Belle River is a town vibrant with French culture and with deep Roman Catholic roots. ST. SIMON & ST. JUDE CHURCH is located at 488 St. Charles, in the very heart of Belle River.
The Parish has grown along with the people of the community, through its 167 year history. In the late 18th to 19th century, Belle River residents had no formal place of worship, so in 1814, the first mass in Belle River was celebrated in the home of Antoine Goyeau. From 1814 to 1833, it was common for wealthy Belle River residents to offer their large homes to the community for Sunday Mass.
The Founding of the Parish
In 1833, the Bishop of Quebec decided that a regular mission should be established in Belle River. The following year an altar was constructed where the shrine on West Belle River Road now stands. In 1845, the first Bishop of the Diocese of Toronto visited Belle River and instructed the Jesuit priests in charge of laying out plans to build missions in Essex County and to build a permanent church for the St. Jude Mission. The first permanent church in the town was established when the St. Jude Mission was relocated along present-day County Road 42 in 1849.
In 1857, Reverend Eugene Jahan became the first resident pastor of the St. Jude Mission and with the construction of the Great Western Railway along Lake St. Clair, he felt the church should be located in the centre of town to make mass easily accessible to the flow of settlers coming to Belle River. The total cost for its construction was $12,000 and became known as the Parish of St. Simon and St. Jude. When Father Jahan was transferred, Rev. Joseph Girard took his place. In 1883, Father Girard had brought back stained glass windows, by Corey Savard, from France that adorn the church to this day. He was also responsible for the church's first renovations as well as bringing in the sisters of the St. Joseph Order to the parish whom founded the St. Jean Baptiste grammar school. When Father Girard passed away in 1891, his remains were laid to rest in a crypt below the altar of the church. When Rev. Pierre L'Heureux became resident pastor, he succeeded in enlarging the church and erected a steeple, but it fell on the convent in the tornado of 1919. Both the church and convent suffered severe damages, but wealthy philanthropist James Cooper offered to help cover the reconstruction costs. With Cooper's wealth and the guidance of Father L'Heureux, the first high school was built in Belle River and in 1922 was named St. James High School in honour of Cooper's generosity. The building still stands today, but is now known as the Belle River chapter of the Canadian Legion located on Notre Dame Street.
The Parish of St. Simon and St. Jude celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1934 with a ceremony in the company of 4,000 people. The parish is now 167 years old and has become a fixture in the town peeking through the trees and buildings along Notre Dame Street. The large Parish hall is a popular venue in the small town for family gatherings and celebrations. Hans and I celebrated many St. Valentine's Day in the Hall, with the Belle River Optimist Club's "50's Dance".
Excerpts from Simply Lakeshore Magazine - "A Little Taste of Lakeshore" by Corey Savard.
Born in London, Ontario in 1874, JAMES SCOTT COOPER was one of the wealthiest and most powerful liquor barons in Canada. Cooper remembered what it was like to be poor, so he was generous with his riches, channeling great amounts of money into orphanages and schools, including Belle River's first High School, St. James located at 504 Notre Dame, (which is now occupied by the Royal Canadian Legion, Belle River Branch 399).
He built his first Cooper Court in 1920, (which is now the Cooper Court Hotel located at 561 Broadway), a two-story structure built at a cost of $40,000.
Four years later, he commenced work on a second Cooper Court in Walkerville, Ontario. This luxurious grand mansion, completed in 1925, virtually outclassed all of Walkerville homes, surpassing even Willistead Manor, built by Chandler Walker, a son of Hiram Walker. The magnificent 40-room Cooper Court, built at a cost of $200,000., occupied an entire city block.
At the end of the roaring twenties, Cooper left Walkerville and took up residence in Switzerland. A series of illnesses left him incapacitated. Two weeks before his death in 1931, Cooper returned to southwestern Ontario, on a business trip. He then went to New York and bought passage aboard the S.S. Deutschland, to Europe. During this Atlantic journey, the flamboyant millionaire fell overboard and drowned. His body was never recovered.
Located at 504 Notre Dame Street, the ROYAL CANADIAN LEGION - BELLE RIVER - BR. 399 was built in 1922. The Legion Building was once the location of the first High School in Belle River and was named St. James High School, in honor of wealthy philanthropist James Cooper.
Today, it is the meeting place of our veterans and also offers light lunches at the Cafe' Notre Dame.
Be sure to visit the Memorial to our Veterans (pic #5) in Ladoucer Park at the corner of St. Peter Street
"The settlement of this area began following the survey in 1793 of the lots fronting on the Belle River. Among the early settlers were many French Canadians from the vicinity of the Detroit River. When the Great Western Railway was constructed, 1852-53, a station named Belle River was opened here. By 1855 a steam grist-mill and sawmill had been erected by Luc Ouellette and others, and a community known as Rochester soon developed. It was supported by a brisk lumber trade but attracted few other industries and in 1866 had only 300 inhabitants. On November 26, 1874, the community now comprising over 750 persons, was incorporated as the Village of Belle River, and on January 1, 1969, it became a Town.
THE FOUNDING OF BELLE RIVER Plaque Located in Ladouceur Park between St. Peter Street and Chisholm Street.
Located at 304 Rourke Line, the BELLE RIVER DISTRICT COMMUNITY CENTRE is home of the Belle River Canadiens, Junior "C" Hockey Team.
The Centre boasts two ice skating rinks.
The Centre is also home to the Lakeshore Library.
The Belle River Marina is a full service, "deep water", marina with over 270 seasonal and transient docks. Facilities include a restaurant, gas and pump-out services, 24 hour security, a double access boat ramp, washroom and private shower facilities, and numerous other amenities that are found in the adjacent Lakeview Park and Beach area.
Fondest memory: Docking:
270 Boat Docks
Max. Length: 75'
100 Lake Road
Ontario N0R 1A0
Halloween is an observance celebrated on the night of October 31, most notably by children dressing in costumes and going door-to-door collecting sweets or money.
The term Halloween comes from hallow and eve, as it is the evening before "All Hallows Day".
Fondest memory: Black and orange are the traditional colors of Halloween. In modern Halloween images and products, purple, green, and red are also prominent.
Elements of the autumn season, such as pumpkins and scarecrows, are also reflected in symbols of Halloween.
Favorite thing: Located at 300 South Street at the intersection of St. Peter Street, BELLE RIVER UNITED CHURCH has been serving Bell River for over 100 years.