches and Schools
The Catholic Church was central to the lives of the early Collette's. Pictured here are some of the church and school structures very familiar to Collette's:
This is a contemporary representation of the Catholic Church in St. Henri de Levis, Quebec, as it would have appeared at the time of the marriage of Denys and Mathilde Collette in 1842. From Esquisse de Saint-Henri de la seigneurie de Lauzon, LeMay and Mercier 1979 p 51.
This is an early view of the St. Lambert, Quebec, church. This image likely shows the church as it existed at the time the Collette family migrated to Minnesota about 1865. It is known that Collette's donated the land for this church.
Aerial photo of St. Lambert Quebec and Chaudiere River looking north, 2002. While much detail is lost from the marvelous original photo, the St. Lambert Church can be discerned. It is only about a block east (right) of the river bridge. The Collet family store/home in the 1850s would have been "kitty corner" across the street from the church. Copyrighted photo reprinted with permission of the photographer, Jacques Plante, www.jplantephotographe.ca. Merci.
Pictured is St. Anthony of Padua church as it appeared in then St. Anthony MN in the 1860s. A few years later St. Anthony became part of Minneapolis MN. St. Anthony was the family church for at least ten years. In the mid-1870s, some of the family began to move towards Dayton MN, on the Mississippi River 25 miles northwest of Minneapolis; and in 1877, the French parishioners at St. Anthony were transferred to a French-speaking parish, Our Lady of Lourdes, a mile south and near St. Anthony Falls. It is likely that a few of the Collette family members were briefly a part of the historic Our Lady of Lourdes.
Shown above is the St. Anthony (later to be Minneapolis) First Universalist Church. This photo dates from 1857. To the left (west) is the Mississippi River near St. Anthony Falls. In 1877, French-Canadian Catholics moved to this church from St. Anthony of Padua about one mile north, forming a new Parish, Our Lady of Lourdes. While most Collette's had already moved to Dayton MN, it is likely that one or more made up the first congregation of Our Lady of Lourdes. The entire family migrated to Oakwood Dakota Territory beginning in 1878.
Pictured is St. John the Baptist church in Dayton MN in 1885. The first Collette to be married in this church was Philippe, to Julie Boutin in 1877. Later Alfred Collette returned to live in this area, and is buried in the church cemetery.
The first Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Oakwood ND, constructed 1881. Seven Collette's and families settled here in 1878 and 1879. The first Oakwood church was a very small rough building, later used as a granary. More photos below. Click here for several stories about the Oakwood ND Parish.†
An early view of St. Aloysius Academy at Oakwood. This school educated generations of Collette descendants, including the to-be Bishop of Savannah GA Raymond Lessard. The school opened in 1906 and closed in 1967.
Undated photo of St. Aloysius School of Oakwood ND after an addition had
been added. For many years the school was grades 1-12. It closed in
1967 and the structure no longer exists.
Retired Bishop of Savannah GA Raymond Lessard (pictured above) completed his elementary and secondary education at Oakwood's Saint Aloysius Academy, and became Bishop of Savannah in 1975. He is descended from Collette's on both sides of his family: his paternal great-grandmother was Sophronie (Collette) Lessard; his maternal grandfather was William (Guillaume) Collette.
The above photo is printed with permission from the March 1988, National Geographic magazine (pp 350-51), and bears the following caption:
"Requiem prayers 300 years after death were said on St. Catherines Island by Bishop Raymond Lessard of Savannah...for the 430 individuals found in the mission church...In the 1600s the settlement, overlooking Georgia's Sapelo Sound...was Spain's northernmost outpost until destroyed by English-led Yamassee Indians in 1680."
This is Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Oakwood as it appeared in 1981, and still appears in 2003.
The first Ste. Elizabeth Manitoba Church, built in 1901. This church
burned down in 1951 and was replaced by the current church structure.
(Note the man standing on the cross at the top of the steeple! Likely
this photo was taken about the time construction on the church was
This is a 1992 view of Ste Elisabeth Catholic Church, Manitoba. This country parish began about 1900, and by 1992 the church had been closed. Collette's were an integral part of this parish. Vacant for a number of years, the building was purchased in 2002 by Collette and other families who were formerly parishioners, in cooperation with the Diocese of Winnipeg. There are plans for restoration and community use. Ste Elisabeth is about eight miles straight east of Morris, Manitoba. A very interesting website for this Parish and town is found at groups.msn.com/SteElizabethManitoba/.
Collette Family Reunion at St. Lambert PQ July 25-27, 2003
Members of the Collette family gathered in St. Lambert, Quebec, July 25-27, 2003, to present and dedicate a plaque (shown above) to the Parish of St. Lambert. Dr. Vernon Sell, grandson of Alfred and Celina (Deschenes) Collette, and son of Alice (Collette) and Irving Sell, was the family leader in making the Plaque and its presentation possible. He is the grey-bearded gentleman in the photos. Photos thanks to Flo and Carter Hedeen and Loria (Collette) Kelly.
We are all grateful to Vernon for his efforts both in this event, and in the 2002 family reunion in Dayton MN.
The Collette family ancestor, Denys, his brother, Charles, and their spouses, donated the land for the St. Lambert church in 1850. 2003 was the sesquicentennial celebration for the parish.
St. Lambert is a small rural community just south of Quebec City, on the shores of the Chaudiere River.
A Tribute to Dr. Vernon Sell
(December 21, 1933-August 13. 2003)
By Dick Bernard
Collette cousin Vernon Sell (above, at left) and I met for the first time in July, 1981, at his home in Madison WI. I was in the early stages of my interest in family history, and I think Vernon was at a similar point in his interest in his roots.
We were in infrequent but regular contact from time to time over the subsequent years, always connecting on Collette family matters.
I did not realize that he was very seriously ill this summer; it was not his way, apparently, to share such news.
But it seems that his knowledge of the seriousness of his illness spurred him on to do what he could to finish family matters. This he did, admirably, with the 2002 and 2003 Collette reunions major accomplishments.
It was a triumph of the spirit that he was in St. Lambert (Quebec) Church July 27, 2003, to formally present the Collette family plaque. As best I know, the plaque was his idea, and his passion to carry through to fruition. And just two weeks before he died, Vernon gave the plaque its permanent home in the Collette family ancestral church.
There remains on this earth at least one tangible gift from Vernon: a metal plaque on a church wall in Quebec.
But the greater gift by far is his example of vision, courage and perseverance in attaining a goal.
From his life and too early death let us learn lessons of living well which we might apply to ourselves.
Thank you, Vernon. Rest in Peace.
The formal presentation of the plaque was at the 10 a.m. Mass on Sunday, July 27, 2003.