Monday, 5 December 2011

Descharme Lake

Descharme Lake began as a Dene
winter hunting camp centuries ago.

Old Descharme Lake 

Across the lake from the village of Descharme where the Descharme River flows south
to the Clearwater River lies the old town site of Descharme.

Pierre and Marie Lemaigre raised a family of twelve there. Six boys and six girls. 
Mary Jane Jolibois died there in the early 1960's. A cross was set up in her memory.
She died approaching a plane's propeller too closely.

The old town had a fish filleting plant and a store. It had an airstrip and a hanger.
These were run and owned by C. & M. Airways of La Loche. 
G.M. Clarke and John H. Midgett of Meadow Lake were the owners with Leon Belanger of Ile a la Crosse as another partner.
A dozen homes were located there.

The Dene High School cultural camp is now located nearby. 

Descharme Lake

Until the 1950's Descharme was reached from La Loche by dog team, horses and by walking.
In 1979 Highway 955 was built to the Cluff Lake mine site and an access road was built to Descharme. 

There were 48 people in the village in 1974.

Recently the residents were offered homes in the town of La Loche and many moved there. 
Today the hamlet is about one hour's drive from La Loche on the gravel road.
It has about ten permanent residents.
Some residents from La Loche maintain cabins there.

The cemetery of both settlements of Descharme Lake is at the new town.

Descharme Lake began as a Dene winter hunting camp centuries ago.

Note: This was written with information given by one of the sons of Pierre and Marie Lemaigre on July 14, 2011. 
Ronnie remembers helping to unload freight for a bottle of pop when he was a boy. He drew the map shown above.

Note: The site of the old village can be seen clearly on the Google satellite map along with the trails leading to it.

When Descharme Lake was called Swan Lake.

The small village of Swan Lake (Descharme Lake) is mentioned as one of the mission villages of La Loche in 1895.
It was the main winter hunting camp for the residents of La Loche. 
It had a small permanent population of about 25  people and a winter population of 50.Hunters from La Loche and Turnor Lake would hunt caribou and moose as far as sixty miles from their base at Swan Lake (Descharme Lake).  Father Penard writes in 1895: "at the end of about 25 leagues, we arrive at Swan Lake. If we are expected, we would find about 50 people, 
if not we would have to get them from the vicinity, perhaps up to 20 leagues from there, somewhere in the woods."

Father Joseph Rapet visited the Swan Lake hunting camp settlement in January of 1900.(Peel 9671)
Swan Lake had 18 people in three families in the 1906 Census with surnames of Montgrand and Piche.
Father Ducharme visited a sick man in Swan Lake (Descharme Lake) in March of 1930 

Swan Lake Portage:
P.J. Downes a traveller wrote in July 1936 in his journal: "I find that we are not going over the regular portage, but by the Swan Lake trail, which is considerably longer."
He crossed this portage with Nigorri Toulejours, William Janvier (both from La Loche) and a dog named Coffee. 
The 20 mile Swan Lake portage and trail " begins at the north east end of Lac La Loche".

Note: The Swan Lake Portage began at La Loche and went north to the Clearwater River near the Simonson Rapids. Across the Clearwater it continued on towards Descharme Lake (Swan Lake).