Doukhobors in the WWI Canadian Expeditionary Forces, 1914-1918

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

During World War I, most Doukhobors in Canada opposed military service based on their religious pacifist convictions. However, a small minority – estimated at three percent of all Doukhobors of military age – discarded their religious and philosophical objections to war and, for a variety of personal reasons, entered military service. The following article examines the Doukhobors who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces between 1914 and 1918.


Following the outbreak of the First World War, the overwhelming majority of Doukhobors in Canada opposed the conflict based on their religious pacifist convictions and sought exemption from military service obligations by virtue of Order-in-Council P.C. 2747 of December 6, 1898, granted to them by the Dominion of Canada upon their arrival from Russia.[1] 

Petitions and delegations sent to Ottawa on behalf of the two main Doukhobor organizations of the time, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (approx. 7,000 members) and the Society of Independent Doukhobors of Canada (approx. 5,000 members), were met with repeated reassurances from government authorities that their exemption status as conscientious objectors would be honoured during the war.[2] 

However, despite these efforts at the group level, a number of Doukhobor individuals still participated in the conflict. Of an estimated 2,000 Doukhobor men in Canada of military age at the time,[3] at least 63 Doukhobors[4] (and reputedly as many as 90[5]) voluntarily enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces between August 1914 and August 1917.  

Their reasons for doing so were varied and complex.

Attestation Paper for George Ostoforoff for enlistment in Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Reasons for Enlistment

All of the enlistees, without exception, were Independent Doukhobors. These Doukhobors were more socially integrated than their communal brethren, having accepted naturalization, public education, private ownership and other tenets of Canadian citizenship; this presumably fostered a stronger attachment to, and sympathy towards, their adopted country that enabled some to cast aside their religious and philosophical objections to military service and participate in the war effort.

Some were undoubtedly swept up in the nationwide outpouring of patriotic fervor, reinforced by huge flag-waving crowds, public meetings, advertisements, posters and other campaigns aimed at encouraging voluntary enlistment. Others may have succumbed to the considerable social and peer pressure to enlist that replaced the early enthusiasm. 

Still others may have enlisted for economic reasons. Almost half of the Doukhobor enlistees – 27 men in total – belonged to the proletariat of landless farm workers and laborers. Unemployment had been exceptionally high in Western Canada in 1914-1915, and many of these young men may have enlisted out of desperation, since the Canadian Expeditionary Forces paid $1.00 per day to all privates and an additional $0.10 per day for service overseas. 

Finally, over a third of the Doukhobor enlistees – 22 men in total – were members of the ‘Small’ or ‘Middle’ parties of Doukhobors who had only recently arrived in Canada in 1909-1914,[6] and whose pacifist convictions were weak or non-existent compared to their brethren – members of the ‘Large’ party of Doukhobors who arrived earlier in 1899.   

Interestingly, two Independent Doukhobors – Michael Holoboff of Canora, SK and Demitri Kolesnikoff of Thrums, BC – were forcibly conscripted into the Canadian Expeditionary Force following the enactment of The Military Service Act by the Dominion of Canada on August 28, 1917.[7]  For whatever reason, these men were either unable to rely on the exemption from military service granted to their brethren, or government authorities were unwilling to apply it towards them, even though both listed their religion as “Doukhobor” on their attestation forms.

Conscription papers of Demitri Kolesnikoff under the Military Service Act, 1917.

Military Medals

At least two Doukhobors were awarded medals for having distinguished themselves in service. In August 1918, James Holoboff of Canora, SK won the Military Medal for bravery after leading a bombing party in France through cellars and capturing fourteen enemy prisoners in one cellar, which was connected by telephone, and contained maps and a store of bombs and small arms ammunition.[8] Also in August 1918, Kuzma Mahortoff of Swan River, MB was awarded a medal for good conduct during his service in France.[9]

Headline of James Holoboff Military Medal award, Regina Leader Post, August 23, 1919.

Conflicted Soldiers

In all likelihood, some of the Doukhobors who enlisted during the First World War were conflicted with guilt and remorse for having abandoned their pacifist principles. Evidence of this can be found in a number of cases. 

At least three Doukhobor enlistees – William Strelioff and Bill Stushnoff of Kamsack, SK and John Holoboff of Langham, SK – misspelled or deliberately distorted their names in their attestation papers (as “Stretoolekoff”, “Sturnoshoff”, and “Boloboff” respectively), presumably to spare themselves and their families embarrassment and unwanted attention.[10] Similarly, Frederick Postnikoff of Blaine Lake enlisted under the alias “Loveroff”, a family nickname.[11] 

Others, such as Alex Antifaev of Arran, SK and Peter Gritchin of Kamsack, SK, deserted soon after enlisting, before their units had left for overseas; both men were arrested, sent to clearing depots and subsequently discharged.[12]  Similarly, Samuel Karaloff of Blaine Lake, SK was charged with being “illegally absent” from his training unit, tried by a court of inquiry and discharged.[13] 

Three Doukhobor enlistees were court-martialed while serving overseas: John Zmaeff of Swan River, MB for “disobeying lawful orders from a superior officer” and “acting to the prejudice of good order and military discipline” in 1917;[14] Fred Sherstabetaff of Blaine Lake, SK for “leading and taking part in a mutiny or refusing to report soldiers planning to mutiny” and “striking or threatening a superior officer” in 1919;[15] and John Nevacshonoff of Thrums, BC for being “absent without leave” in 1918.[16] 

Perhaps most curiously, two Doukhobor enlistees – John Holokoff of Veregin, SK and William Strelioff of Kamsack, SK – appear to have convinced military officials, while serving overseas, that they were actually Austrian nationals and were summarily discharged as “Alien Enemies” on that basis.[17]       


If enlistment in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces took an emotional toll on some Doukhobor enlistees, it claimed a physical one as well.  

Casualty form for Pt. Kuzma Diakoff, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1916.

Eight Doukhobor men were discharged as “medically unfit” after being injured, falling ill or suffering shell shock while serving.  These included: Fred Isavoloff of Buchanan, SK; Coozma Diakoff, Samuel Kolesnikov and Mike Konkin of Kamsack, SK; Alex Lakten and Nick Yachenkoff of Veregin, SK; Simeon Postnekoff of Blaine Lake, SK; and Alex Antifaev of Arran, SK, the latter having succumbed to his wounds soon after discharge.[18]

Finally, there was at least two Doukhobors killed in action. Walter Storgeoff of Kamsack, SK died in 1917 at age 21 of injuries sustained while serving in the 46th Battalion (Saskatchewan Regiment) of the Canadian Infantry; he is buried at Villers Station Cemetery northwest of Villers-au-Bois, France. William Gleboff of Kamsack, SK died in 1918 at age 22 of wounds suffered while serving in the 8th Battalion (Manitoba Regiment) of the Canadian Infantry; he is buried at Ligny-Saint-Flochel British cemetery west of Arras, France.

Headline of Walter Storgeoff, first Doukhobor killed in Action. Grand Forks Gazette, April 19, 1917.

The Soldiers

The following list identifies the surname, name, address, date of birth, enlistment date and regiment number of 63 Doukhobors who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces during the First World War.

SurnameNameAddressBirth DateEnlistment DateRegiment
AntifaevAlexArran, SK187310/01/16888036
BarabanoffAntonPetrofka, SK06/188910/05/16887957
BedinoffFredKamsack, SK04/189222/02/16888055 
Boloboff aka HoloboffJohnLangham, SK
DanshinGeorgeCanora, SK25/03/188604/03/16267269
DerhousoffNickCanora, SK14/12/189718/03/16888094
DiakoffCoozmaKamsack, SK01/01/187727/12/15888030
DootoffMikeVeregin, SK25/03/189710/04/16 267756
GloeboffWilliamKamsack, SK10/03/189616/07/172147550
GaulieffPhillipPetrofka, SK12/11/188128/04/16294322
GretchinPeterKamsack, SK189817/02/16888056
GritchinPeterKamsack, SK189817/02/16 888056
HoloboffJamesCanora, SK01/11/189517/12/15887366
HoloboffMichael F.Canora, SK08/12/189518/05/18260990
HolokoffJohnVeregin, SK10/01/189813/03/16888078
HorkoffSteven Devils Lake, SK05/08/189102/08/15104286
IsavoloffFredBuchanan, SK24/05/189013/03/16267371
KatilnikoffWilliam J.268722
KaraloffJohnEdmonton, AB26/05/189326/02/16904284
KaraloffSamuel S.Blaine Lake, SK18/05/189725/05/161018444 
KazakoffNickKamsack, SK24/04/188811/01/16888039
KolesnikoffDemitriThrums, BC188111/11/174100943
KolesnikovJohnKamsack, SK188613/03/16888079
KolesnikovSamuelKamsack, SK22/01/188513/03/16888080
KonkinMikeKamsack, SK189818/11/16 913763 
KonkinPeterPetrofka, SK22/06/188410/06/16913536
LaktenAlexVeregin, SK189121/02/16 888059
Loveroff aka PostnikoffFrederick N.Toronto, ON08/06/189511/06/14 349786
MahortoffKusmaBenito, MA02/04/188008/01/161000344
MaloffJohnKamsack, SK188827/03/16888523
MarkinAndrewKamsack, SK10/11/189627/03/16888088
MarkinWilliamWinnipeg, MB08/06/189607/12/161072141
NamonchenJohnLangham, SK189315/06/16255863
NevacshonoffJohnThrums, BC06/01/1895 24/06/161018518
Ostoforoff GeorgeBuchanan, SK12/07/188518/09/183091494
PopoffBill Kamsack, SK20/01/189723/05/16888090
PopoffFred Kamsack, SK1893 18/12/16888019
PosnikoffJamesArran, SK1894  11/12/15887358
PosnikoffJamesArran, SK1894 04/11/16 1084059
PosnikoffWilliamCanora, SK30/09/189621/11/16 1084247
PostnekoffSimeonBlaine Lake, SK19/02/187101/06/16 1018450
PotatoffMikeWhitebeech, SK1888 31/05/16  922526
ReibenLarionBenito, MB189318/12/15888020
ReibinNicoliBenito, MBA01/06/189129/12/15888033
SherstabetaffFredBlaine Lake, SK01/05/189502/07/161018617
StorshoffHenry Kamsack, SK189618/02/16888062
StorshoffWalterKamsack, SK189610/01/16888048 
StrelioffPeterCanora, SK31/05/190010/02/16 887433 
Stretoolekoff aka StrelieffWilliamKamsack, SK189823/03/16 888089
Sturnoshoff aka Stushnoff Bill Kamsack, SK05/1898 01/06/16 888526
VoikinNickPetrofka, SK14/12/189825/03/16886517
VoikinNicoliArran, SK09/11/1894 21/01/16 888046  
WlosoveGeorgeKamsack, SK01/04/189418/03/16888093
WlosoveGeorge N.Runnymede, SK21/02/189816/05/16888520
YachenkoffNickVeregin, SK04/09/189709/03/16267332
Yaretza aka YuritsinNicoli Arran, SK10/03/188609/02/16888063
ZmaeffJohnSwan River, MB07/02/189607/02/161000659 

After Word

The information contained in this article was previously incorporated by permission in Greg Nesteroff, “Doukhobors and WWI” published in Castlegar News, December 4, 2014.

End Notes

[1] Order-in-Council No. 1898-2747, Exempting from military service the Doukhobors, settling permanently in Canada, upon production of certificate of membership – Min. Interior [Minister of the Interior] 1898/11/30, Library and Archives Canada Item No. 165476.

[2] Koozma J. Tarasoff, Plakun Trava (Grand Forks: MIR Publication Society, 1982) at 127, 177-178.

[3] This rough, conservative estimate presumes a Doukhobor population in Canada in 1914 of 12,000; of whom half were male; and of the males, at least one-third (2,000) of whom were of military (18-45) age.

[4] Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box Nos. 198 – 6, 278 – 12, 415 – 54, 854 – 48, 583 – 55, 2291 – 7, 2409 – 12, 2455 – 44, 2500 – 43, 2601 – 59, 3588 – 47, 3445 – 21, 3819 – 43, 3852 – 17, 4466 – 27, 4466 – 28, 4466 – 30, 4466 – 36, 4497 – 64, 4724 – 64, 5005 – 47, 5002 – 26, 5002 – 27, 5012 – 23, 5246 – 40, 5246 – 43, 5246 – 44, 5247 – 58, 5247 – 59, 5322 – 18, 5761 – 15, 5843 – 29, 5876 – 40, 5926 – 10, 5926 – 12, 7231 – 54, 7279 – 3, 7502 – 55, 7903 – 48, 7903 – 49, 7918 – 4, 7918 – 5, 7918 – 6, 7919 – 54, 7919 – 55, 7920 – 9, 8151 – 30, 8151 – 33, 8860 – 39, 9365 – 5, 9365 – 6, 9381 – 45, 9382 – 7, 9404 – 48, 9925 – 52, 9965 – 32, 9965 – 33, 10516 – 17, 10516 – 18, 10625 – 32, 10627 – 42, 10681 – 61. See also J. Kalmakoff, Doukhobors in the WWI Canadian Expeditionary Forces, 1914-1918, (February 3, 2005)

[5] On March 3, 1916, the Ottawa Journal reported that “Ninety Doukhobors of the Yorkton district have enlisted in the Eastern Saskatchewan regiment. These Doukhobors came to this country from Russia to escape, among other things, military service. They state that this is a war for liberty, and they feel it is their duty to assist in the battle for it.” The article was republished in a number of newspapers, including: Kingston Whig Standard, March 6, 1916; Nelson Daily News, March 10, 1916; Grand Forks Gazette, March 18, 1916; Shellbrook Chronicle, April 15, 1916; The Windsor Star, April 24, 1917. However, this number has not been verified.

[6] Steve Lapshinoff & Jonathan Kalmakoff, Doukhobor Ship Passenger Lists, 1898-1928 (Crescent Valley: self-published, 2001).

[7] Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box Nos. 4466 – 28 and 5246 – 40.

[8] Regina Leader Post, August 23 and 30, 1919; Saskatoon Daily Star, August 26, 1919; Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box No. 4466 – 27.  

[9] Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box No. Box 5843 – 29.

[10] Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box Nos. 9382 – 7 and 9404 – 48; Saskatoon Daily Star, December 3, 1918.

[11] Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box No. 5761 – 15.

[12] Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box Nos. 198 – 6, 3819 – 43 and 3852 – 17.

[13] Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box No. 5002 – 27.

[14] Courts Martial of First World War, Library and Archives Canada, RG150 – Ministry of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada, Series 8, File 649-Z-139, Microfilm Reel Number T-8690.

[15] Courts Martial of First World War, Library and Archives Canada, RG150 – Ministry of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada, Series 8, File 240-S-48, Microfilm Reel Number T-8691.

[16] Courts Martial of First World War, Library and Archives Canada, RG150 – Ministry of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada, Series 8, File 649-M-53107, Microfilm Reel Number T-8681.

[17] Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box Nos. 4466 – 36 and 9382 – 7.

[18] Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box Nos. 4724 – 64, 2500 – 43, 5246 – 44, 5247 – 58, 5322 – 18, 10625 – 32, 7919 – 54 and 198 – 6.

The Cannery Building, Grand Forks, BC

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

In 1913, the prominent Cannery Building was constructed in downtown Grand Forks. Yet despite its name and original purpose, it only served as a canning facility for 6 of its 62 years of existence. It also variously housed a sharpshooter’s range, farmers market, creamery, potato dehydrator plant, fruit packing house, apple butter factory, seed warehouse and retail department store. This article examines one of the largest commercial buildings in Grand Forks history, its various proprietors, and its untimely destruction.


In the early 1910s, produce-growing assumed an increasingly significant role in the economy of Grand Forks, which until then, was primarily mining, smelting and ranching-based. Not only were large acreages of fruit trees coming into bearing, but growers were producing ever-greater surpluses of small fruit, berries and vegetables. This brought calls for the establishment of a local cannery to process Kettle Valley produce unsuitable for shipping to distant markets in fresh form.[1] Although a succession of non-local firms expressed an interest in developing one, nothing materialized from their proposals.[2] It thus fell on local capital to advance the Grand Forks canning industry.

Grand Forks Canning Company Limited, 1912-1914

To this end, in November 1912, a business syndicate led by accountant D.A. McKinnon formed the Grand Forks Canning Company Ltd to build a modern fruit and vegetable cannery.[3] Capitalized at $50,000.00, it issued a prospectus to sell $20,000.00 in shares to cover land and construction costs.

In September 1913, an expert processor, J.H. Wilson, was hired to operate the prospective plant.[4] By October, sufficient capital was raised to procure a site and arrange for the construction of the plant building. Seven lots were purchased on Main St (72nd Ave) between Second and Third St (3 and 4 St) adjacent to the CPR main line.[5] Contractor A.E. McDougall was hired to construct the building.[6] 

The Grand Forks Canning Co. ‘Cannery Building’ shortly after its construction in 1913. Boundary Museum and Archives, 1987_040_001_02.

Completed in December at a cost of $14,000.00, the impressive new Cannery Building was lauded as “the most modern structure erected in the Interior for the purpose” and “one of the largest commercial buildings in Grand Forks”.[7] It was 125 by 50 feet, 2 stories high with basement, built of brick and ruble stone with concrete floors.[8] It had a square façade with stepped sides. A rail spur from the south side to the main CPR line was built January, 1914.[9]

In the meantime, the company secured fruit supply contracts with local growers[10] and arranged for the sale of its entire production output.[11] It also obtained a ‘bonus’ from the City of Grand Forks in the form of a 10-year property tax exemption plus water and light at cost, approved by plebiscite in January 1914.[12]

Yet despite this all, troubles were afoot for the local enterprise. Construction overruns and undersubscribed/unpaid shares left it without sufficient capital to procure plant equipment, deferring installation from March to May to June, 1914.[13] In June, it was voluntarily wound up and liquidated.[14]

Fruit advertisement for the Grand Forks Canning Co. Ltd. Grand Forks Gazette, December 20, 1913.

Grand Forks Canning Association, 1914-1924

In September 1914, the principals of the Grand Forks Canning Company Limited launched a new entity, the Grand Forks Canning Association, capitalized at $50,000.00.[15] Having the same objective as the old company and having inherited all of its share capital and property, including the Cannery Building, it was incorporated under The Agricultural Associations Act, 1914, which entitled it to government funding.

By March 1915, the association received a $10,000.00 loan from the province for the installation of a cannery plant in the building and its operation.[16] It came with certain conditions: it was repayable with interest over a 20-year period; 20 percent of the association’s subscribed shares had to be fully-paid; and the association had to install and operate the equipment by the 1916 fruit season prior to the release of all funds.[17]

The Association, however, immediately faced the same issues as its predecessor; namely a shortfall in subscribed/paid-up shares. While it endeavored to raise additional capital, it leased out the Cannery Building to a variety of firms and groups described below.

Announcement of Grand Forks Fruitgrowers Association meeting in Canning Building, Grand Forks Gazette, July 4, 1914.

Shooting & Drilling Range, 1914

From April through December, 1914, the Grand Forks Sharpshooters, a local militia company, held parades and drills at the Cannery Building.[xviii] Following the outbreak of the Great War in July 1914, there was discussion about the building being requisitioned as a recruiting barracks, but it did not come to pass.[xix]

City Market, 1914-1915

From December 1914 until March 1915, the City Market was held in the Cannery Building, returning to its outdoor venue on Second Street (3 Street) for the summer months.[xx] Each week, local ranchers sold wagonloads of fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy, and baked goods directly to city residents there.

Creamery, 1915-1924

In January 1915, part of the Cannery Building main floor was let to Curlew Creamery Co. of Curlew, WA, operating as the Grand Forks Creamery Co.[xxi] A large ice storage was erected adjoining the building and plant equipment installed in March.[xxii] Initially, the firm produced and sold over 3,000 lbs. of butter and large quantities of ice-cream weekly.[xxiii]

Grand Forks Gazette headline announcing installation of creamery in Cannery Building, January 16, 1915.

By April 1917, an uptake in local dairy supply enabled it to double butter production capacity and commence pasteurizing cream and milk.[xxiv] After operating 8 years, it sold out in November 1923 to J.E. Keatly and Associates of Nelson, which continued business in the building as the Kettle Valley Creamery Co.[xxv] 

Potato Dehydrator Plant, 1915-1916

In November 1915, the balance of the Cannery Building was briefly leased to Graham & Co. of Bellevue, ON to run a potato dehydrator plant to fill wartime contracts.[xxvi] By December, the company contracted a local supply of 2,000 tons of potatoes and installed a 4-unit plant with a 700-bushel per day capacity.[xxvii] Over the next 4 months, it processed and shipped 250 tons of dehydrated product.[xxviii] Despite intentions to run a second season, a decline in local potato supply resulted in the plant closure in August 1916.[xxix]

Grand Forks Gazette headline announcing erection of potato evaporating plant at Cannery Building, November 20, 1915.

Fruit Packing House, 1919-1921

The Cannery Building remained largely vacant from August 1916 to June 1919, leading G.A. Evans, editor of the Grand Forks Sun, to dub it a ‘white elephant’. In the meantime, the viability of the Grand Forks Canning Association continued to deteriorate. First, it defaulted on its loan, having failed to install and operate a cannery by 1916.[xxx] Second, it struggled to repay the loan from the nominal rents received.[xxxi] Third, as the building was not used for its intended purpose, the City rescinded its bonus in April 1917, subjecting it to taxes and regular light and power rates.[xxxii] By July 1917, the City threatened to sell the building for taxes, but was persuaded not to; in May 1919, it forgave half the taxes owed on the property.[xxxiii]

Insurance map showing Cannery Building occupied by Curlew Creamery Co. BC Fire Underwriters Association, September 1922.

In June 1919, the Association let the balance of the Cannery Building to the Kelowna-based Occidental Fruit Co., with an option to purchase the property.[xxxiv] Occidental intended to install plant equipment in the building to operate a fruit cannery the following season and received a bonus from the City for water and light at cost in this regard. However, following the devastating loss of its Carson packing plant and fruit to fire, it used the Cannery Building for packing for the remaining season, then ceased operations in Grand Forks.[xxxv]

The following year, Staples Fruit Co. of Creston bought up the local fruit crop and leased the balance of the Cannery Building as a packing house for the 1920 season.[xxxvi]

In July 1921, the Grand Forks Cooperative Growers’ Exchange leased the balance of the Cannery Building as a fruit packing house until construction of its own new packing plant was completed in September.[xxxvii] Meanwhile, the City agreed to a further grant on taxes owed against the building.[xxxviii]

Apple Butter Plant, 1923

By 1922, renewed calls for a local cannery were raised by the Department of Agriculture, Grand Forks Farmers’ Institute, Board of Trade and others.[xxxix] At the same time, G.A. Evans of the Grand Forks Sun called it a ‘fiasco’ that Grand Forks had a Cannery Building without a cannery – a huge building which sat vacant and unused, despite the financial outlay for canning equipment being comparatively small. Nevertheless, the Grand Forks Canning Association remained unable to raise the necessary capital on its own.

Advertisement for Fruit Products Co. at the Cannery Building. Grand Forks Gazette, January 26, 1923.

In January 1923, the Association let the balance of the Cannery Building to Fruit Products Co., a local venture headed by Board of Trade secretary J.D. Campbell, which installed an apple butter and cider plant.[xl] Following a successful first season, the firm expanded operations to include the production of plum jam. This technically marked the first canning operations in the building’s decade-long history.

Ministry of Agriculture, 1924-1940

After 10 fruitless years, the Grand Forks Canning Association failed to install canning equipment in the Cannery Building and remained unable to maintain principal and interest payments on its government loan. Finally, in September 1924, the Ministry of Agriculture appointed a receiver under The Agricultural Associations Act, 1914 to take possession of the property, title to which was quit-claimed by the Association to the Ministry.[xli]  

The Cannery Building, circa 1926. While the north (left) section of the main floor was occupied by the Kettle Valley Creamery, the remainder had stood vacant for several years. Note the windows are boarded up on the second floor and several windows are broken on the vacant south (right) side. Photo courtesy Greg Nesteroff.

Thereafter, the Ministry continued to let the building to tenants. Despite only producing apple butter in 1923 and 1924, Fruit Products Co. continued to lease space until September 1927.[xlii] The creamery occupied the rest: in March 1926, Kettle Valley Creamery Co. was purchased by Calgary, AB-based P. Burns Co. Ltd. and operated as Grand Forks Creamery until it ceased operations in September 1933.[xliii] Burns kept a lease on the vacant building until February 1940; allegedly to restrict competition from others.[xliv]

Eventually, in November 1939, in order to stimulate agricultural production in the Grand Forks district for the war effort, the Ministry of Agriculture issued a tender for the purchase of the Cannery Building to be operated as a cannery for fruit, vegetable and other agricultural products.[xlv] In February 1940, a successful tender of $2,500.00 was received for the property from Elwood L. Cross and Robert R. Broder.[xlvi]

Government notice of tender for sale of Cannery Building, Grand Forks Gazette, November 16, 1939.

Grand Forks Canners Limited, 1940-1952

Both men had years of experience in the canning industry: Cross as supervisor for Western Packing Corp. Ltd. in Kelowna, and Broder as principal of Broder Canning Co. of Taber, AB. When both independently considered coming to Grand Forks to set up a tomato cannery, they agreed to cooperate by jointly incorporating the Grand Forks Canners Ltd in June 1940, capitalized at $50,000.00.[xlvii]

The firm launched its Grand Forks operation by securing contracts from local growers to supply some 400 acres of tomatoes, supplying them with plants from Cross’ Kelowna hotbeds and providing expert advice on commercial tomato growing.[xlviii] It also obtained special City taxation and electricity and water rates.[xlix]

In June, 1940 the 27-year old Cannery Building was significantly expanded to equip it with a canning plant. A 125 by 50 foot concrete and metal addition was erected on the east side by contractors Charles W. Clark and J.B. McDonald at a cost of $30,000.[l] The addition housed the plant machinery, including 40-ton steam boiler, 3 steam cookers, weigh scale and various equipment for sorting, washing and peeling tomatoes. The original building was used largely for storage and office space. An adjacent 120 by 30 foot hothouse was erected to house a million tomato seedlings for spring distribution to growers.[li] A new rail siding was laid by the CPR on the south side, and 2 east adjacent lots were purchased for additional storage.[lii]

Grand Forks Gazette headline detailing Grand Forks Canners Ltd. expansion of Cannery Building, June 13, 1940.

The resulting Grand Forks Canners Ltd. cannery had a capacity of 250 cases per hour of canned tomatoes, catchup and tomato juice. Its first season proved a success, with some 100,000 cases (70-80 railcars) of product manufactured and shipped.[liii] However, a tomato crop failure in 1941 followed by inadequate tomato acreage planted in 1942 resulted in significant losses for the company, which ceased operations in fall 1942.[liv] Thereafter, the Cannery Building and plant sat idle for a year and a half.

Kettle Valley Packers Limited, 1944-1947

In March 1944, E.C. Miller of Ladner, BC incorporated the Kettle Valley Packers Ltd. for the purpose of taking over the Cannery Building and plant owned by Grand Forks Canners Ltd. via lease with purchase option.[lv] It installed additional fruit canning equipment alongside the existing tomato canning equipment in the building.

By May 1944, contracts were entered into for the local supply of 100 acres of tomatoes.[lvi] This was supplemented by peaches, pears and apricots shipped in from the Okanagan as well as locally-grown prunes.[lvii] During its initial season, the plant processed and shipped some 60,000 cases of tomatoes and 60,000 cases of fruit and employed 175 people.[lviii]  

In early 1945, E.C. Miller publicly advised that the cannery would require local contracts for at least 300 acres of corn and beans in order to operate that season; failing which the plant would be dismantled and the machinery sent to the Okanagan.[lix] Only half the required acreage was contracted; however, the plant managed to run a second season, shipping in Okanagan fruit to supplement local produce.[lx]

The Kettle Valley Packers Ltd. did not operate its cannery during the 1946 canning season due to inadequate acreages of local produce planted.[lxi] The following year, in May 1947, it dismantled the canning machinery and sent it to Lethbridge, thus ending the canning business in Grand Forks.[lxii] After multiple failed attempts to operate a cannery, no other company would consider coming in.   

Cannery Building showing 1940 concrete and metal addition, c. 1947. Boundary Museum and Archives No. 1997_052_052.

Van der Giessen Bros. Seed Growers, 1947-1950

Despite its failure as a canning plant, the Cannery Building did not remain vacant long. In March 1947, Nic Van der Giessen and family arrived in Grand Forks to open a branch of Van der Giessen Brothers Seed Company of Utrecht, Holland. The family had previously visited most seed growing areas of the continent and was so impressed by Grand Forks that the company decided to make it its headquarters for its Canadian subsidiary, Van der Giessen Brothers Ltd.[lxiii]

To this end, in July 1947, Van der Giessen Brothers Ltd. leased the Cannery Building for use as a seed warehouse from which it distributed its famous Dutch Bulbs, imported from Holland, through catalogue sales to Boundary and Okanagan residents.[lxiv] It was also used to store seeds grown in British Columbia for post-war export to Holland and other European countries.[lxv]

Insurance map showing Cannery Building occupied by Van der Giessen Seed Growers. BC Fire Underwriters Association, September 1948.

The seed warehouse operated in Grand Forks for 4 years, after which the Van der Giessen family relocated its business to Kamloops in August 1950.[lxvi]

Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society, 1952-1975

In June 1947, members of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ (‘USCC’) chartered a consumer co-operative in Grand Forks as the Sunshine Valley Co-Operative Society.[lxvii] In October, it opened its first retail store in the Burns Block, opposite the Gazette building on First St (2 St).[lxviii] Initially it offered flour, feed and groceries, but by 1950-51 entered the hardware, dry goods and oil retail sales fields.[lxix] In keeping with Doukhobor religious tenets, the Co-op did not sell meat, alcohol, tobacco, ammunition or fishing tackle.[lxx]

In April 1952, the Co-op purchased the 39-year old Cannery Building from Robert Broder as a branch of its First St location.[lxxi] Extensive alterations were made to it, whereafter the feed, flour, hardware and furniture departments were moved into the main floor and greatly expanded.[lxxii] The ground around the building was filled and raised to road level. In May 1952, the Co-op opened a service station on the north side with two gasoline pumps as agent for the British America Oil Co. Ltd.[lxxiii]

Cannery Building occupied by Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society, 1966. Boundary Museum and Archives No. 1991_034_003_15.

In March 1953, the second floor of the Cannery Building was remodeled to house the USCC Central Organizational Office, which included the offices of the Executive Committee, the Union of Youth, the print office of the publication ISKRA along with the USCC central library.[lxxiv] The main office of the Grand Forks & District Credit Union was also briefly relocated there from May 1954 to June 1955.[lxxv]

By October 1954, the Co-op further renovated the Cannery Building, relocating its grocery department there from the old store.[lxxvi] Thereafter, the hardware department occupied one-third and the grocery the other two-thirds of the main floor. Other improvements included a free parking lot, lunch counter, and faster service at the gas pumps and grocery counters, making the store one of the most modern in the Interior.[lxxvii]

With the new expanded location and greater volume of business at the Cannery Building, annual sales of the Sunshine Valley Co-Operative Society skyrocketed from $33,000.00 in 1948 to half a million dollars in 1954.[lxxviii]

Insurance map showing Cannery Building occupied by Sunshine Valley Co-op. BC Fire Underwriters Association, June 1959.

In September 1958, the Co-op leased the Zak Bros. garage diagonally across the street from the Cannery Building as a full-service garage offering automotive repairs.[lxxix] Then, following further renovation of the second floor of the Cannery Building, some 2,500 square feet of floor space was made available, resulting in the dry goods department moving there from the old store in October 1959.[lxxx]

With the consolidation of the Co-op in the Cannery Building, plans for expansion were put in motion. In December 1962, a new supermarket and dry goods single-storey wing was built on the north side, adding 10,000 square feet of space.[lxxxi] Renovations to the hardware and furniture departments yielded 7,000 square feet of space on the Cannery Building main floor, with the second floor devoted to office space.[lxxxii] Contractor for the $100,000.00 project was Walter Wlasoff, the consulting engineer, E.M. Bauder of Joseph B. Ward & Associates and the architect, R.B. Howard of Vancouver.[lxxxiii]

Sunshine Valley Co-op with original Canning Building (right) and 1962 supermarket expansion (left). Boundary Museum and Archives No. 2017_002_023.

The 1962 expansion saw the last major modification to the Cannery Building, which now had 16,000 square feet of sales area housing the dry goods, hardware, furniture, grocery and bulk oil departments, and another 12,000 square feet of rear warehouse.[lxxxiv] Over the next 13 years, it continued to be home to one of the largest co-operatives in BC, with annual sales surpassing a million dollars.[lxxxv] 

Destruction of the Cannery Building, 1975

The Cannery Building might well have remained in use for decades longer had it not been for the events of 1975. In December of that year, the building housing the Co-op’s hardware and feed operations – as well as USCC offices and library – was consumed in a fire of mysterious origin.[lxxxvi] The loss of the structure was valued at $400,000.00, while the library filled with old Russian books and paintings was valued at more than a million dollars.[lxxxvii] The supermarket wing on the north side was saved from the conflagration. It was later determined that the fire was deliberately set by members of the Sons of Freedom.[lxxxviii]

Firemen fighting blaze at Cannery Building, December 14, 1975. Boundary Museum and Archives No. 2006_039_072.

The Cannery Building was never rebuilt, thus ending 62 years of nearly continuous operation. In its absence, the Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society was forced to substantially curtail its operations to its one remaining building – the supermarket wing. The Co-op then went into a decade-long period of decline, ending with its foreclosure in 1986.[lxxxix] The supermarket was subsequently purchased by the Grand Forks Home Hardware, whose parking lot today occupies the site of the Cannery Building.

After Word

Special thanks to Sue Adrain, Boundary Community Archives for her generous assistance in locating and sharing fire insurance maps and other information.

This article was originally published as a two-part series in the Grand Forks Gazette, October 4 and 11, 2023.

End Notes

[1] That the Grand Forks district had ideal conditions for the successful operation of a cannery was the opinion expressed by provincial horticulturalists at the time: Grand Forks Gazette, May 11, 1912, July 26, 1913. A sufficient variety of produce suitable for canning were already grown in the district to keep a cannery running throughout the season. A cannery offered a ready market and quick cash returns for local produce unable to be shipped fresh to distant points without spoilage, given the speed and conditions of rail transport. It would also save on shipping costs for the many railcar loads of produce already shipped out of the district for canning purposes. And besides offering significant employment opportunities, it would spur the cultivation of hundreds of acres of additional land in the district which lay fallow.

[2] Non-local firms that expressed an interest in establishing a cannery at Grand Forks in the 1910s included: the St. Catherines, ON firm Dominion Canneries Co. (Grand Forks Sun, April 11, June 27, 1913, August 21, 1915.); Grand Forks Produce Association (Grand Forks Gazette, June 28, 1913); Calgary-based Canadian Pacific Railway Industrial Department (Grand Forks Gazette, July 26, 1913; Grand Forks Sun, July 25, 1913); the Kelowna, BC firm Western Cannery Company Ltd (Grand Forks Gazette, August 2, 1913; Grand Forks Sun, August 1, 1913); and the Orser Canning Co. of Colbourne, ON (Grand Forks Gazette, January 15 & 29, 1916; Grand Forks Sun, January 14, 1916).

[3] The original objects of incorporation were considerably broader than canning, and included the “purchase, production, raising, preserving, curing, drying, smoking, evaporating, pressing, packing, pickling, manufacturing and preparation for sale of all kinds of fruit, vegetables, nuts and farm, garden and orchard products, dairy products, meat and animal products and fish products”: British Columbia Gazette, December 5, 1912 at 11376-11377. See also: Grand Forks Gazette, August 10, September 21, October 5, October 26, November 16, December 14, 1912, March 15 & 22, April 5 & 12, August 9, September 6 & 20, October 4, 1913; Grand Forks Sun, December 20, 1912, March 14, 1913, April 11, June 27, 1913.

[4] In September 1913, J.H. Wilson of Indianapolis, IN was hired for this purpose: Grand Forks Gazette, September 6 and 20, November 29, December 13 and 20, 1913, February 7, April 4, May 30, 1914; Grand Forks Sun, December 12 and 19, 1913.

[5] Grand Forks Gazette, October 18 and 25, November 1, 8 & 22, 1913.

[6] Grand Forks Gazette, October 25, November 1 and 8, 1913.

[7] Grand Forks Sun, December 12, 1913; Grand Forks Gazette, April 10, 1952.

[8] Grand Forks Sun, December 19, 1913; Grand Forks Gazette, October 18 and 25, 1913. There is evidence would suggest the bricks used to construct the building were sourced from the Doukhobor Society brick factory west of the city, as the contractor A.E. McDougall used Doukhobor brick to construct a number of other Grand Forks structures in the same period.

[9] Grand Forks Gazette, January 17, 1914.

[10] Grand Forks Gazette, September 20, November 29, December 13, 1913, March 7 and 14, April 25, May 9, 1914; Grand Forks Sun, December 12, 1913.

[11] Grand Forks Gazette, August 9, November 22 and 29, 1913, April 25, 1914.  

[12] The Grand Forks Canning Company Limited initially asked for a bonus in the form of $3,000.00, being the cost of the site. The City of Grand Forks responded by drafting a bylaw granting the company a 10-year tax exemption and provision of water and light at cost; the bylaw was submitted to ratepayers as a plebiscite in January 15, where it received majority approval: Grand Forks Gazette, November 29 and December 13 and 27, 1913, January 3, 10, 17 and31, 1914.

[13] Grand Forks Gazette, February 7 and March 14, April 25, May 9 and 16, 1914; Grand Forks Sun, December 12, 1913, January 16 and 30, May 15 and 29, July 3, 1914.

[14] British Columbia Gazette, July 16, 1914 at 4192; Grand Forks Gazette, June 27, July 4, 1914.

[15] British Columbia Gazette, September 10, 1914 at 5397; Grand Forks Gazette, July 4, August 1 and September 5, 1914.

[16] British Columbia Executive Council, Order-in-Council No. 690/1915 dated June 29, 1915; British Columbia Executive Council, Order-in-Council No. 36/1916 dated January 17, 1916; Grand Forks Gazette, December 19, 1914,January 20 and March 20, 1915, ; Grand Forks Sun, March 12, 1915.

[17] Grand Forks Gazette, June 21, 1913, January 8, February 5, 1916. $8,000.00 of the $10,000.00 was immediately released to the Grand Forks Canning Association; an additional $1,000.00 would be released upon installation of the plant and operation of the plant, respectively.

[18] Grand Forks Gazette, April 18 and 25, May 30, June 20, July 18 and 25, and August 1, 8 and 29, 1914; Grand Forks Sun, April 17, August 14, September 4, 1914.

[19] Grand Forks Gazette, December 12, 1914; Grand Forks Sun, December 18, 1914.

[20] Grand Forks Gazette, December 12 and 26, 1914, February 13 and March 13, 1915; Grand Forks Sun, December 11, 1914, January 1, 8, 15 and 22, February 5, 12, 19 and 26, March 5, 12 and 19, 1915.

[21] Grand Forks Gazette, January 9 and 16, 1915; Grand Forks Sun, January 22, 1915.

[22] Grand Forks Gazette, February 6, March 27, 1915.

[23] Grand Forks Gazette, April 10, 1915, July 27, 1915.

[24] Grand Forks Gazette, March 20 and May 19, 1917.

[25] Grand Forks Gazette, August 31, November 2, 23, 30, 1923; Grand Forks Sun, December 14 and 21, 1923.

[26] Grand Forks Gazette, November 6, 13, 20, 1915; Grand Forks Sun, November 26, 1915.

[27] Grand Forks Gazette, November 27, December 11 and 25, 1915; Grand Forks Sun, November 26, December 3, 10 & 17, 1915.

[28] Grand Forks Gazette, February 5, 26, March 4, 11, 18 and April 1, 15, 22, 1916; Grand Forks Sun, November 26, December 3, 10, 17, 1915 and March 31, 1916.

[29] Grand Forks Gazette, August 12 & 19, 1916; Grand Forks Sun, August 18, 1916.

[30] Grand Forks Gazette, February 5, 1916.

[31] Grand Forks Gazette, July 27, 1917.

[32] Grand Forks Gazette, April 14, 1917, July 27, 1917.

[33] Grand Forks Gazette, July 27, 1917, May 2 and 16, 1919.

[34] Grand Forks Gazette, May 30, June 13, 20, 27 1919,

[35] Occidental’s departure from Grand Forks operationswas precipitated by the destruction of their second fruit packing house at Carson due to fire, with fruit and property losses of $10,000.00: Grand Forks Gazette, October 31, 1919.

[36] Grand Forks Gazette, August 6 and 27, September 24 and 27, 1920.

[37] Grand Forks Gazette, July 29, August 5 and 12, September 2, 1921; Grand Forks Sun, July 29, September 2, 1921.

[38] Grand Forks Gazette, July 21, 1921; Grand Forks Sun, May 18, 1923.

[39] Grand Forks Gazette, January 20, March 10, 17, 22 and 24, May 19, October 20, 1922. Pundits for a local fruit and vegetable cannery emphasized the need for coordinated growers’ support and the growing of substantially larger acreages of small fruit to facilitate the industry. At the same time, G.A. Evans, editor of the Grand Forks Sun, railed against the Cannery Building as a ‘fiasco’, arguing that had local promotors used an old building for a cannery and taken their money and put it into equipment and operating expenses, they would have a dividend-paying cannery instead of having their money tied up in a vacant building: Grand Forks Sun, April 22, 1921.

[40] Grand Forks Gazette, January 5, 12, 19 and 27, February 2, March 23, June 8 & 22, September 28, October 5, 1923; Grand Forks Sun, January 19, 1923.

[41] British Columbia Executive Council, Order-in-Council No. 189/1940 dated February 17, 1940. The amount of the $8,000.00 loan owed by the Grand Forks Canning Association in September 1924 was $7,727.63, indicating that virtually nothing had been paid against the principal. The Association was subsequently dissolved in July 1928: British Columbia Gazette, July 26, 1928 at 2804.

[42] Grand Forks Gazette, October 5, 1923; Grand Forks Sun, September 16, 1927; Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1923-1928. Although Fruit Products Company of Grand Forks appears in the 1928 civic directory, the listings were prepared in late 1927 and there is no record of corporate activity after September 1927.

[43] Grand Forks Gazette, January 15, February 19, March 5, 1926, September 1, 1933; Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1925-1932. Note the Grand Forks Creamery continued to market butter and ice cream under its predecessor’s ‘K.V. Brand’. 

[44] Grand Forks Gazette, February 20, 1936; February 29, 1940.

[45] British Columbia Executive Council, Order-in-Council No. 189/1940 dated February 17, 1940; Grand Forks Gazette, November 16, 1939.

[46] Ibid.

[47] British Columbia Gazette, June 6, 1940 at 825-826; Grand Forks Gazette, January 25, 1940.

[48] Grand Forks Gazette, November 30, 1939, February 22, March 7 and 14, April 4 and 25, June 13, 1940.

[49] Grand Forks Gazette, November 30, 1939.

[50] Grand Forks Gazette, March 28, April 4, May 16 and June 13, 1940; March 27, 1941.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Grand Forks Gazette, June 13, 1940.

[54] Grand Forks Gazette, March 12 and 19, April 23, 1942. Grand Forks Canners Limited was eventually struck off the corporate register and dissolved in April 1952: British Columbia Gazette, April 10, 1952 at 1075.

[55] British Columbia Gazette, March 9, 1944 at 410; Grand Forks Gazette, March 2, April 20, 1944.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Grand Forks Gazette, November 23, 1944, January 11, 1945.

[59] Grand Forks Gazette, January 25, February 15, March 22 and 29, April 5 and 19, 1945.

[60] Grand Forks Gazette, May 3 and 24, August 30, November 8, 1945.

[61] Grand Forks Gazette, May 15, 1947.

[62] Ibid. Kettle Valley Packers Limited was subsequently struck from the corporate registry and dissolved in May 1951: British Columbia Gazette, May 10, 1951 at 1446.

[63] Grand Forks Gazette, March 20, 1947.

[64] Grand Forks Gazette, July 31, 1947.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Grand Forks Gazette, July 20, August 31, September 28, 1950.

[67] The organization and development of producer and consumer co-operatives among members of the USCC in BC was initiated at a USCC convention held in Grand Forks on May 26, 1946: Grand Forks Gazette, June 4, 1953, March 21, 1963; ISKRA No. 1937 (U.S.C.C., February 26, 2003 at 7). Initially, membership in the Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society was limited to Doukhobors belonging to the U.S.C.C. but within five years was expanded to the general public after the co-operative enterprise became better established. Regarding the Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society charter, see: British Columbia Gazette, June 26, 1947 at 1963; Grand Forks Gazette, August 14, 1947; Peter P. Podovinikoff, “Doukhobor Credit Unions and Co-operatives 1940s-1990s,” in K. J. Tarasoff (ed.), Spirit-Wrestlers’ Voices: Honouring Doukhobors on the Centenary of their Migration to Canada in 1899. (Toronto: Legas, 1998) at 157.

[68] Erected at First Street in October 1911, the Burns Block housed various businesses, beginning with the P. Burns & Co. meat market, followed by J.M. McLean’s bakery in March 1939, John Onion’s store in May 1941 and Albert Talarico’s Grand Forks Meat Market in May 1947. The Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society purchased the block from Talarico in August 1947 for the sum of $6,000.00. The place was renovated enough to start a little grocery store with $485.00 work of stock, opening in October 1947. On New Year’s Eve, 1947-48, the Burns Block was destroyed by fire with a $14,000.00 loss due to arson by Sons of Freedom. In March 1948, the Co-op rebuilt its store on the same premises; however, the City of Grand Forks refused to reissue a trade license for almost a year until ordered to do so by the courts. The rebuilt store was finally licensed and re-opened in March 1949. In October 1959, the Co-op ceased operations in the building, and in February 1961, sold it to Mark Soon, who thereafter operated it as the Honey Confectionary & Restaurant.

[69] The Sunshine Valley Co-operativefirst advertised clothing and dry goods in the Grand Forks Gazette on February 9, 1950; and furniture and British American Oil Company Ltd. products on October 11, 1951. As the B.A. bulk sales agency, it supplied all B.A. service stations in the Boundary with petroleum products as well as fuel oil to householders.

[70] British Columbia Gazette, May 19, 1966 at 1137.

[71] Grand Forks Gazette, April 10, 1952, March 21, 1963; British Columbia Executive Council, Order-in-Council No. 1890/1954 dated August 20, 1954.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Grand Forks Gazette, May 15, 1952, March 21, 1963.

[74] Grand Forks Gazette, March 21, 1963; ISKRA No. 1937 (Brilliant: USCC, February 26, 2003).

[75] Grand Forks Gazette, April 10, May 1 and 13, 1954, February 17, June 23, 1955, March 21, 1963.

[76] Grand Forks Gazette, August 12, October 7, 1954, March 21, 1963. The relocation of the grocery department to the Cannery Building was made following the realization that the floor space at the original First St. location was insufficient to allow desired expansion. Following the move, only the dry goods department was left at the original store.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Grand Forks Gazette, August 12, 1954, March 21, 1963.

[79] Grand Forks Gazette, September 18, 1958, March 21, 1963.

[80] Grand Forks Gazette, October 1, 1959, March 21, 1963.

[81] Grand Forks Gazette, April 5, May 31, 1962, July 26, December 13, 1962. Note the grand opening of the new Sunshine Valley Co-op supermarket was held on March 21, 1963.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Ibid.

[84] Grand Forks Gazette, March 21, 1963.

[85] See for example: Grand Forks Gazette, March 21, April 11, 1963, March 26, 1964, April 7, 1965, March 23, 1966.

[86] Grand Forks Gazette, December 15, 1975, December 2 and 16, 2015.

[87] Edmonton Journal, September 12, 1979.

[88] Vancouver Sun, September 11, 1979.

[89] Podovinnikoff, supra, note 67.

Doukhobor Berry Pickers at Hatzic, BC, 1918

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

In the summer of 1918, 150 Doukhobor young women from Brilliant disembarked at Hatzic, 350 miles away in the Lower Mainland of BC, to pick fruit. Their arrival sparked some controversy among local growers and pickers, wary of these ‘foreigners’ and unfamiliar with their customs, dress and speech. The following article recounts their story and how they overcame local prejudice through their toil and industry to become regarded as the best pickers in the district.


In April 1911, the Doukhobor Society purchased the vacant Kootenay Jam Co. factory in Nelson, BC and commenced a large-scale jam-making and canning enterprise as the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works, producing the famous ‘K.C. Brand’ jams.[i] Using locally-grown fruit, the 6-ton-per-day facility ran 4 years and was then replaced by a new, larger 12-ton-per-day plant built at Brilliant in May 1914.[ii]

Doukhobor jam factory at Brilliant, c. 1918. BC Archives No. D-06930.

From the outset, the jam factory was capable of processing a substantially larger quantity of fruit than the Doukhobor Society orchards could supply; particularly before they came into full bearing. It thus became necessary to supplement the supply by purchasing fruit and berries from other West Kootenay growers on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake, at Creston and the Arrow Lakes.[iii]

The jam-making enterprise frequently purchased standing crops of fruit and berries and supplied its own pickers (primarily Doukhobor young women), paying the same or higher price than local growers could secure if they hired their own labour for picking.[iv] This was a significant benefit to growers, who often confronted labour shortages during the brief picking season.

Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works ad seeking fruit from growers to fill very large contract. Nelson Daily News, May 4, 1918.

In March 1918, the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works received a very large contract for jams and jellies for the upcoming season and purchased all the available berries grown in the West Kootenay.[v] The local volume proved insufficient, and the Doukhobor Society approached fruit growers considerably further afield at Hatzic on the BC Lower Mainland.[vi]  

The Hatzic Growers

Located on the CPR line 45 miles east of Vancouver, Hatzic (pop. 500) was a thriving fruit-growing and ranching district at the time. In 1918, it was the largest express fruit shipping point in Canada, and the greatest small fruit district in BC, with a quarter of a million dollars in output.[vii]

Hatzic, BC c. 1918. BC Archives No. 07895.

The Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works initially contacted Thomas Catherwood, secretary of the Hatzic Fruit Growers’ Association, who solicited its members to sell to them, resulting in 40 acres of raspberries, or 30 percent of the district acreage (100 tons) signed for at 6 cents per lb. standing.[viii] The total sale value was $13,500.00 or $240,000.00 in today’s dollars.

However, the deal ran afoul of the YWCA National Service Bureau, which was mobilizing 2,000 English-Canadian women from the coast to pick fruit that season, and which decried their displacement by Doukhobor pickers.[ix] Following a meeting with YWCA representatives, the Association abruptly refused to have the sale go through it, fearing it “might become involved in difficulties arising out of the contract to sell to these strangers.”[x]

Despite this setback, 7 Hatzic growers, accounting for some 20 acres or 15 percent of the district acreage (50 tons), sold their entire raspberry crop directly to the Doukhobors.[xi] These were H.B. Walton, J.G. Michie, H. Hall, D. McGilvery, G. Doane, W. MacDonald and H.W Noble. Reportedly, their going outside the Fruit Growers’ Association to dispose of their crop was not met with the heartiest approval of other growers.[xii]

Headline of Hatzic growers’ sale of raspberries to Doukhobors, Vancouver Daily World, July 2, 1918.

The Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works purchased the 7 Hatzic growers’ standing crops for 7 cents per lb. – the equivalent of 11 cents per lb. paid by local canneries when picking costs (3 cents per lb.) and freight costs (1 cent per lb.) to the Brilliant jam factory were taken into account.[xiii] The total sale value was $7,850.00, or $140,000.00 in today’s dollars.

Arrival of the Doukhobor Pickers

On July 2, 1918, a Doukhobor agent for the jam factory arrived in Hatzic to complete all arrangements for the accommodations of the pickers and handling of the product generally.[xiv] Within the week, 150 Doukhobor girls from Brilliant, accompanied by 7 Doukhobor male overseers (one per ranch), arrived by CPR train at Hatzic.[xv] They quickly erected tent camps and cook houses on each ranch and set to work picking raspberries.

Almost immediately, the Doukhobor girls encountered prejudice from the English-Canadian girls already picking in the fields who refused to work with them or “to be associated with a lot of ignorant foreigners” who were, in their belief, “decidedly the reverse of cleanly about their homes and persons.”[xvi]

It is worth noting that none of the English Canadian pickers had previously met or seen a Doukhobor and their beliefs were not based on reason nor actual experience. Fortunately, their preconceptions were quickly dispelled.  

Hatzic fruit farms, c. 1918. SFU No. MSC130-0443-01.

The Vancouver Daily World dispatched a correspondent to visit the Doukhobor pickers at Hatzic. They reported that “everywhere the same air of cleanliness prevailed. The camps and the cook houses were shining, the beds neatly made, while the girls, in their straight, coarse gowns, with white shawls pinned on their heads, were as neat and clean-looking as could be desired.” “The Doukhobor girls”, they concluded, “need to concede nothing to their Anglo-Saxon sisters in the way of cleanliness and neatness.”[xvii]

As soon as the English Canadians became personally familiar with their Doukhobor workmates, they readily resumed picking alongside them, and adopted a friendly and even respectful tone towards them.

The newspaper also reported on the interest taken by the Doukhobor girls in the Canadian girls’ apparel. They were very much struck by the neatness and convenience of the ‘overall outfits’ of the Canadian girls, and vowed that if they returned to the berry fields the next year, they would “all be wearing the khakhi or blue derry trousers”.[xviii] They were also quite taken by the varied head coverings worn by the Canadian girls, and some of them finally summoned up sufficient courage, using broken English and hand gestures, to ask to be permitted to try them on, to the merriment of all gathered.[xix]

In the Fields

The Doukhobor girls were evidently very happy in their work. The Vancouver Daily World reported that, “throughout the whole day laughter and song can be heard rising from the fields in which they are engaged. They sing very well, too, and when in groups almost eagerly respond to a request for a song. Their voices are all apparently low, and they sing in a fashion that might be characterized as ‘drony’ but which is nevertheless quite musical, three parts being clearly distinguishable.”[xx]

Headline of Hatzic growers’ satisfaction with Doukhobor pickers, Vancouver Daily World, July 20, 1918.

As for the fruit growers, they were reportedly most pleased with the Doukhobors girls.  “Their work in the fields,” stated the Vancouver Daily World, “is more than satisfactory. They are painstaking and industrious; take care of the bushes, pick clean, and keep well up with their work.”[xxi]

Indeed, one grower, Captain H.B. Walton, was quoted as follows: “We were a little doubtful about the experiment with these pickers, but we are entirely satisfied. We have never had pickers who needed less looking after, or who did any better work.”[xxii]

Reportedly, the only ‘issue’ Captain Walton encountered with the Doukhobor girls related to their initial objection to working on Sundays. “Our Lord do not like us to work on Sunday”, they said. But Walton asked them “if they thought their Lord would like to see good berries go to waste. That settled it. After a little consideration they decided to go to work.”[xxiii]

The admiration shown towards the Doukhobor pickers for their cleanliness, enthusiasm and work ethic by the English Canadian growers and pickers at Hatzic stood in sharp contrast with the mounting anti-Doukhobor sentiment throughout the West Kootenay and Boundary on account of their pacifist stance during the Great War.   

For his part, H.B. Walton was indignant at the criticism levelled at him and the other 7 growers for disposing of their crops directly to the Doukhobors. “There is no good reason”, he stated, “why we seven should be criticized for selling outside the Association. Other growers in this district are doing the same thing, and are not being criticized. “As a matter of fact”, warmly concluded the doughty captain, “the growers ought to be very thankful that 150 good pickers extra have been brought into this district this year. They would have been put to it very badly for help to harvest their crop if we had not sold where we have. No one has been hurt by our action, but on the contrary, a serious shortage of pickers has been averted.”[xxiv]

“K.C. Brand” raspberry jam manufactured by the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works. Photo courtesy Greg Nesteroff.

The Doukhobor girls completed their picking over the course of about three weeks, during which approximately 50 tons of raspberries were shipped fresh by railcar to Brilliant as they were picked and boxed. They then demobilized their camps and cook houses and accompanied the last CPR train laden with raspberries back to their homes in Brilliant, where the berries were unloaded and processed at the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works into the famous “K.C. Brand” jam.

Group Photograph

A day or two before they departed, a proposal was made to take some ‘snaps’ of the Doukhobor girls. Only one of these photographs has survived to the present, and is housed in Koozma J. Tarasoff’s Doukhobor History Photo Collection at the British Columbia Archives.[xxv]  

The photograph shows 26 Doukhobor fruit pickers at one of the Hatzic ranches in July 1918. Note three of the girls at the left end of the front row are wearing borrowed ‘English’ hats. Behind them can be seen raspberry bushes, and further behind, their tent camp and cook house. Rising in the background is Dewdney Peak.

Doukhobor young women picking raspberries at Hatzic BC, 1918. BC Archives No. E-02695.

Fortunately, the names of these Doukhobor young women were recorded on the back of the photograph for posterity. They are:

Back row (L-R): Anastasia Samorodin; Varvara Vlasoff; Tatyana L. Gritchin; Anastasia Popoff (wife of Peter K. Fofonoff); Elizabeth N. Perepelkin (wife of Larry Fofonoff); the next two are owners of the orchard, possibly H.B. Walton and wife; Anna Samsonoff (nee Subbotin); Semyon Salikin; Pelageya Fateevna Tomilin (wife of Michael I. Zubkoff); Anastasia Pictin (wife of Peter Planidin); Irina Fed. Masloff (wife of Wasili M Maloff); and Maria Postnikoff (wife of F.M. Evdokimoff).

Centre row (L-R): Pelageya M. Sotnikoff (wife of Andrew Chernoff) Tatyana V. Argatoff (wife of V.V. Kootnikoff); Agafiya Gr. Malakhoff wife of Michael P. Chernoff); Anna E. Planidin (wife of I.V. Soloveoff ; Nastia Makortoff (wife of Andrew Bloodoff); and Varvara N. Popoff (wife of A.N. Voykin).

First row (L-R): Agafiya Wasilenkoff (wife of Ignat Antefaev); Pelegaya Chernenkoff (wife of Michael Koftinoff); Anna Dm. Shlahoff (wife of Steven Zhivotkoff); Anastasia T. Savenkoff (wife of Ivan I. Novokshonoff); unidentified; Varvara S. Obedkoff (wife of Ivan Strelioff) and Agafiya M. Sotnikoff (wife of Gr. Ivin).

After Word

A slightly abridged version of this article was published in the Mission City Record, October 20, 2023.

End Notes

[i] For a comprehensive history of the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works, see Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, “The Doukhobor Jam-Making Enterprise” in West Kootenay Advertiser, April 23-30 and May 7, 14, 21 2020:;;;; See also Greg Nesteroff, The Doukhobor Jam Factory in Nelson:

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid. See also Jonathan J. Kalmakoff & Greg Nesteroff, Doukhobors at Proctor and Sunshine Bay:

[iv] The Doukhobor pickers were not paid for their labour, but received all basic necessities – food, clothing, shelter, etc. – as members of the Community. This directly reduced the financial outlay paid by the Doukhobor Society to fruit growers by up to 35-40% of the total cost. 

[v] Nelson Daily News, May 4, 1918.

[vi] Vancouver Sun, March 28, 1918; Vancouver Daily World, March 28, 1918.It was reported that the Doukhobor Society had entered fruit contracts with growers at Mission, near Hatzic, the previous season in 1917.

[vii] Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1918 at 213.

[viii] The contract entered into through the Hatzic Fruit Growers’ Association accounted for 40 acres, or roughly 30 percent of the acreage in the district, for which it was planned to send 300 Doukhobors to pick the crop:  Abbotsford Post, March 22, 1918; Vancouver Daily World, July 20, 1918.

[ix] Vancouver Sun, March 28, 1918; Abbotsford Post, April 5, 1918.

[x] Following a March 27, 1918 meeting between the Vancouver WYCA and the Hatzic Fruit Growers Association (during which, it seems, the Association was induced to back out of the agreement with the Doukhobors), the YWCA glibly reported that rumours of Doukhobor pickers at Hatzic were “mere nonsense”, a “tempest in a tea-pot” and that it was unaware of any contracts having been signed for Doukhobor pickers: Vancouver Daily World, March 28, 1918; Abbotsford Post, April 5, 1918; Vancouver Daily World, July 20, 1918.

[xi] Vancouver Daily World, July 2, 1918; Abbotsford Post, July 5, 1918; Princeton Daily Star, July 26, 1918.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Vancouver Daily World, July 2, 1918.

[xv] Ibid; Greenwood Ledge, July 11, 1918; Princeton Daily Star, July 19, 1918.

[xvi] Vancouver Daily World, July 20, 1918.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] British Columbia Archives, Item No. E-02695.

The Pacific Hotel, Columbia BC

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

The discovery of copper ore at Phoenix and Deadwood, arrival of the railroad and founding of smelting works brought a huge influx of miners, prospectors, farmers, labourers and entrepreneurs to the Boundary between 1895 and 1899. Businesses sprung up to serve the burgeoning industries and population, including hotels, saloons, restaurants and various shops. One such establishment was the Pacific Hotel, which served commercial, mining and railway men and other travellers for 19 years until its fortunes waned with changing times. This article takes a look at the once-iconic hotel, its proprietors and operation, and its untimely demise.    

“The Most Comfortable House in the Boundary…”

The Pacific Hotel was a business venture of John J. McIntosh (1866-?). McIntosh’s origins are obscure; he may have hailed from Ontario or the Maritimes. What is known is that he settled in the Town of Upper Grand Forks in 1896 and prospected, staked and developed a series of claims on Hardy Mountain.[1] Prompted by the imminent arrival of the CPR and the flood of travellers it would bring, McIntosh constructed a new hotel on the corner of Railway Street and Minto Avenue (today Donaldson Drive and 76th Avenue) in May 1898.[2] In June he received a hotel license[3] and in July opened its doors for business.[4]  

Original Pacific Hotel structure, Grand Forks Sun, August 15, 1905.

Christened the ‘Pacific’ after the railway, the new hotel was an impressive three-story 33’ x 60’ frame structure with wood foundation, full heating and electric system, clapboard siding and dormered mansard roof.[5] The main floor featured a large, first-class dining room with adjoining bar and rear kitchen. It had accommodations for 25 guests, with 10 spacious suites with hot and cold baths on the second floor, 12 smaller rooms on the third floor and sample rooms for commercial travellers.[6] Newly furnished and decorated throughout, it was billed the “Most Comfortable House in the Boundary.”[7]

Along with opening the hotel, McIntosh petitioned for the incorporation of Upper Grand Forks as the City of Columbia in April 1899[8] and was twice elected alderman in January 1900 and January 1902.[9] He was also active on the Columbia Liberal Association executive.[10] His involvement in local politics served him well, enabling him to secure the Pacific as a stop for all stage lines running into the Boundary in April 1899.[11] Then, in January 1900, McIntosh and councilmen successfully lobbied the CPR to build its station at Columbia instead of Grand Forks,[12] with all passenger traffic routed to the depot built opposite the Pacific. This assured the hotel a steady business, with weary train passengers arriving just steps away.

Insurance map showing Pacific Hotel across from C.P.R. Passenger Station in Columbia. Library & Archives Canada.

McIntosh leased the Pacific to a succession of proprietors who ran its day-to-day operations including: Columbia liquor merchant John C. Douglas from July to December 1898;[13] ex-Province Hotel managers Alexander W. Fraser of Grand Forks and Joseph E. Stark of Pullman, WA from February to April 1899;[14] ex-Arlington Hotel owner John Haverty of Trail from November 1901 to May 1902;[15] electrician Peter D. and Annie McDonald of Trail from June to September 1902, then (dining room) September 1902 to February 1903;[16] ex-Pacific chef William W. Shaw (dining room) from March to October 1903;[17] Mrs. W.E. Nichols and Miss Liddy L. Bailey of Summit City (suites) from September 1902 to September 1903;[18] Thomas and Harriet Walker of Midway from October 1903 to July 1904;[19] ex-VV&E conductor Charles V. Sloggy and ex-Victoria Hotel employee Thomas Donald, both of Grand Forks, from July to September 1904;[20] Sloggy again from September 1904 to May 1905;[21] and McDonald again from May to November 1905.[22] 

Throughout this period, the hotel did a splendid business in the west end of Grand Forks (as Columbia was known after its civic amalgamation with Grand Forks in 1903[23]), catering to thousands of commercial, mining and railway men and other CPR travellers to the Boundary. First-class suites were offered at $1.50 to $2 per day, while room and board was offered to long-term guests, often local workmen, at special rates of $7 to $10 per week.[24] In the sample rooms, travelling salesmen set out their merchandise for local merchants to view and inspect. The dining room and grill offered full-course cuisine and short orders at all hours, with special six o’clock chicken dinners held each Sunday, all prepared by the kitchen chef using the best to be found in the markets.[25] The main and assistant bartenders at the bar served up the choicest brands of wines, liquors and cigars to thirsty patrons.[26] Special events were also hosted, including business meetings, teas, dances and banquets. 

Pacific Hotel advertisement, Grand Forks Sun, July 24, 1903.

Three main competitors emerged in the west end at this time: the Queen’s Hotel (est. 1897), Columbia Hotel (est. 1899) and C.P.R. Hotel (est. 1902).[27] Others came and went, such as the Hotel Canada (est. 1898-1902), St. Johns Hotel (est. 1899-1901), Hotel Escalet (est. 1900-1901) and Golden Bar Hotel (est. 1900-1901).[28] However, none matched the Pacific in terms of quality, size nor proximity to railway stations. Indeed, proprietor C.V. Sloggy reported in 1904 that “every room in the house is filled nightly.”[29]

Meanwhile, John J. McIntosh continued to prospect, locating 56 square miles of coal claims near Morrissey in East Kootenay on behalf of a Grand Forks consortium in April 1903.[30] He spent most of the next year in Victoria, lobbying provincial authorities for licenses, and in Spokane, buying up adjacent claims from claimholders.[31] By May 1904, he helped form the Southeast Kootenay Coal & Coke Company[32] and moved to the Coast to promote the mine, returning to Grand Forks only occasionally.[33] Finally, in November 1905, he sold the Pacific to exclusively pursue coal development.[34] 

Front-page headline of Pacific Hotel sale. Grand Forks Sun, November 21, 1905.

“A Good Business to be Done…”

The buyer of the Hotel was Charles B. Peterson (1869-1943). Born in Sweden, Peterson immigrated to Canada in 1893, initially settling in West Kootenay before establishing a ranch at Princeton in 1898.[35] That year, he also built the Square Hotel on Bridge Street (now Market Avenue) in Grand Forks.[36] Then in 1903, he acquired the Owl Saloon and Clarendon Restaurant down the street with John Lind.[37] And in 1905, he built the Great Northern Hotel in Hedley with his brother John.[38] The Grand Forks interests were run by Lind and the Hedley business by his brother while Charles operated his ranch in the Similkameen.[39]

On purchasing the Pacific, Peterson hired Columbia Hotel owner Gus Eastman to manage it, whereupon Eastman closed down the Columbia and Peterson sold the Square to John Lind.[40] By April 1907, Eastman had departed and Peterson relocated from Princeton with his family to manage the hotel personally,[41] selling his Hedley interest to his brother.[42] (Incidentally and confusingly, Eastman bought the Queen’s Hotel with Charles ‘E.’ Peterson in 1910).

When the June 1911 census was taken, the family and staff at the Pacific Hotel were listed as follows: hotelkeeper Charles B. Peterson (41), wife Martha (29), sons Carl J. (11), Peter (7) and Valdemar (2), daughters Helen (9) and Lottie (8), waitress Annie Berquist (34), bartender William Doer (33) and cook Jim Sing (40).[43]  

From 1905 to 1913, the Pacific continued to do a solid business, much as it had before, serving the needs of weary, hungry and thirsty railway travellers and locals. Most patrons were fine, upstanding members of society, but as with many hotels and saloons, there were a few notorious exceptions.   

In August 1908, an elderly man arrived at the hotel and had two boxes carted to his room; that night he emptied their contents, 175 lbs. of opium, into gunnysacks, wheelbarrowed them half a mile west to the GNR Weston station and placed them aboard railcars bound for Washington; he then quietly departed the hotel, leaving only the empty boxes in his room to tell the tale.[44] Also, in November 1908, a young man forged the signature of the Granby Consolidated treasurer to a $58 bank cheque and cashed it with the Pacific night clerk; minutes later the clerk discovered the forgery and ran after him, netting the man in a dramatic capture.[45] Then, in September 1910, a boarder named Connors or O’Conner ransacked the rooms at the hotel, making off with a watch, safety razor and other small items before he was apprehended trying to dispose of them.[46]  This was not the first such incident, the Pacific having been ransacked in September 1902 by a young boarder named Delary, who made off with $130 while leaving a $60 board bill.[47]    

Pacific Hotel in 1912 with building addition and other improvements. Boundary Museum Society, 1987-024-001.

During this period, Peterson made a number of significant improvements to the hotel. In June 1907, he had the building raised to a higher grade and a stone foundation constructed under it.[48] Also, a handsome two-storey verandah was added to the front façade.[49] In March 1912, he began clearing ground for a new addition, with Lutley & Galipeau pouring a concrete foundation in April and day labour erecting a three-storey 30’ x 20’ adjoining structure in May.[50] This added ten more rooms, increasing hotel capacity to 35 guests. Finally, from May to October 1913, he hired J.F. Kraus to install a new hot water heating plant, the most modern in the city with radiators in every room, at a cost of $2700.[51] 

By now, the Pacific was one of only two hotels remaining in the west end, the C.P.R. Hotel having closed its doors in December 1912, while the Queen’s Hotel was closed in November 1912 when its owner, ex-Pacific Hotel proprietor P.D. MacDonald, built the new Hotel Colin a block west on Government Avenue opposite the GNR Weston station.[52] No doubt, these developments factored into Peterson’s decision to complete some of his later upgrades. 

However, even as these upgrades were underway, events were in play that would have devastating consequences for the Pacific. In June 1912, an agreement was reached between the city, CPR and KVR making Grand Forks a joint terminal and divisional point for each railway, with a joint passenger depot to be established at the KVR station on Third Street.[53] The joint station was not immediately opened, as the Board of Railway Commissioners took almost a year to consider it.[54] However, once approved in April 1913, the CPR routed all passenger traffic to its downtown station first, and only then back out to its west end depot.

With the launch of the new CPR station, the Pacific emptied of guests almost overnight, as most railway travellers now opted to disembark downtown. This left Peterson with dramatically reduced revenue to pay off his expensive upgrades. Over the next three years, he struggled to keep the hotel afloat. To help subsidize it, he opened an autobus service, shuttling passengers between city trains and hotels.[55] However, by late 1916, the Pacific was insolvent: Peterson discontinued business and did not renew its license; in January 1917 the hotel office equipment and furnishings were seized by creditors and sold by public auction.[56]

                                                   Figure 6: Pacific Hotel, circa 1912-1913, Boundary Museum Society.

Sold (And Resold) For Taxes

Charles B. Peterson and family continued to reside in the Pacific building for another nine months. In May 1917, he had an opportunity to sell the hotel building to the Doukhobor communal organization, the ‘Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood’, but evidently the deal fell through.[57]

In June 1917, Peterson tried leasing it to Sam Mathews and Frank Peterson of Hedley, whose Great Northern Hotel (renamed from the Hotel Colin in February 1913) was destroyed by fire;[58] however, their application to transfer their license to the Pacific failed when west end residents signed a mass petition against it.[59] It seems that a hotel and bar were no longer seen as welcome in the now largely residential neighbourhood. By September, the property was sold by the City of Grand Forks for delinquent taxes.[60] Thereafter, the Petersons returned to their ranch in Princeton.

The tax purchaser of the Pacific building in September 1917 was Dr. William O. Rose (1870-1936). Born in Prince Edward Island and a graduate of McGill in medicine, Rose settled in Nelson in 1899 as the city’s medical doctor and was active in civic affairs, serving as alderman and mayor before being elected to the British Columbia Legislature in 1916 and 1920.[61]

There is no indication that Dr. Rose actually occupied or used the Pacific building. Nonetheless, after two years of ownership, there were $1200 of taxes, water and light arrears owing against it, and it was once again sold for taxes, this time to the city, in September 1919.[62] In January 1920, Dr. Rose sought to redeem the property prior its registration with the city; however, he failed to pay the arrears within the time allotted by council.[63]

Over the next four years, the Pacific building largely stood vacant and unused.[64] In December 1921, an enquiry was made to lease it by Robert Grant of Vancouver, which council offered to rent for $50 a month, but no deal materialized.[65] Later that month, council moved to board up its windows.[66] In July 1922, the city took out a $1000 insurance policy on the building and heating plant.[67] Then, in October 1922, council received an offer to purchase it for $1000 or rent it for five years at $100 a year, however, nothing more came of it.[68]      

Tender for Sale and Removal

In April 1923, the city received an offer from local plumber J.H. Mathews to buy the Pacific’s heating plant for $325.[69] On considering the offer, council decided instead to sell the hotel, either intact or its heating system in place, by tender in May.[70] At least one offer was received, but was rejected by the city.[71]

Figure 7: Pacific Hotel Tender Notice, Grand Forks Sun, 1923.05.18.

In September 1923, council accepted the offer of Noble Binns, mayor of Trail, to purchase the heating plant for $500 for use in that city’s Knights of Pythias lodge.[72] A month later, in October, the offer of Wasyl W. Lazareff to purchase the building for $225 was accepted on condition that upon payment in full, it be removed within 60 days.[73] Outbuildings in connection with the hotel were sold separately.[74]

Lazareff was Secretary-Treasurer of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd. branch office in Trail, and managed a fuel supply and construction business on its behalf in that city since 1914.[75] This was not the first time that Lazareff and the Community purchased and tore down a Boundary hotel for its salvage lumber, having done so twice in 1920 with the Granby Hotel and Deane Hotel of Phoenix.[76]

For the Community, the salvage of the Pacific Hotel was particularly lucrative. The building contained some 50,000 board feet of lumber, which the Community purchased for $4.50 per thousand board feet at a time when new lumber in the BC Interior was selling for $23 per thousand board feet.[77]

To this end, in March 1924, Lazareff paid the balance owing on the building to the city, assembled a crew of local Doukhobor workmen, and tore it down, salvaging the wood for profit.[78] By May the city board of works reported that the old Pacific hotel was removed and its site cleaned by the purchaser. In the months that followed, the wood was repurposed for a number of Doukhobor building projects in the Boundary.


From 1898 to 1917, the Pacific Hotel was a prominent fixture in West Grand Forks. Had the CPR kept the west end as its main passenger depot, it might have remained so for many decades to come. Instead, it met an ignominious end by 1923 with changing times and economic downturns. Yet despite its loss from a heritage and architectural perspective, the salvage and reuse of its building material provides an early example of local conservation and recycling. Indeed, there may be structures still standing today in Grand Forks built from the lumber of this once-proud hotel.

After Word

An earlier version of this article was published in the Grand Forks Gazette, June 2, 9 and 16, 2021. The article has also been accepted for publication in the Spring 2024 issue of the Boundary Historical Society Report.

End Notes

[1] These included the Jubilee, Lizzie, Louisa, Sultana, Maple Leaf and Pass Creek claims: The Advance, 1896.06.01 and 1897.03.29; Boundary Creek Times, 1897.03.27, 1899.06.10 and 1899.06.24; Grand Forks Miner, 1897.03.27, 1897.03.17, 1898.05.21 and 1898.12.24; Cascade Record, 1899.04.22.

[2] Grand Forks Miner, 1898.05.21; The Advance, 1898.06.06; The Review, 1899.04.01; Fire Insurance Plan – Grand Forks, including Columbia, British Columbia, June 1912 (Chas E. Goad Co).

[3] The Advance, 1898.06.20; The Grand Forks Miner, 1898.06.19.

[4] Supra, note 2.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Photo, Grand Forks Sun, 05.08.15; Hotels and Boarding Houses on the Line of the Canadian Pacific Railway (Canadian Pacific Railway Co., 1912) at 2.

[7] The Review, 1899.04.01.

[8] British Columbia Gazette, Vol. 39, No. 12, 1899.03.23 at 439; Columbia Review, 1899.04.08; British Columbia Order-in-Council No. 0273 dated 1899.05.01.

[9] British Columbia Gazette, Vol. 40, No.42, 1900.01.25 at 196 and Vol. 42, No. 5, 1902.01.30 at 162; Grand Forks Sun, 1902.01.13; Vancouver Daily World, 1902.01.14; The Grand Forks Miner, 1900.05.19.

[10] Grand Forks Sun, 1920.01.02.

[11] Supra, note 7.

[12] Boundary Creek Times, 1899.12.16; Phoenix Pioneer, 1900.01.06 and 1900.03.17; Cascade Record, 1900.01.06.

[13] Grand Forks Sun, 1905.03.24.

[14] Columbia Review, 1899.03.11, 1899.03.18 and 1899.04.01.

[15] Evening World, 1901.11.20; Grand Forks Sun, 1902.01.21 to 1902.04.17.

[16] Grand Forks Sun, 1902.06.03, 1902.09.01 and 1903.02.27.

[17] Grand Forks Sun, 1903.02.27 and 1903.03.06.

[18] Grand Forks Sun, 1902.09.01 to 1903.09.29 and 1903.10.06.

[19] Grand Forks Sun, 1903-10-16, 1903.03.11 and 1904.07.08.

[20] Grand Forks Sun, 1904.07.08 to 1904.09.13; Grand Forks Gazette, 1963.03.07 and 1964.07.08.

[21] Grand Forks Sun, 1904.09.13 to 1905.05.16.

[22] Grand Forks Sun, 1905.05.16 to 1905.11.21.

[23] Grand Forks And Columbia Amalgamation Act, 1902 (British Columbia).

[24] Grand Forks Sun, 1902.09.01 to 1903.09.29; Hotels and Boarding Houses on the Line of the Canadian Pacific Railway (Canadian Pacific Railway Co., 1912) at 2.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Columbia Review, 1899.03.11, 1899.03.18 and 1899.04.01; Grand Forks Sun, 1902.01.21 to 1905.11.21.

[27] Boundary Creek Times, 1897.11.20 and 1897.12.18; The Williams’ Official British Columbia Directory (R.T. Williams, 1899); Henderson’s British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory (L.G. Henderson), 1899-1900, 1900-1901, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904. 

[28] Ibid.

[29] Grand Forks Sun, 1904.08.19 and 1904.09.13.

[30] Grand Forks Sun, 1903.04.21 and 1903.04.28.

[31] Grand Forks Sun, 1903.07.14, 1903.12.22 and 1904.01.05; Spokane Press, 1904.07.16.

[32] Grand Forks Sun, 1904.03.02, 1904.05.17 and 1904.08.09.

[33] Grand Forks Sun, 1904.10.19, 1905.03.28, 1905.05.02, 1905.06.16 and 1905.06.20.

[34] The $5,000.00 realty deal was put through by Grand Forks real estate dealer, Neil McCallum with Charles B. Peterson taking possession on December 1, 1905. Upon receiving full payment, McIntosh transferred the liquor license to Peterson on June 15, 1906: Grand Forks Sun, 1905.11.21, 1905.12.05 and 1906.06.15; Grand Forks Gazette, 1906.06.16.

[35] The Province, 1943.08.04.

[36] Grand Forks Miner, 1898.11.12.

[37] Grand Forks Sun, 1903.12.11 and 1904.01.15.

[38] Hedley Gazette, 1905.06.01.

[39] Grand Forks Sun, 1902.10.10, 1902.10.21, 1902.12.02, 1903.04.17 and 1905.08.22; Similkameen Star, 1903.09.26.

[40] Supra, note 34.

[41] Grand Forks Sun, 1907.04.26.

[42] Hedley Gazette, 1907.08.08 and 1907.09.19.

[43] 1911 Canada Census, District No. 9 (Kootenay), Sub-District No. 32 (Grand Forks), page 6.

[44] Grand Forks Sun, 1908.08.07.

[45] Grand Forks Sun, 1908.11.20.

[46] Grand Forks Sun, 1910.07.10; Grand Forks Gazette, 1910.07.19.

[47] Grand Forks Sun, 1902.07.29.

[48] Grand Forks Sun, 1907.06.28.

[49] Photo,Boundary Museum Society. [Item Number]

[50] Grand Forks Sun, 1912.03.08, 1912.04.12 and 1912.05.24; Grand Forks Gazette, 1952.05.08 and 1962.04.19; Grand Forks Fire Insurance Plan, June 1912, supra, note 2; Grand Forks Gazette, 1912.04.20, 1912.05.25, 1912.06.29.

[51] Grand Forks Sun, 1913.04.04, 1913.10.10 and 1913.10.17.

[52] Grand Forks Sun, 1907.04.12, 1907.11.15 and 1908.06.12. The C.P.R. Hotel does not appear in local newspaper advertisements and civic directories after December 1912.

[53] Grand Forks Sun, 1912.06.21.

[54] Grand Forks Sun, 1913.04.11.

[55] Grand Forks Sun, 1916.04.14.

[56] Grand Forks Sun, 1917.01.19 and 1917.01.26; Grand Forks Gazette, 1917.01.20.

[57] Greenwood Ledge, 1917.05.10. It is unclear whether the Doukhobors were interested in the hotel for its salvage value or perhaps as a warehouse building; the Christian Community already had a warehouse down the street from the Pacific and a second one near the GNR Weston station, two blocks away.

[58] Grand Forks Sun, 1912.11.29, 1913.02.14 and 1917.05.18.

[59] Grand Forks Sun, 1917.06.15; Grand Forks Gazette, 1917.06.06, 1917.06.08, 1917.06.22, 1917.06.29 and 1917.07.13.

[60] Grand Forks Sun, 1917.06.15, 1917.08.03, 1917.09.28 and 1918.02.22.

[61] Victoria Times Colonist, 1936.03.05; Nelson Daily News, 1936.03.05.

[62] Grand Forks Sun, 1919.10.03; Boundary Community Archives, City of Grand Forks Council Minutes, 1920.01.19; Grand Forks Gazette, 1920.01.16, 1920.01.24.

[63] Ibid.

[64] The only recorded use of the building from 1919 to 1923 was to feed Cascade Electric Power Company work crews in November 1919: Grand Forks Sun, 1919.11.28.

[65] Grand Forks Sun, 1921.12.02; Grand Forks Gazette, 1921.12.02, 1921.12.16.

[66] Boundary Community Archives, City of Grand Forks Council Minutes, 1921.12.29; Grand Forks Gazette, 1921.12.30.

[67] Grand Forks Sun, 1922.07.28.

[68] Boundary Community Archives, City of Grand Forks Council Minutes, 1922.10.09.

[69] Grand Forks Sun, 1923.04.13.

[70] Grand Forks Sun, 1923.05.18 and 1923.05.25; Boundary Community Archives, City of Grand Forks Council Minutes, 1923.05.14; Grand Forks Gazette, 1923.05.18 and 1923.05.23.

[71] Grand Forks Gazette, 1923.05.18.

[72] Grand Forks Sun, 1923.09.28; Grand Forks Gazette, 1923.09.28,1963.10.03 and 1968.09.25.

[73] Grand Forks Sun, 1923.10.12, 1923.10.26 and 1924.03.14.

[74] Grand Forks Gazette, 1923.12.14.

[75] The Mail Herald, November 25, 1914; Simon Fraser University, Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor, Minutes of the Meeting of the Directors of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Limited, 1917.09.08, 1920.04.10 and 1921.03.01.

[76] Greenwood Ledge, 1920.07.29.

[77] Assuming the industry average of 6.3 board feet of structural framing materials in every square foot, then with 7,740 square feet, the Pacific Hotel held 48,762 board feet of lumber. In 1923, the average price of lumber per thousand board feet in the BC Interior was $23: G.H. Hak, On the Fringes: Capital and Labour in the Forest Economies of the Port Alberni and Prince George Districts, British Columbia, 1910-1939 (Ph.D. Thesis) (Simon Fraser University, 1986) at 30.

[78] Grand Forks Sun, 1924.03.14 and 1924.05.30.

Doukhobors Make Garden in Forest at Brilliant, 1912

By James Lightbody

In May 1912, Nelson Daily News reporter James Lightbody visited the community of Brillant (then centred in Dolina Utesheniya) at the junction of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers. There, he found 1,300 Russian-speaking Doukhobors living in a ‘Socialist Utopia’ who, after four short years, had transformed 2,900 acres of forest into a veritable garden paradise with 600 acres planted into trees. Lightbody wrote an article about his experience and observations, including the Doukhobors’ history in Russia, their settlement at Brilliant, their learning of English, communal system and management, their land-clearing, industrial development and financial system. It was first published in The Nelson Daily News on June 1, 1912. It was subsequently republished in The Daily Province on June 8, 1912 and the Victoria Daily Times on June 25, 1912. Editorial comments [in square brackets] and After Word by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

An hour’s ride from Nelson, British Columbia, there exists a foreign country, 2,900 acres in extent, where nearly 1,300 people live without a knowledge of English, without money in circulation and without an elective government, and yet contented and prosperous. It is the Doukhobor community at Brilliant, at the junction of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers, where fruit farming upon a strip of land encircled by steep mountains is conducted on a scale not attempted in any other part of British Columbia. These exiles from their unhappy land in Russia are part of a band of 7,500 in Canada and beyond a few hundred in British Columbia and their kindred living in far away Canora in the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan, these people live out of touch with all races and creeds in Canada.

Russian Tyranny

Twelve years ago they began to come to Canada to escape the tyranny to which they were subject under the bureaucratic government of the Czar’s dominions, and under the liberty allowed them under British rule, they have proved themselves to be so industrious that they have carried out agricultural operations on a scale almost impossible to the English speaking citizen of the country. They have cleared hundreds of acres of their land of the dense timber that covered it four years ago and have planted it with fruit trees and bushes. They have received not a cent in return for their fruit but are still living upon what their countrymen in Canora [district, Saskatchewan] can send them and from what they have raised from selling timber and potatoes and other minor products of their land.

Nor are they concerned mainly about getting an immediate recompense for their labor. Rather they are building up for the future with a foresight which will surely be repaid. There is mapped out and in part operation an irrigation system covering the whole of their territory, and already a domestic water system fed by springs in the mountains connects every one of the thirty or more dwellings upon the plateau.

That is only one part of the story of industry and thrift that a visitor to Brilliant sees. Their quant customs; their odd form of government with its freedom from complications, yet efficient in its simplicity, their adaptability to new conditions and new surroundings; all these things tell a story seldom met with in the rush of the present-day life.

Settlement at Brilliant

To the person who alights from the train at the new station at Brilliant just being built by the Canadian Pacific railway, there opens a panorama which is puzzling to one who has no hint of what the settlement is. After journeying through a gully hemmed in by steep mountains, a wide level stretch of land takes their place and here and there upon it are dotted houses, peculiarly set in pairs of with acres and acres of trim gardens round them. In places a rugged stump-dotted patch, not yet cleared, shows what the neat, trim gardens were in their rough state. Close at hand there is a busy scene along the water’s edge, as if some gigantic industry was being established there. And so there is. As one descends the bank one encounters a gang of men loading heavy masses of machinery upon a ferry strung across the swirling Kootenay.

Ferry landing, sawmill and pumphouse at the north end of Dolina Utesheniya (Ootischenia), 1912 which Lightbody first saw upon arriving. Photo: BC Archives, Doukhobor Commision Photographs, No. GR-0793.5 (colorized).

You journey across with the gang, few of them can speak a word of English, and on closer view find a water pump being placed in position, and boilers being set together with noisy activity. You ask what it all means and are informed that it is the pumping plant for irrigating the fruit fields that you are yet to see. Pressing on, guided by one of the obliging settlers, you pass sawmill, stables, several  houses, and rise to the top of a bank to come upon an immense tableland whose houses you have seen from the station upon the railway track. For some distance you walk along until you come upon a wide expanse of cultivated land both under crop and ready for planting. On each side of the road there are large houses; always in pairs, always of the same plan, bare of exterior but eminently practical.

In your walk, if school be not in session, you will be passed by picturesque children, the girls in bright colors and the boys – well, as growing mischief-loving boys always dress. But all have an inquiring, inquisitive look, for strangers are not seen every day. Yet disrespect is totally absent and they call to you “Hello,” their first word of English probably, and the boys raise their hats and the girls nod their heads.

Learning English

There is a schoolhouse there, just put in commission by the provincial government, with an English-speaking school ma-am in it, and the children, so they say, flock to the school with such eagerness that playing truant is an unheard of offence. In fact, they come round from school and clamor to be taught before their teacher rises in the morning, and she is an early riser.

A peep into the houses discloses the tidiness that characterizes everything. Paint has not been found absolutely necessary everywhere but cleanliness cannot be sacrificed at any cost. Around the house are gardens both for flowers and for vegetables, with walks neatly bordered with stones among them. Not a fence can be seen, for the land belongs to no one and to everyone.

Then you visit the post office [at Waterloo], where John Sherbinin, the purchasing agent and financial manager, holds forth, and you find to your astonishment everything for a well-appointed office already there. There are typewriters, one in English and the other to master the vagaries of the Russian alphabet; letter files and account books and also a certificate that this is one of his majesty’s post offices.

The former ‘Waterloo’ camp at Dolina Utesheniya (Ootischenia), 1912. The one-storey log building, second from left, served as the original post office and business office. When Lightbody visited the settlement, a new two-storey frame building, far left, was built for this purpose. Photo: BC Archives, Doukhobor Commision Photographs, No. GR-0793.5 (colorized).

How They Came

To see the state of improvement the settlement has reached it is hard to believe it has all been done in four years. Yet that is the time which has elapsed since the first band migrated from Canora, near Saskatoon. In the early winter of that year, Peter Verigin, acknowledged head of the whole Doukhobor sect, came to British Columbia and found what he thought would be an advantageous site for a colony. He bought the land, piece by piece, and a month or so later, in April, 1908, ninety men came down from the Saskatchewan community, and began the work of making the stubborn bush yield to the coming of the fruit rancher.

The hardships the Doukhobor sect have passed through since it was founded in the middle of the eighteenth century are no doubt responsible for the sterling qualities of the men and women at the present time.

Primarily the ill-treatment followed their severance from the Orthodox Russian church and the methods of conscription employed by the Russian government in the nineteenth century forced them to flee the country. At the age of 21, every young man becomes liable to be called upon to bring the standing army up to a certain mark. Each year army officers come round to the Doukhobors and took away their sons to fight, and they would, it is said, take the same man year after year, seemingly to do their worst towards the nonconformists.

Many resisted this and were put in prison and Peter Verigin, who rose as a champion of his race, was seized and sent to Siberia for 16 years. At other times as a reminder of the czar’s rule, Cossacks would be sent down to their villages with horse whips to beat the communists into subjection.

Resolved to stand the tyranny no longer, the Doukhobors decided to emigrate, and in 1898 many moved to the Island of Cyprus, which is under British protection, in the Mediterranean Sea, being assisted by Count Tolstoi. Not satisfied with this and hearing of the opportunities that Canada offered, they moved to Canada in 1899 and 1900 in large numbers, settling at once near Saskatoon. In all 7,500 persons of the Doukhobor sect have come to this country. Each man of 18 years of age or more took out 160 acres of land for farming purposes. Put together, the thousand odd quarter sections made an immense tract, and true to their customs they established a community such as may be seen at Brilliant.

But they made a fatal mistake, which they blame upon the Canadian government as not having brought to their notice. The regulations say that the settlers must cultivate at least 15 acres of his quarter section by the end of three years when a patent will be granted. Instead of doing this the Doukhobors cultivated one large piece in the centre, equal to 15 acres for every homestead in the settlement, thinking it was in compliance with the requirements. When they came to ask for title they did so for the whole piece and not individually, it appears, which the government would not grant. They now say the government would not grant them a patent because they had not cultivated a piece as required by the regulations.

The Belyi Dom (‘White House’) at Dolina Utesheniya (Ootischenia) in 1912. The building served as a schoolhouse when Lightbody visited the Brilliant colony and also functioned as a community meeting house. Photo: BC Archives, Doukhobor Commision Photographs, No. GR-0793.5 (colorized).

The area they retained after their homesteads had been forfeited was hardly sufficient to support the whole of their 7,500 people. The winters, too, were hard on them, used as they were to the comparative warmth of Southern Russia. Finally Peter Verigin set out to find a new country to which his people without a home might go. How his wanderings brought him to British Columbia has already been shown.

When the 90 men, like [Biblical] spies into Canaan, came to Brilliant, they found an unpromising piece of land on which to start their settlement. Before their arrival it had barely been scratched as a fruit raising district, but some of the timber had been cut and floated down the river [to Trail], leaving the stumps standing. Hundreds of acres on the other hand were in their virgin state, while still more had been burned off ready to be grubbed of their dense underbrush and second growth trees.

They set to work, however, and cleared a piece of land more than a hundred acres in extent ready for planting the following spring. In April, 1909, another party of 180 men were brought out to the new settlement from Saskatchewan and joined the pioneers in putting the land in crop. That year they planted many acres with fruit trees brought from nurseries in Canada and the United States. But to obviate purchasing from an outside source, which is against their policy, they have started a nursery of their own, where thousands of young bushes may be seen approaching the stage when they may be transplanted.

While gangs of men were treating the soil others were erecting houses, and in June of the same year the wives and families and aged men were brought out from Saskatchewan and joined the able bodies in working towards getting a crop. In 1910 another batch of 200 men came out, some going to neighbouring settlements, of which there are Pass Creek, Crescent Valley, Glade and Grand Forks. In the spring of the present year a party of 346 passed through on their way to Glade and Slocan Valley. At Brilliant there are now 1,285 people, while at Grand Forks there are an additional 500 living in like communistic manner.

Since their first coming to Kootenay, the Doukhobors have not received a cent from their fruit plantations. Their expenses are small, for where possible food is grown and articles of wear are made. There is a strong aversion to being dependent upon outsiders, hence the Brilliant community subsists upon flour made at the Doukhobor mill at Canora, Saskatchewan.

Ivan Vasil’evich Sherbinin, business manager and purchasing agent for the Brilliant Doukhobor colony from 1908 to 1919. Photo: BC Archives, Doukhobor Commision Photographs, No. GR-0793.5 (colorized).

Harmony and Contentment

The harmony and contentment which pervade Brilliant impress the visitor at first sight, and a glance into the economic system in vogue there reveals the reason for this. It is a Socialist Utopia, the realization of equality which is being advocated for the rest of the world to-day.

At Brilliant, unlike the modern city, there are no cares as to where the next day’s meals will come from. There is no stinting to provide sustenance when one’s strength has ebbed in declining years. There is no division between “mine” and thine”; no man richer than his fellow; no jealousies or envies as to the possessions of another.

Cares as to money are totally absent, for there is no money in circulation. Neither is there any need for money, for food and clothing are doled out as needed from the department in charge of these matters. All men are equal and have a voice in the government, and more than this, women are recognized as being competent to judge upon the affairs of their community.

Their houses are large, and for economy are made to accommodate from 30 to 36 people. At the rear of each pair, there is a long low building which puzzles the stranger. It contains the baths, made of wood and looking like punts. A boiler in the centre of the room heats the water for the numerous baths round about.

The food for all the months is handed out at the general store, to which the head of the household repairs on certain days. To the storekeeper he intimates the number he must feed, and gets doled out to him food in proportion. The bread is baked in each house, and vegetables are raised in gardens surrounding them, it being part of the women’s work to look after them.

How Community is Run

The executive of the community is in the hands of several heads of departments. There are two men who manage the fruit-growing and the general affairs of the colony. One man does the purchasing for them, another oversees the building of the houses and the carpenter work, another superintends the sawmills, another the waterworks, and so on. These men are responsible for the part of the work they look after.

They form the executive, but the government is in the hands of the people, effectively and simply, although with no machinery of government whatever. Once a week all persons both men and women who have reached years of mature understanding, crowd into the school house [to hold a sobranya or ‘meeting’] and discuss the affairs of the community. At these meetings, according to the popular sentiment, the managers of each department are given their instructions.

Should one of the managers ever be guilty of doing something wrongly he is required to make an explanation and allowed to clear himself if he is able. But if not, one of the electors, if you can call them such, may propose another man, and the case is disposed of on its merits. No definite time is specified at the appointment of an officer, but he holds office as long as he does his work well. This is the initiative, referendum and recall system without the cumbersome machinery in use at the present day.

There is no police force at Brilliant, and none is needed. Every man is so loyal to this community that misdemeanors are practically unknown. As no one possesses anything to the exclusion of others, there is no stealing. If anyone should do wrong, however, he is dealt with by the society.

Land Worked in One Piece

In tilling the land it is all done in one piece. There are no divisions of the whole 2,900 acres as far as that is concerned. Men are put to work on whatever task they are best suited for and may be changed to another more congenial to them if it means greater efficiency. Thus some are at work in the fields, others in the sawmills and others at carpenter work. Should any man display a lazy disposition he is put to work tidying up the garden round the house, and if he does not keep it spic and span he will suffer derision at the hands of his comrades. But such a penalty is seldom necessary because of the intense interest taken by everyone in the welfare of the colony.

Land clearing at Dolina Utesheniya (Ootischenia) in 1912 when Lightbody visited the colony. Photo: BC Archives, Doukhobor Commision Photographs, No. GR-0793.5 (colorized).

Two Big Sawmills

Two big sawmills are kept busy all the time at Brilliant, and have seen busier day in the early life of the settlement. There, the logs that were taken from the land in preparation for the fruit trees coming, were sawn up into hundreds of thousands of railway ties and shipped all over the country. In connection with the sawmills, where, also, all lumber needed for the buildings is turned out, there is a planing mill. Finished lumber is made there, and mouldings, indistinguishable from the product of a big factory, are manufactured. There is also a joiner’s shop, and all tables, chairs and furniture used in the houses are made by Doukhobor labor there. More than this, window frames have been turned out, but for economy’s sake they are not bought.

In the high parts of the territory the guide will point to two immense reservoirs, big concrete tanks containing water. These, he will explain, are the nucleus of the irrigation system they are planning for the whole of their land. By and by when they have their pumping plant on the Kootenay in working order, the fields will be covered by a network of pipes giving water to the thirsty soil.

At the present time all is activity with the fruit trees, but when winter comes and work on the land ceases, electric light and power wires will be installed everywhere. In connection with the new pumping plant a generating station will be built to supply energy to the whole colony. You may ask the Doukhobor, on perceiving the high tension power wires of an electric company passing over the land, why he does not buy his power from the company. He will tell you that he prefers to be independent and generate it himself.

Overlooking nothing, a school-house of generous proportions has been built in the centre of the territory and was just opened during the present year. The settlement does not attempt to give education to all the children at once, but that will come in time. At present about one hundred young hopefuls are being taught in English and Russian, and show an avidity to learn often absent in English-speaking children. They look upon schooling as a privilege they must not abuse.

The Financial End

The material assets of the Doukhobors at Brilliant would do justice to many communities of larger size. The land was bought by Peter Verigin four years ago for $150,000 under an agreement for sale covering a number of years. There is yet a small balance left to be paid. The timber they sold gave them many thousands of dollars, part of which was used to pay for their land and part to bring others of their band from Canada and Russia. There are now 50 buildings of all kinds valued for the purpose of obtaining a loan at a conservative sum of $50,000. The two reservoirs and equipment are estimated for the same purpose to be worth $30,000. The largest sawmill is assessed at $15,000, and the new pumping and electric light plant is reckoned to need an outlay of $25,000. These figures were made by a bank valuator and are authentic.

To provide transportation across the Kootenay river a bridge is in the course of construction high up on the bank to allow vessels to pass under it. It will be of the suspension type. At present a ferry driven by a horses and windlass gives communication from bank to bank. There is also a ferry between the settlement and Kinnard on the Columbia river.

There are now 600 acres planted with fruit and the acreage is constantly increasing. The settlement has spread upon the banks of the Kootenay and down the Columbia river. In the course of time the whole of the Doukhobor sect in Canada and many more from Russia will have migrated to British Columbia, for it is the intention of those already there to assist their brethren to come out. With the warmer climate and the freedom they enjoy they are sure to prosper and help to develop the natural wealth of the province.

After Word

Born 1891 in Edinburgh, Scotland, James Lightbody emigrated to Canada in 1904. He started his newspaperman’s career in Winnipeg with the Tribune and Telegram. In 1911, he was briefly employed as a reporter with the Nelson Daily News. It was during this time that Lightbody visited Brilliant and wrote his article about the Doukhobor colony. It was perhaps as a result of the article’s successful syndication in several Vancouver and Victoria newspapers that he moved to Vancouver in 1913 to work as a reporter for the News Advertiser and Daily Province. In 1916, Lightbody began a 33-year career as publicity manager for the B.C. Electric Railway Company (later B.C. Electric), also serving on the executives of numerous civic and service organizations prior to his retirement in 1949. He died at age 96 in 1986.

James Lightbody.

It should be noted that at the time Lightbody visited ‘Brilliant’, the place name applied exclusively to the Doukhobor settlement in the Valley of Consolation (Dolina Utesheniya) on the southeast side of the Kootenay-Columbia confluence. The lands known as ‘Brilliant’ today on the northeast side of the confluence were only purchased by the Doukhobor Society in July 1912 – a month after Lightbody’s visit.

It is possible to trace the route of Lightbody’s visit to Brilliant in May 1912. After disembarking at the C.P.R. Brilliant Station, then the only building on the northeast side of the confluence, he walked a quarter mile southeast along the Doukhobor-built Pass Creek Road. After crossing the Kootenay River on the Doukhobor cable reaction ferry, he arrived at that part of the Valley of Consolation known as Kamennoye, where a sawmill and several large communal houses had been built and where a large irrigation pumping plant was under construction. He then traversed the length of the Valley of Consolation on the Doukhobor-built road which today forms parts of Ootischenia and Waterloo Roads. He passed by the Community meeting house known as the Belyi Dom (‘White House’) which at the time in 1912, briefly served as a public school. He then continued on to the former Waterloo mining camp which, at the time, served as the business and administrative centre of the Brilliant colony.

Lightbody’s article provides a fascinating snapshot of the state of agricultural and industrial development of Brilliant at the time. As of May 1912, there were 1,300 Doukhobors living on 2,900-acres in the Valley of Consolation. About half the acreage had been cleared, with 600 acres planted in fruit trees. The Doukhobors had not yet received any returns from the plantation, as the orchards would take another 7-10 years to reach full bearing. The Doukhobors had constructed two large concrete irrigation reservoirs on the second bench and a pumping station on the edge of the Kootenay River; this orchard irrigation system would be finally completed in 1926. However, in the meantime, a water pipeline for domestic purpose, sourced from mountain creeks, was already serving the Doukhobor communal homes throughout the colony. Two sawmills (the Bol’shaya Pil’nya or ‘Large Sawmill’ at the edge of the second and third benches and the Malaya Pil’nya or ‘Small Sawmill’ in Kamennoye) were in operation, with a planer mill located at the former.

Lightbody explains the Doukhobors’ early history in Russia and initial settlement on the Prairies, and provides a fairly detailed account of their initial settlement at Brilliant, only four years after it occurred. He also describes the colony in glowing terms as a ‘Socialist Utopia’ where cash and divisions of property were absent, and where the communal ownership system enabled all persons to have their basic needs met, to be equal and to have a voice in the government and management of the colony. Lightbody clearly attributes the Doukhobors’ social structure as the basis upon which they were able to transform Brilliant from a forest to a garden oasis in only four short years.

In terms of financial arrangements, Lightbody notes that the Doukhobor Society purchased the 2,900 acres at the Valley of Consolation for $150,000.00 under an agreement for sale, whereby payments were made under installments over five years. Now in its fourth year, there was only “a small balance left to be paid.” He does not provide an updated value for the improved land; however, its value must have increased manifold. Lightbody does note that the chattel improvements to the colony equaled $95,000.00; almost two-thirds of the original purchase price of the land in 1912.

Lightbody’s article was highly-complimentary of the Doukhobors, precisely at a time when anti-Doukhobor sentiment was reaching a fevered pitch in the Kootenay and Boundary regions. This was primarily on account of the Doukhobors’ reluctance to send their children to public school, their refusal to register vital statistics, as well as perceptions about their large, unpaid labour force undercutting local wages and commodity prices. These various public grievances – real and perceived – culminated in the formation of the Royal Commission on Doukhobor Affairs in late August 1912, only three months after Lightbody’s visit. As such, his article stands out for its objectivity and insightful, fact-based analysis, in contrast to most highly-critical, opinion-based accounts of the Doukhobors that appeared in local newspapers at the time.

Doukhobors Built Agro-Industrial Complex amid Orchards in Grand Forks

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

The Doukhobor ‘Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood’ at Grand Forks is probably best historically known for its religious pacifism, large brick communal homes, and once-vast fruit orchards. Less recognized, but also important are the many local agricultural and industrial enterprises it established. The following article examines the Doukhobor agro-industrial complex created west of the city from 1909 to 1939, and its contribution to the growth and development of the Kettle Valley.    

Land Acquisition

Between 1909 and 1912, Peter V. Verigin on behalf of the Community purchased 4,182 acres of land west of Grand Forks.[i] These acquisitions included the historic Coryell Ranch in February 1909; Newby Ranch in March 1909; Vaughan Ranch in November 1909; Spencer/Macey Ranch in May 1910; Collins Orchard in July 1910; Hoffman Ranch in April 1911; Capsey Ranch in April 1912; and Pettijohn/Bell Ranch in December 1912; among others.

Community lands and orchards along Spencer Hill, c. 1918. BC Archives No. C-01718.

By 1931, the Community’s holdings expanded to 5,104 acres to include the historic Ashfield/Dinsmore Ranch acquired in June 1913; Hardy Bros Ranch in July 1919; Ward/Perkins Ranch in March 1921; Averill Estate between March 1924 and June 1928; and Hammer/Dewdney Ranch in May 1930.[ii]

These landholdings were grouped by the Community into three somewhat distinct geo-administrative areas and given rich, evocative Russian names as follows:

  • Descriptively named Dolina Fruktovaya (the ‘Valley of Fruit’) or simply Fruktovoye by Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin,[iii] this tract was bounded by Spencer Hill to the north and west, Saddle Mountain to the north and east, the Kettle River to the south and east and the Covert Ranch to the south. In 1932, it was renamed Sion (‘Zion’) by Verigin’s son and successor, Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin;
  • Christened Dolina Khristovaya (the ‘Valley of Christ’) or simply Khristovoye by Peter V. Verigin,[iv] the tract was bounded by Eagle Mountain and Saddle Mountain to the south, Hardy Mountain to the west, Observation Mountain to the east and Smelter Lake to the north; and
  • Ubezhishche, a name given by Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin meaning (place of) ‘refuge’ or ‘hideway’,[v] was bounded by Spencer Hill and Hardy Mountain to the east, the U.S. border to the south, July Creek and its tributaries to the west and Skeff Creek to the north.

Communal Settlement

Between 1909 and 1912, 713 Doukhobor men, women and children from Saskatchewan were resettled at the new Grand Forks colony.[vi] By 1921, their number had increased to 928 persons;[vii] and by 1931, to 1,000 persons.[viii]

They were primarily housed in large, two-storey brick communal homes, each with a capacity of 30-40 persons. Some 25 such communal homes were built, each with a large barn, several single-family frame dwellings and numerous outbuildings. Each communal home was situated on approximately 100 acres of arable land which it was allotted to manage and maintain. 

Large group at Doukhobor prayer meeting at Grand Forks. Boundary Museum and Archives, Item No. 1991_055_094.

Two to four communal homes were each administered as a village unit.[ix] Numbering 11 in total, these villages originally received numbers rather than names (e.g. Village No. 6). However, by the 1940s, many of them came to be descriptively known by the predominant family grouping that resided in them (e.g. Popoff Village, Novokshonoff Village, etc.) while others acquired quaint nicknames (e.g. London, Sleepy Hollow, Paris, etc.) and even more colourful Russian epithets.

Agricultural Development

The Grand Forks colony was acquired by the Doukhobors, first and foremost, for large-scale fruit-growing. While a small acreage was already under mature orchard when they purchased it,[x] most was virgin ranchland, open or lightly wooded. There were also some hundred acres of rough, forested land. Working together under the motto ‘Toil and Peaceful Life’, the Doukhobors rapidly cleared and cultivated it.

By 1912, the Doukhobors set out 50,000 apple, plum, pear, prune and cherry trees on 593 acres, making them (by far) the largest fruit grower in the Boundary.[xi] By 1921, the colony had some 85,000 fruit trees on 1,000 acres coming into full bearing; 2,000 acres cultivated in small fruit (strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries) as well as vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers), grain (wheat, oats), and forage (alfalfa, clover, timothy), with the remainder in pasture and timber.[xii]

Doukhobors cherry picking west of Grand Forks, c. 1915. BC Archives No. C-01716.

To support their orchard development, beginning in 1911, the Doukhobors established an extensive gravity-flow irrigation system, using over 30,000 feet of flume, ditch and self-manufactured wood stave pipeline to convey water from July Creek and tributaries, Ward Lake, Hardy Creek, and the Kettle River to their fruit trees.[xiii] In May 1911, they had 100 acres under irrigation; the following year, 230 acres; and by 1923, over 758 acres irrigated.[xiv] They also completed a large concrete and earthen irrigation reservoir (later known as Saddle Lake) in the draw near Hardy Mountain by 1919.[xv]

Undoubtedly, what contributed to the early and rapid success of the Doukhobors as fruit growers was their large pool of communal labour. All of the men, women and children of the colony were engaged in the growing effort on an unpaid basis. In return for their labour, the Community supplied its members with food, clothing, shelter and other necessities. This arrangement gave them a competitive advantage vis-à-vis other orchardists as their cost of fruit production at all stages was significantly less.

Agro-Industrial Enterprises

From the outset, the Doukhobor Community saw opportunities to expand their operations beyond merely growing fruit and other agricultural produce, and began to engage in the secondary manufacture of agricultural byproducts as well as other industrial commodities.

Between 1909 and 1939, an agro-industrial complex was established for the mass production of agricultural and industrial goods, both for the Doukhobors’ own domestic use and for commercial sale. Most of these enterprise coalesced at the rough geographic centre of the colony, in Fruktovoye, between what is today Spencer and Canning Roads and also along Mill Road.

Each of these agro-industrial enterprises is discussed below.

Brick Factory

Upon acquiring the Coryell Ranch in February 1909, the Community inherited Frank Coryell’s small-scale brickworks, which comprised a horse-powered clay mixer, a small hand-operated brick molding machine and large, promising clay pit.[xvi] By March, they substantially updated the brickworks by adding a steam power plant, a ‘Martin’ industrial brick-making machine and other modern equipment and turned out a million first-class bricks by the end of the summer.[xvii] The refurbished plant had a capacity of 24,000 bricks daily.

Community brick factory with Spencer Hill and Hardy Mountain in background, c. 1922. Simon Fraser University No. MSC130-3580.

The Doukhobor brick-making process can be described as follows: clay was manually excavated from the adjacent pits and loaded into carts, which were drawn by horse up to a hopper chute, then dumped into the side mixer and combined with specific quantities of dried sand and water. The mixture was then filled into brick molds and compressed by the brick-making machine into raw ‘wet’ bricks. The raw bricks were placed on a 300-foot conveyor leading to a series of drying sheds, where they were stored for 1-2 weeks. Once air-dried, the bricks were stacked to form up to 10 kilns, which were fired for up to a week, using cordwood and sawmill slabs and ends, to produce the final bricks.

The manufactured bricks were used by the Doukhobors themselves to face the two-storey communal homes in the Grand Forks colony as well as in many in their colonies at Brilliant, Ootischenia, Pass Creek, Shoreacres and elsewhere. They were also used in various Community undertakings, such as the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works jam factory at Brilliant, warehouses, retail stores, Community schools and other endeavors.

Many of the bricks manufactured at the Community brick factory were also sold commercially to builders throughout the Boundary. Some of the best-known structures built with the brick include the Davis Block,[xviii] Bower & Pribilsky Block,[xix] Royal Bank Building[xx] and Kerman Block[xxi] on Market Avenue, the Perley School Annex[xxii] and old Court House[xxiii] on Central Avenue, the old Post office[xxiv] on 4th Avenue, as well as the Beran Residence[xxv] on Hardy Mountain Road and the Glaspell Residence on Highway 3.[xxvi] Hundreds of thousands of bricks were also shipped to the Trail Smelter, with 325,000 shipped in April 1917 alone.[xxvii]

In 1927-1928, the Community brickworks were substantially enlarged under Doukhobor leader Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin, with increased mechanization and manufacturing capacity expanded from 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 bricks annually.[xxviii]   

The brickyard ceased operation in 1932; however, many of the buildings and equipment remained until the 1940s through the 1970s. Today, the depressions of the clay pits can still be seen today near the corner of Spencer and Reservoir Roads.


In 1909, the Community erected a sawmill in Fruktovoye with which to manufacture rough lumber for building their homes and village structures.[xxix] Operated for the Doukhobors’ own use, it was a small portable sawmill with a capacity of 10,000 board-feet per day, powered by a self-propelled steam engine.  There was no planer.

It was originally located below Village No. 5 (Hremakin village) near Saddle Mountain along present-day York Road.[xxx] Logs cut along the north bank of the Kettle River and south foot of Saddle Mountain were brought to the mill on horse-drawn dollies or sleighs (in winter).

Community sawmill near brick factory, c. 1924. Touchstones Museum of Art and History.

When the supply of logs was exhausted in one place, the sawmill was moved to another location. By about 1918, it was relocated north adjacent the Community brickworks.[xxxi] There, it milled logs cut from the west and north foot of Saddle Mountain, east foot of Eagle and Hardy Mountains, and south foot of Spencer Hill. 

During this time, the Grand Forks Community also maintained commercial logging, pole-cutting and sawmill camps on leased Crown timber limits at Cedar Creek on the North Fork (1923-1925),[xxxii] Myers Creek near Midway (1924-1927),[xxxiii] and elsewhere.

In 1927, the Community sawmill operation was relocated to Ubezhishche along July Creek at Village No. 10 (Horkoff village) near present-day Gibbs Creek Road and greatly expanded.[xxxiv] It operated as a 35,000 board-per-day facility and manufactured lumber for commercial sale from the Community’s extensive timber lots there. Much of the output was shipped south to the United States. It produced upwards of 2 million board-feet of lumber and 3,000 poles annually and had an adjacent planing mill, pole-making operation and box factory.[xxxv]

After 12 years of operation at this location, having survived an arson attempt in August 1931[xxxvi] and the July Creek Forest Fire of August 1934,[xxxvii] it was destroyed by incendiarism in October 1939 at a loss of $30,000.00.[xxxviii]

Flour Mill

In 1910, the Community established a stone grist mill to grind their wheat into flour in Fruktovoye.[xxxix] Operated for their own use, it had a capacity of 100 bushels of flour per day. Beside it stood a 10,000-bushel granary for storing wheat prior to milling. It was located beside Village No. 5 (Kootnikoff village).

The Doukhobor flour-milling process can be described as follows: a pair of large millstones was used as the grinding mechanism. The bottom or ‘bed’ stone was fixed into position, while the upper or ‘runner’ stone rotated above it. Motive power from a stationary steam engine was directed to the runner stone by a shaft which went through its middle and turned it. Wheat was fed from a chute above between the stones, where it was ground into flour collected in a hopper below. The distance between millstones could be adjusted to vary flour courseness.

The bread made of the mill’s wholegrain flour was dark but very healthy. Nothing from the manufacturing process was wasted: weed seeds, cracked and broken grains, bran and other mill screenings were sold commercially as chicken feed.[xl]

Community flour mill, c. 1920. BC Archives No. C-01722-14.

In 1917, the production of linseed oil was started at the flour mill.[xli] Flax or linseed was mechanically pressed to produce cooking oil. A seed-cleaning plant was also added during this period.

In 1930, the Community flour mill was shut down.[xlii] Six years later, in 1936, an arson attempt wiped out surrounding buildings, but the flour mill building itself survived because of its laminated wood.[xliii] Another arson attempt in May 1946 destroyed a barn and implement shed but the mill remained undamaged.[xliv]

Beginning in 1962, the flour mill was retrofitted as an electric hammer mill by the Doukhobor Milling Heritage Society and reopened in May 1964.[xlv] The new, modern process created a cleaner, more refined product and could handle a higher volume of wheat processing – up to 200 pounds an hour. It was sold throughout the Kootenay-Boundary as the famous ‘Pride of the Valley’ flour.

Today the flour mill still stands on Mill Road, named after it. It is jointly managed by the Doukhobor Milling Heritage Society and Boundary Museum Society and continues to mill grain on demand.

Fruit Packing Houses

In order to process fruit from their orchards as they came into bearing, the Community built a large packing house in 1912.[xlvi] Located in Khristovoye at Village No. 3 (Vanjoff village) along present-day Hardy Mountain Road, it was a two-storey, 100 by 30 foot wood-frame structure with concrete basement and gable roof. It had a fruit box-making plant on the second floor.

Large and small fruit grown in the colony arrived by wagonload to the packing house. There, it was received, unloaded, and weighed. It was then turned out on tables, graded and sorted, culling the bruised, spoilt or small fruit aside, and packed into boxes. The packed fruit was stored in the basement until shipment. It was shipped from the adjacent Great Northern VV&E Phoenix Branch at Copper Junction.

Community fruit packing house (left) at Village No. 3 (Vanjoff village), c. 1921. Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ.

The packing houses also processed Community-grown vegetables for outside markets, which were grown in massive quantities. In 1912 alone, the Community sold 8,000 100-lb. sacks of potatoes from Grand Forks.[xlvii]

By 1919, the Community’s orchards were coming into full bearing and a second fruit packing house was built.[xlviii] Located in Fruktovoye south of the Community brickworks at the corner of present-day Reservoir and Canning Roads, it was a two-storey, 100 by 60 foot wood-frame structure with elevator lifts, concrete basement and monitor-style roof. As there was no adjacent railway, fruit packs were hauled to the Community warehouses in Columbia Flats for shipping.[xlix]

By 1920, the Community packing houses were shipping 120-130 railcar-loads of fruit annually – apples, pears, plums and prunes as well as strawberries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries – to outside markets.[l] This included 50 carloads of Italian prunes alone.[li]

Community fruit packing house, workers’ rooming house and granary near brickyard, c. 1928. BC Archives No. C-01376-14.

Tomato Cannery

In August 1912, the Doukhobors installed a small fruit and vegetable cannery at Grand Forks for their own use.[lii] Then in 1924, the Community erected a large, commercial-scale tomato canning plant beside their Community flour mill.[liii] It was the first cannery established at Grand Forks.

Operated as the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works, large volumes of tomatoes harvested from the Community fields were brought to the plant, where they were cleaned and blanched in large copper kettles filled with boiling water, then plunged into smaller copper pots filled with cold water, then finally poured into sterilized 28-oz. cans, topped with water and sealed. Sold under the ‘K.C. Brand’ label, they were marketed across Western Canada.  It operated until 1936, when it was destroyed by arson.[liv]

Label for K.C. Brand tomatoes canned at Grand Forks, c. 1924. UBC Rare Books and Special Collections.

Fruit Evaporator

In 1924, the Community erected a commercial-scale fruit evaporating plant beside their flour mill – the first permanent facility of its kind at Grand Forks.[lv] Small fruit and berries picked from the Community fields were brought to the plant. Once dehydrated, fruit was preserved at one-tenth of its original weight. In its first year of operation, some 12,000 lbs. of small fruit and berries was dehydrated into 1,200 lbs. of dried fruit.[lvi] The dried fruit could be stored for extended lengths of time without spoilage.

Most of the dehydrated fruit was sent to the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works jam factory in Brilliant. Once it arrived, it was soaked in water for several hours, after which it returned to practically its original state with all its colour and nutrients retained. It was then processed into jam. The plant operated until 1936, when it was destroyed by incendiarism.[lvii]

Jam Factory

As early as 1912 and again in 1923-1924 and 1927-1928, the Community proposed building a jam factory at Grand Forks to serve its orchards there.[lviii] However, each time, the Community elected instead to focus on developing and expanding its Brilliant jam factory. It was not until 1935 that the Doukhobors established a local jammery – the first ever in Grand Forks.

In spring 1935, the existing fruit packing house near the brick factory was retrofitted as a jam plant. A brick veneer was added to the building exterior.[lix] Twelve steam-activated jam-making kettles, ordered from England, were installed on the upper floor.[lx] Fruit and vegetable canning equipment was also ordered.[lxi] It had a production capacity of 12 tons of jam per day.

Community jam factory (former fruit packing house) at Grand Forks, 1935. BC Archives No. C-01592.

Adjacent to the north, a two-storey, brick 40 by 36 foot boiler house with concrete foundation and monitor-style roof was built to supply steam power to the jam plant.[lxii] A 30-foot high water tower was erected nearby to supply water to the boilers.[lxiii] An adjacent wood lot was stocked with cordwood, slabs and board ends from the Community sawmill to fire the boilers.

Over the first two weeks of August 1935, considerable quantities of strawberries, raspberries, cherries and other small fruit arrived at the new plant from the Community fields and from other Grand Forks fruit growers under contract.[lxiv] It was sorted and stored in the basement of the jam plant.

When production began, the fruit was brought to the main floor, where it was cleaned, peeled, de-cored/de-stoned, then cut into pieces and/or crushed. It was then taken to the second floor, where equal portions of fruit pulp and sugar were placed in each large copper kettle and cooked for 15 minutes while continually stirred. Once cooked, the kettles were emptied into smaller copper pots and wheeled over to long cooling trays filled with cold water, in which they were placed. As the jam cooled, it received a final skimming, and was then ladled by hand into sterilized cans and sealed.

The jammery operated roughly ten days, producing 194,250 lbs. of jam.[lxv] However, on August 17, 1935, the jam plant building burned to the ground in an incendiary blaze.[lxvi] It was a devastating blow to the Community with $100,000.00 in losses, including $40,000.00 of jam that was not shipped to market because of a delay in receiving jam tin labels from the printer.[lxvii] The arsonists were never brought to justice.

The jam factory boiler house still stands, having been converted, along with adjacent former Community buildings, into a family home in 1979.[lxviii] It is located on Canning Road, named after the jam factory.


Railway facilities played an important role in Community operations, both for receiving incoming goods and supplies purchased from Eastern Canadian manufacturers, and for shipping outgoing agricultural and industrial commodities (bricks, lumber products, fruit and preserves) to market. This required the establishment of Community warehouses for storing goods before their internal distribution or outside export, as the case was.

Plan of GNR Weston station yards showing Peter Verigin (Community) warehouse, c. 1918. Boundary Museum and Archives.

In circa 1912, the Community built a two-storey, 45 x 60 foot warehouse near the Great Northern Weston station in Columbia Flats, near present-day Northfork Franklin Road.[lxix] It was used for the shipping of produce to points on the Great Northern VV&E line. In about 1923, it was sold following the dismantling of the Weston station yards.

In 1912, the Community built a two-storey brick 75 x 50 foot warehouse with concrete basement and elevator lift near the Canadian Pacific west end station in Columbia Flats on present-day Donaldson Avenue.[lxx] The basement was used for fruit cold storage, the main floor for storing dry goods, while the upper floor was divided into living quarters and offices for the Community branch manager.

The Community store warehouse operated for 27 years. In 1940, it was purchased by Peter S. Polonicoff and run as Polonicoff’s Store until its closure in 1984.[lxxi] Today the building stands in good structural condition and has been converted into two heritage-style apartments.

Community warehouse and store near CPR west end station, c. 1935. Pam Faminoff.

Workers’ Cafeteria & Apartments

Another facility that supported the Community agro-industrial complex was a large, two-storey brick 40 x 30 foot rooming house. Built in 1918 in Fruktovoye adjacent to the fruit packing house, it housed a communal kitchen on the main floor for the Doukhobor workmen labouring at the various adjacent enterprises.[lxxii] Originally, the upper floor housed a Community shoemaker’s shop; after 1928, the shoemaker’s shop was relocated to the Community warehouse in Columbia Flats.[lxxiii] Thereafter, the upper floor was converted to workers’ sleeping quarters. In 1979, the structure was refurbished and is now a private residence.[lxxiv]

Former Community granary (left) and workers’ rooming house (right) near brickyard site, 1949. Simon Fraser University No. MCS130-5618-01-2.


In July 1936, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. declared bankruptcy during the height of the Great Depression.[lxxv]

Its collapse resulted from a combination of complex factors, including low prices assigned to agricultural and industrial products during the Great Depression; burdensome interest rates on its mortgaged properties; a declining membership base, increasing the debt load on fewer members; members who defaulted on annual allotments; the enormous losses to its capital assets suffered from incendiarism; as well as financial mismanagement.[lxxvi]

In June 1937 and May 1938 it was placed under receivership by creditors who foreclosed upon the company and its property valuated at $4,000,000.00 for a total debt of $360,580.64.[lxxvii] Thus ended the largest agro-industrial enterprise ever undertaken in the Boundary and the largest experiment in communal living ever attempted in North America.

Enduring to this day is the Doukhobor example of bringing forth the bounty of the land, with the help of fertile valley soil and a moderate climate, fueled by the desire to work together in community towards a common purpose. The Doukhobors’ contribution to the early agricultural and industrial growth and development of Grand Forks deserves to be recognized and acknowledged.

After Word

An earlier version of this article was originally published in:

  • ISKRA No. 2185, April 2023;
  • Grand Forks Gazette, May 24 and 31, 2023; and
  • Trail Times, May 30 and June 17, 2023.

End Notes

[i] W. Blakemore, Report of Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia, 1912 (Victoria BC: King’s Printer, 1913) at 31. See also Certificate of Title Nos. 1155D, 14260F, 52D & 49126F, 14274F, 14262F, 14141F, 42009F, 14269F, 15D & 42183F & 48428F & 42008F & Map 523, 14262F, Similkameen Land District.

[ii] Snesarev, Vladimir N. (Harry W. Trevor), The Doukhobors in British Columbia (University of British Columbia Publication, Department of Agriculture, 1931). See also Certificate of Title Nos. 14257F, 47277F, 49665F, 50579F, 49666F, 42104F, 55398F, Similkameen Land District.

[iii] The first known recorded use of the names Dolina Fruktovaya is found in a letter from Peter V. Verigin to his followers dated August 5, 1909: Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. 016-004-001-001. The first known recorded use of Fruktovoye is found in a December 7, 1910 letter from Peter V. Verigin to followers: Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DC-079-003. The name was still in use on January 1, 1931: Snesarev, ibid. The first known recorded use of the name Sion for the same area is found in a letter by Peter P. Verigin to his followers dated October 18, 1932: Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DB-036-002. This tract comprised District Lot Nos. 453, 2651, E ½ 518, E ½ 1025, E ½ 1027, 365, 364, Blocks 10, 13-16 of Lot 497, Blocks 21-22 of Lot 517, and 1699.

[iv] The first known recorded use of the names Dolina Khristovaya is found in a Record of Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Income and Expenditure dated August 7, 1909: Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DB-049-001. The first recorded use of Khristovoye is found in a December 7, 1910 letter from Peter V. Verigin to followers: Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DC-079-003. This tract comprised District Lot Nos. 538, 334, 333, 332, 1494.

[v] The first known recorded use of the name Ubezhishche is found on January 1, 1931 in Snesarev, supra note 2. This tract comprised District Lot Nos. W ½ 1027, Sub-Lot 8 of Lot 2701, W ½ 1025, Sub-Lot 5 of Lot 2701, W ½ 518, 1737, 2681, 2657, Sub-Lot 4 of Lot 2701.

[vi] Blakemore, supra, note 1 at 35.

[vii] 1921 Canada Census, Yale District No. 25, Grand Forks Sub-District No. 52, pp. 1-25.

[viii] Snesarev, supra note 2.

[ix] These village units were not compact; rather the comprised 2-4 large communal homes in proximity to one another over 200-400 acres of land.

[x] The acreage acquired by the Doukhobors that was already in orchard was relatively small. It included 10 acres on the Vaughan Ranch (Grand Forks Gazette, May 24, 1902 and December 23, 1905); 30 acres on the Collins Ranch (Grand Forks Sun, 1910.07.09); 65 acres on the Newby Ranch (Nelson Daily News, March 20, 1908; Grand Forks Sun, June 2, 1911; Greenwood Ledge 1912.04.25; Grand Forks Gazette 1912.04.20); and 8 acres on the Hoffman Ranch (Grand Forks Sun, June 2, 1911). These 113 acres of orchard ranged from fifteen to twenty years old and in full bearing, to five years old and just beginning to bear by 1912.

[xi] Blakemore, supra, note 1 at 32. Indeed, by 1911 the CCUB was the largest fruit grower in the Boundary Region, and second only to the Coldstream Ranch at Vernon (with 650 acres planted) in the combined Okanagan-Boundary Region. The next-largest fruit grower in the Boundary was the Kettle Valley Irrigated Land Co. with 340 acres planted, while in Grand Forks in particular, the next largest fruit grower was W.H. Covert with 140 acres planted.

[xii] Grand Forks Gazette, May 13, 1921.

[xiii] Province of British Columbia, Department of Lands, Water Rights Branch, Water License Nos. 5393 dated January 20, 1888, renewed July 22, 1926; 5394 dated October 24, 1888, renewed July 22, 1926; 8502 dated November 9, 1926, renewed July 10, 1933; 710 dated February 2, 1914; 289 dated November 9, 1889, renewed July 22, 1926; 290 dated June 13, 1916; 5397 dated August 3, 1914, renewed July 22, 1926; 9557 dated May 8, 1914, renewed January 20, 1936; 2689 dated May 9, 1917, renewed May 10, 1926; 5391 dated August 8, 1911; 699 dated June 12, 1913; 8499 dated April 8, 1911, renewed July 10, 1933.

[xiv] In May 1911, the CCUB had the fourth-largest irrigation system in the Kettle Valley covering 100 acres: Grand Forks Sun, May 19, 1911. At the time, the three largest irrigation enterprises in the valley were that of the Covert Estate (280 acres), L.A. Campbell (220 acres), and Kerman and Kerby & Atwood (180 acres). By 1912, the Society increased its irrigated acreage to 230 acres; and by 1923, to over 758 acres.

[xv] Nelson Daily News, August 22, 1919; Vancouver Daily Sun, August 27, 1919. See also: Province of British Columbia, Grand Forks Water District, May 3039 dated February 1, 1983 re: Water License No. 58084.

[xvi] Vera Novokshonoff, Lucy Reibin & Marion Obedkoff, “Doukhobors in the Boundary” in Boundary History: Third Report of the Boundary Historical Society, 1964 and Boundary History: Fourth Report of the Boundary Historical Society, 1964; William Rozinkin, “Grand Forks Brick Plant Launched in 1909” in Nelson Daily News, May 26, 1967. See also: Grand Forks Sun, May 27, 1902, May 16, 1905, June 21, 1907.

[xvii] Grand Forks Sun, March 13, 1909, June 5, 12, 19 & 26, July 3, 1909; Grand Forks Gazette, March 18, 1909; Greenwood Ledge, June 10, 1909; Boundary Creek Times, November 5, 1909; Report about incomes and expenditures for relocation to Columbia and payment in part for lands for 1911 year and for the period from the beginning of 1912 up to August 10, 1912, Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DB-052-006.

[xviii] Grand Forks Sun, March 13 & 20, June 5 & 19, 1909.

[xix] According to the Boundary Creek Times, November 5, 1909: all the bricks for the several new brick blocks (i.e. David Block, Bower & Pribilsky Block, Royal Bank Building, etc.) in Grand Forks are made by the colony of Doukhobors who bought the Coryell ranch and are buying the Vaughan ranch.” This is corroborated by a review of the bricks used in these buildings, carried out by Jan DeHaan, MFA – Ceramics, owner/operator of Kettle River Pottery on September 11, 2020 for the writer, which found that the colouring and quality (weathering degradation and lime popping) of the bricks in question were consistent with Doukhobor-manufactured brick from Grand Forks. Chemical isotope testing of the brick is required for absolute verification. 

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Robert Hobson, M.C.I.P. Survey Coordinator, Grand Forks District Heritage Survey, A Report to the Grand Forks District Heritage Advisory Committee (July 1986) at 94.

[xxiii] Ibid; William Blakemore, Report of the Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia, 1912 (Victoria: Government Printer, 1913) at 33.

[xxiv] Blakemore, ibid.

[xxv] Joe Beran, “A Bohemian Immigrant in Canada” in Boundary History: Fifteenth Report of the Boundary Historical Society, 2006 at 47-48; Boundary History: Sixteenth Report of the Boundary Historical Society, 2014) at 101.

[xxvi] Melvin Glaspell, “The Glaspells of Grand Forks” in Boundary History: Twelfth Report of the Boundary Historical Society, 1992 at 136; Grand Forks District Heritage Survey, supra, note 22.

[xxvii] Greenwood Ledge, April 12, 1917; Vancouver Sun, April 16, 1917; The Standard, April 21, 1917; Creston Review, April 24, 1917; Rozinkin, supra, note 16.

[xxviii] Grand Forks Gazette, November 25, 1927; Nelson Daily News, November 21, 1927; Grand Forks Gazette, March 30, 1928; Rozinkin, supra, note 16.

[xxix] By June 1909, the Doukhobor sawmill was producing lumber for the first two-storey brick communal home in Grand Forks, being Village No. 5 (Kootnekoff/Nevokshonoff Village) located on present-day Mill Road: Grand Forks Gazette, June 17, 1909. See also: Edmonton Journal, May 2, 1910; The Canada Gazette, May 12, 1910 at 179; Grand Forks Sun, July 2, 1910; Nelson Daily News, December 2, 1911; Blakemore, supra note 23 at 33.

[xxx] Doukhobors in the Boundary, supra, note 16; Florence Kalmakoff, Interview by Anne Verigin for the writer, March 25, 2021.

[xxxi] The Community sawmill was still in its original location in December 1914: The Daily Province, December 21, 1914; but had already relocated to the brickyard by May 1923: Grand Forks Gazette, May 18, 1923. Photographic evidence indicates it was relocated between 1918 and 1922: Simon Fraser University, Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC130-3580.

[xxxii] In 1923-1924, the Community was awarded the tender for one or more Crown timber sales (X5285 and possibly X4773, X5440 and/or X6755) at Cedar Creek on the North Fork (Granby) River to cut several tens of thousands of lineal feet of railroad ties, poles, saw logs and cordwood over 2 years: Grand Forks Sun, February 9, July 13, August 31, 1923 and November 28, 1924. The Community established a camp near Stanwell Siding on the CPR Kettle Valley Railroad, which was used for shipping purposes. In May 1925, some 1900 ties, 21,000 lineal feet of poles, 5500 board-feet of saw logs, 2300 fence posts and other chattels belonging to the Community were seized by provincial police and sold by public auction at Stanwell Siding to satisfy fines levied against the colony for the failure to send its children to public school: Grand Forks Sun: May 1 & 8, 1925.

[xxxiii] In April 1924, the Community was awarded the tender for timber sale X5222 to cut 5,100,000 feet of saw logs and 96,000 ties over 3 years at Cedar and Marsh Creeks, west of Midway: Greenwood Ledge, February 14 to April 23, June 5 & 19, 1924; Journals, Legislative Assembly of BC 1924, Volume LIV, and December 9, 1924. The Community established a logging camp and sawmill at McArthur Siding on the GNR VV&E Railway, which was used for shipping purposes: Greenwood Ledge, May 15, October 10, December 4, 1924, February 19, 1925, April 8, 1926, November 17, 1927; Grand Forks Sun, May 16, 1924, April 16, 1926; Nelson Daily News, February 22, 1927.  

[xxxiv] The expanded sawmill was relocated from Myers Creek to Fourth of July Creek near Grand Forks in November 1927: Nelson Daily News, February 22, 1927; Greenwood Ledge, November 17, 1927; Grand Forks Gazette, March 30, 1928; Snesarev, supra, note 2.

[xxxv] Nelson Daily News, November 21, 1927; Snesarev, supra, note 2; Nick D. Arishenkoff and Cecil W. Koochin, “Life in the Doukhobor Commune” in MIR Vol. 2, No. 3-6, September 1974.

[xxxvi] Grand Forks Gazette, October 9, 1931.

[xxxvii] Nelson Daily News, July 31, 1934; Grand Forks Gazette, August 2, 1934.

[xxxviii] Grand Forks Gazette, October 19, 1939.

[xxxix] Edmonton Journal, May 2, 1910; Nelson Daily News, December 2, 1911; Doukhobors in the Boundary, supra, note 16.

[xl] Cranbrook Herald, November 12, 1925 to January 28, 1926; Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, “The Doukhobor Fruit Store in Cranbrook, BC, 1925-1926” in the Cranbrook Townsmen, February 17, 2022.

[xli] Doukhobors in the Boundary, supra, note 16; Snesarev, supra, note 2; Sheila Gardezi, “The Essential Mill” in Route 3, Fall 2010 at 23.

[xlii] Grand Forks Gazette, May 14, 1964.

[xliii] Steve Lapshinoff, Depredations in Western Canada Attributed to the Sons of Freedom, 1923 to 1993 (Krestova: self-published, 1994) at 6; Gardezi, supra, note 41 at 23.

[xliv] Grand Forks Gazette, May 30, 1946.

[xlv] Grand Forks Gazette, May 14, 1964; Gardezi, supra, note 41 at 23.

[xlvi] W. Blakemore, Photographs, Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia, 1912, British Columbia Archives, Item No. GR-0793.5, Accession No. 197904-015; Mike Sookochoff, Grand Forks, interview by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, April 25, 2020.

[xlvii] T.R. Powers, Grand Forks: Royal Commission on Doukhobors (1912), Proceedings, Volume 1; BC Archives GR-0793.2.1.

[xlviii] Nelson Daily News, August 20, 1935; Vancouver Daily World, September 1, 1921; Doukhobors in the Boundary, supra, note 16.

[xlix] Grand Forks Gazette, March 30, 1928.

[l] Doukhobors in the Boundary, supra, note 16.

[li] Grand Forks Gazette, Sept 27, 1918.

[lii] Grand Forks Gazette, August 17, 1912.

[liii] The cannery erected in 1924 was a large-scale commercial plant intended primarily for tomatoes but which could also be used for other vegetables as well as fruit: Nelson Daily News, March 13, 1924; Snesarev, supra, note 2; Gardezi, supra, note 41 at 23. Interestingly, in April 1925, 1110 lbs. of canned fruit (10 lb. tins) and 10 cases of tomatoes (24 oz. tins) were confiscated from the new cannery by provincial police to satisfy fines levied against the colony for the failure to send its children to public school: Grand Forks Gazette, April 17, 1925.

[liv] The tomato cannery is believed to have been destroyed by arson in March 1936: Lapshinoff, supra, note 43; however, it is possible the building (by then inoperative) was destroyed by incendiarism in May 1946: Grand Forks Gazette, May 30, 1946.

[lv] As early as 1915, the Community installed an evaporator at its Brilliant jam factory: Nelson Daily News, February 21, 1913, December 2, 1914 and March 6, 1919. Once dehydrated, fruit was preserved without spoilage at 1/10 its original weight; when required, dried fruit was soaked in water and returned to practically its original state with all colour and nutrients retained. The evaporator erected at Grand Forks in 1924 served the same end: Snesarev, supra, note 2; Gardezi, supra, note 41 at 23.

[lvi] In April 1925, 1180 lbs. of dried fruit (equivalent to 11,800 lbs. of fresh fruit) were confiscated from the new evaporator by police to satisfy fines levied against the colony for failing to send its children to public school: Grand Forks Gazette, April 17, 1925

[lvii] The fruit evaporator is believed to have been destroyed by arson in March 1936: Lapshinoff, supra, note 43; however, it is possible the building (by then inoperative) was destroyed by incendiarism in May 1946: Grand Forks Gazette, May 30, 1946.

[lviii] Nelson Daily News, January 8, 1912; “Report of Consular Agent, W.S. Riblet, Nelson, BC.” in Daily Consular and Trade Reports, No. 76, March 30, 1912 at 1289; Blakemore, supra, note 1; Grand Forks Gazette, April 13, 1923, February 8 & 15, 1924, March 21, 1924; Vancouver Daily World, February 21, 1924; Nanaimo Daily News, March 19, 1924; Grand Forks Gazette, November 25, 1927, March 30, 1928.

[lix] Grand Forks Gazette, August 22, 1935. The bricks forming the factory building veneer were self-manufactured at the adjacent Community brickworks.

[lx] Grand Forks Gazette, November 25, 1927.

[lxi] Grand Forks Gazette, August 22, 1935.

[lxii] Alex Padmoroff, Grand Forks, interview by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, March 17, 2020.

[lxiii] Grand Forks Gazette, August 22, 1935.

[lxiv] Grand Forks Gazette, August 15, 1935.

[lxv] Grand Forks Gazette, August 22, 1935.

[lxvi] Grand Forks Gazette, August 22, 1935; Nelson Daily News, August 20, 1935.

[lxvii] Ibid.

[lxviii] Sheila Gardezi, “From Toil to Peaceful Life” in Route 3 (Spring 2010) at 15-17.

[lxix] Plan of Great Northern Railway, Grand Forks, B.C., Weston Yard, c. 1918 (Boundary Museum & Archives Society); Letter dated April 24, 1919 from Nicholas J. Chernenkoff, CCUB to B.E. Paterson, Chairman, Committee of Enquiry & Research, Soldier Settlement Board in James Mavor Doukhobor Collection, Simon Fraser University.

[lxx] Grand Forks Gazette, August 17, 1912, February 15, 1913; Grand Forks Sun, September 6, 1912.

[lxxi] Grand Forks Gazette, July 18, 1940; Elizabeth Faminoff, “Polonicoff’s Store – A Personalized Reflection of the Past” in ISKRA, April 26, 2000 and in Boundary History, 17th Report of the Boundary Historical Society at 115.

[lxxii] Padmoroff, supra, note 62.

[lxxiii] Ibid; Anne Verigin, Grand Forks, interview by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, March 19, 2023.

[lxxiv] Sheila Gardezi, “From Toil to Peaceful Life” in Route 3 (Spring 2010) at 15-17.

[lxxv] The Victoria Daily Times, July 14, 1936.

[lxxvi] K.J. Tarasoff, Plakun Trava (Mir Publication Society: Grand Forks, 1982) at 153-154; S. Jamieson, “Economic and Social Life” in H.B. Hawthorn (Ed.), The Doukhobors of British Columbia (University of British Columbia, 1955) at 52-56.

[lxxvii] Ibid; Winnipeg Tribune, June 30, 1937 at 39; Medicine Hat News, June 29, 1939; National Trust Company v. The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. (SCC) [1941] SCR 601, [1941] 3 DLR 529; 23 CBR 1; Medicine Hat News, June 29, 1939.

The Flax Mill at Petrofka

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

Following their arrival on the Canadian Prairies in 1899, the Doukhobors regularly grew crops of flax. The fibers of the plant were retted, spun and woven to produce linen, while the seeds were fried, ground and pressed to extract cooking oil. The following is a history of the mill erected by the Doukhobors of Petrovka (aka Petrofka) village on the North Saskatchewan River to manufacture flax seed oil.


In August 1899, 155 Doukhobor immigrant settlers arrived at the North Saskatchewan River, 12 miles south of present-day Blaine Lake, SK. There, on its west bank, they chose a site with a strong spring of clear water, rolling grassy hills and warm sandy soil that reminded them of their former home in the Kars region of Russia.[i] They named their village Petrovka (Петровка) after their spiritual leader, Peter Vasil’evich Verigin, and his name day, Petrov Den, a Doukhobor religious holiday.[ii]

Petrovka village, c. 1903. The millhouse (circled) appears at the upper northwest end of the village. BC Archives Item No. C-01623.

The village initially consisted of 24 crude half-dugouts built into the side of a ravine running down into the river.[iii] However, by the following year, the Doukhobors moved to a more level upland site, where they built 28 log houses facing into a single central street.[iv] Labouring under the motto, “Toil and Peaceful Life”, the Petrovka Doukhobors strove to improve their material circumstances.

Within a few short years, the industrious villagers increased their horse herd from 11 to 41, cows from 5 to 93, sheep from none to 38, plows from 6 to 15, and cultivated acreage from 30 to 1,257 acres.[v] In 1901, they established a water-powered grist mill for grinding wheat into flour on a creek 3 miles north of the village jointly with the villages of Troitskoye and Terpeniye.[vi] That same year, they began operation of a river ferry crossing[vii] and established a Quaker-run school in the village.[viii]  

It was during this period of rapid progress and development that the Doukhobors of Petrovka decided to build a mill (Russian: mel’nitsa) for the production of flax oil in their village.

Building the Mill

The task of designing, building and operating the flax mill was given to Ivan Fedorovich Strelioff.[ix] Strelioff had established a reputation in the village for being a “very inventive and capable” individual with a knack for improvisation and innovation.[x]

For instance, Strelioff built a boat with a foot-crank-operated paddle wheel for crossing the North Saskatchewan River in half the time it took a boat with oars.[xi] Before there was a ferry crossing, and villagers had to walk 20 miles east to Rosthern for supplies, then carry them home on their backs, he assembled a wheelbarrow-like cart with a large, 4-foot diameter wheel, enabling him to easily push large loads of supplies over rough terrain to Rosthern and back.[xii] Strelioff also made a bicycle, using wheels from spinning wheels, homemade sprockets made from a spade and a chain with links shaped from wire.[xiii]  

Harnessing his creativity, Strelioff designed a rolling stone crusher mill of the type used by the Doukhobors in the 19th century Russian Caucasus. Using a slab of limestone drawn from the riverbank, he dressed it by hand to fashion a large, circular 3-foot-diameter, 8-inch-thick millstone.[xiv] He dressed another limestone slab to form a 5-foot-diameter, 8-inch-thick circular concave base.[xv]  

19th century Ottoman stone crusher mill, similar to that built in Petrovka village. Image: Wikipedia.

Standing the millstone upright on the base (which lay flat), he fixed a long horizontal shaft through the hole in the middle of the millstone. The horizontal shaft was fixed to a vertical shaft that freely rotated in the hole in the middle of the base. The millstone was thus held upright by the axis and the handle of the horizontal shaft could be pushed, causing the millstone to roll along the circumference of the base.  

Strelioff also designed and built various ancillary equipment for the mill, including a frying plate and oil press, both of which are described in detail below.

A two-storey log structure with clay-plaster and a sod roof was erected in the village to house the grinding mill, frying plate and oil press. The millhouse was located at the northwest end of the village.[xvi]

Processing Flax

With the flax mill operational, the processing and milling of flax (Russian: len) at Petrovka followed a fairly well-established routine.

In late summer, the women of the village harvested the flax fields.  The flax was pulled up from the roots (rather than cut with a scythe or sickle) and tied into a bundle or sheaf.[xvii] The sheaves were then hauled to a hardened, well-trodden area of the harvested field, known as the ‘threshing floor’ (Russian: tok) where the women beat the heads of the sheaves with a hand-held wooden mallet (Russian: chekmar’), loosening the seeds from the seed heads.

Doukhobor women threshing flax using wooden mallets in Saskatchewan, c. 1904. BC Archives, Item No. I-67671.

Once the seeds were threshed, the sheaves were taken down to the river for soaking or ‘retting’. They were placed in 6 to 18 inches of water, anchored down by smooth river rocks so that the current would not carry them away.[xviii] After a week to ten days, the flax was cleared of its outer, wood-like straw, leaving the inner, cotton-like fibers. The fibers were given a final washing, then carried up the steep bank to the village, where they was placed on clotheslines to dry.[xix] Once dry, it was spun on spinning wheels into yarn, then woven on a loom into linen for sewing garments. 

Meanwhile, the women and children rubbed the skins off the threshed flax seeds by hand at the threshing floor, then hauled the seed in bags to the village flax mill for processing.[xx] When there was a sufficient volume of flax seed for milling, Ivan Fedorovich Strelioff operated the mill as follows:

Milling Process

As raw flax oil has a flat, unpalatable taste, the flax seeds were first fried on a frying plate (Russian: skovoroda) set upon a stone base; the stone was plastered around to keep the smoke, fire and heat concentrated under the plate.[xxi] The flax seeds were roasted over a low fire and stirred frequently, until a certain taste was obtained.

The next step was grinding. A horse was hitched to the horizontal shaft of the grinding mill (Russian: mel’nitsa). Roasted flax seeds were spread along the track of the rolling millstone. The horse was then walked around the mill, causing the millstone to roll along the circumference of the base, crushing the seed.[xxii] Several rounds were made, with the seeds continually mixed to ensure thorough grinding. Once ground, the crushed seeds were removed and the process was repeated with more seed. 

Petrovka village plan. The millhouse (circled) stood at the upper northwest corner of the village. Saskatchewan Archives Board, Item No. S-10947.

The final step was extraction. This was done by a homemade oil press (Russian: stupa) made of a hollowed-out log with grated metal filters at the bottom.[xxiii] The ground flax seed was placed inside the hollowed-out log. A second, upper log (that fit smoothly into the hollowed-out log, via a spiral screw drive) was then attached. The miller then walked around, turning this wooden spiral to create proper pressure; thus the oil was extracted and oozed through the grated metal filters at the bottom of the press into pails. To release the pressure and to take out the oil cakes left at the bottom of the press, the spiral lever was spun in reverse. Once the extracting process began, it continued day and night until completed.  

The oil cakes, a nutritious byproduct of the extracting process, were fed to the village cattle.[xxiv] The raw extracted oil was run through a fine filter, then poured into bottles or cans for domestic use.

The flax oil (Russian: olifa or oleya) was used by the Doukhobors for frying potatoes and other foodstuffs, and for pouring over sauerkraut, a particularly favorite dish of their people.

Operation and Dismantling

The flax mill at Petrovka was the only one of its kind in the district; the only other plant in the Doukhobor ‘Saskatchewan Colony’ was operated by Mikhail Mikhailovich Chernoff, 16 miles north in the village of Spasovka.[xxv] The Petrovka mill was community owned and maintained, serving not only the village, but also the neighbouring villages of Troitskoye and Terpeniye. It operated for a decade, from 1901 to 1911, at which time most villagers moved out onto their individual homesteads.

Thereafter, the millhouse ceased operation and was dismantled for building material, with the millstone and base laid out on the ground beside. Peter P. Makaroff (1906-1997), whose family homesteaded the village quarter, recalled playing near the abandoned millstone as a young boy.[xxvi] Jeanette (nee Postnikoff) Lodoen (1936-2023), whose family later purchased the village quarter, similarly recalled playing near the stone in her girlhood.[xxvii] Indeed, the millstone lay at the former village site, half-buried and largely forgotten, for over seventy years.

Jeanette (nee Postnikoff) Lodoen (right) and cousin Lanny standing on the abandoned millstone, 1942. Photo Courtesy Jeannete Lodoen.

Commemorative Monument

In 1985, Gregory and Zonia Postnikoff, then-owners of the village quarter, donated the millstone and its base to the Town of Blaine Lake to serve as a commemorative historic marker.[xxviii] Peter Esakin excavated and hauled the stones to their new location. The stones were installed in a memorial garden on a concrete pad and enclosure beside the Blaine Lake Wapiti Public Library.

Millstone marker at Blaine Lake Wapiti Public Library park. Photo: Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

In 2012, as part of the Town of Blaine Lake Centenary, a bronze plaque was installed at the millstone marker, inscribed as follows:[xxix]

Bronze plaque inscription at millstone commemorative monument, Blaine Lake, SK. Photo: Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

Today the millstone marker at Blaine Lake commemorates the industry, ingenuity and pioneer spirit of the Doukhobors of Petrovka and their expert miller, Ivan Fedorovich Strelioff. It also stands as a testament to what can be locally achieved, using the material resources at hand, when neighbours work together for a common purpose.

Millstone marker at Blaine Lake Wapiti Public Library park. Photo: Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

After Word

A detailed analysis by the writer of Doukhobor village grain-growing during the 1899-1912 period reveals that flax typically constituted 2-3 percent of total grain production.

For example, in the year 1900, Petrovka and other villages of the Saskatchewan Colony produced a total of 12,913.5 bushels of grain, of which flax comprised 2.6 percent of total bushels:  

Saskatchewan Colony Village[xxx]Wheat (bu)Oats (bu)Barley (bu)Flax (bu)
Pozirayevka No. 1400755525
Pozirayevka No. 2 (Tambovka)5002002005
Kirilovka No. 2 (Bogdanovka)18694733
Kirilovka No. 1146120024
Kirilovka No. 3 (Pokrovka)156892223.5

Similarly, in the year 1904, the South Colony, Devil’s Lake Annex and North Colony produced a total of 191,480 bushels of grain, of which flax constituted 2.8 percent of the total bushels:  

Colony [xxxi]Wheat (bu)Oats (bu)Barley (bu)Flax (bu)
South Colony4026149,94823,3963,584
Devil’s Lake Annex10,31712,1315,646895
North Colony17,08516,56910,673975

The small volumes of flax relative to total volumes of grain grown by Doukhobor villages highlights the fact that Doukhobors only grew as much flax as they required for domestic purposes (i.e. linen and oil production). That is, the Doukhobors did not grow a surplus volumes of flax for commercial sale.

The flax mill at Petrovka village was built according to the model used by the Doukhobors in 19th century Russia. Numerous other mills were established in Doukhobor villages during the same 1901-1903 period which followed this same model. Other villages confirmed to have built flax mills include the following villages:

Colony[XXXii]Villages with Flax Mills
Saskatchewan ColonyPetrovka, Spasovka
North ColonyVoznesenniye
South ColonyBlagoveshcheniye, Otradnoye, Nadezhda, Spasovka, Smireniye, Vernoye.
Devil’s Lake AnnexMoiseyevo.

Clearly, not every Doukhobor village erected a flax mill.  Typically, a flax mill established in one village also served the neighbouring 2-3 villages in the immediate vicinity.

Essentially the same flax milling technology was exported by the Doukhobor Community from Saskatchewan to British Columbia in the 1908-1913 period, where flax mills were established at Grand Forks (Fruktovoye), Ootischenia (Kamennoye), Pass Creek, Glade and Krestova.

After Word

This article was originally published in:

  • The Shellbrook Chronicle, June 22, 2023.
  • ISKRA (Grand Forks: Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ) No. 2189, August 2023.

End Notes

[i] Peter J. Serhienko, “Settlement of the Petrofka Village,” in Bridging the Years, Era of Blaine Lake and District, 1790-1980 (Blaine Lake, SK: Town of Blaine Lake and Rural Municipality of Blaine Lake #434, 1984) at 23.

[ii] Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, The Doukhobor Gazetteer (unpublished manuscript, 2002),

[iii] William B. Harvey, “Schedule of Doukhobor Villages and Statistics, November 1899”, Library & Archives Canada, Immigration Branch Records (RG 76, Volume 184, File 65101, Part 6), Microfilm Reel No. C-7338; Carl J. Tracie, “Toil and Peaceful Life” Doukhobor Village Settlements in Saskatchewan 1899-1918 (Regina: University of Regina, Canadian Plains Research Centre, 1996) at 86.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Petrofka Village File, Library & Archives Canada, RG15V1164 F5391335; Tracie, supra, note 3 at 148.

[vi] John Ashworth, “Flour Mills Built by the Doukhobors” in Manitoba Free Press Home Journal, May 9, 1901; Jonathan E. Rhoads, “A Day with the Doukhobors” in Manitoba Morning Free Press, March 1, 1902; Peter J. Serhienko, “Radouga Creek” in Bridging the Years, supra, note 1 at 33.

[vii] Joseph Elkinton, “Work Among the Doukhobors” in Friends’ Intelligencer (Philadelphia, Seventh Month 26, 1902) at 474; Joseph Elkinton, The Doukhobors, Their History in Russia, Their Migration to Canada (Philadelphia: Ferris & Leach, 1903) at 36-38; J. J. McKenna, Dominion Land Surveyor, “Report” in Department of the Interior, Report of the Surveyor General of Dominion Lands for the Year ending June 30, 1904 (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1904) at 112.

[viii] Michael Sherbinin, “From the Doukhobors” in Friends’ Intelligencer (Philadelphia, Seventh Month 13, 1901) at 441; The Friend, A Religious and Literary Journal, No. 19, Vol. LXXVI (Seventh Day, Eleventh Month 22, 1902) at 1; J.E., “The Doukhobor Situation” in Friends’ Intelligencer (Philadelphia, Eighth Month 16, 1902) at 521; “Petrofka S.D. #23” in Bridging the Years, supra, note 1 at 261.

[ix] Peter P. Makaroff, “Paul Makaroff” in Bridging the Years, supra, note 1 at 569.

[x] Alex J. Bayoff, Petrofka (Saskatoon: self-published, 1985),

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, field visit to Blaine Lake, July 27, 2008.

[xv] Ibid.

[xvi] Jeanette Lodoen, Interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, October 20, 2020.

[xvii] Victoria Hayward, Romantic Canada (Illustrated with Photographs by Edith S. Watson), (Toronto: Macmillan Company Canada Ltd., 1922) at 234.

[xviii] Ibid; Victoria Hayward and Edith S. Watson, “Doukhobors Beat H.C.L. – Farms Supply All Needs” in Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, November 22, 1919; Alexei I. Popoff, “Childhood Memories” in Autobiography of a Siberian Exile (Eli A. Popoff, trans.), (Kelowna: self-published, 2006).

[xix] Ibid.

[xx] Fred J. Chernoff, The Brothers Chernoff from Azerbaijan to Canada (Winnipeg: self-published, 1992).

[xxi] “Extracting Oil from Flax Seed” in Blaine Lake 1912-1962 Golden Jubilee (North Battleford: McIntosh Publishing Co. Ltd., 1962).

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Ibid.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] Peter P. Makaroff, “Paul Makaroff” in Bridging the Years, supra, note 1 at 569.

[xxvii] Lodoen, supra, note 16.

[xxviii] Jeff Postnikoff, Interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, June 12, 2023.

[xxix] Barbara Reban-Mascho, June 10, 2023.

[xxx] Saskatchewan Colony Statistics, December 31, 1900 Department of Interior. Library & Archives Canada, Microfilm Reel No. C-7338.

[xxxi] Letter, Peter Verigin to Alex Moffat, Acting Commissioner of Immigration, January 17, 1905, Library and Archives Canada, RG 76, Vol. 184, file 65101, part 7.

[xxxii] Doukhobor Village Files, Library & Archives Canada, Record Group 15, Volumes 754-758, File 494483; Volumes 1163-1168, Files 5391335, 5404640-5404692, 5412425-5412501, 5412973.

Kut’ya – A Traditional Doukhobor Christmas Recipe

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

Kut’ya (Cyrillic: Кутья) (pronounced: KOOT-yah) is a cold wheat porridge/pudding, sweetened with honey, traditionally made by Doukhobors in Russia and the Caucasus at Christmas for centuries. It is customarily served on Christmas Eve, following the evening prayer meeting, to family and friends.

The following Doukhobor recipe for Kut’ya was shared with the writer by Vasily Stroyev and family, formerly of Troitskoye village, Bogdanovsky region, Georgia, now living in Markevichevo village, Shiryaevsky district, Odessa region, Ukraine.


3 cups wheat4 tablespoons brown sugar
½ to 1 cup poppy seeds1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup honey¼ teaspoon salt
Ground nuts, raisins or diced fruit if desired


  1. Clean the wheat by spreading it on a plate and removing any green kernels, foreign seeds, chaff, etc. Rinse it well in a colander. Soak the wheat in 6-8 cups of fresh water overnight for approximately 8 hours.
  2. Cook the wheat.
    a. Stovetop: add 6 cups of water and wheat to pot and bring to a boil. Skim the residue off the top. Turn to low heat, cover and simmer for 4-5 hours, stirring frequently and adding more water as needed.
    b. Slow Cooker: add 6 cups of water and wheat to slow cooker. Cook on high heat for half an hour, then reduce to low heat and cook for 6-8 hours.
    The wheat will expand as it cooks to approximately twice its volume. It is done when the kernels burst open and the white germ appears. Drain off excess water in a colander.
  3. Place poppy seeds in a small bowl and pour 1 cup of boiling water of it. Let it sit for 15 minutes then drain. The poppy seed may then either be ground or added whole to the wheat.
  4. In a large measuring cup, combine honey (can be melted in the microwave), brown sugar, vanilla and vanilla with 1 cup of boiling water. Stir until honey is completely dissolved. Add to wheat mixture and stir thoroughly.
  5. Add ground nuts and/or diced fruit if desired to wheat mixture.
  6. The wheat mixture should be porridge- or pudding-like in texture. Cool in refrigerator. Serve either hot or cold. Makes 10-12 cups/servings.


The making of Kut’ya at Christmas is a millennia-old Orthodox tradition practiced throughout the former Russian Empire. When the Doukhobors openly rejected the Orthodox church in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they discarded many Orthodox customs and traditions. However, they continued to make Kut’ya at Christmas, modifying and imbuing the practice with their own religious meaning and significance. Learn more about the historical, religious and cultural aspects of Christmas Among Doukhobors.

When the Doukhobors first arrived in Canada in 1899, they initially continued to make Kut’ya at Christmas. However, at an All-Doukhobor Congress at Nadezhda village, Saskatchewan in December 1908, Peter V. Verigin, in an effort to simplify and modernize Doukhobor ceremony and ritual, and to focus on its wholly spiritual aspects, set aside many of the folk traditions and festivities formerly associated with Christmas, including Kut’ya making. Thereafter, the recipe eventually fell into disuse and was forgotten by many – but by no means all – Canadian Doukhobors. The Doukhobors who remained in Russia and the Caucasus continue to make Kut’ya to this day.

Let us revive this centuries-old, traditional Doukhobor recipe!

Image Credits: Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.


The Largest Grain Elevator in Saskatchewan: The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. at Kylemore

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

On Highway 5 east of Wadena lies the tiny hamlet of Kylemore, SK. Few today would guess it was once home to a thriving agricultural colony of Doukhobor pacifists. Fewer still would guess that they once built and operated the largest grain elevator in the province there. The following is a brief account of its unique history.


In 1918, the Doukhobor organization, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd. (CCUB), under the stimulus of rising grain prices, sought out suitable farmland for a new colony in a district where land values were cheaper than at Veregin, SK.[1]

To this end, it purchased an 11,362-acre block of wooded, undeveloped land along the Canadian Northern Railway at Kylemore, SK.[2]  Some 250 Doukhobor men, women and children from the Veregin district and BC Kootenays were settled on the tract, which they named Bozhiye Blagosloveniye in Russian, meaning ‘God’s Blessing’.[3]

Working communally, the Doukhobors began clearing the dense trees and scrub, constructing villages, and cultivating the land into crop. The logs were sawn into cordwood and shipped by railcar back to Veregin, where they were used to fire the boilers of the large CCUB brick factory and roller flour mill plant there.

As it was cleared, the virgin soil at Kylemore proved remarkably rich and fertile – so much so, that in 1919, the Doukhobors harvested 13,610 bushels of wheat, 9,150 bushels of barley and 33,600 bushels of oats from little more than 1,000 acres of breaking – an average yield of almost 60 bushels per acre.[4]

The large 1919 harvest was sold through the sole elevator at Kylemore operated by the Saskatchewan Co-operative Elevator Co. However, as the Doukhobors desired self-sufficiency and wished to avoid the grain handling and marketing costs charged by private grain companies, they initiated plans to build an elevator of their own.[5]    

The Doukhobors were no strangers to elevator-building, having already built and operated 9 grain elevators of their own at Veregin, Arran, Canora and Ebenezer, SK, Cowley and Lundbreck, AB and Brilliant, BC, with a cumulative storage capacity of 440,000 bushels, over the previous decade.[6] They also built for hire numerous elevators for private grain companies.

Doukhobor communal work crew constructing the CCUB elevator at Kylemore, 1919. Photo courtesy Peter and Agnes Malekoff.

The Elevator

In late 1919, a crew of some 25 Doukhobor workmen, under the supervision of CCUB elevator builder Wasyl A. Shishkin of Canora, began erecting the new elevator on the south side of the Canadian Northern Railway right-of-way. Construction continued until freeze-up, then recommenced the following spring of 1920, with the elevator completed and operational in time for the harvest.

Besides using unpaid communal labour, the Doukhobors manufactured most of their own building materials. In this regard, some 750,000 board-feet of 2 by 8 inch fir lumber milled at the CCUB sawmills in the Kootenays was shipped to Kylemore on 10-15 railcars and used in the construction. The total cost of the elevator was approximately $13,500.00.[7] Their main external cost was the mechanical leg, scales, heads and other specialty manufactured equipment.

The resulting elevator was a ‘standard plan’ tall elevator of wood-crib construction (boards laid horizontally and nailed together) with a tin-clad exterior. It stood approximately 70 by 35 feet wide and 70 feet high on a concrete foundation with a pyramidal roof and dormered gable cupola. Its unloading spouts were attached to the sidewall on the north side facing the rail line. A driveway and receiving shed, along with a semi-detached office and engine shed with a stationary gasoline engine was constructed on the south side. Emblazoned on its east and west sides were the words, “The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd.”

It had a licensed storage capacity of 100,000 bushels with 20,000 bushels of auxiliary capacity, making it the largest free-standing wood-crib elevator in Saskatchewan at the time.[8] This was impressive, given the average storage capacity of the 2,184 elevators operating in the province in 1920 was only 30,000 bushels.[9] It was also built with a double leg, which meant that it had two weigh scales so that two grain wagons could unload at the same time. It also meant it could load two rail cars at the same time.

The CCUB elevator at Kylemore, c. 1930. Photo courtesy The Wadena News.


Under the rules of the colony, all grain grown by members was required to be delivered to the CCUB elevator, and members were not permitted to deliver grain to anyone but CCUB grain agents.[10]

Initially, no member had an individual right to the grain they grew, nor was paid for its delivery, for no member was allowed individual holdings.[11] Rather, the grain belonged to the central organization, which marketed and shipped the grain and retained all proceeds. In return for their labour, the CCUB supplied its members with food, shelter, clothing and supplies, along with land, farm implements and machinery and livestock for their use.[12] Members held an equitable undivided interest in the corporation.  

This moneyless system continued until 1928, when the CCUB was reorganized on a cash basis.[13] Thereafter, the CCUB elevator continued to maintain a buying monopoly over all grain grown in the colony, but now purchased the grain delivered by its members, which they grew on land rented from the CCUB using their own implements and machinery.

The CCUB elevator also purchased grain from outside farmers, which at Kylemore were primarily English, Scandinavian and Ukrainian settlers. The CCUB charged them substantially less elevating and marketing fees than its competing grain buyer, the Saskatchewan Co-operative Elevator Co., thereby increasing their farm profits.[14] The storage capacity available for outside farmers, however, was dependent upon the volume of grain grown by the Doukhobors themselves, which over time, increased with additional land clearing.    

Cross-section of a grain elevator. UGG News, August 1974, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Courtesy Glenn Dickson).

When grain was received at the elevator from colony members or outside farmers, the intake process was the same. Each loaded wagon was driven into the receiving shed where it was unhitched from its team, weighed on the scale, then lifted using hand-operated crank hoists to dump the grain into the receiving pit below. Once empty, the wagon was lowered and reweighed. The difference between weights determined the volume of grain received. The grain was then carried from the pit up to the ‘head’ of the elevator (housed in the cupola at the top) by the ‘leg’, a continuous belt with carrying cups. From the head, the grain was distributed, via the ‘gerber’ distribution spout and gravity chutes, into one of several bins designated according to grain type and grade. This process could be carried out in tandem with the double leg and head. 

From 1920 through 1933, the CCUB elevator was annually licensed and inspected as a ‘country elevator’ through the Winnipeg Grain Commission.[15] This was required under The Canada Grain Act in order to receive, purchase, store, ship or sell grain for commerce. After 1933, it was licensed as a ‘private elevator’ and had ceased buying grain from outside farmers, as the Doukhobors were using its full capacity for themselves.[16]

Grain was stored in the elevator bins until it was ready to be shipped, which might be weeks or months. At such time, it was dumped from a bin into the hopper scale, where it was weighed. It was then dumped into the pit, from which it was carried up by the ‘leg’ to the ‘head’ in the cupola. From the head, the grain was then dumped, via the ‘gerber’, into the gravity-fed loading spout, through which it exited the elevator and unloaded into a boxcar ‘spotted’ (parked) on the rail siding north adjacent the elevator. Again, this process could be carried out in tandem, via the double leg and head.

All grain shipments and sales from the Kylemore elevator were centrally managed through the CCUB head office in Veregin, which instructed the local elevator manager via telephone and telegraph dispatch.

When instructed, the CCUB elevator manager shipped a requisite number of railcars of wheat (for flour milling) and oats (for livestock feed) to the CCUB colony at Brilliant, whose mountain valley land was almost exclusively dedicated to fruit-growing and not grain-growing. In exchange, the Kylemore colony received fresh fruit, the famous ‘KC Brand’ Doukhobor jam and lumber produced in the Kootenays. The balance of grain was shipped and sold to domestic and foreign markets through the Winnipeg Grain Exchange and the Fort William and Port Arthur Grain Exchange.

CCUB structures adjacent to CNR at Kylemore, SK, c. 1922. (L-R) grain elevator, community warehouse, and two large communal homes. Photo courtesy Koozma J. Tarasoff.

The elevator was managed by the CCUB Kylemore Branch Manager, which was Peter S. Chernoff in 1920, John J. Planidin in 1924, Dmitry I. Malakoff in 1925, and Nikolai I. Cazakoff from 1926-1928. They were assisted by various colony members who handled the grain at the elevator.

Interestingly, in 1927, incoming CCUB President Peter P. Verigin announced plans to install an electrical generating plant to power the Kylemore elevator and replace the existing stationary gasoline engine.[17] At the same time, he expressed the possibility of the elevator joining the wheat pool elevator and marketing co-operative movement.[18] However, neither would come to pass.

Sale of Elevator

By 1931, the colony numbered 400 members and had an aggregate assessed value of $454,834.00 in land, buildings, livestock and implements. [19] The CCUB elevator was valued at $25,000.00. [20]

Yet despite the colony’s wealth, the central organization itself was ailing financially. When the Great Depression struck in the Thirties, the financial situation of the CCUB deteriorated rapidly because all of the communal property was pledged under a blanket mortgage (taken for debts acrued off-colony) and no further loans could be negotiated due to lack of collateral.[21] With no credit, and with membership and cash income falling rapidly, company officials looked to selling off corporate assets to raise the capital necessary to service its massive debt.

To this end, the CCUB elevator at Kylemore was sold in April 1936 to the Winnipeg, MB-based Pioneer Grain Company Ltd.[22] The sale proved to be too little, too late. By July of that year, the CCUB could not service its debts and declared bankruptcy. In 1937-1938 the company was placed under receivership by its creditors who, the following year in 1939, foreclosed upon the CCUB lands at Kylemore, leading to the break-up of the colony. Thereafter the CCUB ceased to exist as a corporate entity.[23]

Another view of the CCUB elevator at Kylemore, c. 1930. Photo: British Columbia Archives, Item No. C-01709.

Pioneer Grain Co. Ltd.

The Pioneer Grain Company Limited took over the Doukhobor-built elevator and continued to serve Kylemore district farmers, including former colony members, for the next fifty-four years.

No major structural modifications were made to the elevator during Pioneer’s tenure. However, in the 1950s, much of the original equipment was upgraded: the original gasoline engine was replaced with electrical equipment; the truck-dumping mechanism was improved; larger scales and larger and longer movable loading spouts to facilitate the loading of freight cars were installed; wooden legs were replaced with metal ones; and driveways extended to accommodate larger trucks.

In terms of storage capacity, Pioneer licensed the elevator at 100,000 bushels’ capacity from 1936 to 1949; 110,000 bushels from 1949 to 1960; 96,000 bushels from 1960 to 1978; and 2,690 tons from 1978 to 1990.[24] The company never constructed annexes to increase the storage capacity.   

By 1990, the 70-year-old elevator was wearing out and in need of costly repairs. At the same time, farming practices had changed and many small farms were replaced by a few large ones, which incented the grain company to have fewer, more centralized grain storage facilities. This was supported by the railway company, which no longer wished to stop every 7-10 miles to spot rail cars.

Consequently, Pioneer closed its Kylemore elevator in the spring of 1990 while adding additional storage capacity to its elevator in Wadena, a larger commercial centre 6.5 miles to the west. After its closure, the elevator stood empty for several years and was then demolished.


Today, all that remains of the elevator are its concrete foundations, one of the few reminders of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood at Kylemore, and of the pioneering efforts of the Doukhobors in the field of grain growing and storage. More enduring still is their example of what can be accomplished when people work together for community.      

Loading grain cars at the Doukhobor-built Pioneer Grain Company Ltd. elevator in Kylemore, c. 1985. Photo courtesy Wayne CF.
The Pioneer Grain Company Ltd. elevator at Kylemore, shortly before its demolition, c. 1991. Photo courtesy Wayne CF.


This article originally appeared in the following journals and periodicals:

  • ISKRA (Grand Forks, Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ) No. 2186 (May 2023);
  • Foam Lake Review, November 6, 2023.

End Notes

[1] C.A. Dawson, Group Settlement: Ethnic Communities in Western Canada (Toronto: MacMillan, 1936) at 40. The undeveloped Kylemore land was purchased at $25.00 an acre: Regina Leader Post, June 3, 1918; whereas developed land in Veregin was valued at $100.00 an acre: see for example Certificate of Title No. QR20 dated July 24, 1917 issued to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Limited re: Section 1-30-1-W2.

[2] For a comprehensive history of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood at Kylemore, see: J. Kalmakoff, “The Kylemore Doukhobor Colony” in Saskatchewan History, Spring/Summer 2011, Vol. 63, No. 1.

[3] Record of harvest at Kylemore, 1919, Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. M-.

[4] Ibid.

[5] The desire for self-sufficiency and avoidance of elevating and marketing fees charged by private grain companies was a main motivator in the Doukhobors erecting their own grain elevators: W. Blakemore, Report of Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia, 1912 (Victoria BC: King’s Printer, 1913) at 57-58.

[6] See for example: J. Kalmakoff, “History of Doukhobor Elevators in the Veregin District” in Canora Courier, August 31, 2022, September 7, 2022, September 22, 2022; J. Kalmakoff, “The Doukhobor Grain Elevator at Brilliant, BC” in West Kootenay Advertiser, November 4, 2020; J. Kalmakoff, “The Doukhobor Trading Company in Canora” in Canora Courier, February 25, 2018, March 7, 2018, March 14, 2018, March 21, 2018, March 28, 2018; J. Kalmakoff, “Doukhobor Elevator Building: The Alberta Farmers’ Cooperative Grain Elevator at Sedgewick AB” in Flagstaff Community Press, March 19, 2022.

[7] Based on the 1920 BC Interior lumber price of $25.00/1000 board feet: G.H. Hak, On the Fringes: Capital and Labour in the Forest Economies of the Port Alberni and Prince George Districts, British Columbia, 1910-1939 (Ph.D. Thesis) (Simon Fraser University, 1986) at 27-30.

[8] Canada Department of Trade and Commerce, List of Licensed Elevators and Warehouses in the Western Grain Inspection Division, License Year 1920-1921. (Ottawa: Department of Trade and Commerce, 1921) at 72. Note: in 1920, Quaker Oats Company in Saskatoon and Robin Hood Mills Ltd. were licensed at 380,000 and 385,000 bushels respectively; however, these structures were concrete inland terminals and not wood-crib elevators. Also, the Alberta Pacific Grain Co. Ltd. in Gravelbourg, R.B. McClean Grain Co. Ltd. in Harris and Conger & Co. Ltd. in Roleau were licensed at 120,000, 110,000 and 100,00 bushels respectively; however these were not single free-standing structures; the licensed bushels included both wood-crib elevators and adjacent annex structures.   

[9] Ibid.

[10] Saskatoon Star Phoenix, December 5, 1923; Regina Leader Post, December 7, 1923; Winnipeg Free Press Prairie Farmer, June 2, 1926.

[11] CCUB grain ownership was put to legal test in 1923, when brothers Alex, Wasyl and Simeon A. Horkoff, CCUB members at Veregin, SK, sold the grain grown on the farm upon which they resided and kept the money themselves in place of turning it into the central treasury. The CCUB charged them with theft of property. At preliminary hearing, the magistrate dismissed the charges, holding it was a civil not criminal matter. The Horkoffs filed a civil suit in the Court of King’s Bench, claiming the land on which the grain was grown was rightfully theirs, the CCUB having secured title to it by means of fraud. The matter was settled out of court. See: Saskatoon Star Phoenix, December 5 and 7, 1923, January 5, May 12, 1924; Saskatoon Daily Star, December 17, 1923, January 5 and 22, May 12 & 16, 1924; Regina Leader Post, December 6 and 7, 2023, May 14, 15 & 16, 1924.

[12] Dawson, supra, note 1; Snesarev, Vladimir N. (Harry W. Trevor), The Doukhobors in British Columbia (University of British Columbia Publication, Department of Agriculture, 1931).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Blakemore, supra, note 5.

[15] List of Licensed Elevators, supra, note 8, License Years, 1920-1936.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Regina Leader Post, December 30, 1927.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Snesarev, supra, note 11, List of Property Owned by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Limited as at January 1, 1931 – District of Kylemore, Saskatchewan.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Kalmakoff, supra, note 2.

[22] “More Rumours of Doukhobor Migrations from Saskatchewan Heard at Yorkton” in Saskatoon Star Phoenix, April 24, 1936.

[23] K.J. Tarasoff, Plakun Trava (Mir Publication Society: Grand Forks, 1982) at 153-154; S. Jamieson, “Economic and Social Life” in H.B. Hawthorn (Ed.), The Doukhobors of British Columbia (University of British Columbia, 1955) at 52-56.

[24] List of Licensed Elevators, supra, note 8, License Years, 1936-1953; Grain Elevators in Canada. Winnipeg: Board of Grain Commissioners for Canada, 1954-1990.

Paska – A Traditional Doukhobor Easter Recipe

By Jonathan Kalmakoff

Paska (Cyrillic: Паска) (pronounced: PAH-skah) is a round, egg-enriched sweet bread, traditionally made by Doukhobors in Russia and the Caucasus at Easter for centuries. It is customarily served on Easter Sunday, following the morning prayer meeting, to family and friends.

The following Doukhobor recipe for Paska was shared with the writer by Vasily Stroyev and family, formerly of Troitskoye village, Bogdanovsky region, Georgia, now living in Markevichevo village, Shiryaevsky district, Odessa region, Ukraine.


flour (2 kg initially; more as needed)sugar (600 grams)
warm milk (1 litre)salt (1 teaspoon)
eggs (10)yeast (30 grams dry/100 grams fresh)
melted butter (600 grams)raisins (200 grams)
icing sugar (10 table spoons)vanillin (4 grams)


  1. Sift flour so that it is well saturated with air.
  2. In a bowl, add 8 tablespoons of flour. Add in the yeast and 4 teaspoons of sugar, along with a little warm milk.  Mix yeast mixture well, cover bowl with a tea towel and put in a warm place for 15 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, pour in the egg. (If making icing under Step 11, pour in egg yolks only, and separate egg whites into a different bowl and put in fridge to chill.). To the eggs, add the salt and start beating, gradually adding the sugar to get a lush, creamy texture that leaves a light pattern behind.
  4. In another bowl, combine the rest of the milk and flour.  Slowly beat in the egg yolk/sugar mix. Add in the yeast mixture (once it has sat for 15 minutes), then the melted butter.
  5. Begin kneading the dough mixture, adding in the vanillin. While kneading, add up to 100-200 grams of additional flour, if necessary, to ensure a soft, smooth elastic texture (however, do not add too much!). Continue to knead the dough thoroughly for up to 40 minutes.
  6. Once kneaded, cover the bowl of dough with a tea towel and put in a warm place to rise for 1 ½ hours. The dough will be yellowish in colour because of the volume of eggs used.
  7. In the meantime, while the dough is rising:
    • Rinse the raisins with water, drain, then place on a tea towel to dry. Once dry, dust the raisins with two tablespoons of flour; and
    • Grease 10 large coffee tins (or other cylindrical baking tins) with butter.
  8. Once the dough has risen, stretch it out on a countertop (dusted with flour), add in the raisins and knead/roll until the raisins are evenly distributed.
Raw paska dough in tin forms. Image: Vasily Stroyev.
  1. Divide the dough into roughly 10 equal parts. Roll each part into a ball and place into a coffee tin; each ball should fill approximately half of the tin. Cover the cans loosely with a towel and leave for 20 minutes until the dough slightly rises out of the tins.
  2. Put tins in oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 35 minutes. Then take out tins and place on countertop on their sides, turning them from time to time, as they cool over 15 minutes. They should then be easily removed from tins.
Baked paska, removed from tins, cooling on tray. Image: Vasily Stroyev.
  1. This next step is optional, as Doukhobor paska did not traditionally have icing. Beat the chilled egg whites together, then add icing sugar and whip well until it is a thick, frothy consistency. Optional: add a dash of lemon or orange juice to taste. Then, using a spatula, add icing mixture generously to the top of each of the completely cooled loafs. Optional: add sprinkles to the top of the icing mixture before it hardens. Allow the icing to dry well before serving.  
Doukhobor paska with decorative icing added. Image: Vasily Stroyev.



The making of Paska at Easter is a millennium-old Orthodox tradition practiced throughout the former Russian Empire. When the Doukhobors openly rejected the Orthodox church in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they discarded many Orthodox customs and traditions. However, they continued to bake Paska at Easter, modifying and imbuing the practice with their own religious meaning and significance. Learn more about the historical, religious and cultural aspects of Easter Among Doukhobors.

In the Doukhobor South Russian dialect, the bread is called Paska (Паска), which is also its name in Ukrainian. In modern Russian it is called Paskha (Пасха).

Unlike Orthodox Russians and Ukrainians, who braid the loaves or imprint them with crosses and other religious symbols, Doukhobor loaves are left plain and unadorned. This is a very important religious and cultural distinction that reflects Doukhobor iconoclast beliefs.

When the Doukhobors first arrived in Canada in 1899, they initially continued to bake Paska at Easter. However, at an All-Doukhobor Congress at Nadezhda village, Saskatchewan in December 1908, Peter V. Verigin, in an effort to simplify and modernize Doukhobor ceremony and ritual, and to focus on its wholly spiritual aspects, set aside many of the folk traditions and festivities formerly associated with Easter, including Paska baking. Thereafter, the recipe eventually fell into disuse and was forgotten by many – but by no means all – Canadian Doukhobors. The Doukhobors who remained in Russia and the Caucasus continue to bake Paska to this day.

Additional Baking Tips

Some Canadian Doukhobor users of this traditional recipe have suggested the following tips and tricks:

  • Combining Ingredients: It may be less cumbersome to follow a common bread recipe method of ‘proofing’ the yeast mixture separately, but combining and mixing the rest of the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, vanillin, raisins) together at once.
  • Tins: Coffee tins or cylindrical baking tins must be very well greased or else lined with parchment paper to avoid sticking. Cylindrical spring-form pans with detachable bottoms and openable sides may work best.
  • Fill the tins between 1/3 and no more than 1/2 with dough balls to avoid significant overflow.
  • Recipe Size: This is a large recipe that makes the equivalent of about 5 dozen buns. Consider halving the recipe ingredients for a smaller amount.
  • Cooking Time and Temp: Although the loaves may be browned on top, they may not be thoroughly baked inside. Consider baking instead at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-50 minutes.

Let us revive this centuries-old, traditional Doukhobor recipe!