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The Colletes


On this date in 2003, a small church in St. Lambert, Quebec, celebrated its 150th year. To mark the occasion, the congregation dedicated a plaque to the Collet family, which donated land for the church in 1850.

It is believed the first Collets arrived on the North American continent from France around the mid-1700s. They spread out through the communities of St. Lambert, St. Isidore and St. Henri-Levis in Quebec. They stayed in this area for about 100 years before Collets were on the move again, locating in St. Anthony, Minnesota, in 1865.

It’s speculated that they moved because available farmland in St. Lambert had become scarce.

A close relative, Sam Collet, had moved to the St. Anthony area three years prior. However, their stay in Minnesota proved temporary. In 1877 the railroad from Minneapolis to Winnipeg was completed, helping open the region to settlers. In 1878, four Collet brothers hopped on this new opportunity and headed north to homestead in Dakota Territory. While there is no record of their travels, it is likely they took the railroad as far as possible, then travelled on foot, trusting that the promise of land would be worth the trek.

As it turned out, they established deep roots and large families (and records show a modified spelling of the name, adding an “e” to make it Colletes.) The tiny town of Oakwood in North Dakota became a hub for the French-Canadian family, attracting additional family members. However, this growth did not come without struggle. When the first Colletes moved in 1878, the prairie was still considered undesirable. Crops had to be hauled 30 to 40 miles overland to be sold, and during the winter they were shut off from the outside world. However, determined people liked the Collete’s forged the way, and within years the prairie was better populated, providing more mutual support.

Today, the Collete’s have spread across the continent, living as far south as Florida to as far north as Montreal. While they may have started in France and have since spread beyond North Dakota, it can be argued that their strongest roots remain in Oakwood.

Dakota Datebook written by Lucid Thomas

Note: They added an “e” to their name shortly before they left Minnesota for no known reason.


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