Claire Hilda Labelle was born on October 18, 1898 in Copper Cliff and was baptized at Sainte-Anne-des-Pins Church in Sudbury. She was just six weeks old when her parents Napoléon and Georgia moved to Hanmer. The move took place during the winter because the path between Copper Cliff and the valley was in better condition when it was frozen. The carriage overturned along the way but the family arrived unhurt.
During the previous three years, Napoléon and other pioneers had set about to clear the land and build temporary dwellings for their families. A triangular-shaped log structure was little Claire's first home. It was summertime when the crowing of a rooster to the southwest let the Labelles know they had new neighbours, the Chevrettes.
When Claire started school, she attended Hanmer Public School No. 1. Built in 1904 of whitewashed logs, the school was furnished with desks built by hand by Claire's father. At the time, only elementary education was available in Hanmer. After school and during vacation, Claire helped her mother do farm chores and take care of the house that had replaced the temporary dwelling.
Claire was confirmed and received her first communion at Saint-Jacques Church in Hanmer. In about 1914, she joined Enfants de Marie, a parish movement for girls.
In Saint-Jacques Church again, Claire married Florient Bergeron on August 25, 1919. She made her own silk wedding dress which she decorated with embroidery. The young couple settled in Blezard Valley, where they lived until 1934. Four of their nine children were born in Blezard.
Claire made her own yogurt and butter. She molded the butter into balls or squares which she kept in an earthenware jar. A clay bread oven, located outside, was used for baking bread, cookies, cake, meat and pork and beans. The family also had beehives and a large vegetable garden. After livestock was slaughtered in the fall, Claire salted the pork and beef as well as the wild game and fish that her husband brought home and the family ate very well. Twice a week, Claire went to the Borgia Market to sell vegetables, eggs, butter and other farm produce.
Autumn was also the time for making soap from the fat of the slaughtered animals. This work, which was more a matter of chemistry than cooking, was done outside in a large cauldron.
When winter came, the demands of the garden slackened and Claire could finally sit down to knit socks, mittens and blankets for her family using wool from the sheep raised on the farm.
In 1934, Claire and Florient returned to Hanmer to take care of Napoléon Labelle who was getting on in age. So it was that the next five children were born in Hanmer. In addition to raising her family, Claire welcomed four abandoned teenagers into her home. Claire was also very active in her community. She was a Dame de Sainte-Anne, and she contributed toward parish activities.
Once their children had grown, Claire and Florient traveled the country.
Claire died in 1970, but not before first celebrating her fiftieth wedding anniversary surrounded by family and friends.
Material compiled from Pionnières de chez nous.