Desaulniers was small farming hamlet in northeastern Ontario, first settled in the 1890s. French-speaking priests, hoping to boost the Francophone population in Ontario, colonized a number of communities including this one. Although Father A.L. Desaulniers established the commuity, surprisingly it did not bear his name. Instead, Sainte-Anne-de-Desaulniers served as the inspiration for both the community’s and future church’s name.
Desaulniers began with a post office and general store, opened in 1895. It received a big boost with the arrival of the Canadian Northern Railway (later CN) in 1913. The railway quickly added a number of structures including a station, an agent’s home and a water tower. There were two schools, public and separate, a cheese factory, and for a while a second store.
The construction of the church in 1915 was highly controversial, as the bishop refused to consecrate it. There were allegation of discrimination against Francophones. In protest, Francophone priests held regular masses at the church.
Desaulniers thrived as a small farming hamlet until the 1950s. By then business was moving to larger centres and Desaulniers had nothing left to sustain it. Over the next few years, the buildings began to come down, piece by piece. Later road realignments erased some of the original community. Today the area contains a number of ruins and foundations, along with a few original homes, still in use. Learn more