The Doukhobor Brickyard at Ootischenia, BC

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

While Doukhobor brickmaking in Grand Forks is historically well known, few today would associate this enterprise with Ootischenia, BC. Yet for a fleeting period, the Doukhobor Society established a communal brickyard at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers. This article pieces together the little-known and largely-forgotten story of the Doukhobor brickyard at Ootischenia.

A Promising Site

In 1910 or early 1911, while communally clearing the heavily-forested north end of Dolina Utesheniya (Ootischenia) along the Kootenay River for orchard-planting, members of the Doukhobor Society laid bare what was reported in the March 30, 1912 Vancouver Sun to be an “extensive” clay deposit.[1]

According to oral tradition, the clay pit was located some several hundred yards southwest of where the Doukhobors planned to build their suspension bridge across the river in 1912-13.[2] Evidently, it was a promising site for the development of a brickyard similar to those established by the Doukhobor Society elsewhere at Thunderhill in 1903, at Veregin in 1904, at Yorkton, SK in 1907, and at Grand Forks in 1909.

The north end of Ootischenia on the Kootenay River, September 1912. Known in Russian as Kamennoye (‘stoney place’), it was the site of numerous Doukhobor communal enterprises. The brickyard was located several hundred yards southwest (right) of this image. BC Archives, GR-0793.5.

First, it appeared to have had a sufficient quantity of clay, easily accessible with horse and scraper, to last many years. Second, it was located close to a fuel source for running the machinery and firing the bricks; namely, wood from the main and upper benches of Dolina Utesheniya. Third, for distribution purposes, it was located a short distance from the CPR Slocan-Robson branch; albeit across the river. This would be mitigated by the planned suspension bridge.

The main stated objective of the Doukhobor Society in developing the clay pit, as reported in The Province in March 16, 1912, was to produce brick for veneering their doms (‘homes’) in Dolina Utesheniya and neighbouring settlements.[3] In addition to brick manufacture, the Society intended, according to the March 30, 1912 Vancouver Sun, to develop a large plant for the production of clay drain and tile for drainage and plumbing systems.[4]

Interestingly, the Doukhobors had already developed several other communal enterprises along that river shore which they called Kamennoye (‘Stoney Place’). These included a sawmill in 1911, planer mill in 1912 and an irrigation pumping plant in 1912. Other planned enterprises included a grist mill and linseed oil plant (established 1914) and a wood-stave pipe factory (established 1915).

Development of Brickyard

According to 1912 Doukhobor Society financial records, in the fall of 1911, the Society purchased a brick-making machine and had it shipped to Brilliant at a cost of $1,283.00.[5] It was almost certainly a ‘Martin’ model brick machine, manufactured by the Henry Martin Brick Machine Manufacturing Company at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Powered by steam and having a production capacity of 50,000 bricks a day, this was the same machine used by the Doukhobors at all their other brickyards.

Advertisement for the Style “A” Martin Brick Machine used by the Doukhobor Community. The Clay-Worker, Vol. 51, No. 3, March 1909.

Accordingly, over the next six months, from the fall of 1911 to spring of 1912, the Doukhobors at Dolina Utesheniya developed a brickyard adjacent to the clay pit. This would have included: an engine house in which a steam engine provided motive power for the machinery; a brick plant housing the brick-making machine; a large, open-sided drying shed; and a conveyor system between the brick plant and drying shed.

On March 16, 1912, The Province reported the brickyard to be “recently started” and either producing, or ready to produce, brick.[6]

Brick-Making Process

Brick manufacture at Dolina Utesheniya would have followed substantially the same process as at other Doukhobor brickyards.

Using horses and scrapers, Doukhobor workmen excavated clay from the pit, then transferred it into dumpcarts. The loaded dumpcarts were then drawn by horses up an elevated ramp and the clay dumped into a large hopper bin. Proportionate loads of sand were also dumped in the hopper. In the hopper, the clay-sand mixture was automatically mixed up, an automatic sprinkler supplying the water. The slurry mixture was then pressed by the Martin brick-making machine into moulds, six bricks at a time.

The ‘wet’ bricks were then placed on palettes and these were placed on a wire cable conveyor and carried into the large drying shed, where men were stationed at different points to lift them onto wheelbarrows, and wheel them to racks where they were placed to dry for up to ten days.

When the bricks became sufficiently dry, the men removed them from the drying racks and placed them again upon the cable conveyor, where they were taken out through the end of the shed. There, they were stacked into scove kilns, consisting of up to 200,000 bricks each, with wood ovens built into the stacks, and fired steadily for ten days. After firing, the bricks were ready for use.

It would seem, however, that the Doukhobors never fired more than their first or second kiln of bricks at their new yard.


According to oral tradition, for reasons no longer remembered, the brickyard at Dolina Utesheniya abruptly closed soon after opening.[7] Indeed, no mention of it is made in any newspaper or book subsequent to March 1912. Even William Blakemore’s Report of Royal Commission on Doukhobors, where a thorough report of the Doukhobor Society’s industrial enterprises (as of September 1912) at Dolina Utesheniya is presented, is silent about any brickyard save for that at Grand Forks.[8]

In all probability, the reason was that the clay proved unsuitable for brick-making. This might have been because it had a low plasticity (malleability), it contained other rock types (siltstone, sandstone) or impurities (gypsum, carbon), or it did not vitrify (fuse into hard, non-permeable material) at a low temperature. The end result, in any case, was that the brick cracked or bloated when fired in the kilns, making them unusable. This deficiency would have been evident to the Doukhobors upon their first firings.

Consequently, despite much effort and promise, the brickyard at Dolina Utesheniya appears to have been abandoned shortly after March 1912, almost as soon as it began.

Redeployment of Machinery

So what became of the Martin machine and other specialized brick-making equipment after the brickyard was abandoned? It was almost certainly redeployed rather than salvaged or sold. What is more, we have a very good idea where it likely went.

In the summer of 1912, the Doukhobor Society purchased the 150-acre Blaney Ranch in the Slocan Valley near Winlaw.[9] The ranch contained a clay quarry, and by September 1913, the Society was developing it as another brickyard.[10] Over the next several years, brick was manufactured there by the Doukhobors, using a Martin brick-making machine.

Doukhobors pose in front of a Martin Brick Machine at their Slocan Valley brickyard, 1914. BC Archives Item E-00716.

Evidently, within months of the abandonment of the brickyard at Dolina Utesheniya, the brick-making equipment was shipped by rail up the Slocan Valley to the new brickyard where it redeployed and reused.


While short-lived, the brickyard at Dolina Utesheniya underscored the Doukhobors’ communal and enterprising spirit and their determination to utilize their landholdings to its greatest potential. The Doukhobor Society (after 1917, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood) continued to manufacture brick for domestic use and commercial sale at several locations until the mid-1930s.

After Word

Special thanks to Ellie and Michael Davidoff, Marion Demosky, Tim Harshenin, Sam Wishloff, Bill Maloff, Ev and Lawrence Voykin, Frances and Mike Kanigan, Wendy Voykin, Mike Semenoff, Elsie Nevakshonoff.

This article was originally published in the following newspapers and periodicals:

  • ISKRA No. 2193, December 2023 (Grand Forks: Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ); and
  • Castlegar News, January 29, 2024.

End Notes

[1] Vancouver Sun, March 30, 1912. The newspaper refers to the clay deposit as being in “Brilliant”. At this time, Dolina Utesheniya was considered part of “Brilliant” and the Brilliant Flats were not yet purchased by the Doukhobor Society.

[2] According to oral tradition, the brickyard was located at Kamennoye, an area at the north end of Ootischenia along the Kootenay River, directly across from Brilliant: Ellie and Michael Davidoff, interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, November 15, 2023; Marion Demosky, interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, November 16, 2023; Ev and Lawrence Voykin, interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, November 17, 2023; Frances and Mike Kanigan, interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, November 20, 2023. Elsie Nevakshonoff, interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, November 25, 2023.

[3] The Province, March 16, 1912. The newspaper also refers to the brickworks as being in “Brilliant”. See comments under Note 1.

[4] Vancouver Sun, March 30, 1912.

[5] 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. Note that the Doukhobor Society had already previously shipped a brick-making machine to Fruktovoye in Grand Forks in 1909: Grand Forks Gazette, March 18, 1909.

[6] The Province, March 16, 1912.

[7] Supra, note 2.

[8] W. Blakemore, Report of Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia, 1912 (Victoria: Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, 1913) at 62.

[9] Nelson Daily News, June 22, 1912, May 6, 1953.

[10] By September 1913, the Doukhobor Society successfully applied to the CPR to extend a rail spur from its Slocan Lake Branch onto the Blaney Ranch, which the Doukhobors renamed Kirpichnoye (of ‘brick’): The Canadian Engineer, September 18, 1913.

The Carriages of Peter (Lordly) Verigin

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff and Greg Nesteroff

During the first two and a half decades of Doukhobor life in Western Canada, Peter Vasil’evich (Lordly) Verigin (1859-1924) spent much of his time travelling between their settlements on Community business. His chief means of local conveyance were horse-drawn carriages, carts and sleighs, dutifully maintained by his followers at key stopping points. But whatever became of them? Remarkably, several of these vehicles still exist today, over a century later. The following article traces their subsequent history and fate to the present day.


In the first decades of the 20th century, horses provided the primary means of transportation in Western Canada. A single horse could pull a wheeled vehicle and contents weighing as much as a ton. At a walk, a horse-drawn vehicle travelled approximately two to four miles per hour; at a trot, the speed was around eight to 10 miles per hour; horses rarely cantered or galloped with a vehicle.

This mode of transportation was not without limitations. Horses required large quantities of feed and water. Their range of travel when drawing a vehicle was between 10-20 miles per day, depending on the terrain, weather, horse and weight of vehicle. In many rural areas, there were still few roads except for rough, uneven trails, which were often impassible when wet.

When the Doukhobors first arrived on the Canadian Prairies in 1899, they had few horses and wagons, forcing some Doukhobors to carry heavy supplies on their backs over long distances by foot, and others to hitch themselves to wagons and plows, as human draft animals.[1] Following the arrival of their leader Peter V. Verigin in Canada in December 1902, the Doukhobors communally pooled their earnings to acquire much needed horses and vehicles.

Under Verigin’s management, in 1903, the Community purchased 404 horses, 16 wagons, 152 sleighs, as well as two cutters (lightweight, open sleighs holding one or two people) likely for the leader’s personal use.[2] And in 1905, the Community purchased another 30 wagons, 41 sleighs, as well as two buggies probably for Verigin’s personal use.[3]  Bulk purchases of horses and horse-drawn vehicles continued thereafter. 

Peter V. Verigin stands behind a Roadster buggy at Otradnoye village, SK, c. 1905. Ivan F. Makhortoff, seated, waits to pass Verigin the reigns. BC Archives Item No. C-01582.

Peter V. Verigin spent much of his time travelling between Doukhobor settlements on Community business, visiting with villagers, and inspecting their progress on various endeavors. His preferred means of conveyance was a horse-drawn carriage – a four or two-wheeled vehicle which was lighter and more maneuverable than a wagon and capable of greater speed and efficiency. The distance between Doukhobor settlements made effective transportation essential to managing the Community.

A skilled horseman, Verigin most often drove the carriage himself, typically with a spirited team at breakneck pace! A sense of his energetic driving style can be gleaned from the comments of Nelson, BC realtor Charles F. McHardy, who wrote in 1911:

“We were met at the Kootenay river ferry by Mr. Veregin’s driving team and had one of the swiftest drives we ever had, Mr. Veregin himself driving. I like fast horses but freely admit that I cannot drive as he does. We certainly had to hang on when rounding the curves. He made a point of commenting on my providing him with a quiet horse to ride. I regretted that I had not given him a bucking horse that I thought too bad to take along.”[4]

From time to time and place to place, various types of carriages, carts and sleighs were acquired by the Community for Verigin’s exclusive use. Those which have been documented include the following:

  • Democrat or Buckboard – a light, four-wheel, flat-bed open carriage with no sideboards or top, leaf spring suspension and with one or two seats, usually drawn by one or two horses;
  • Phaeton – a sporty open four-wheel carriage with a very light-sprung body atop a curved frame with four extravagantly large wheels, pulled by one or two horses;
  • Buggy or Roadster – a light, four-wheel, one-seat carriage with low sides, side-spring suspension and a folding top, usually drawn by one or two horses;
  • Brougham or Rockaway – a light, four-wheel carriage with one passenger seat in an enclosed body with two doors, and a box seat in front for the driver, leaf spring suspension, drawn by two to four horses;
  • Barouche –  a large, heavy, four-wheeled carriage with low sides, a back seat and front box seat for the driver and collapsible half-hood for passengers, curved frame, leaf spring suspension, pulled by one or two horses;
  • Gig or Chaise – a light, two-wheeled, one-seat cart with side-spring suspension, usually driven by one horse;
  • Cutter – a light, open sleigh with a single set of runners and a single seat that held two people, drawn by one horse; and
  • Bobsleigh – an open sleigh with two seats that held up to four people, with dual sets of runners for easier maneuverability, pulled by one or two horses.

These vehicles were stored and kept in Community stables and sheds at major centres of Doukhobor settlement: Verigin and Kylemore in Saskatchewan, Cowley and Lundbreck in Alberta and Brilliant and Grand Forks in British Columbia, as well as at commercial centres such as Yorkton, SK, Nelson and Trail, BC where Verigin had stopping houses. The vehicles and their horse teams were dutifully maintained by Community members so as to be ready for use upon request.

Peter V. Verigin seated in a Democrat carriage in Fruktovoye west of Grand Forks BC, 1912. BC Archives Item No. GR-197904-015.

After Peter V. Verigin’s death in October 1924, these vehicles were sometimes used by his son and successor Peter P. (Chistyakov) Verigin (1881-1939) following his arrival in Canada in September 1927. However, by then, the automobile had largely supplanted horsepower as the preferred mode of transportation.

During the bankruptcy of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd. in 1936 and its subsequent foreclosure in 1937-38, many of Peter V. Verigin’s carriages, carts and sleighs – like other community assets – were presumably liquidated at fire sale prices. Others were likely destroyed by arson.[5] Remarkably, however, at least seven of them have survived and are now part of museum and private collections. These are detailed below.

Brougham (Rockaway) Carriage – Khutor village, SK 

At the Community settlement in Veregin, Michael N. Chernoff (1892-1966) was the official in charge of providing and managing local transportation for Peter V. Verigin from 1912 to 1924.[6] To this end, a fleet of special carriages were always at Verigin’s call whenever needed. These were stored at the Community implement sheds at Veregin and at Khutor village, 2½ miles to the east, where the Community horse herd was kept.[7]                                                         

One such carriage that remained at Khutor following the demise of the Community was a Brougham or Rockaway type (manufacturer unknown). Reputedly, it was given to Peter V. Verigin by Canadian government officials as a gesture of good will, shortly after his arrival in Canada in 1902.[8] It can be described as follows:

  • Body: grey painted body and cab with red and yellow trim;
  • Seats: open driver’s seat and enclosed interior passenger seat;
  • Cab: royal blue mohair interior upholstery (inside along doors as well) and a dark blue satin ceiling, with six beveled-edge windows (one in back, two on either side), with a partition between the driver’s seat and passengers cab which can be raised or lowered;
  • Headlamps: gas headlamps on either side with square-shaped bevel glass panel on front and outer sides;
  • Wheels: four rubber-rimmed, red wooden-spoked wheels; and
  • Misc: front dashboard; mud guards over the footsteps, double eveners to be attached to four horses.[9]
Peter V. Verigin’s Rockaway coach on display at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, SK as featured in The Beaver magazine, December 1951. BC Archives Item No. C-01640.

Following the breakup of Khutor village in 1938, the Brougham came into the possession of Wasyl A. Chernoff (1909-1995), who kept it covered in a shed and maintained in very good condition.[10] From time to time, Chernoff drove the carriage in community parades and special events in Veregin and Kamsack.[11]

In 1949, Chernoff donated the carriage to the Western Development Museum (WDM), formed the same year, where it was initially exhibited at the Saskatoon branch. When viewed there during a September 1951 museum fundraising drive, then-Lakeview Member of Parliament and future Prime Minister of Canada John Diefenbaker was moved to comment: “It fascinates me. For instance, Peter Verigin’s carriage. I saw him driving in that carriage when I was a boy.”[12] In December 1951, it was featured in The Beaver magazine, which described it as “of beautiful craftsmanship, and one of the most interesting exhibits on display in Saskatoon.”[13]

In May 1949 and again in April 1955, the WDM showed the Brougham at the annual Saskatoon Light Horse Show, where it was driven around the ring at the Saskatoon Exhibition Stadium.[14] In June 1955, it was featured in the provincial jubilee parade held in Kamsack, attended by 12,000 people.[15] And in July 1969, it was one of two carriages displayed by the WDM at the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Doukhobors in Canada, held at Veregin.[16]

In the 1970s, the carriage was transferred to the WDM Yorkton branch, where it was exhibited on display. In July 1987, through the efforts of George Legebokoff (1921-1995) of Burnaby and Harry Shukin (1928-2005) of Kamsack, the WDM agreed to loan it to the National Doukhobor Heritage Village in Veregin, where it remains on display to the present in the administration building.[17]

The carriage remains overall in very good condition; a paint job would give a virtually like-new appearance.

Peter V. Verigin’s Rockaway carriage as it appears today in the National Doukhobor Heritage Village at Veregin, SK. Western Development Museum Item No. 1973-Y-459.

Democrat (Buckboard) Carriage – Veregin, SK 

Another carriage that survived the break-up of the Community in Veregin was a Democrat or Buckboard type manufactured by Deere & Co. in Winnipeg. Its description is:

  • Body: black painted body with no top;
  • Seats: two seats with tufted leather upholstery, both seat cushions removable, the front one covers a small storage compartment, the high rear seat back consists of an upholstered rectangular portion mounted above evenly spaced wood spindles or dowels which extend around sides of seats, flat curved leather armrests on either side of seat, and a leather flap along bottom edge of either seat;
  • Headlamps: lanterns on either side of front seat have square-shaped bevel glass panel on front and right side and small round red glass in back with original silver-colored finish painted over with silver-colored paint;
  • Wheels: four wheels, wheel circumference 98 inches (back), 94 inches (front), rubber rims stamped “John Bull – North Pole Patent – 8 x f-1 1/4 inch”, with white striping on wooden wheel spokes and rims; and
  • Misc: front dashboard; leather dash; metal arm rails, side dash rails and foot rails, with oval high footstep on either side of front and lower square one on either side in rear; whip holder on right side of dash; arched cylindrical steel axles with leaf suspension across either axle.[18]

After the death of Peter V. Verigin in 1924, the Democrat was kept in the Community implement shed at Veregin for several years.[19] In 1933, then-Doukhobor leader Peter P. Verigin sold it to Independent Doukhobor Larion E. Konkin (1890-1974) of the Mikado district, who used it for day-to-day driving until 1945.[20]

Peter V. Verigin’s Democrat coach at the WDM storage facility in Saskatoon, SK. Western Development Museum Item No 1973-Y-452.

In 1949, Konkin donated the carriage to the WDM, formed the same year, where it was housed at the Saskatoon branch.[21] It is unclear whether it was put on public display, although it may have been at one time. It was shown at some public events over the years, such as the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Doukhobors in Canada, held at Veregin in July 1969.[22] Since 1984, it has been housed at the WDM storage facility in Saskatoon.[23]

The carriage remains in overall good condition. 

Gig (Chaise) Cart – Veregin, SK

A third horse-drawn vehicle that survived the demise of the Community in Saskatchewan was a Gig or Chaise-style cart manufactured by the Canada Carriage Company in Brockville. Its description is as follows:

  • Body: black painted body (no top) with red running gear, wheels and shafts;
  • Seats: two seats with removable, rectangular, straw-stuffed cushions, upholstered in heavy, black, square-tufted leather with leather-covered buttons, sharing a common back comprised of a high, narrow, leather-covered, rectangular board mounted on two upright metal bars; leather flap along bottom edge of front seat; leather belt strap below rear seat has brass buckle; on either side of seat is an upright, curved, wooden side with metal rails at either end of each;
  • Headlamps: headlamp on either side of front seat has brass rim, round bevel glass front, rectangular bevel glass side and small, round, red, glass opening in back;
  • Wheels: two rubber rimmed wheels, with 190-inch circumference, shafts encased in leather on front third of either side;
  • Misc: front dashboard with metal railing; curved wooden floor board; metal foot rail and whip holder on right side of same; floor area open from dash to back end, the latter is a fold down, hinged end gate that hooks into an angle position to serve as a footboard for rear seat or opening to storage area below seat; high and low foot step on either side of front seat and one step on left side of back; steel axle; leaf spring across back end and side springs on either side.[24]
Peter V. Verigin’s Gig cart at the WDM storage facility in Saskatoon, SK. Western Development Museum Item No. 1973-Y-457.

Little information as to the provenance of the Gig is available, other than it was used by Peter V. Verigin, it likely came from the Veregin district, and that it was donated to the WDM in 1951.[25] Since 1986, it has been housed at the WDM storage facility in Saskatoon.[26]

The cart remains in overall good condition.

Barouche Carriage – Nelson, BC

A surviving Barouche-style carriage that Peter V. Verigin used in Nelson was manufactured by McLaughlin-Buick[27] and intended to be drawn by two horses.

Anton F. Strelaeff (1890-1935), the Community factotum stationed there in the 1910s and 1920s, would meet Verigin at the train station with it when he arrived in Nelson, even though it was only a couple of blocks from the leader’s residence at 509 Falls St. Verigin reportedly always drove.[28]

Anton F. Strelaeff tends to Peter V. Verigin’s new Barouche coach in Nelson, c. 1910s. This picture reportedly shows Anton bringing the carriage home after its arrival via sternwheeler, but looks to have been taken on Nelson Avenue. Paul Strelive private collection.

It is unclear whether this carriage was used after Verigin’s death in 1924, but at some point, it was stored and maintained by the Nelson Transfer Co. Ltd. at 323 Vernon St. [29] Later, it ended up in the basement of the Ellison’s Milling warehouse on Front Street, where manager Joseph Kary discovered it in the 1950s and recognized its significance.[30] This was directly across the street from the former Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works, operated by the Doukhobors from 1911-15. But it’s not known how the carriage’s provenance was established.

Subsequently the Nelson Diamond Jubilee committee secured the carriage’s loan and Nelson queen Jane Miller rode in it for a parade in July 1957.[31] A few months later the carriage was donated to the city and placed in the museum at 502 Vernon St.[32]

In May 1960, the City of Nelson notified the museum it would be moving city offices onto the main floor of their building, but the museum could use the second floor. That fall, the carriage was dismantled, hoisted through a second-floor window, and reassembled as a centrepiece of a Doukhobor display. At that time, the carriage still had at least one brass lamp that threw off a beam of light when a candle was lit.[33]

The museum relocated to Lake Street a few years later and then to Anderson Street in 1974. While the Barouche remained part of the collection, the museum no longer had room to display or store it, so it was kept at the Nelson fire hall until the fire department required the space for other purposes. In 2006, the carriage was placed in storage at the former museum site on Anderson Street after the museum moved back to 502 Vernon St.[34]

In June 2010, the Nelson Museum offered the carriage to the Doukhobor Discovery Centre in Castlegar where it could receive the visibility and attention it deserved.[35] In 2013, the Doukhobor Discovery Centre received a grant to create a better shelter for the carriage.[36] However, it is seldom on display due to its fragility.

Peter V. Verigin’s Barouche carriage as it appears today at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre at Castlegar, BC. Photo: Greg Nesteroff.

The carriage can be described as follows:

  • Body: black body, canopy (with a piece torn or missing) and undercarriage;
  • Seats: black fabric drivers seat with red exterior metal trim; rear enclosed passenger seat upholstered with black leather with leather-covered buttons; upholstery on both seats is severely torn/worn;
  • Headlamps: two original lamps are missing;
  • Wheels: four wheels are intact with carriage shaft, axles, tongue, and spokes; and
  • Misc: driver’s dashboard and carriage steps.

The carriage is in relatively weathered condition.

Phaeton Carriage – Grand Forks, BC

At the Community settlement in Grand Forks, several special carriages were kept for Peter V. Verigin’s use when he visited the area. They were stored in a Community barn at Verigin’s residence known as Sirotskoye, located 3 miles west of the city. There, they were maintained by residence caretaker Sam D. Trofimenkoff (1865-1955) in the Teens and by Trofimenkoff’s step-son Walter A. Rezansoff (1903-1985) in the Twenties.[37]

One such Community-era carriage at Sirotskoye was a Phaeton type manufactured by John Deere Plow Co. Limited in Winnipeg. It can be described as follows:

  • Body: black painted body with no top;
  • Seats: raised open driver’s seat and lower rear-facing passenger seat, both upholstered with black leather; removable front seat cushion covers a small storage compartment; double-sided upholstered back cushion between seats; metal arm rails extend around sides of each seat;
  • Headlamps: gas headlamps on either side with round-shaped bevel glass panel on front and square-shaped bevel glass panel on outward-facing side;
  • Wheels: four large rubber-rimmed, black wooden-spoked wheels; and
  • Misc: a fold down, hinged end gate that hooks into an angle position to serve as a foot board for rear seat or opening to storage area below seat; black leather-upholstered driver’s footboard; oval high footstep on either side of front; double eveners to be attached to four horses.[38]

After Verigin’s death in 1924, the carriage remained in storage at Sirotskoye, where it was sometimes used by his successor Peter P. Verigin between 1927 and 1939. It continued to be stored after his grandson, John J. Verigin (1921-2008), took up residency at Sirotskoye in 1950.

Peter V. Verigin’s Phaeton coach (front) as it appears today in the Boundary Museum. It is hitched to a Roadster (behind). Photo: Mathieu Drolet-Duguay.

Many decades later, in 2007, the Verigin family removed the Phaeton from the Sirotskoye barn and had it restored by the newly-incorporated Boundary Woodworkers Guild.[39] The restoration took four to five years to complete.[40] Thereafter, it was placed on loan at the Boundary Museum & Archives in Grand Forks, where it remains on display to the present at the main building in Fruktova.[41]

The carriage remains in overall good condition.

Buggy (Roadster) Carriage – Grand Forks, BC

 Another carriage at Sirotskoye was a Buggy or Roadster type (manufacturer unknown). Its description is: 

  • Body: black painted body with foldable black leather canopy with navy blue and golden fabric interior upholstery;
  • Seats: open driver’s seat with back cushion, rear enclosed passenger’s seat with back cushion; both seats black leather upholstered with leather-covered buttons; removable front seat cushion covers a small storage compartment;
  • Headlamps: none;
  • Wheels: four rubber-rimmed, black wooden-spoked wheels; and
  • Misc: drivers footboard; rear covered storage compartment; oval high footstep on either side of front; double eveners to be attached to four horses.[42]

Interestingly, at some point the Roadster was hitched behind the Phaeton (described above) and the two were drawn together by two teams of horses with a single driver.[43] This was done to allow more passengers to travel together. The carriages were connected by a short pole or tongue, so that when pulling straight ahead there would only be 20 to 24 inches of space between them. This system required wide turns on corners, one carriage at a time.

Peter V. Verigin’s Roadster buggy (back) as it appears today in the Boundary Museum. It is hitched to a Phaeton (front). Photo: Mathieu Drolet-Duguay.

Along with the Phaeton, the Roadster was stored for decades in the Sirotskoye barn until it was removed in 2007, restored by the Boundary Woodworkers Guild and subsequently placed on loan for public exhibition at the Boundary Museum & Archives where it is exhibited today.[44]

It also remains in overall good condition.

 Bobsleigh – Grand Forks, BC

 Yet another horse-drawn vehicle at Sirotskoye was a Bobsleigh manufactured by Fish Bros. Wagon Co. in Racine, Wisconsin and exported by railcar to British Columbia for resale distribution. It can be described as:

  • Body: black painted body (no top) with red undercarriage and runners. Yellow, green and red decorative scrolling along sides may have been added post-purchase;
  • Seats: two seats with black leather-upholster sides and back cushions with leather-covered buttons; open space under seats for storage;
  • Runners: dual sets of runners; fixed rear runners, front runners swivel about a central pivot, making it less likely to overturn; and
  • Misc: square footstep on either side of front, rectangular footstep on either side of rear; double eveners to be attached to four horses.[45]

After Peter V. Verigin’s death in 1924, the Bobsleigh continued to be stored at Sirotskoye, where it was sometimes used by his successor Peter P. Verigin between 1927 and 1939. It remains in storage with the Verigin family to the present day, with a restoration planned for the future.

The Bobsleigh is in original condition.

Peter V. Verigin’s Bobsleigh in its original condition at Sirotskoye. Verigin family private collection.


The surviving carriages, carts and sleighs of Peter V. (Lordly) Verigin represent a time gone by in Western Canada; a slower, simpler era when horse-power was essential for transport and travel. They also offer a unique window back in time in Doukhobor history and an opportunity to appreciate the quality and workmanship of the vehicles, their communal purpose, the strength and dependability of the horses that drew them, and the skill and horsemanship of their driver.

After Word

Special thanks to Kaiti Hannah, Curatorial Associate, Western Development Museum; Phillip Perepelkin, Manager, National Doukhobor Heritage Village; Ryan Dutchak, Director, Doukhobor Discovery Centre; Mathieu Drolet-Duguay, Executive Director, Boundary Museum & Archives; Hugo del Aguila, Office Manager, Boundary Museum & Archives; Paul Beatty, Boundary Woodworkers Guild; Barry Verigin, Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ; Carter Hodgins, Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village; John Stallard, Carriage Association of America.

This article also appears on the Kutne Reader blog and has been published in the following newspapers and periodicals:

End Notes

[1] See for example: Koozma J. Tarasoff, Plakun Trava (Grand Forks: MIR Publication Society, 1982) at 52-53; Ashleigh Androsoff, “The Trouble with Teamwork: Doukhobor Women’s Plow Pulling in Western Canada, 1899” in Canadian Historical Review, Vol. 100, No. 4, December 2019, at 540-563.

[2] “Report of the General Meeting of the Doukhobor Community held in Nadezhda Village, February 28, 1904” in Yorkton Enterprise, April 21, 1904;

[3] “Report of the General Meeting of the Doukhobor Community held in Nadezhda Village, February 15, 1906” in Manitoba Free Press, April 25, 1906;

[4] Nelson Daily News, September 30, 1911. Similarly, on July 7, 1955, the Grand Forks Gazette reported that: “Mr. Verigin was also a lover of fine horses, and many residents will remember the stirring figure he made while driving a spirited team along valley roads.”

[5] For example, when Peter V. Verigin’s former residence in Brilliant (then occupied by his great-grandson John J. Verigin) was burned down by Sons of Freedom in April 1950, the conflagration destroyed adjoining buildings including a shed likely containing several carriages belonging to the deceased leader: Vancouver Sun, April 14, 1950.

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

[7] Ibid.

[8] Kaiti Hannah, Curatorial Associate, Western Development Museum, correspondence with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Philip Perepelkin, Manager, National Doukhobor Heritage Village, interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, September 15, 2023.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, September 18, 1951. Diefenbaker, who was born in 1895, lived near Fort Carlton from 1903-06, near Borden from 1906-10, and in Saskatoon from 1910-16. He may have viewed Peter V. Verigin driving the carriage whilst visiting the Doukhobor settlements in the Borden, Langham and Blaine Lake districts near Saskatoon. Diefenbaker served as a Member of Parliament for Lake Centre from 1940 to 1953, and for Prince Albert from 1953 to 1979; he served as 13th Prime Minister of Canada from 1957 to 1963.

[13] L. M. Ackerman, “From the Cradle to the Combine” in The Beaver, A Magazine of the North (Winnipeg: Hudson’s Bay Company, December 1951) at 40-41.

[14] Saskatoon Star Phoenix, May 5, 1949 and April 6, 1955.

[15] Perepelkin, supra, note 10.

[16] Saskatoon Star Phoenix, July 9, 1969.

[17] Perepelkin, supra, note 10.

[18] Hannah, supra, note 8.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Saskatoon Star Phoenix, July 9, 1969.

[23] Hannah, supra, note 8.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] “The History of the Verigin Carriage as known by Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History,” Laura Fortier, as told by Shawn Lamb and Alan Ramsden, 2010

[28] Paul Strelive, interview with Greg Nesteroff, November 4, 2009.

[29] “The History of the Verigin Carriage”, supra, note 27.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Nelson Daily News, June 1 and July 9, 1957.

[32] Nelson Daily News, January 17, 1958 and Museum Roundup, April 1965.

[33] Nelson Daily News, November 19, 1960, May 30, 1961, and Museum Roundup, April 1965.

[34] “The History of the Verigin Carriage”, supra, note 27.

[35] Ibid.

[36], item of November 16, 2013.

[37] Caretakers Sam D. Trofimenkoff, wife Fenya and stepson Walter (Volodmir) A. Rezansoff appear at Sirotskoye in the Canada Censuses of 1911 (Yale District No. 25, Carson Sub-District No. 52, pages 11-12), 1921 (Yale District No. 25, Carson Sub-District No. 52, page 9), and 1931 (Yale District No. 240, Grand Forks Rural Unorganized Sub-District No. 71, page 9). Rezansoff’s involvement with the Sirotskoye carriages is also recalled by Barry Verigin, whose family resides on the property: correspondence with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, December 3, 2023.

[38] Mathieu Drolet-Duguay, Executive Director, Boundary Museum & Archives, correspondence with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, November 30, 2023.

[39] Hugo del Aguila, Office Manager, Boundary Museum & Archives, interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, March 7, 2024; Verigin, supra, note 37.

[40] Paul Beatty, Boundary Woodworkers Guild, interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, March 7, 2024.

[41] Drolet-Duguay, supra, note 38; Verigin, supra, note 37.

[42] Drolet-Duguay, ibid.

[43] Drolet-Duguay, ibid; Aguila, supra, note 39.

[44] Drolet-Duguay, ibid; Verigin, supra, note 37.

[45] Barry and Stephanie Verigin, correspondence with photographic images to Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, March 14, 2024.

The Story of Brilliant Fominoff

By Alice Popoff

In January 1909, the first Doukhobor child was born in British Columbia following their arrival in the province eight months earlier. The newborn was named after the settlement they established at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers. This is the story of the brief but inspiring life of Brilliant Fominoff.

With every move of a large group of people there are difficulties. Our Doukhobor leader, Peter Lordly Verigin recognized this. Therefore, prior to the move of our Doukhobor people from Saskatchewan to British Columbia, he chose for the first group, those members of the community who were strongest physically, solid in their Doukhobor beliefs, as well as good overall builders – including machinists, mechanics, blacksmiths, welders, carpenters, millwrights, bricklayers, plasterers, and the like. One of these families was that of John (Ivan) and Helen (Agafia) (nee Zarchikoff) Fominoff with their four sons and one daughter. This Fominoff family was one of the most gifted as machinists and mechanics. They built and managed sawmills for the Doukhobor community.

John and Helen Fominoff had a son, Larion and his wife Aprosya, and to them was born the first Doukhobor baby in British Columbia in the community of Ootischenia [then Brilliant] in January of 1909.

The Ivan S. Fominoff family, 3 years after their arrival in British Columbia, enumerated in Dolina Utesheniya (Brilliant) in the 1911 Canada Census. Brilliant Fominoff, age 2, appears on line 31.

When Peter Lordly Verigin heard that Larion and Aprosya had a son, he was overjoyed and hurried to visit the Fominoff family to bless the newborn. The Fominoff family gladly welcomed Peter Lordly to their home. Peter Lordly was so thrilled with the birth of this first baby in British Columbia that he asked the family’s permission to allow him to name their son, which the Fominoff family joyfully agreed to, since it was quite a privilege for them. Thus Peter Lordly said “I give your son the name Brilliant; it means a clear, precious shining gem.”

Fominoff family in Dolina Utesheniya, circa 1919. Back row (L-R): Mary Fominoff (nee Chigmaroff); Brilliant L. Fominoff; Larry (Larion) J. Fominoff; Cecil (Savely) J. Fominoff; Mary J. Sousoyoff (nee Fominoff); John (Ivan) J. Fominoff; Polly Fominoff (nee Nevokshonoff); William (Wasyl) J. Fominoff; John S. Fominoff. Second row (sitting L-R): Fred L. Fominoff; April Fominoff (nee Plotnikoff); Florence Fominoff (nee Chigmaroff); Florence Sousoyoff – baby; Florence Fominoff (nee Sousoyoff); Polly Fominoff (nee Stooshnoff); Helen (Hanya) Fominoff (nee Zarchikoff). Four children centre front (sitting L-R): John J. Fominoff; Annie F. Chernoff (nee Sousoyoff); Helen F. Malakoff (nee Sousoyoff); Helen J. Chernoff (nee Fominoff).

And so, Brilliant Fominoff grew up in various communities, such as Ootischenia, the community of Skalistoye by Nelson, and a place called Porcupine by Salmo, where his parents worked on different community projects.

The Fominoff family enumerated at the Skalistoye settlement near Nelson in the 1921 Canada Census. Brilliant Fominoff, age 12, appears in line 4. By 1923, the family was restationed to Porcupine Creek near Salmo; by 1925 to Ymir; and by 1928, to Kirpichnoye (Claybrick) near Winlaw.

In his youth, Brilliant became ill with tuberculosis and upon advice from his doctor and the encouragement of Peter Lordly Verigin, he was sent for healing to the USA, to a hospital in Arizona.

At the time he became ill, Brilliant Fominoff was working as a bookkeeping clerk at the CCUB central office in Brilliant. According to this border crossing manifest, he entered the United State in August 1926 at age 18, stopping to visit his cousin Eli Jmaiff in Eugene OR en route to tuberculosis treatments in Phoenix, AZ.

He keenly missed his family, friends, and his home. He composed several songs about his life’s destiny. He was also a great and talented artist. Here is one of the pictures that he drew of Peter Lordly Verigin.

Sketch of Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin drawn by Brilliant L. Fominoff while in respite at a tuberculosis sanatorium in Phoenix, Arizona prior to his death.

Brilliant Fominoff passed away in Phoenix, Arizona, USA on October 18, 1927 at 18 years of age and is buried in Ootischenia.

Brilliant L. Fominoff, shortly before his death at age 18.


Note that at the time of Brilliant L. Fominoff’s birth, the Fominoff family was living in Dolina Utesheniya (Ootischenia) which was considered part of the wider Brilliant settlement, hence the name he received.

This article was originally published in ISKRA magazine, March 3, 2008.

New Year’s Among the Early Doukhobors

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

As we approach the eve of the New Year’s, it is a timely opportunity to examine how this cultural holiday was traditionally celebrated by our 18th and 19th century Doukhobor forebears in Russia.

Ancient Russian Folk Holiday

For centuries in Russia, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (collectively New Year’s or Novy God) has been celebrated as a folk holiday on January 13/14 under the Old (Julian) Calendar.

Many of the traditions and rituals associated with this celebration dated back to pre-Christian, pagan times, and centred around house-to-house visiting by groups of young people, costumed as characters from folk tales, as well as the preparation and sharing of special food and drink.

When Doukhobors openly rejected the Orthodox Church and its teachings in the late 1700s and early 1800s, they discarded many folk holidays and religious feast days as being unnecessary and superfluous. Interestingly, however, they continued to observe Novy God as a holiday, maintaining many ancient South Russian folk customs associated with it. These customs are described below as follows:

House to House Visits

On New Year’s Eve, Doukhobor children would gather together and go from house to house in their village, chanting the following greeting as they went:

Сейим сейим посиваем
Новый год устриваем
А вы наши люди
Чего либо дайте
Хуч у хату позавите
Хуч на двор унасите.

Seeds, seeds we are sowing,
We are celebrating the New Year
And you, our people,
Give me something,
Invite us into your home,
Or bring it outside.

As they chanted this greeting, they ‘sowed’ seeds around each room in the house, trying hard to throw some onto the bed as this was thought to bring prosperity to the household. The house was not swept until the next morning, so as not to ‘sweep out’ the prosperity. Villagers warmly welcomed these youthful ‘sowers’ into their homes, offering them kalachi (a type of sweet bun), pirohi (baked pies) and other sweets.

Adults got together together to make cheese vareniki (dumplings), the traditional dish for New Year’s festivities. At nightfall, the villages were aglitter as children walked up and down the village street carrying homemade torches they called ‘candles’ or ‘lanterns’ which were in fact long sticks with rags tied to one end dipped into paraffin oil and lit.


Early New Year’s morning, between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m., villagers attended moleniye (prayer meetings) held at their meeting house or one of the village dwellings. There, they would eat bread and drink water, while giving thanks to God for these necessities of human existence. After giving thanks, one villager would state his or her views on the moral life and exhort his brethren to a closer adherence to the teachings of Christ, and then another would do the same.

After the prayer meeting, the villagers would disperse to their own homes, where an extra amount of prayers and psalm-reciting was undertaken.

One particularly noteworthy psalm recited on New Year’s Eve was as follows:

Новый год бежит – во яслях лежит, О, Кто? – Отрока благого нам небо дало. О, чудо! Как время было, – места не было родить чистой девице – Богородице. О, где – В Вифлееме граде, в нищенском доме, спокойном. Идите прямо – укажут вам. О, кто? – Иосиф старенький, Богу миленький, пут вам скажет. Пастушки Его перед Творцом смиряются; ангелы поют, Царя ведают, строят, дары. Воспоем и мы песню новую, Христову, Будешь похвален, ото всех прославлен, с девой со пречистой, с матерью со Чристовой. Кто не внушался, тот человеком остался не вем. Богу нашему слава.

A new year has begun – [a child] is lying in a manger. Oh, who? Heaven has given us a blessed Son. Oh, miracle! When the time came, there was no place for the pure virgin – the Mother of God – to give birth. Oh, where? In the town of Bethlehem, in a poor home, a peaceful one. Go there now – someone will show you. Oh, who? Old Joseph, who is dear to God, will tell you the way. Shepherds humble themselves before the Creator; angels sing, acknowledging the King, bringing gifts. Let us also sing a new song, a song for Christ. And You will be praised and glorified by all, with the purest virgin, the mother of Christ. One who is not filled with awe [by this], remains an ignorant person. Glory to our God. (Translated by Natasha Jmieff).

Festivities & Rituals

Later that day, the young people would masquerade as gypsies, and would go houses to house chanting as they went, and were treated with cakes and vodka. The festivities and socializing would then spill over into the street: villagers in their best holiday dress would stroll about the village, and the children and young people would go sleigh-riding in brightly painted and harnessed horse-drawn sledges.

Young Doukhobor maidens also performed ancient divination rituals (such as taking a pail of water beside their bed, hanging a lock on the door handle, putting a key under their pillow or baking and eating an overly-salty bun) so as to conjure up images and glimpses of their fate, particularly that of their future husbands.

Early Celebration in Canada

Doukhobors continued to observe these traditional New Year’s festivities after their arrival in Canada in 1899, at least initially. The major difference was that after 1894, the followers of Peter Vasil’evich Verigin abandoned meat-eating and vodka-drinking altogether.

Also, in 1903, they moved their observance of New Year’s from January 13/14 under the Old (Julian) Calendar to December 31/January 1 under the New (Grigorian) Calendar.

At a 1908 all-village congress held by the Doukhobor Community in Nadezhda village, Saskatchewan, Peter V. Verigin, in an effort to simplify and modernize Doukhobor ceremony and ritual, set aside the traditional Doukhobor festivities associated with New Year’s. Thereafter, among Community Doukhobors, the holiday was formally shorn of most folk custom and external ceremony.

Traditions Maintained

However, not all traditional New Year’s customs were set aside by Doukhobors.

Among those Doukhobors living independently on the Prairies, the tradition of going outdoors with a lit torch to welcome in the coming year was maintained by at least some families, well into the 1950s and 1960s. Meanwhile, in the Kootenay and Boundary regions of BC, the tradition of ‘sowing seeds’ (Сейим сейим посиваем) existed in some village settlements well into the 1950s and 1960s, and indeed, even into the 1980s. Many families in BC continued to recite the psalm, “A New Year has Begun” (Новый год бежит) to the present day. Finally, many Doukhobor families throughout Canada still cook vareniki on New Year’s.

Bibliographic Sources

  • Chernoff, Katherine, Calgary, AB. Correspondence with writer re: Kootenay Doukhobor New Year’s customs, December 31, 2023;
  • Inikova, Svetlana, “Holidays and Rituals of Doukhobors in the Caucasus”;
  • Ivanits, Linda J. Russian Folk Belief (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1989);
  • Konkin, Evseyevich Konkin to Bonch-Breuvich, Vladimir Dmitr’evich correspondence dated February 12, 1909 in Bonch-Breuvich, Vladimir D., Zhivotnaia kniga dukhobortsev (Winnipeg: Union of Doukhobors of Canada, 1954;
  •  Nelson Daily News, January 15, 1910;
  • Osachoff, Linda, Canora, SK. Correspondence with writer re: Prairie Doukhobor New Year’s customs, January 5, 2021;
  • Poogachoff, Polly (Kalmakoff), Kamloops, BC. Correspondence with writer re: Kootenay Doukhobor New Year’s customs, December 31, 2023;
  • Slastukin, Katie, Grand Forks, BC. Correspondence with writer re: Boundary Doukhobor New Year’s customs, December 31, 2023;
  • Verigin, Elmer, Castlegar, BC. Correspondence with writer re: Prairie Doukhobor New Year’s customs, January 5, 2021; and
  • Walton, Lorraine (Saliken), South Slocan, BC. Correspondence with writer re: Kootenay Doukhobor New Year’s customs, December 31, 2023.
Image: Konstantin Aleksandrovich Trutovsky, “Christmas Carols in Little Russia, 1864. Saint Petersburg State Russian Museum collection.

Voskreseniye Village, SK

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

The following article provides a brief history of Voskreseniye, one of 55 communal villages established by the Doukhobors upon their arrival in the Northwest Territories (Saskatchewan) in 1899.

In May 1899, 120 Doukhobor immigrant settlers established a village on a bend of the Assiniboine River, 4 miles south of present-day Kamsack, SK. Sick, weary and destitute after a failed settlement on the Island of Cyprus, all they were able to construct for shelters were 16 sod dugouts.[1]

They named their village Voskreseniye (Воскресение) or Voskresenovka (Воскресеновка), meaning ‘Resurrection’ in Russian – a reference to the Doukhobor belief that Christ is resurrected spiritually in the hearts of his righteous followers.[2]

Initially the villagers possessed little material wealth, having only 50 sacks of flour, 30 bushels of potatoes, 2 horses, 2 oxen, 1 cow and 1 wagon to share between them during their first year.

Postcard (colourized) of Voskreseniye village, postmarked 1908. The village consisted of two rows of ten houses facing each other across a wide central street. The brick meeting house, with a higher-pitched roof than the other structures, is seen midway along the north (right) row of homes. Photo courtesy Prairie Towns.

However, despite severe hardship and deprivation, the settlers persevered, and through the adoption of a communal way of life, pooling all land, livestock, grain and outside earnings, attained agricultural self-sufficiency within a few short years.

In 1902, the village was relocated one mile to the Northwest Quarter of Section 12, Township 29, Range 32, West of the First Meridian, on a level flat beside Dead Horse (Kamsack) Creek, where they constructed twenty 14 by 25-foot mud-plastered log homes with thatched roofs.[3]

By 1905, Voskreseniye had a population of 175 Doukhobors, and the village layout had expanded to include three large 14 by 30-foot communal stables, as well as granaries, a blacksmith shop, bakery, carpenter’s shop and a 22 by 56-foot brick meeting house used to conduct moleniye (prayer meetings) and sobraniya (social gatherings).[4]

By this time, the villagers had acquired 16 horses, 53 cattle and 36 sheep.[5] Using 6 horse-drawn ploughs, they were cultivating 472 acres out of the 58 quarter-sections of land reserved for the village into grain and forage crops.[6] Their cultivated acreage continued to increase in the years that followed, even as their total reserved acreage was significantly reduced by the federal Department of Interior in 1907.

Department of Interior map of Voskreseniye village, August 1, 1907. Colour legend: homesteads reserved for Voskreseniye village coloured orange; homesteads taken by Independent Doukhobors coloured blue; Doukhobor reserved homesteads opened up to general public in 1907 coloured grey; homesteads still untaken coloured yellow.

The surnames of the Voskreseniye Doukhobors were: Cheveldayoff, Dubasoff, Hancheroff, Kazakoff, Kinakin, Konkin, Makasayoff, Medvedoff, Nechvolodoff, Novokshonoff, Parakin, Popoff, Rezansoff, Shekinoff, Stuchnoff, Tikonoff, Varabioff and Wishloff.

The villagers were renowned singers, and according to oral tradition, their acapella singing of Doukhobor hymns was often heard for miles up and down the Assiniboine valley.[7]

Postcard (colourized) of Doukhobor family in front of their log dwelling in the village of Voskreseniye, postmarked 1908. Courtesy Prairie Towns.

The Voskreseniye Doukhobors remained staunch supporters of their leader Peter Vasil’evich Verigin and the communal way of life he espoused. Indeed, despite being a village of moderate wealth, Voskreseniye annually remitted earnings to the central treasury of the Doukhobor Society in excess of those sent by much richer villages.  For example, in 1905, the village sent $3,082.85 in earnings to Verigin when the average remittance of 44 villages was $2,568.21.[8]

Between 1908 and 1913, 120 persons relocated from the village to communal settlements in British Columbia (primarily Ootischenia and Glade), leaving a remaining population of 52 persons by the fall of 1913.[9] This rump population remained consistent over the next five years.[10]

Voskreseniye Village Population and Homestead Reserve, 1899-1917

Year Communalists Independents Wanderers Total Village Reserve (Acres)
1899 119 119
1905 174 174 3840
1907 160 160 2400
1909 127 2 1 130 2400
1910 106 2 108 2080
1911 103 9 112 2080
1912 103 9 112 2080
1913 52 52 1280
1915 52 52 1120
1917 52 52 1118

In 1918, the village and its 1,118-acre homestead reserve was disbanded by the federal Department of Interior and the remaining population either relocated to communal settlements elsewhere, or else settled on adjacent homesteads as Independent Doukhobors.[11] The village structures were dismantled and the logs and lumber were salvaged as building material used on individual homesteads.

By 1920, only the brick meeting house of the village remained, which was used by the Kamsack branch of the Society of Independent Doukhobors for prayer meetings and gatherings over the next three decades.[12] The meeting house continued to stand beside Highway 8, a silent marker to the once-thriving village, until its eventual collapse in a 2019 storm.

Voskreseniye brick meeting house, as it appeared in September 2008. Note the brick veneer was largely removed by this time. Photo copyright Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

In October 2021, the Kamsack Doukhobor Society received funding through the C.C.U.B. Trust Fund to erect a cairn and steel sign at the village site.[13] Completed in 2023, the 7-foot-high iron sign will have a mounted 24 by 32-inch plaque commemorating the Doukhobors of Voskreseniye village.[14] It will be installed at the village site in the spring of 2024.

Proof of the Voskreseniye village commemorative plaque commissioned in 2023. Plaque text provided by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff. Plaque design by Tannis and Patti Negrave. It will be installed in spring 2024. Courtesy Tannis Negrave.

Proof of seven-foot-high iron sign, commissioned in 2023, to be installed at the Voskreseniye village site in spring 2024. Courtesy Tannis Negrave.

End Notes

[1] Doukhobor village statistics, compiled by William B. Harvey, Quaker, in November 1899. Library and Archives Canada, Immigration Branch Records, Record Group 76, Vol. 184, File 65101, Part 6.

[2] Doukhobors believe that Christ suffered and died on the cross, and that on the third day after his crucifixion, he was resurrected. However, unlike other Christian groups, Doukhobors reject the idea that his resurrection was literal and physical, believing instead that Christ’s resurrection was wholly spiritual: that rose again spiritually in the hearts of righteous people and continues to be resurrected to this day in those who follow his teachings: V. Bonch-Bruevich, Zhivotnaya Kniga Dukhobortsev (Winnipeg: Regehr’s Printing, 1954): Psalms 8 (Q/A 11), 14 (Q/A 6), 80, 112, 132, 189, 217, 312, 339, 349, 352, 361, 362, 367, 383 and 410.

[3] Library and Archives Canada, Voskreseniye Village File, Record Group 15, Vol. 1167, File 5412469; C.J. Tracie, “Toil and Peaceful Life, Doukhobor Village Settlement in Saskatchewan, 1899-1918 (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, University of Regina, 1996) at 117.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] John Moriarty, interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, September 24, 2005.

[8] “Report of the General Meeting of the Doukhobor Community held in Nadezhda Village, February 15, 1906” in Manitoba Morning Free Press, April 25, 1906.

[9] Library and Archives Canada, Doukhobor Village Reserves Register, Record Group 15, Vol. 0, File 1113.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Voskreseniye Village File, supra, note 3; Tracie, supra, note 3 at 205.

[13] The Doukhobors of Canada CCUB Trust Fund Annual Report, 2021-2022 (Veregin: CCUB Trust Fund Board, 2022) at 11.

[14] Tannis Negrave, correspondence with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, December 6, 2023.

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.