For over three centuries, Doukhobors have celebrated Christmas, a festival commemorated annually by Christians across the globe. As we once again make ready to do so, it is essential to remind ourselves how this holiday is understood in Doukhobor religious philosophy, how it differs in key aspects from that of other Christian denominations, as well as the Doukhobor cultural and folk traditions associated with Christmas.
Since the introduction of Christianity to Russia in 988 AD, Rozhdestvo Khristovo or ‘the Nativity of Christ’ (Christmas) was celebrated by the Orthodox Church to remember the birth of Jesus Christ. It was traditionally observed under the Julian (Old) Calendar, which ran thirteen days behind the Gregorian (New) Calendar, putting it on January 7th rather than December 25th when it is now commonly observed.
To the Orthodox, Jesus Christ was the divine Son of God incarnate, born to the Virgin Mary by immaculate conception through the Holy Spirit. That is, he was considered the literal, supernatural embodiment of God on earth, having taken on human body and human nature, who performed miracles, cured the sick and raised the dead.
The Orthodox celebration of Rozhdestvo Khristovo was preceded by a forty-day fast, during which meat, dairy products and eggs were not eaten, and parishioners engaged in prayer and charity. When the festival finally arrived, church attendance was compulsory by law.[i] On the evening of Christmas Eve, parishioners attended the church liturgy service, whereafter they went home and ate a meal of twelve meatless dishes. That night, they returned to church for an all-night vigil to observe Jesus’ birth. After hours of standing (the Orthodox church had no seats) and praying, the priest led a procession out of the church, with the parishioners carrying icons and candles led by the priest burning incense in a censer. They circled the building until midnight, after which they returned home. On Christmas morning they once again returned to the church to attend the nativity liturgy service after which they went home for feasting and merriment.
Doukhobor Repudiation of Orthodox Christmas
During the mid to late 1700s, while the Doukhobors were still living among Orthodox Russians, they outwardly continued to celebrate Rozhdestvo Khristovo in the obligatory manner. Some went to church for appearances’ sake; while others made excuses to not attend at all. At home, they observed the festival with simple moleniye (‘prayer meetings’) followed by visits among fellow believers.
However, by this time, Rozhdestvo Khristovo had already acquired an inner, spiritual meaning and significance among Doukhobors that differed substantially from that of their Orthodox neighbours, and which was founded on dramatically different ideas concerning God and Christ.
They ceased to believe that the Christmas fast offered any spiritual advantage to the soul; for true fasting was not in abstaining from food but from vice and gluttony. Attending the church at Christmas was not essential to salvation, for they believed the ‘true’ church was not built by human hands – it was spiritual, invisible and within us. The priest’s conduct of Christmas mass was unnecessary, for they understood the Spirit of God resided in the soul of every person and could be directly understood and interpreted – without need of an intermediary – by listening to the voice within.
Indeed, Doukhobors came to view the Orthodox observance of Christmas – with its complex and elaborate ritual, Slavonic chanting, burning of incense, lighting of candles, bowing and crossing, as well as the resplendent robes of the priest and the richly adorned church with stained glass windows, gold candelabras and crucifixes, icons, sacred relics and ornately decorated domes – to be a contrived, outward sensory and material experience that served only to distract from a true, inner spiritual understanding of the holiday.
What is more, they believed that the Orthodox depiction of Christ’s birth and existence as something ‘mystical’, ‘superhuman’, ‘supernatural’ and ‘otherworldly’ was an artificial embellishment introduced by the church in order to mystify and confound its followers as to his true nature.
Christ and Christmas as Understood by Doukhobors
According to Doukhobor belief, Jesus was neither immaculately conceived nor born of a virgin, nor was he the literal Son of God incarnate in human flesh. Rather, he was an ordinary mortal man, born to an ordinary woman named Mary. In the physical sense, Jesus was no different from other men. In the spiritual sense, however, God chose Jesus as his anointed one by endowing him with divinely-inspired, extraordinary spiritual intelligence in his soul, lucid and enlightened beyond that of his fellow man.[ii] Because of this, Jesus was able to attain the highest, purest, most perfect understanding of God’s Law, and was therefore the Son of God, a man, but not God himself.
Doukhobors believed that Jesus’s enlightened teachings and life revealed mankind’s true meaning and purpose, which was to fulfill God’s Law – to love God with all of one’s heart, soul and mind, and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. God’s Law was manifested in Jesus through his loving attitude toward other people.[iii] The role of his followers, Doukhobors believed, was to emulate Christ by living, as he did, according to God’s Law, to strive to follow his example, and thus be saved through their own works.[iv]
For Doukhobors, then, Christmas marks the day when the world was given a child to lead the world through God’s Law to peace on earth – good will among men. Doukhobors celebrate it as a sign of honour and glory for Jesus Christ.[v] We observe this occasion during all the days of our life as we endeavor to emulate him in our own actions.[vi]
Doukhobor Christmas Customs in Russia
Once Doukhobors openly rejected the Orthodox Church and its teachings in the late 1700s and early 1800s, they discarded many Orthodox feast days as being unnecessary and superfluous. However, they continued to celebrate Rozhdestvo Khristovo as an important holiday in accordance with their own beliefs and interpretations. In doing so, they adapted some of the Christmas holiday rituals and customs from the Orthodox, imbuing them with new meaning and significance.
Both during their settlement along the Molochnaya River near the Sea of Azov (Molochnye Vody) from 1801-1845 and in the Caucasus (Zakavkaz) from 1841-1899, Doukhobors are recorded as having celebrated Christmas over a three day period commencing January 6th, being Christmas Eve under the Old (Julian) Calendar.[vii]
On Christmas Eve, the men performed their daily agricultural chores while the women cleaned the house and baked, cooked and prepared food for the upcoming Christmas feast.[viii] At dinner, Doukhobor families ate twelve meatless dishes, a tradition retained from Orthodoxy, which might include any of the following dishes: borshch (cabbage-based soup), vareniki (boiled dumplings with savory fillings), lapshevniki (‘baked noodles’), pyure iz fasoli (‘mashed beans’), rybnyi kholodets (pickled fish), kvashenye ogurtsy (pickled cucumbers), kartoshniki (‘mashed potatoes’), pyrohi (‘baked savory pies’) and pyroshki (‘baked sweet tarts’), bliny (‘pancakes’), holubtsy (‘cabbage rolls’), kvashenaya kapusta (‘sauerkraut’), vinaigrette (‘salad’), kasha (‘rice porridge’), uzvar (homemade fruit juice), and always, kutya (a boiled wheat dish sweetened with honey).[ix] In the evening, grandmothers recited psalms while the family gathered to listen.[x]
At midnight on Christmas Eve, Doukhobor villagers assembled at a common dwelling or prayer home to hold a moleniye (‘prayer meeting’).[xi] The Christmas moleniye traditionally began with the Doukhobor psalm, Narodilsya nam Spasitel (‘Our Savior was Born’)[xii] which reads as follows:
“Our Savior is born, an Enlightener to the whole world. Sing praises to Him. All the world glorifies Him eternally. Rejoice ye, prophets who have the power of prophesizing, those who are with their oath! The Savior is coming at the last moment. Sing praise to Him, in joyous sweet songs, sing and play to Him. A star is travelling from the East to the place of the new-born prophet. The angles are singing in unison, expressing their love with the sound of their voices. Animals announce with their voices to the shepherds that a miracle has happened. There are clear signs announcing the birth of Christ. Three Wise Men bring Him the most precious gifts; gold frankincense and myrrh. The Father of the future ages offers you rich gifts. He came here to redeem the poor mankind. Eternal God was born and has taken human flesh. Glory be to our God.”[xiii]
Early Christmas morning, Doukhobor villagers again gathered for moleniye to worship, then returned home.[xiv] The adults would not eat breakfast and would carry out their morning chores.[xv] Children were given nuts or fruit as a special treat. Throughout the afternoon, Doukhobors would stroll through the village streets, singing psalms and greeting friends and neighbours,[xvi] with the following customary greeting: Na zdorov’ye! (‘To Health!’), to which the customary reply was Slava Bohu! (‘Thank God!’).[xvii]
Later, the entire family would sit down to enjoy Christmas dinner, which typically consisted of the same dishes enjoyed the night before; however, meat dishes such as roast goose, chicken or pork were also included.[xviii] In the evening, the adults would visit or host relatives and friends while the young people enjoyed themselves at vecherushki (‘parties’).[xix] Often, the young people would dress up and masquerade about the village, an ancient Russian folk custom.[xx]
The third and final day of the Christmas celebration (today, Boxing Day) was spent in much in the same manner – with merry visiting, singing and feasting throughout the village.
Doukhobor Christmas Commemoration in Canada
These Christmas traditions continued to be practiced, without change, through the 20th century to the present day by the Doukhobors of Gorelovka, Georgia and surrounding villages. However, among the Doukhobor followers of Peter Vasil’evich Verigin, several significant changes were made to the Christmas celebration after 1887.
First, in November 1894, those Doukhobors stopped eating meat in accordance with the teachings of Verigin, then in exile in the Russian Far North, brought back by his messengers to his followers in the Caucasus.[xxi] Thereafter, no meat (including fish) was consumed as part of the Christmas feasting.
Second, following their migration to Canada in 1899, the Doukhobors initially continued to celebrate Christmas as they had in Russia, over a three-day period according to the Julian (Old) Calendar. In January 1901, the Swan River Star reported, “The Doukhobors appear to know how to celebrate Christmas. Their feast lasted three days and commenced on Jan. 6. They still use the old style of counting time.”[xxii] However, by 1903, the Winnipeg Free Press reported that “they have disregarded the Russian and adopted the Canadian calendar and are beginning to observe Canadian holidays and festivals.”[xxiii] Thereafter, the Doukhobors celebrated Christmas twelve days earlier in accordance with the Gregorian (Old) calendar, on December 24-26.
Third, at an all-village congress of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood held in Nadezhda village, Saskatchewan in December 1908, Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin, in an effort to modernize and simplify their worship, discarded many of the traditional rituals, psalms and feasts observed by the Doukhobors.[xxiv] Thereafter, Christmas continued to be observed within the Community, however, the celebration was paired down from three days to a day and a half, with worship services still held on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, but with the feasting and revelry reduced to a more modest scale befitting that of Christ’s followers.[xxv] Some of these changes were also adopted by Independent Doukhobors who left Verigin’s Community, to greater or lesser degrees.
In the years that followed, new psalms and hymns were added to the existing repertoire of those traditionally sung during Doukhobor Christmas moleniye [xxvi] while the foodstuffs enjoyed at their Christmas feast varied according to local availability and economic conditions.[xxvii] However, the essence of the traditional Doukhobor Christmas celebration, as it evolved in the late 19th and early 20th centuries continued to be observed by many Canadian Doukhobors well into the 1950s, and indeed, to the present.
Although there was none of the ubiquitous commercialism associated with Christmas today, including notions of gift-giving, Santa Clause, Christmas trees and outdoor light displays, Christmas as traditionally understood and celebrated by Doukhobors was and is a most meaningful and anticipated event.
A previous version of this article was originally published in:
To experience and participate in a traditional Doukhobor Christmas prayer meeting, contact your nearest Doukhobor society or organization to find in-person dates and times or whether online streaming of services are available.
Traditional Doukhobor Kut’ya Recipe
To prepare traditional Doukhobor Kut’ya like that mentioned above, see the following Doukhobor Kut’ya Recipe. This recipe was adapted from that shared by Doukhobor Vasily Stroyev and family, formerly of Troitskoye village, Bogdanovsky region, Georgia, now residing in Markevichevo village, Shiryaevsky district, Odessa region, Ukraine.
[i] In Imperial Russia, receiving the Orthodox sacraments and attending church on Sundays and feast days was compulsory by law: see for example, M. Raeff, Imperial Russia, 1682-1825 (Michigan, University of Michigan, 1971); D. Longley, Longman Companion to Imperial Russia, 1689-1917 (New York: Pearson Education Limited, 2000).
[ii] Regarding the Doukhobor belief in Jesus, born a man, see: Bonch-Breuvich, Vladimir Dmitr’evich, Zhivotnaya Kniga Dukhobortsev (St. Petersburg: V.M. Volf, Sib. Nevskiy Pr., 1909), Psalms 1 (Q/A 3), 7 (Q/A 10), 12 (Q/A 6 and 8, 64, 71, 73, 85, 88, 94 and 375.
[iii] Regarding the Doukhobor understanding of Jesus as a keeper of God’s Law, see: Zhivotnaya Kniga, ibid, Psalms 2 (Q/A 14, 15 and 16), 4 (Q/A 7), 5 (Q/A 17), 7 (Q/A 11 and 12), 8 (Q/A 24, 25, and 26), 9 (Q/A 24), 47 (Q/A 1) 59 (Q/A 4), 185, 373 and 374.
[xxiv]Minutes of Community meeting, 1908 December 15, Nadezhda village. (SFU Item No. MSC121-DB-025-002); Letter from Peter Vasil’evich Verigin to Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy dated February 2, 1909 in Gromova-Opulskaya, Lidia, Andrew Donskov, and John Woodsworth, eds. Leo Tolstoy–Peter Verigin Correspondence (Ottawa, Legas: 1995) at 87-88; Letter from Ivan Evseyevich Konkin to Vladimir Dmitr’evich Bonch-Breuvich dated February 12, 1909 in Zhivotnaya Kniga, supra, note ii.
[xxv] Wendy Voykin (Castlegar, BC), correspondence with the writer, December 18, 2020.
[xxvi] For example, some of the Doukhobor psalms and hymn traditionally sung at Christmas moleniye in Brilliant, British Columbia include: Psalms: Chistaya Deva Mariya; Rechyot Khristos Uchenikam Svoim; Vysoko Zvezda Voskhodila. Hymns: Kto v ubogikh yaslyakh spit; Nyne vse vernye v mire likuyut; Dnes’ my likuem v kupe vospevaem; Vot Spasitel’ s nebes k nam soshyol; Vnov’ Khristos narodilsya; Vspomnim te slova Khrista; Tikhaya noch’, divnaya noch’; Khristos v Tebe dusha nashla ( New Year’s to the tune of Auld Lang Syne). Very special thanks to Mike and Mary Kanigan of Ootischenia, BC for sharing this list with the writer, via Wendy Voykin.
[xxvii] For instance, it is doubtful whether the Doukhobors had the luxury of enjoying all the foodstuffs mentioned for their Christmas feast during the hardships of their early settlement in Saskatchewan after 1899 and in British Columbia after 1908.
During the First World War (1914-1919), the overwhelming majority of Doukhobors in Canada opposed the conflict, based on strongly-held pacifist tenets. Relying upon the exemption from military service granted to them under Order-in-Council No. 1898-2747 by the Dominion government upon their arrival in Canada, they not only refused enlistment and conscription, but actively resisted any direct, partisan support for the war effort.
Notwithstanding their staunch anti-war position, many Doukhobors felt great compassion for those suffering from the conflict. This prompted them to seek opportunities to provide humanitarian aid in ways that did not run counter to their pacifist principles. One most notable example was their donations of jam.
Since 1911, the Doukhobor Society had been communally producing hundreds of tons of the famous ‘K.C. Brand’ of jams, jellies and preserved fruit each year at its jam factory and canning facilities in Nelson and later Brilliant, BC under its business enterprise, the ‘Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works.’ And when the Nelson Daily News reported in late 1916 that soldiers were asking for jam, this stirred the Society into action.
On Sunday, December 10, 1916, a mass meeting of members of the Doukhobor Society was held at Brilliant, where their leader Peter V. Verigin told them of the sufferings of the men at the front, and of the recent losses at the Somme and on the Ancre. The reaction of those gathered was one of shock and compassion.
Living apart from the world, and being mainly illiterate, the rank-and-file members of the Society had been largely unaware of the monumental scale of human devastation occurring on the European continent, and when told this, the Doukhobor women wept. Once informed, however, they set to act.
The women at the meeting resolved to gift a railcar load of jam, made by fruit grown by them in their own orchards and gardens, and manufactured at their jam factory in Brilliant, to the convalescent and sick soldiers in hospitals across Western Canada, their wives and children.
Jam was rationed within the Society, and those at the meeting realized that in sending the carload to the soldiers, they would have to go without it themselves. Nonetheless, they were willing to do so as an expression of their sympathy and desire to help those who were suffering.
The carload comprised 5,000 five-pound tins totaling 24,000 pounds (12 tons) of jam from the last season’s pack. It was valued at $5,000.00 at the time and was composed chiefly of strawberry jam, the Doukhobors understanding “that the soldiers like strawberry better than plum and apple and jams of that kind.”
The gift was formally conveyed by the Doukhobor women to British Columbia Premier Harlan C. Brewster in Victoria on December 15, 1916 via William Blakemore, newspaper editor of The Week and former commissioner of the 1912 Royal Commission on Doukhobors. It was expressed on behalf of the women that, “You know we do not believe in fighting; we are anxious to see the war end, but we will do what we can to assist those who are suffering through the war.”
Premier Brewster publicly conveyed the thanks of the province and the soldiers “to the women whose kindness of heart ha(d) prompted this generous gift”. He also arranged through government and private channels for the distribution of the jam in “in such manner that the wishes of the donors for its full usefulness shall be fulfilled.”
The jam consignment had originally been given to the Province of British Columbia; however, by mid-January 1917, provincial authorities in charge of the distribution found that the “quantity was so large that it would be well to share it with outside institutions.” The Doukhobors readily consented to the other provinces sharing in the gift. Premier Brewster subsequently notified the Doukhobors through William Blakemore that “Communication has been made with representatives of the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta with the result that the offer has been gratefully accepted.”
Accordingly, 14,000 pounds of the consignment was kept in BC, and was turned over to Major J.S. Harvey, commandant of the Military Convalescent hospital at Esquimalt, for use in the convalescent hospitals and homes in that province. The remaining 10,000 pounds was distributed through the Mewburn wholesale supply house as follows: 2,000 pounds to the St. Chad’s Military Convalescent Hospital in Regina, SK; 2,000 pounds to the Returned Solders’ Association in each of Calgary and Edmonton, AB; and 4,000 pounds to the Returned Solders’ Association in Winnipeg, MB.
In addition to being distributed through military hospitals to convalescing soldiers, a free jam gift was made through local women’s patriotic clubs and veterans’ committees to every soldier’s household in those cities.
The donation elicited many public expressions of appreciation of the kindness and thoughtfulness of the Doukhobors. For instance, Miss Violet M. Ryley, the General Organizing Dietician for Military Hospitals in Canada wrote, “Jam is the most universally popular delicacy on the soldier’s menu, whether he is sick or well, and no gift could be more welcome.”
It was also widely applauded across the Canadian press, with the Vancouver Province calling it a “magnificent gift”, while the Edmonton Journal wrote, “the Doukhobors have conscientious scruples against fighting. But they are at any rate helping to win the war with good honest jam.”
The outpouring of public appreciation for the jam donation came at a time when Doukhobors across Western Canada encountered widespread discrimination and censure because of their refusal to actively participate in the war effort. These sentiments can be seen in the backhanded reporting by some newspapers such as the Edmonton Journal, which wrote that “their donation of fruit jams to convalescent soldiers… went a long way to atone for their pacifist attitude”.
Inspired by the overall response, the Doukhobor Society redoubled its assistance. One month later, in January of 1917, Peter V. Verigin declared that the Society would make a donation of two more carloads (48,000 pounds or 24 tons) of Doukhobor jam worth $10,000.00; this time for shipment overseas to the soldiers at the front.
Yet again, in January of 1918, the Doukhobor Society (now incorporated as the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood) donated another carload (20,000 pounds or 10 tons) of jam worth $5,000.00 from its jam factory in Brilliant to the Canadian Military Hospitals Commission for distribution to convalescing soldiers in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
This latest (and what would be the last) consignment comprised 7,500 pounds of strawberry jam, 7,500 pounds of raspberry jam, and 5,000 pounds of various other kinds, including peach and plum. The Community members, in making their gift, reiterated “their abhorrence of war and that it is against the tenets of their faith to go into battle” but that they were quite prepared to assist those who suffered as a result of it.
The public response was once again overwhelmingly positive, with the Regina Leader-Post writing, for example, that the “universally popular” jam consignment gifted by the Doukhobors “is recommended as being just like mother used to make.”
In total, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood gifted 92,000 pounds (46 tons) of jam worth $20,000.00 ($375,000.00 in today’s dollars) to convalescing soldiers and their dependent families across Western Canada between 1916 and 1918. This was by no means the only humanitarian aid provided by Doukhobors in the First World War; however, it was undoubtedly the most popular and well-known example.
In making these donations, the Doukhobors navigated between two of their fundamental religious values: demonstrating compassion and brotherly love for those in distress because of war, while fulfilling the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”
An earlier version of this article was originally published in:
Ibid;Victoria Daily Times, December 15, 1916; Grand Forks Sun, December 22, 1916; Kelowna Record, December 28, 1916; Vernon News, December 28, 1916; The Montreal Star, January 3, 1917; Greenwood Ledge, January 4, 1917; Similkameen Star, January 5, 1917; Creston Review, January 5, 1917; The Montreal Gazette, January 11, 1917; Brantford Daily Expositor, January 27, 1917; Macleod News, February 1, 1917; Munson Mail, February 17, 1917; Courtney Review, February 22, 1917; Hedley Gazette, March 15, 1917.
Edmonton Journal, February 22 and December 31, 1917.
The Leader Post, January 3, 1918; Montreal Daily Star, January 5, 1918; Brantford Daily Expositor, January 7, 1918; Calgary News Telegram, January 7, 1918; Kingston Whig-Standard, January 8, 1918; Edmonton Bulletin, January 17, 1918; Calgary Herald, February 2 and 4, 1918; Macleod News, February 7, 1918; Alderson News, February 7, 1918; Irma Times, February 7, 1918; Bow Island Review, February 8, 1918; Kamloops Telegram, February 14, 1918; Munson Mail, February 14, 1918; Bassano Mail, February 14, 1918; Claresholm Review-Advertiser, February 15, 1918; Drumheller Review, February 22, 1918; The Ledge, March 14, 1918; Lethbridge Telegram, April 2, 1918.
Between 1908 and 1912, about 8,000 Doukhobors migrated to British Columbia from Saskatchewan to maintain their communal lifestyle. But for several years prior, small groups of Doukhobors had been travelling to BC to seek employment — and coincidentally or not, to the very region where their brethren would one day move en masse.
During their early period of settlement on the Canadian Prairies, able-bodied Doukhobor men left their villages in Saskatchewan each spring to find work as farm labourers and railway navvies to earn much-needed money for the community, as most settlers were almost destitute.
Most journeyed by foot and obtained employment within a 100 to 150-mile radius of their villages. Less frequently, some small groups and individuals travelled even further afoot. For instance, 200 travelled to California to work on the Southern Pacific Railroad Coast line in 1900, and in 1901, a smaller group worked on the Ontario & Rainy River Railway line between Baudette, Minnesota and Fort Frances, Ontario. That same year, dozens made their way across the border to Pembina, North Dakota to assist with the fall harvest.
The first sign of a Doukhobor presence in BC was in the Midway Advance of May 7, 1900: “Mr. A.J. Flett has returned safely from Grand Forks where he has been gathering information about a party of Doukhobors that are said to have arrived in that district.”
There was considerable industrial activity in and around Grand Forks in 1900 and the Doukhobors may have been hired as labourers at the newly-operational Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting and Power Co. smelter, the 10-stamp mill construction for the Yankee Girl and Yankee Boy mines on Hardy Mountain, at the Franklin Camp mine, the Charles Simpson or Ed Spraggett sawmills on the North Fork of the Kettle River, or building the CPR Eholt-to-Phoenix extension.
But no other references to this group can be found (the Grand Forks newspapers for this period are missing), so it’s hard to know whether they were seasonal labourers or just passing through. Flett’s role, if anything more than just curious onlooker, is unclear; his name otherwise only showed up in local newspapers in relation to mining claims. Was he sizing up the Doukhobors as potential workers for those claims?
We know slightly more about the next group of Doukhobors in BC. In October 1901, 16 Doukhobor men in Calgary had a chance encounter with former Rossland police chief John Ingram, who had been recruited to find replacement workers for the Le Roi mine during a miners’ strike.
These men were likely the same Doukhobors employed as track maintenance on the CPR Calgary division who took part in a nationwide strike from June to late August 1901 and who would not have knowingly taken jobs as replacement workers out of solidarity with the striking miners.
According to the Nelson Tribune, “Ingram positively assured them that the labour troubles [in Rossland] were all settled; that 300 union men had returned to work and that 150 union men had applied to the Le Roi company for work but the company did not want them.” However, he apparently misrepresented the situation.
The 16 Doukhobors were among 67 men who left Calgary with Ingram. When they arrived at West Robson to switch trains for Rossland, they discovered the true state of affairs and 10 of them refused to continue. Another 23 men reached the boarding house of the War Eagle mine in Rossland — including the Doukhobors, who spoke little or no English. The cooks and waiters there refused to serve them and they were finally sent off to a cabin to do their own cooking. A union miner visited the party and left some literature explaining the dispute.
Few if any Doukhobor recruits would have had mining experience; the Evening World suggested it would take about two years for them to learn to be muckers, which seems to have been a thinly-veiled insult, as mucking involved shoveling broken rock into tram cars.
The rival Rossland Miner didn’t identify the men as Doukhobors, but it would not have been in their interest to do so as a pro-management paper.
Instead the Miner described them as “as fine a looking party of Canadians as ever came into the Golden City … The men who came into the city last night were a lot of sturdy Canadians who value free speech and action above the fetich of agitation. They will be first-class mine workers in a comparatively short period.”
However, there were no further mentions of the Doukhobor workers after that. They probably departed once they understood the dispute they were in the middle of.
A third early foray into BC by Doukhobors was reported in The Chronicles of Camille, a memoir by longtime Trail merchant Camille Lauriente, published in 1953.
Lauriente recalled working as a CPR section foreman at Murphy Creek, just north of Trail, in July or August 1902. A roadmaster assigned four Doukhobors to work with him, none of whom had any railway experience. (Therefore they probably weren’t the same men who arrived in Rossland from Calgary the previous year.)
One man was fired after Lauriente accused him of laziness; he then went to work at the Trail smelter. The other three were also fired once Lauriente found more experienced track men.
Another early mention of Doukhobors in BC was in the Grand Forks Sun of April 12, 1904: “Messrs. Harry Itter, Geo. H. Hull, Lee and Lawson went down to Cascade last Sunday to take snap shots of the Doukhobor colony at that place.” (None of those photos are known to survive.)
The report is so brief and casual that it seems to assume readers were familiar with the subject. Yet no other mention of Doukhobors in the area appeared in the Grand Forks Sun or Grand Forks Gazette that month.
The word “colony” is probably a misnomer, as it was very doubtful to have been a permanent settlement and more likely an encampment of seasonal labourers. But if this report is accurate, what were they doing at Cascade? Working at one of the mines or sawmills in the area? At the Cascade Water Power & Light dam on the Kettle River? Or for the CPR as railway labourers? And were these the same Doukhobors that A.J. Flett went to see at Grand Forks three years earlier?
Furthermore, was it just coincidence that in each case the men came to the region that would later be home to thousands of Doukhobors? Or did these early sojourns plant some small seed for that subsequent migration? Did any Doukhobors who came to BC prior to 1908 later return permanently?
We’ll probably never know the answers with any certainty. Unfortunately, we don’t know the names of any of the individuals either; no Doukhobors have been discovered in BC on the 1901 census.
With thanks to Ron Verzuh, who found the story of Doukhobors hired to work in the Rossland mines.
Recently, Judy Brown of Calgary made an interesting discovery while exploring the Vancouver Public Library’s digitized collection of BC civic directories. While looking for something unrelated, she ended up studying the listings for Procter, where she grew up. The 1918 and 1919 editions of Wrigley’s BC Directory, she discovered, included the curious entry: “Doukhobor Colony bee-keeping.” 
The entry is intriguing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is there is no memory of a Doukhobor colony at that place.
The entry does not identify who the Doukhobors were. No Doukhobor individuals or organization are specifically named. This stands in contrast with other West Kootenay towns listed in the same directories, where Doukhobors appear by corporate name (e.g. “Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood” in Brilliant or “Abrossimoff Bros & Co general store” at Thrums) or by personal name (e.g. “Arakoff, Sam, logging foreman, Salmon Valley Lumber & Pole Co” at Porto Rico or “Samarodin, Nick, planerman, Slocan Valley Lumber & Pole Co” at Koch Siding).
Also, the term “colony” is deceptively non-specific. Most Doukhobor colonies in the West Kootenay numbered from 250 to 2,500 persons. However, the term did not necessarily entail any sort of large-scale presence. As newspapers of the period demonstrate, English-speaking locals seemed to use the term any time two or more families of “foreigners” settled in their midst, especially when they were unfamiliar with their language and customs.
Moreover, it is not clear where the colony was actually located. While the entry appears in the directories under “Procter,” the listings extend well beyond the town itself to the surrounding Procter postal district and include rural farms and ranches as well as the settlement of Sunshine Bay but not Harrop, which was listed separately.
As well, the colony appears to have been short-lived. It is only listed in the civic directories in 1918 and 1919. By 1921, there were no Doukhobors enumerated in the Canada census listings for Procter, Sunshine Bay, Harrop or surrounding West Arm settlements.
Finally, while the colony evidently engaged in beekeeping it is not obvious why it did so at Procter, some 30 miles (48 km) east of the main Doukhobor settlements located along the mid to lower reaches of the Slocan and Kootenay River valleys. There is no record of Doukhobors owning land there at the time.
So who were the Doukhobor colonists at Procter?
Community Doukhobors on the West Arm
In April 1911, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) purchased the former Kootenay Jam Company factory in Nelson and renamed it the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works.  As the factory was capable of processing a substantially larger quantity of produce than the CCUB could initially supply, it purchased fruit and berries from other fruit ranchers throughout the West Kootenay. 
Within days of its formation, the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works announced it was making contracts for fruit with the ranchers on the West Arm, which contained many mature, bearing orchards.  The contracts were typically three to five years long, with the Doukhobors often purchasing the fruit on the tree, putting their own pickers in the fields to gather them.
This was a welcome economic stimulus for West Arm fruit-growers, who were often unable to find a market for their excess produce at any price. Indeed, the guaranteed income from these contracts became a selling feature for many improved ranches on the West Arm subsequently placed for sale.  The Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works continued to contract fruit from ranchers throughout the surrounding district through 1918-19.
The supply of Doukhobor communal pickers under these contracts was also a significant benefit to West Arm fruit-growers, who often confronted labour shortages at the height of the picking season.  Many growers, impressed with the Doukhobors’ strong work ethic and industry, began hiring them to tend their orchards and market gardens throughout the growing season. By 1912-1913, numerous Doukhobors worked outside their villages on fruit ranches throughout the surrounding district. 
Typically, an entire Doukhobor family, and sometimes several, were hired by a fruit-grower in March or early April to live and work on his ranch for the season. They were often provided a rough dwelling or outbuilding for quarters, although some slept in tents. There, they undertook general orchard management, including planting fruit tree saplings, small fruit and vegetables, as well as pruning, spraying, thinning, cultivating, weeding and watering the existing orchard.
They might also clear new land for orchard planting the next year. The entire family participated. By mid-July, they picked and packed fruit and by mid-September, harvested vegetables. By October, they returned to their communal village and turned in their earnings to the central treasury. This working out among the Angliki (English) became an important source of revenue for the CCUB.
By 1916, the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works, now relocated to Brilliant, was purchasing honey as well as fruit from ranchers on the West Arm and elsewhere throughout the district. In February 1918, the Creston Review reported that the Doukhobor enterprise had purchased the “entire output” of beekeepers from as far afield as Creston “at very attractive prices” for the past two years. 
It was not stated whether these purchases were intended for the Doukhobors’ own domestic use or for commercial processing and sale. However, considering there is no record of the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works having sold honey,  they likely supplemented the CCUB’s own domestic honey production
Piecing together the Procter colony
In light of the Doukhobor Community’s ongoing purchase of fruit, berries and honey and hiring out of orchard workers and pickers on the West Arm, a picture begins to emerge of the bee-keeping colony at Procter.
The “colony” was surely located on the ranch of an English Canadian fruit-grower at or near Procter; one who contracted his fruit to the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works in Brilliant. The contract was probably of three years’ duration, commencing in 1917 and ending in 1919. This would explain why the “colony” was already present when the Wrigley’s Directory was compiled in early 1918 but no longer appeared by the 1920 edition. 
The “colonists” were almost certainly two to three or more CCUB families; enough to constitute a colony in the eyes of locals. They would have been hired to manage the orchard throughout the growing season, then pick, pack and ship the fruit to the Doukhobor jam factory at Brilliant. They may have even wintered at the ranch.
As for why the Doukhobors were listed in the directory as a colony and not merely as fruit ranch employees, it was undoubtedly because they also engaged in their own beekeeping operation there. The Doukhobors had been avid beekeepers for generations and maintained sizeable apiaries throughout their Kootenay settlements, from the largest to the very smallest.  Most often this was not a main vocation but a sideline activity to their agricultural operations.
As the Doukhobors well knew, beekeeping and orchard-keeping were highly complementary pursuits, since the fruit tree blossoms provided bees with nectar and pollen as a food source for the hive, while the production of fruit was highly dependent on pollination by bees. Moreover, the fruit-growing season from March through August closely coincided with the bee-foraging, honey production and honey harvest season.
Evidently, the CCUB families hired by the Procter-area rancher brought several beehives from their communal village along with them while they lived and worked at his orchard over several growing seasons. As a single Doukhobor family was capable of keeping 15 to 20 hives as a sideline,  the several colony families probably tended as many as 45 to 60 hives and possibly more. This would have made quite an impression upon local residents.
Ultimately, the bees benefited the rancher and neighbours by promoting greater fruit production (and thus profits) through fruit sales to the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works. For their part, the Doukhobor families gained sizeable honey cash crops of their own while also earning wages for managing the orchard. This helped offset the CCUB’s then-current honey production deficit,  reducing the volume of honey it needed to privately purchase for its members.
What is more, the identity of one of the colony families was revealed in a 1952 memoir by former CCUB secretary-treasurer Simeon F. Reibin as well as a very unfortunate circumstance that made local headlines.
As Reibin described it, Alesh (Alex) Stoochnoff (or Stoshnoff) was an old man who lived with his wife and two sons and worked an orchard at Harrop, near Sunshine Bay. Although “very industrious” and “honest,” his character was “dismally peculiar.” Hot-tempered and unable to get along with others, he was exiled with his family from the CCUB settlement at Shoreacres by leader Peter V. Verigin. 
Stoochnoff’s sons won Verigin’s approval for their hard work and expertise in tree pruning. Both, however, died prematurely, one from natural causes and the other after falling down a rocky hillside while working at Sunshine Bay.  Alex and his “very kind hearted wife” Mavra were left “lonesome and discouraged.” 
There was even more grief to endure. Although Reibin did not mention it, the Stoochnoffs also had a daughter, Malicia.  In August 1918, the Nelson Daily News reported that Malicia, a “Sunshine Bay Doukhobor,” appeared in provincial police court after neighbours laid an information alleging she “took fits and threw rocks and rushed about,” “attacked” them, and tried “to commit suicide by drowning.” 
She was clearly suffering from mental illness, which at the time carried a great deal of fear and stigma. Sadly, the judge found her “insane and dangerous to be at large” and committed her to the New Westminster asylum “for medical examination.” 
At the time of her committal in 1918, Malicia was reported as “living at” Sunshine Bay and had dwelt there long enough to be deemed a “resident” of that place.  Malicia languished in the asylum for three years, dying there in November 1921 at age 36.  By that time, her family was back living at Shoreacres, having been removed from their Kootenay Lake orchard after a further falling out with Verigin. 
That the Stoochnoffs were members of the “Doukhobor colony” listed in the 1918 and 1919 Procter directories, there can be little doubt. Their tenure at Sunshine Bay, from sometime prior to August 1918 until sometime prior to June 1921 corresponds to the same period the colony was known to exist. Moreover, Sunshine Bay and its residents were listed under Procter in the directory. Finally, they are the only newspaper references to Doukhobors in the Procter district during this period.
Furthermore, a careful study of Malicia’s complainants enables us to pinpoint where the Stoshnoffs were living, and by extension, where the Doukhobor colony was located, in 1918.
The 1918 information laid against Malicia was lodged by Sunshine Bay rancher Robert S. Francis.  His allegations were corroborated in provincial police court by the witness testimony of ranchers Oscar B. Appleton and Percival Coles, also of Sunshine Bay.  All three men appear in the same directory as the Doukhobor colony under Procter in 1918 and 1919.  And as it turns out, they all lived a stone’s throw away from each other.
According to Kootenay Outlet Reflections, the Francis, Appleton and Coles ranches were all situated along Ferguson Road and its intersection with Harrop-Procter Road at the west end of Sunshine Bay.  As all three men — and only these three — witnessed episodes of Malicia’s erratic behavior, it is safe to presume that the Stoochnoffs resided in the immediate vicinity within eyeshot of the ranchmen.
It follows that the location of the Doukhobor colony recorded in the 1918 and 1919 directory can be reasonably narrowed down to an area of about a quarter-mile (500 m) radius around the intersection of Ferguson and Harrop-Procter Roads at Sunshine Bay. Based on these deductions, we may even hazard to guess the identity of the fruit rancher who hosted the Doukhobor colony.
In comparing the 1918 and 1919 Wrigley’s Directory listings for Procter with the Kootenay Outlet Reflections map and legend of early Sunshine Bay ranches, it turns out that the only other ranches in the vicinity at the time were those of Fred Rucks and Joseph Dosenberger, both located on Harrop-Procter Road, immediately east of the Appletons. Either of their ranches could very well be where the Doukhobor colony once stood, although we will likely never know for sure.
In any event, while the “colony” ceased to exist after 1919, it did not spell the end of the Doukhobor presence at Sunshine Bay, Procter and surrounding district.
CCUB member families continued to seasonally work and live on area ranches, picking fruit, managing orchards and growing market gardens through the 1920s and ’30s. For instance, between 1932 and 1939, the Muirhead family of Procter usually hired “four girls from a Doukhobor settlement … They lived in a cabin built for them. They did their own cooking and looked after themselves.” 
And by this period, CCUB members were not the only Doukhobors in the area.
Independent Doukhobors at Sunshine Bay & Procter
As early as 1910, Independent Doukhobors settled at Thrums and Tarrys, where they farmed and worked as sawmill labourers and ranch hands. By 1921, census listings and civic directories indicate they had spread out to many small towns and camps in the Trail, Castlegar, Nelson and Grand Forks districts.
By 1922-23, other Independent Doukhobor families settled at Harrop, Procter, and Sunshine Bay to farm or to work in logging and on the railway. Many were already familiar with the area and its opportunities, having worked there as fruit pickers while members of the CCUB. Their presence remained in the area at least into the early 1970s.
In the early 1920s, John and Anna Shlakoff moved to Sunshine Bay from Ootischenia and rented a converted chicken coop on Len Appleton’s property.  With them came daughter Polly, son Eli, daughter-in-law Florence, and grandchildren Nellie, Mary, and John. Another grandchild, Florence, was born in 1924. Soon after, the family leased a house in Harrop. They moved to Ymir four years later. 
In 1923, Sam and Helen Podmeroff arrived in Procter from Castlegar and settled on the Johnson property. Helen was likely related to the Shlakoffs who were already in the area, as that was her maiden name. The Podmeroffs later moved to Harrop and then to Sunshine Bay, where they built a log home in 1932 and raised four children (including Eli, who was born at Procter).
Sam worked as an engineer aboard the tugboat Valhalla. His son, Sam Jr., followed his footsteps into the CPR lake service and became a deckhand, then mate, and finally captain of the SS Moyie on Kootenay Lake. He later worked on several other BC lakes. The Podmeroffs also raised a grandson, Serge Plotnikoff, who became well known as a musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer in the Kootenays. In 1971, the Podmeroffs moved to Pitt Meadows. 
Peter and Marfa Repin (or Rapin) moved to Sunshine Bay from Brilliant in 1924 with daughters Mary, Daria, and Ahafia to work on farms picking fruit and digging potatoes. Peter and Marfa later relocated to Winlaw, but daughter Mary stayed in Procter with husband Harry Stoochnoff, who worked for the CPR. 
The 1925 civic directory for Procter listed a gardener named S. Zarikoff, who may have been the same man as John S. Zarikoff, who married Lucy W. Rilkoff at Procter in 1932. They later moved to Blewett. 
In 1934, Alex and Vera Voykin and their children Annie and Alex Jr. moved to the Clift-Donaldson farm about halfway between Procter and Sunshine Bay. Another daughter, Helen, was born there in 1937, delivered by an army doctor who lived next door. In addition to working on the farm, Alex was a night watchman for the CPR. The family moved to Procter around 1940 and built a house there. A final child, Grace, was born in 1943. The Voykins moved to Nelson in 1948. 
Peter and Annie Gretchen came to Procter in the 1930s, where Peter worked as a logger and railway section hand. They lived there until their deaths in the late 1960s. 
Peter Gretchen’s sister Molly and her husband Bill Malahoff later moved to the area as well. Bill was a section foreman for the CPR at Tye, on the south arm of Kootenay Lake. Their son Walt boarded with the Gretchens while attending school in Procter in 1936. He would take the train from Tye to Procter on Monday mornings and return on Fridays around midnight. In the late 1930s, Bill and Molly bought the Heighton dairy farm at Procter. Walt and his brother Mike helped out there during the summer, but found jobs away from home during the winter. In 1952, Bill and Molly traded their farm for a home in Kamloops. 
Another Malahoff brother, Steve, bought the Procter general store and post office with his wife Tillie and ran it for a few years before moving to Rossland.  Tillie served as acting postmaster from 1943-45. 
CPR employee Bill Laktin was transferred from South Slocan to Procter in 1953. He brought his wife Mary and their children Billy, Johnny, Sarah, Nadia, and Elizabeth. They initially lived at Sunshine Bay before moving to Procter. However, they left the area within two years. 
To sum up, from 1911 to 1938, the CCUB contracted with ranchers at Sunshine Bay, Procter and elsewhere on the West Arm for the supply of fruit for its jam factory, often supplying Doukhobor pickers and also hiring out Doukhobor families to manage their orchards and market gardens throughout the growing season. The presence of these workers was significant enough in 1918-19 to be listed as a “Doukhobor colony.”
From at least 1922-23 on, they were joined by Independent Doukhobors who settled permanently in the area as farmers, loggers and railwaymen through to the 1970s. They made an important, albeit somewhat unchronicled, contribution to the growth and development of the area.
 From February to May 1918, Wrigley Directories Limited compiled a new directory for BC, printing it in June: British Columbia Record, Feb. 25, 1918; Nanaimo Daily News, May 9, 1918; Vancouver Daily World, June 11, 1918.
 For instance, at Brilliant, the CCUB maintained an apiary of no less than 60 beehives in 1919: William M. Rozinkin, Brilliant History, Fading in to Obscurity: https://tinyurl.com/9dwm7d9j. Even single-family outposts, such as the CCUB stopping house at Nelson had an apiary of 16 hives in 1921: Greg Nesteroff, Little known Nelson-heritage buildings: 120 Vernon St: https://tinyurl.com/54k47bym.
Wrigley Henderson Amalgamated British Columbia Directory 1925, p. 292: https://tinyurl.com/3typf3mj; John S. Zarikoff and Lucy W. Rilkoff marriage registration, BC Archives Reg. No. 1932-09-900969; John Zarikoff death registration, BC Archives Reg. No. 1981-09002800: https://tinyurl.com/cufcyxu3.
Supra, note 26, p. 266-67, based on information provided by Grace Voykin Kolle.
Supra, note 26, p. 233-34, based on information provided by Walt Malahoff. Curiously, of all the families enumerated in this book, the Malahoff entry is the only one that actually uses the word “Doukhobor.”
Katherine Louise Smith was a prominent Minneapolis, Minnesota-based journalist, author, women’s rights advocate and suffragette active between 1897 and 1932. Based on published newspaper accounts and from her own visit to Saskatchewan in 1906, Smith wrote from an outsider’s perspective about the Doukhobors’ remarkable progress under the guidance of Peter Vasil’evich Verigin. She observed how, in the space of a few brief years, the charismatic leader transformed the Doukhobors from restlessness to resolve, fanaticism to reconciliation, tradition to progressivism, poverty to prosperity, and from disorganization to the largest experiment in pure communism ever attempted. At the same time, she presaged the difficulties they would face in remaining a people ‘set apart’, and how the disparity between their faith and the laws and customs of their new land would lead to discord with the state. Text and illustrations reproduced from ‘The Craftsman’ (Vol. XII, No. 1, April 1907 at 64-79). After Word by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
The Doukhobors in Canada, or Universal Community of Christian Brotherhood – as their leader, Peter Verigin, while still in Siberia, suggested that they be called — have now forty-four separate villages, with one to two hundred people in a village, and represent a prosperous form of community life. When they came to America they had nothing. Today, they have land, horses, food laid up for emergencies, twenty threshing outfits, six flour mills and five lumber mills. They also have a blacksmith and carpenter shop in every village, and run a large brick yard. Fifteen steam plows break up the land quickly. The possession of these labor-saving devices is said by those who know Peter Verigin, to be an example of his adroitness. One of the tenets of the Doukhobors is to care for animals, and when they suggested it was wrong to work horses in this way, their leader instantly improved the opportunity by advising the use of steam plows. These people are natural tillers of the soil. They like village life, have been for centuries accustomed to agricultural pursuits, and are indefatigable workers. Their only holidays are the Sabbath and Christmas. Easter Day is not observed, “for Christ is ever resurrected in every man’s heart.”
The growth of the Canadian Doukhobors is amazing to anyone who has known their history from the start. Five years ago six thousand of these people came to this country with nothing but strong hearts and willing hands. They were poor, not one in five hundred could speak English; they knew nothing of Canadian customs, and for two centuries had been oppressed; their property had been repeatedly confiscated, their women ill-treated and their leaders condemned to Siberian mines. Today they are one of the most interesting communities existing in the world. They do business on modern and approved methods, they issue financial statements, have cooperative stores, buy necessities at wholesale, and are rapidly taking advantage of those usages and customs of civilization which do not conflict with their religious belief.
Without doubt this change of attitude is largely due to Verigin, who is a veritable captain of industry, well calculated to be a leader, and tactful in persuading his people to adopt new labor saving devices and progressive measures. No one can see Verigin without being impressed by the man’s capabilities and the conviction that he is a remarkable character. He is an active manager, a worker as well as director, and though it is impossible outside the sect to discover his tribal or hereditary right to lead, or to understand their belief in his divine origin — which many of his followers affirm — everyone who sees Verigin is convinced of his power and his influence among the Doukhobors.
Whatever his life may have been in youth, or however he obtained his present position as head of this sect, today he is physically and mentally well-equipped to be a leader of men. He is fully six feet in height, broad shouldered, deep chested, well built. He has a swarthy complexion, a strong but kind face, wears a moustache and his hair is growing thin. His personal appearance is pleasing, but it is his mentality and ability to guide the ignorant Doukhobors that arouses admiration. He came to Canada when they were in the midst of confusion, with their new life hardly started, their settlements scarcely formed, and disintegration imminent. With triumphant bugle call he rallied his army and led it to victory. Verigin reveals in his conversation a bright, keen, active mind, fully competent to deal with the problems of his people. Though he talks frankly, one is conscious that he speaks with discretion, and keeps in reserve what he may think it unwise to impart. He is well-read, masterful without being arrogant, and, most important of all, tactful. After meeting him one does not wonder at his power and influence, nor at its lasting through the years that he was in captivity.
In fact, many of the Doukhobor doctrines are the result of the influence of this young man, who managed to keep in touch with his people while in Siberia. Possessing some education when he was banished, he met followers of Tolstoi early in his prison life, and from them, from reading the philosopher’s works, and from direct communication with the Russian sage, he became imbued with Tolstoi’s ideas and the doctrine of non-resistance. As a result he sent messages by Doukhobors who managed to keep in communication with him, and advised his followers not to carry arms, to give up meat, not to use intoxicants or tobacco, and to live a community life. As most of these precepts were in accord with the former teachings of the sect, his suggestions were readily accepted by his devoted people.
Verigin reached Canada, after his release from Siberia, at a critical time. It was just after “The Pilgrimage” when the Doukhobors had left home, stock, and all belongings behind and started toward Winnipeg. The results of this, to others, crazy movement are well known. The Canadian government was obliged to interfere, the mounted police saved the horses and cattle from starvation, and by persuasion and force the deluded people were sent back to their villages. At the time, they accounted for the hegira [exodus or migration] by saying they took the Bible literally, and “did not Christ say to take no thought for the morrow and that material things were of no account?” Whatever the cause of this peculiar psychic-religious mania, whether it was sincere, or, as some affirm, an effort to meet Verigin, who they had heard would reach them about that time, the fact remains that since the advent of their leader these Russian peasants have made only one similar attempt at a pilgrimage, and that was promptly stopped by Verigin.
On reaching Canada, Verigin organized the disrupted communities, put them on a paying basis, acting with promptness and decision. The Doukhobors, perhaps from long persecution, are a silent people and reluctant to tell how they are governed; but it is well known that Verigin has an immense power over them, that they expect to do as he suggests, and that they recognize that it is to their interest to follow his advice. There is no doubt but his task in Canada has been a hard one, and it is fortunate that he has approached it tactfully. Canadian lands are rich, well adapted to agriculture, and the Doukhobors own fine tracts. Since their leader has succeeded in centralizing their labor and holding the men together, their lands have become some of the most productive in the Northwest. That he is capable of handling the six thousand peasants, many of whom do not read or write, is shown by the fact that, in spite of the confusion and waste that greeted him on his arrival in the face of discouragements, such as neglected cattle and the destruction of food and clothing, in one year after assuming the helm he was able to present a report far from discouraging, and systematic in every detail.
When Verigin reached his fanatical countrymen, he persuaded them to choose capable men for a community council, to continue their self-government, and to select a certain number of men besides himself to be head of affairs. In this way he obtained the advice of those familiar with conditions, and was able to appoint a competent corps of assistants. Each man does his share toward the property getting, and even the children earn money by digging roots and herbs, and turn it into the exchequer. Verigin is custodian of the public trust, and by his practical methods, high ideals and understanding of his people’s peculiarities, has so far proven himself more than worthy. As there are so many Doukhobors, it is evident they can provide largely for themselves without outside help. They buy at wholesale, grind their own flour, and in every possible way conduct business so that financial returns will come back to them instead of to other parties. In this way, and with a committee attending to the community funds, they have developed the largest experiment in pure communism that has ever been attempted.
Nothing can be more convincing of the present success of this community life than a glance at one of the reports handed in at the general meeting. Two men and one woman delegate are always sent from each village, as well as the men who hold offices in the settlement. The meeting is opened with the Lord’s Prayer, and ends with the singing of psalms, but the business questions are discussed thoroughly, and all items of expenditure, from small incidentals up, are accounted for. The reports of these meetings, which are in quaint, archaic English, would make a modern bookkeeper wonder at their accuracy. For instance, at the last meeting, held in February, 1906, at the village of Nadeshda, the account shows that the Doukhobors purchased over six hundred thousand dollars’ worth of goods, but by buying at wholesale effected a saving of two hundred thousand dollars. The report then goes on to state that sauce pans that retailed for one dollar were obtained for sixty cents, twelve cent prints were bought for eight cents, etc. The cash account is interesting as showing a satisfactory statement, for the income of the community for the past year amounted to one hundred and ninety thousand dollars, and their expenditures to half a million. The sundries account shows modern up-to-date methods, and among other things, the repayment of a loan by the Bank of British North America, amounting to fifty thousand dollars.
The meeting ended with an appeal to the women present to tell the women in the villages, “to be imbued with the sentiment of high duties as mothers of manhood; to commence in future to ennoble man, as by nature itself women in character are much softer than men. They, men, in daily life are moving amid rougher surroundings, doing hard work, hauling timber, and suffering from winter cold, and there is no wonder that the character of men is much ruder than that of women. It is very desirable that when men will return from their outdoor work, women should give them solace and good comfort in their homes.” This, after the meaning of community life had been expressed as first, “spiritual fellowship and meekness between men, in which people are understanding great gentleness,” and second, “material profit.”
Truly an odd business meeting in the year of grace, 1906. And held by a body of people who only a few years ago conducted a “nudity parade,” and abandoned all they possessed in a fit of religious frenzy. Nothing shows more plainly the power Verigin has over them. The working day of the Doukhobors is from five in the morning until eight in the evening, but this is divided into three shifts of five hours each. One set of men and horses go to work at five, stopping at ten for five hours rest, while another shift continues the work. At three in the afternoon the first shift resumes work and continues until eight in the evening. This makes one shift do ten hours’ work, while the other does five hours, but the heavy and light shares are taken alternatively every other day.
Many Doukhobors are employed in building railroads, and the recent impetus in railroad construction throughout Canada has afforded favorable opportunities. Every summer they take large railroad contracts and the executive committee provides scrapers, wheelbarrows, shovels, and other equipment for the purpose. In working on railroads the men live in camps, and are accompanied by enough women to do the sewing and washing. The camps are pitched in a convenient spot and are well equipped with sleeping tents, store tents, kitchens, blacksmith shops and stables. All cooking is done by men in primitive brick ovens after the fire has been removed. Coke is largely used and is made by burning Balm of Gilead poles in holes dug in the ground.
As a matter of fact, the Doukhobor’s domestic methods are crude, but they serve the purpose as well as more modern appliances. Their method of community life makes work on the railroads comparatively easy. This was especially true when they first arrived in Canada. They were without means, and it was necessary that the men should leave their land and earn enough money to purchase the necessities of life. It was difficult for one man to go any distance and leave an unprotected family in an unsettled country. In a large community, a division could be made whereby a thousand men or so could be away on railroad construction and as large a number stay at home to work the land, put in the crops, and build houses. Those who were away earned money for communal supplies and eatables, and the work and profits were thus about equally divided.
The Doukhobors built their own mud or log houses, and the communal stables, of which there are one or more in each village for the horses, cattle, and hens. Early in their Canadian life, they were joined by the wives and children of two hundred men who had been exiled in Siberia. These were taken care of by the community until the men were liberated, when they at once came to Canada. If individualism had been practiced, it is difficult to say what might have become of these fugitives. So far, this religious sect has not made much advance in education. Verigin gives as a reason that “the first duty of the Doukhobors when they arrived was not to teach their children to read, but to get food for them.” Money has been offered them to assist in this work, and the Quakers of Pennsylvania, who have been attracted toward them by many similarities in their beliefs, have several times suggested sending teachers. Such proffers have been refused on the ground that, “It is against our principles to accept charity, and we do not wish to accept a sum for the purpose of building schools without seeing our way clear to repay it.” Quaker nurses have been among these people for some time, and recently Verigin has announced that he thought they were in a financial condition where it would be best to start buildings which could be used either for school or church, and to engage teachers.
Growing out of the religious tenet that they must not eat flesh, is the desire to care well for animals. The horses used in connection with railroad construction are kept in the best of condition. Their coats are glossy, and one man is constantly employed to chop and prepare their food. One of the topics discussed at a recent business meeting was the care of animals, and it was unanimously decided that as they did not kill animals for food, they should treat them as well as possible. Cows should have light, dry quarters; work horses should not draw heavy loads, and should not be taken out of the stables in winter if it was colder than thirteen degrees Fahrenheit.
Altogether, these Doukhobors are a strange people; a sect dating from the early part of the eighteenth century, and holding religious views which at one time set them in a frenzy, and at another tend to set them apart and to make them appear as the most Christ-like people in the world. It is difficult for an outsider to define their religious belief, for they are illiterate peasants, have no creed or writings, and their unwritten belief is handed down much like the Sagas. Orest Novitsky, who made a careful study of their religion, divides it into twelve essential tenets, the purport of which is that they are “led by the Spirit,” and “that the kingdom of God is within you.” It can be said that without priests they have a religion, with no police they have little crime, without lawyers they settle disputes, and without “frenzied financiers” they have thriven as regards this world’s goods.
As the Doukhobors wait until the spirit moves them before they speak in church, the service is usually long, and frequently lasts from four A. M. to eight A. M. The ceremony is very interesting to strangers, and consists largely of recitations given by the men, who are prompted by the women. Before they close, the men bow to the women, kiss each other, and then turn around and bow to the women again. Then the women do the same to each other and bow to the men.
It seems an interminable process, this round of kissing and bowing, but that they look upon a kiss as a bond of amity is shown by their kissing each other before meals instead of saying grace. The opinion of the old men in the community is much valued, and after church it is their custom to congregate to discuss affairs and to read aloud letters from relatives who are exiled in Siberia. The life of the Doukhobors is of the simplest. When they work on the railroad they have no “boss” or section man, and they work so incessantly that they resemble a hive of bees. They show great capacity for road building, bridge making, and handling large cuts and grades so that their railroad work is accurate and lasting. This, with the wonderful fertility of Canadian soil, has enabled them to pay off loans and to get a good start. Some of the sect are separated from the main colony and are living in Prince Albert district, but Verigin hopes to obtain land so that all the Doukhobors in Canada will be in one section.
One thing is obvious, and that is that they look to a leader, and according to whether that leader is capable or incapable, good or bad, they will flourish. They are fortunate in possessing a head who has so far been able to cope with the problems presented by these erratic people in a strange land. There are those who assert that the Doukhobors are clannish, that years of persecution have made them deceitful, and that they frequently do what they affirm they will not do. Whether this is so or not, it will be interesting to watch the changes that years in a new country will make. Verigin, during the time he spent in Siberia, where he was thrown in with men of liberal views and education, developed remarkably; yet it is apparent that many of his Tolstoi views have proved impracticable since he has taken the reins of the community. Again, he shows an inclination to like and accept modern ideas, many of which would conflict with the preconceived notions of his people; but it is an open question if he will allow any changes which will affect his position as leader, and whether he will not insist that they shall always be a people apart. In a recent interview he stated that though a Doukhobor might marry an outsider, he would, in doing so, be virtually giving up his religion, for, according to fundamental principles of the sect, a Doukhobor might not destroy life, and no true Doukhobor could live in a home where meat was cooked or tobacco used.
There is no question but that Verigin has a hard task before him, for in many ways the community religion does not conform to the law’s and customs of a country. Take, for instance, the question of marriage and divorce. There is almost no prostitution among them, yet they feel reluctant about registering marriages. When they first came to Canada, they objected to making entry for their homesteads, in accordance with Canadian laws, and protested against registering births and deaths. They are sincere, but ignorant. They have faced complex problems, and are liable to come in contact with others, from their peculiar views and attempt at community life.
Many of the facts and details of Katherine Louise Smith’s article were drawn from previously published newspaper accounts. For example, her inventory of the Doukhobors’ agricultural equipment and community assets, physical description of Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin, and treatment of Doukhobor schooling is taken from the Winnipeg Free Press, March 7, 1906. Her reference to the report of the Doukhobors’ general meeting and of Verigin as a “veritable captain of industry” is drawn from the VancouverDaily World, May 10, 1906. Her account of Verigin’s organization of the Doukhobors, their daily working house, and of their community being “the largest experiment in pure communism which has ever been attempted” is borrowed from the Winnipeg Free Press, May 25, 1904. And her description of Doukhobor railway construction camps is derived from the Winnipeg Free Press, June 30, 1906.
Similarly, at least several of the photographs accompanying Smith’s article can be reliably attributed to previously published sources. For instance, the photograph of Doukhobor women beating flax by hand is accredited by the British Columbia Archives to Canadian newspaper woman Agnes Deans Cameron, who wrote about Doukhobors during the same period. Similarly, the photographs of the Doukhobor haymakers at dinner, and of the Doukhobor women embroidering appeared in Aylmer Maude’s 1904 article, “An Experiment in Communism: The Doukhobor Commentary on Communism” in The World Today, A Monthly Record of Human Progress, Vol. 7, No. 6, November 1904.
At the same time, it can be confirmed that Smith’s article is based in part from her own personal observations of the Doukhobors, having visited their Saskatchewan settlements the previous year. In June 1906, Smith attended the Canadian Women’s Press Association convention in Winnipeg, MB. Thereafter, she made an extensive tour of the Canadian North-West via the Canadian Pacific Railway, stopping, among other places, at Yorkton, SK. She would go on to state in the Vancouver Daily News Advertiser (June 28, 1906) that “I was much impressed with those queer people the Doukhobors… where we spent a few hours.” At the time, Doukhobors were often described in the press as ‘queer’ in the sense of differing from what is usual or normal.
Katherine Louise Smith’s favorable treatment of the Doukhobor received wide readership in The Craftsman, one of the most popular and successful home journals in the United States and Canada at the time. It helped counter popular opinion about the Doukhobors, who were widely portrayed in the press at the time as a ‘crazed’ and ‘radical’ movement following the ‘Pilgrimages’ of November 1902, May 1903, July 1904, August 1905 and July 1906 by the early forerunners of the Sons of Freedom.
At the same time, Smith’s observation that the Doukhobors’ “community religion does not conform with the laws and customers of a country” presaged their conflict with the Canadian state. Indeed, only months after the publication of her article, 400,000 acres of Doukhobor homestead entries were cancelled in June 1907 as a result of their refusal to comply with the Dominion Lands Act.
In 1913, a 331-foot suspension bridge was built across the Kootenay River at Brilliant, B.C. by Doukhobor laborers – members of the Doukhobor Society – under the direction of a construction engineer, A. M. Truesdell. The Doukhobor laborers were unaccustomed to work of this character and, with few exceptions, were unfamiliar with the English language. On account of these conditions, Truesdell remained at site throughout the course of construction to help them through the process, most of his instructions being by means of interpreter. Six years later, Truesdell wrote about the erection of the bridge in the journal, ‘Engineering News-Record’, Vol. 83, No. 5, July 31, 1919 from construction engineering perspective and included several rare, albeit grainy, photographs of the construction.
Sir – The article by William G. Grove in Engineering News-Record of July 3, 1919, p. 4. describing a 540-ft suspension bridge, recalls a somewhat similar but smaller structure built at Brilliant, B.C. in 1913. This was for the Doukhobor society, composed of Russian peasants of a religious sect, living under a system of community ownership, so that the organization customary on construction work did not exist. Very few of them could speak any English, and I knew nothing of their language till I learned it on the job.
The bridge has a span of 331 feet between centers of towers, with a 16-foot roadway. The trusses are of steel, 9 feet deep; the floor-beams are pairs of channels with hanger rods between and a knee-brace at each end. The towers are 50 feet high above the piers and are of reinforced concrete. Each cable consists of four plow-steel wire ropes 2 inches in diameter, with about 37-foot sag, this arrangement being adopted in order to use cables which the Doukhobors had bought before engaging engineers.
Each rope socket is attached to two 2 ¼-inch rods which pass through a steel anchor bedded in concrete in the solid granite. At the towers, the cables rest on saddles, under which are rollers. The cables are cradled in planes with a batter of 1 to 12 and there are 1 3/8-inch guy cables on either side, attached to floor-beams.
As the men were not accustomed to working high in the air, considerable difficulty was experienced in getting them to try some of the operations. On the north side of the river a 95-foot tower was needed for hoisting concrete. Only three men were willing to build it, and even they would not take it down afterward, so it was pulled over and smashed on the rocks.
The cables were pulled across the river supported on a trolley cable, and after being swung free were adjusted to length. For placing clamps and hanger rods, a trolley cable was used on each side of the road; on these were hung boxes in which the men worked. For entering the lower ends of hanger rods through the floor-beams, suspended chairs were used.
All of the men working on steel erection wore safety belts, such as are used by telephone linemen. On one side of the river the steel was lifted by a small single-drum engine; on the other side hand tackle was used.
After the clamps were on the cables the method used was as follows: Hanger rods were put up for three panels; then three floor beams with knee-braces attached were hung, after which the trusses in the three panel sections were put on. A couple of holes in the top chord splice were then caught, the bottom chords pulled together, and the diagonal put in. Then after the laterals were put in place the deck was extended. Bolts were used for field connections.
The bridge was built by the Doukhobor society, assisted financially by the provincial government of British Columbia. It was designed by John R. Grant, of Cartwright, Matheson & Co., of Vancouver, B.C.; the writer was in charge of construction for the same firm.
In June 1909, an unidentified correspondent with the Rossland Miner newspaper visited the new 2,700-acre Doukhobor colony at Waterloo (Dolina Utesheniya) at the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers in British Columbia. Only a year after its establishment, the colony already boasted 675 members, recent arrivals from the Prairies, who had cleared 350 acres of heavy forest and planted 10,700 fruit trees along with large vegetable gardens. They set up two sawmills, which were busy cutting lumber for the houses of the different villages to be located on the land, and a preliminary irrigation system was established. Greatly impressed with their untiring industry and deep optimism of further development, the correspondent writes about their history, religious beliefs, communal society, vegetarianism, gender equality, dress and overall generosity and courtesy. Reproduced from the Daily News Advertiser (Vancouver BC), June 23, 1909
Last week a representative of the Rossland “Miner” visited the new colony of Doukhobors at Waterloo, B.C., and writes his impressions as follows.
Imagine a community of nearly 700 men, women and children, without a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, a druggist, store, saloon, butcher shop, gaol or police officer, pauper or courtesan, where all of the population are vegetarians and teetotalers, so far as alcoholic beverages are concerned, and who neither chew nor smoke tobacco, and you will have an idea of the Doukhobor settlement at Brilliant, formerly Waterloo, on the Columbia River, about 25 miles from this city.
The inhabitants are Socialists, pure and simple, as everything is held in common. The men and the women work for the community, and all property is owned by the community, and all moneys derived from the sale of the products of the soil go into a common fund. They constitute one big family. The children, until they are able to work, are allowed to play or attend school, where a rudimentary education is given them. As soon as they are strong enough to toil they join the ranks of the workers and become part of the producers.
There are no drones in this human hives. When old age comes on and the limbs become unfit for arduous toil, the superannuated Doukhobors are treated just the same as when they were useful to the community. One of the Doukhobors explained this to the “Miner” representative, about as follows: “Old men and old women, when breakfast comes, eat breakfast; when dinner comes, have dinner; when supper comes, have supper. Rest of time they sit in house if weather is bad, but if weather fine they go in the sun and enjoy themselves. When they want shoes, hat, coat, vest, they go to the shop and get them.”
Questioned as to the school, the Doukhobors stated that as the schools were provided for the children, where they learned to read, write and figure; in other words, they are given a primary education. The desire is not to over educate them. They do not want them to become doctors, lawyers, school masters, or scholars, but tillers of the soil, like their fathers and mothers.
Another feature of the Doukhobors is that they are opposed to war and will take no hand, act or part in it. In Russia, where they come from, they were knouted for refusing to serve in the army, but preferred death under the cruel knout to taking part in slaying their fellow men. One of the cardinal parts of their creed is that they are opposed to the shedding of the blood of anything that lives, and hence they are vegetarians, drawing the line even at fish. They have been called by some “Russian Quakers.”
As to their religion, it was explained to the “Miner” representative as follows:
They follow as closely as possible the teachings of Christ in doing only that which is good to their fellow man, and of not resenting violence when it is offered against their persons or property. When one cheek is smitten they turn the other to the smiter. They lead clean, honest lives, wronging neither man nor dumb creates and make their living by the sweat of their brow, directly from the soil.
Should a member of the community desire at any time to leave, he gives notice of his wish and his or her share is apportioned and he or she is given it in the form of money. Should he or she afterwards regret their action and desire to return they can repurchase their interest and again become members of the community.
Women with the Hoe
The women work in the fields the same as the men, doing the light tasks, such as hoeing and planting. It was an interesting sight to see groups of them coming in from the fields at noon and in the evening. Each had a hoe on his shoulder and they laughed and chatted with each other as they made their way to the public dining room, where they dined with their children.
They are usually attired in dark skirts with waists of varied material, generally calico and of different colors, according to the taste of the wearers. Each wears a large apron. The headdress consists of a large handkerchief covering the hair and the sides of the face and tied in a knot at the throat. A portion of the handkerchief falls for a considerable distance down the shoulders. Their feet are covered with rough shoes, and not a few of them were without stockings. Apparently there is not a corset in the community.
A few are comely, others have the “fatal gift of beauty,” while not a few are homely. They are deep chested, wide-hipped, clear eyed and have the red badge of health in their cheeks in most instances. A few of the older ones show the effects of hard toil in stooped shoulders and deeply-marked lines in their faces. They seemed to be cheerful and contented, while their children were veritable pictures of health, vitality and strength, lively and full of pranks. The children were generally barefooted.
One feature that struck the visitor was their universal politeness and kindliness. The men respectfully salute their fellows, whether men or women, whenever they meet, by raising their caps with cheerful words of salutation. The stranger visiting the place is shown the same sort of courtesy, the children being particularly polite.
Strong, Hardy Men
The men nearly all wear a peaked cap and in most instances black coats, all of which are of the same cloth and pattern; dark trousers and heavy shoes. They are manufactured by them at home in most instances. The men are large, strong, athletic and active looking. They are nearly all light complexioned, with blue and gray eyes, although there are a few of the pronounced brunette type with flashing black eyes.
It was noticed that they all were able to read, as when they came to the Post Office they looked over the letters and selected whatever was directed to them.
Peter Verigin is the head man of the colony. He is a fine looking, large man, of commanding appearance. Although he has been in Canada for several years he has not yet learned to speak English. John Sherbinin is his interpreter and is a young man of ability, who speaks English fluently, and from him the following particulars concerning the community were learned:
Last year the community, after a thorough inspection of the various portions of the Province, on the part of their agent, purchased through Willoughby & Mauer, of Winnipeg, 2,700 acres of land near Waterloo. This included 67 acres belonging to H.B. Landers [sic Landis] and 14 acres owned by James Hartner.
This land extends along the Columbia River’s east bank for a distance of two miles and along the south bank of the Kootenay river for a mile and a half. The land extends from the river front to the foot of the mountains, which rise almost perpendicular at the eastern boundary of the land. The land is beautifully located on three benches. The first bench is 100 feet above the level of the river and a quarter of a mile wide. The second bench is 200 feet above the river and about a mile wide. The third bench is 350 feet above the river and about a quarter of a mile in width. The three benches represent former beds of the Columbia River and the soil is a rich alluvial, being ideal fruit and vegetable land. The valley of the Columbia is wide at this point and the sun has ample opportunity of warming the oil and making “things grow.”
The First Arrivals
On May 12, 1908, the first installment of Doukhobors arrived from the prairies, consisting of 80 men, three women and two children.
Last year a little over 200 acres were cleared and a considerable quantity of vegetables raised, such as potatoes, cucumbers, water melons, citron melons, turnips, radishes, etc., and about 700 fruit trees were planted.
This year, so far, 150 acres have been cleared and 10,700 trees planted, including plums, cherries, prunes, apricots, nectarines, walnuts, chestnuts and almonds. Besides there have been 6,000 grape vines planted on the sunny slopes of the benches. Then there are 18,000 seedling apple, pear and quince trees purchased in Iowa, which will be set out later, they being at present in beds. A very large number of gooseberries, currants and blackberries have been set out, which will produce considerable fruit this year. This season there have been a good sized acreage devoted to potatoes, onions, beets, buckwheat, water melons and other vegetables.
The community has had in operation for a considerable time a portable sawmill that cuts about 5,000 feet of lumber a day. Another and a larger mill has been purchased and is at present at Castlegar on board the cars. This will soon be placed in position and will cut from 30,000 to 40,000 feet a day. It will be used to cut lumber for the houses of the different villages that are to be located on the land of the community. It will not only be used at Waterloo but at Pass Creek, where the community has purchased 2,000 acres of land.
A ferry has been put in at Waterloo, which will carry thirty tons, and a second ferry has been placed in position in the Kootenay River, which is only a little smaller than the one at Waterloo.
Returning to the additions to the colony, Mr. Sherbinin stated that fifteen came in July last from the prairies, consisting of two men, three children and ten women. April of the present year 190 men arrived from the prairies. Within the past few days, 500 arrived at Waterloo, a considerable portion of whom were women. About 150 have gone to near Grand Forks, where the community owns 1,000 acres of land, and some are working for others clearing land. The present population of the Waterloo community is about 675.
Asked as to the future plans of the community, Mr. Sherbinin stated that the intention was to continue the work of clearing, till 2,700 acres at Waterloo was cleared and set out in fruit, thus making it the largest orchard in the Province. A road is being built to Pass Creek, from Waterloo, which with all its winding will be about ten miles in length. If the Province constructed this road it would cost at least $12,000, but the Doukhobors are doing it themselves without asking for a cent from the public coffers. The 2,000 acres that the community owns at Pass Creek will be cleared and part of it used for growing vegetables and the remainder for hay and pasturage.
Asked where the Doukhobors came from, Mr. Sherbinin said that they were from the Caucasian Provinces that lie in Southern Russia between the Black and Caspian Seas, and principally from Tiflis and Kars. They are from the cradle of the Aryan race. The Doukhobor society is three or four hundred years old. They came to Canada first in 1898, because dissatisfied with the adverse conditions in Russia, and particularly the compulsory service required of them in the army, preferring death at the hands of the Cossacks to service in the army. There are about 7,000 of them in Canada at present. In Saskatchewan there are 40 villages each containing from 75 to 350 people. It is the intention to transfer all of these to the Province inside of the next five years.
Asked the reason for the change of residence place the reply was that as the Doukhobors are vegetarians and used to a fairly warm climate, it was too cold for them on the prairies, while the weather here was free from intense cold. On the prairies they cannot raise fruits, vegetables and nuts, which form so large a portion of their diet, but here they can be easily grown, and hence their preference for this section of the country.
The “Miner” representative dined twice with the Doukhobors during his visit, having luncheon and dinner. At luncheon he had a vegetable soup, made of potatoes and fragrant herbs, thickened with milk and butter and seasoned with salt. It was very good. Black bread made of whole wheat, evidently mixed with rye. It was sweet and wholesome. Two fresh eggs; then there was raspberry jam, raisins and plums stewed together, butter and cheese, and water instead of tea. For dinner the menu was as follows: noodle soup, flavored with parsley and seasoned with salt. A slab of cheese; black bread, raspberry jam, two eggs, and water instead of coffee.
From the standpoint of a vegetarian the meals were satisfying, and the “Miner” representative enjoyed them very much. They were given with such kindness and such heartfelt hospitality that added zest to them.
What most impressed the “Miner” representative during his visit was the untiring industry of the members of the community. In a very short time they have cleared, ploughed and made a veritable garden a tract of 350 acres that was last year virgin forest. Not only the stumps and roots have been removed but every stone. The soil has been pulverized to as fine a point as it can be.
Water has been piped to the cultivated land so that trees and vegetables can be irrigated. It is the intention to flume in larger supplies of water from McPhee Creek, so that every acre of the 2,700 can be irrigated.
When the entire tract has been planted it promises to make the largest orchard in the Province. It is understood that most of the fruit raised will be canned or dried for shipment to the larger centres of the Dominion. The task already accomplished is an immense one, but what lies before them in improving the two tracts at Waterloo and Pass Creeks and the one at Grand Forks is much larger. Besides they intend to acquire other areas of raw land which they will improve. What they have done already is an object lesson of great value, as it shows what the soil of the Columbia River Valley is capable of yielding to property directed and energetic effort.
To the Socialist of this section a visit to Waterloo will give him a view of Socialism at short range, as his doctrines are fully carried out by the Doukhobors.
The vegetarian will find much to commend when he looks into the diet of the Doukhobors. He will see men and women doing hard work on a vegetable diet.
The temperance advocate should also be interested in what he can see in this community and can study the effects of total abstinence in a community of several hundred.
The lover of peace cannot help but admire the courage which the Doukhobors have displayed in sticking to their anti-war doctrine.
Those who are interested in humanity and how man is working his way to a higher destiny, can find food and reflection in this simple, plain and God-fearing community.
It should be noted that all references to ‘Brilliant’ in this 1909 article refer exclusively to the Doukhobor settlemens 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 three years later in 1912.
It is a familiar and cherished story – one retold by generations of Doukhobor Canadians for well over a century.
It was midnight on June 29th 1895 – the feast-day of Saint Peter – when over seven thousand Doukhobors in the Caucasus region of Russia – followers of Peter Vasil’evich Verigin – gathered all the firearms in their possession, heaped them onto a pile of kindling, doused it with kerosene and lit it aflame. As these weapons of death and destruction twisted and melted in the bonfire, the Doukhobors gathered round and sang hymns of non-violence and universal brotherhood. It was a peaceful mass demonstration against militarism and violence. But it was met by violent reprisals and brutal retaliations by the Tsarist government. Hundreds of Doukhobors were summarily arrested and imprisoned, while thousands were exiled from their homes to distant lands for their so-called act of ‘rebellion’. The ‘Burning of Arms’, as this event became known, would become a seminal moment in Doukhobor history.
Students of Doukhoborism are generally aware that the Burning of Arms did not happen in a single place. Rather, it was coordinated simultaneously in three different regions of the Caucasus where the Doukhobors had settled: in Akhalkalaki district, Tiflis province in what is now Ninotsminda region, Georgia; in Elisavetpol district and province in present-day Gadabay region, Azerbaijan; and in Kars region in modern Turkey.
However, while the precise location of the Georgian Burning of Arms site has remained widely known and frequently visited by touring Canadian Doukhobors to the present day, the corresponding locations of the Azerbaijani and Turkish sites had long since passed out of living memory among modern descendants. They are not identified in any modern history or text.
Thus, when I had the opportunity to visit the Doukhobor villages in Azerbaijan in July of 2015, I couldn’t resist the challenge of trying to locate the site of this momentous historic event in that region!
Prior to departing on my trip, I carefully surveyed the published literature and found several important clues that would prove critical to identifying the location of the site.
First, in his 1964 memoir, Ispoved’ starika dukhobortsa: vospominaniya o pereseleniy dukhobortsev v Kanady (‘Confessions of a Doukhobor Elder: Memories of the Resettlement of Doukhobors to Canada’), Vasily Vasil’evich Zybin recounted the following details about the Burning of Arms in the district of Elisavetpol (translated from Russian):
"Ivan E. Konkin passed on to all the Doukhobors [Verigin's] directions that to be a Doukhobor meant not to be a soldier; and not to be a murderer not only of human beings, but even of animals. Whoever has weapons at home, anything concerned with killing, be it swords, daggers, pistols, rifles – all were to be placed on a pile in one place and burned, secretly, so that our non-believing Doukhobors would not cause us harm. Everything was collected at a spot three versts from the village of Slavyanka. There are mineral waters there, and water is always bubbling out of the ground; it is sour, as pleasant as lemonade. Near that spring a small fruit tree orchard had been planted, and in the middle of the orchard a summer house, raised about three feet from the ground, had been erected. This was according to the instruction of our former leader, Peter Larionovich Kalmykov, who lived in Tiflis Province.”
Second, friend and fellow Doukhobor writer D.E. (Jim) Popoff reminded me that another passage about the Burning of Arms in Elisavetpol could be found in Grigori Vasil’evich Verigin’s 1935 memoir, Ne v sile Bog, a v pravde (‘God is not in Might, but in Truth’), in which he wrote (translated from Russian):
“In Slavyanka, the place for the burning of the weapons was selected about two miles away from the village. There was a grove there with some fruit trees planted a long time ago. This grove was well fenced and kept in good order by the Doukhobors. All the Doukhobors went there often in the summertime, performed the Divine Liturgy and had lunches, so that the grove was kind of a sacred place. The bonfire was placed in the proximity of that grove, over a thousand feet aside from it. This was all done quietly and neatly, despite the fact that there were guards there who were supposed to report to the government if anything happened.”
These two accounts, each written by a first-hand witness to the Burning of Arms in Elisavetpol, were remarkably consistent. Both identified that it took place: near Slavyanka, the largest of four Doukhobor villages in the district; at a spot three versts (an Imperial Russian unit of measure equal to 2 miles or 3.2 kilometers) from the village; near a grove of fruit trees. Zybin also mentioned a mineral spring with slightly sour water nearby, while Verigin referred to it as a ‘sacred’ place of worship.
Taken together, these clues provided me with the distance from the village to the site, two geographic features in its immediate vicinity; and that it was a place of religious significance to local Doukhobors. I now felt I was equipped and ready to try to locate the actual site, once I got to Slavyanka!
Before long, I was on my way, accompanied by eight other Canadian Doukhobors. Over the course of three weeks, we visited former and present Doukhobor sites throughout the Caucasus. As the ‘resident historian’ of the group, I shared my knowledge about many of the sites we visited. For their part, the other tour participants shared my enthusiasm and excitement about visiting these sites, steeped in such history and significance! In particular, Andrei Conovaloff, a Molokan from Arizona with a keen interest in Doukhoborism, actively assisted me in photographing and filming many of these places.
After spending two weeks travelling in Turkey and Georgia, experiencing many adventures along the way, we finally made our way into Azerbaijan. We arrived in Slavyanka, once the largest Doukhobor village in the Caucasus, now home to over three thousand Azeris, with less than a hundred Doukhobors remaining. It was a lush, green oasis amid the dry grassy hills, with handsome houses all tidy and in good repair and an air of general prosperity. After settling into our hotel, a clean, newly-constructed building overlooking the town, we piled into our tour bus and set out to explore Slavyanka. No sooner did we reach the town centre, then we came across Grisha Zaitsev, a tall, lanky, friendly Doukhobor in his fifties who was genuinely excited to meet us.
After mutual introductions and much spirited discussion between Grisha and our group, I asked him if he knew where the Doukhobors had burned their guns, over a century ago. “I do not know what you mean,” he replied. I went on, with other tour participants assisting, to explain the events of the Burning of Arms to him. It quickly became apparent that he was not aware of the event. This surprised me at first, given its tremendous significance to Canadian Doukhobors. However, I quickly realized that Grisha and the other Doukhobors who remained in Slavyanka were descendants of the Small Party, whose members had never participated in the Burning of Arms. Simply put, it was not a part of their own history; thus the memory of this event was not kept among them.
Undeterred, I changed my line of questioning from the ‘event’ itself to the ‘site’ where it took place. I began by asking Grisha if there was a fruit grove – a very old one – on the outskirts of the town. “There are many groves in Slavyanka,” he affirmed, “Which one do you mean?”. I recognized I needed to be more specific. I then asked him if any of the orchards were located near a mineral spring. “Oh yes,” Grisha responded matter-of-factly, “we have two such springs – the Nizhnyi Narzan (‘lower mineral spring’) and the Verkhnyi Narzan (‘upper mineral spring’). “Aha!” I thought to myself, now I was getting somewhere! But which of these springs was ‘the’ site I was specifically looking for? I asked Grisha if the Slavyanka Doukhobors held moleniye (‘prayer meetings’) at one of the springs. “I do not know about that,” he replied. “You need to ask Masha”, he said, “she will know the answer.” Hot on the trail of a new lead, our group piled into our tour bus, together with Grisha, who directed us to the house of the eldest remaining Doukhobor in Slavyanka.
Several minutes later, we arrived at a typical ‘Doukhobor’ dwelling with sharp-pitched roof, verandah with decorative wooden beams, whitewashed walls and sky-blue trim along the eaves, verandah, door and window frames. Maria (‘Masha’) Strelyaeva, the matron, was outside tending her flower garden. She was a stern-looking diminutive woman in her late seventies. However, her eyes lit up as soon as Grisha introduced our group and explained who we were. After several minutes of friendly conversation, I explained, with others assisting, that we were looking for the site where our ancestors had burned their guns, over a century ago. Like Grisha, Maria had no specific knowledge of this event. I explained to her that it had taken place near a fruit grove and mineral spring, a short distance from the town, at a sacred place for local Doukhobors. Maria paused to contemplate what I had told her. I pressed on, asking her if the Slavyanka Doukhobors had gathered for moleniye at one of the two springs on the outskirts of the town. This immediately struck a chord with her. “Of course,” she answered without hesitation, “our people used to gather at the Verkhnyi Narzan to celebrate Troitsa (‘Trinity Sunday’). I can take you there, if you wish.” Once more, we piled back into our tour bus, this time accompanied by both Grisha and Maria.
Maria directed our bus towards the southwestern outskirts of Slavyanka. Our road followed a rocky and nearly-dry river bed. “Kizilchak”, said Maria, pointing to the river, “that is what our people call it”. I would learn that it was a Doukhoborization of the original Azeri name, Gyzyl Chai, meaning ‘Golden River’. Pointing upriver, she went on, “Even before the Revolution, our Doukhobors followed the Kizilchak to Verkhnyi Narzan. There we celebrated Troitsa, with prayers, singing and meals.” This holiday was observed by Doukhobors on the seventh Sunday after Easter. She went on to explain that Slavyanka Doukhobors continued to celebrate it during the Soviet era, in secret, until the Fifties or early Sixties. I asked Maria whether the Slavyanka Doukhobors also celebrated Petrov Den’ there. “No, we did not” she replied. I would learn that after the Burning of Arms, the Small Party in Slavyanka ceased commemorating Petrov Den’ because of its association with that event, and celebrated Troitsa as their major holiday instead.
Within minutes, our tour bus came to a jarring halt at our destination. On one side of the road, to our right, sprawled lush, park-like grounds with well-kept groves of trees and carefully-tended gardens. It was a veritable oasis paradise! Maria explained that it was a resort hotel and spa complex, developed several years earlier by an Azeri businessman. “But many of the trees here are much older than that,” she observed, “They were planted by our Doukhobors over a hundred years ago.” I asked her if there were fruit trees here, and she nodded in affirmation. If the trees here were indeed that old, I thought excitedly, then this could very well be the ‘grove’ described by Zybin and Verigin! Such a place of great natural beauty would have been a prominent landmark amidst the surrounding expanse of treeless grassy hills then, as it still was today.
To our left, between the road and the Kizilchak, was the mineral spring – Verkhnyi Narzan. It was surrounded by a small group of Azeri men and boys busily filling plastic containers with water. Evidently, it was a popular and well-used drinking source. As we disembarked from our tour bus, Grisha and Maria gestured and encouraged us to take a drink from the spring, which we did. The water that bubbled out of the ground was incredibly cool, refreshing and invigorating! It was carbonated, with a slightly sour taste. As if on cue, Maria explained, “In the old days, our people called this spring Kvasok, because its water tastes sour like kvas” (a fermented drink popular in Russia). I recalled in that moment that Zybin had described the spring water in similar terms, as being “sour, as pleasant as lemonade”. Was this not the spring he had described?
I hiked up a hill overlooking the spring and grove and surveyed the surrounding landscape. It was indeed a breathtaking view! The flat-bottomed valley of the Kizilchak abounded with fields of wheat, cabbage, potatoes and corn, along with herds of sheep grazing on the surrounding hillsides. Gazing down at the small crowd of locals and tourists below, it was easy to imagine several thousand Doukhobors assembled there, over a century earlier, praying and singing as they destroyed their weapons, while their Tatar and Armenian neighbours observed from a distance in wonder.
It was an exhilarating moment. This sacred, beautiful place seemed to match Zybin and Verigin’s description in every respect. Here stood an ancient grove of trees, alive since the time of the Burning of Arms. And here issued a mineral spring with sour but pleasant waters. Here, also, Doukhobors historically gathered to pray and celebrate religious holidays.
I paused to consider the distance from this site to Slavyanka. Using satellite mapping, I calculated a distance of one and a half kilometers to the town outskirts. This alarmed me at first, as it fell markedly short of the three kilometers stated by Zybin and Verigin. However, it occurred to me that Slavyanka had significantly expanded over the past century. Its present outskirts were not the same as they had been in 1895. With this in mind, I recalculated the distance from the site to the oldest section of Slavyanka, at its centre. Remarkably, it was a little over three kilometers, just as Zybin and Verigin had recorded!
Surely, I thought, this was the very place where the Elizavetpol Doukhobors had destroyed their weapons!
However, before I could definitively say so, I had to rule out the possibility that the other spring – the Nizhnyi Narzan – was the Burning of Arms site. Based on the descriptions by Zybin and Verigin, it had to be either one or the other!
After thoroughly enjoying the serenity and spiritual ambience of the Verkhnyi Narzan and adjacent grove and gardens, we eventually boarded the bus and made our way back to Slavyanka. After saying our farewells to Maria and Grisha, we went for dinner and made plans to visit the other spring the next day.
Back at my hotel room that night, I was unable to sleep. My mind raced with excitement at the prospect of having rediscovered a ‘lost’ site of enormous importance to our Doukhobor heritage. As I lay in bed, gazing at the hills of Slavyanka out my window, the morrow could not come soon enough!
The following morning our group gathered for breakfast and then visited two Doukhobor cemeteries in Slavyanka, one established in the early 20th century and a much older one established in the 19th century. At the latter site, we found a memorial stone engraved by the first Doukhobor settlers in Slavyanka in 1844 with the following psalm (translated from Russian):
"Eternal memory of our righteous forefathers named Doukhobors. We bow to them, to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. For they saved our souls, and continue to do so, in their meekness and humility. For the sake of truth it pleased God and our sovereign to gather us to the Promised Land in Tavria guberniya in 1805. But in 1844, we were resettled to Transcaucasia, Tiflis guberniya, the village of Slavyanka. And whoever else remains alive and hears of this story, should not desist from continuing these deeds to the end."
From the cemeteries, we made our way to the spring known as Nizhnyi Narzan.
This second spring was located in the northeastern outskirts of Slavyanka. Beside it stood a row of one hundred large walnut trees which, local Doukhobors advised us, were the remnants of a much larger grove planted by Doukhobors in the mid-19th century, but which several years ago had been cleared by Azeri businessmen to build a restaurant and hotel.
This potentially complicated my task of identifying the Burning of Arms site, since both springs in Slavyanka were situated beside ancient groves! However, while the grove at Verkhnyi Narzan was comprised of fruit trees, (which accorded with Zybin and Verigin’s accounts), this grove contained only nut trees.
From the walnut grove, we walked down a steep ravine to the Nizhnyi Narzan spring. I learned that several years earlier, an Azeri-owned commercial bottling facility was established here, which produced the now-famous ‘Slavyanka 1’ bottled mineral water, sold throughout Azerbaijan.
We drank from the spring waters. It was carbonated, refreshing and… distinctly sweet. There was no hint of sourness, like that we had tasted at Verkhnyi Narzan, and as Zybin had recorded.
I also recalled, from my conversation with Maria Strelyaeva the day before, that there was no tradition of Doukhobors gathering at this spring to hold moleniye or celebrations, unlike the Verkhnyi Narzan. Indeed, the undulating terrain of the site would have made a mass gathering difficult.
Finally, using satellite mapping, I calculated the distance from Nizhnyi Narzan to the oldest section of Slavyanka. It was only 600 meters from the town centre; nowhere close to the three kilometers recorded by Zybin and Verigin.
I was now convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Burning of Arms site described by Zybin and Verigin could not be the Nizhnyi Narzan spring. It could only be Verkhnyi Narzan spring we visited the previous day!
We went for lunch at the nearby hotel resort and then departed from Slavyanka. As our tour bus made its way to the Azerbaijani-Georgian border, I reflected on the significance of the discovery (or more aptly, rediscovery) I had made.
The lush, serene grove and Verkhnyi Narzan mineral spring was the site of a truly momentous event in Doukhobor history – the Burning of Arms by the Doukhobors of that region on June 29, 1895. Forgotten for a hundred and twenty years, it would once again be known among their descendants.
Upon returning to Canada, I would share my discovery through historical articles, gazetteers and interactive maps in the hopes that other Doukhobor Canadians might one day too visit this sacred, beautiful and historic place for themselves.
This article was originally published in the following periodical:
ISKRA Nos. 2141, August 2019 (Grand Forks: Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ).
As we make ready to celebrate Petrov Den’, a quintessential Doukhobor holiday, it is important to remind ourselves of the many rich layers of spiritual, cultural and historical meaning that have come to be associated with it over the past three centuries. I would like to briefly share some of the various traditions connected to this day.
Commemoration of Apostles Peter and Paul
While the holiday is commonly known among Doukhobors today by its shortened Russian name – Petrov Den’ (Петров День) or ‘Peter’s Day’ – its actual formal, full name is Den’ Petra i Pavla (День Петра и Павла) or ‘the Day of Peter and Paul’ (Zhivotnaya Kniga, Psalm 383).
It commemorates the apostles Peter and Paul, leaders of the first generation of Christians, founders of the Christian church, and widely considered the two most important people (after Jesus) in the history of Christianity. According to ancient church tradition, the apostles were executed and martyred by Roman authorities on the same day – June 29th according to the (Old) Julian calendar – July 12th according to the (New) Gregorian calendar.
According to this tradition, the apostle Peter came to preach in Rome in 64 A.D., where he was arrested and crucified head down. The apostle Paul was also executed in Rome in A.D. 65, but since he was a Roman citizen, he could not be executed on the cross, and was beheaded instead.
Ancient Orthodox Festival
The holiday was not created or conceived by the Doukhobors. Rather, it owes its origins to a much older tradition inherited from the Orthodox Church.
For over a millennium since the introduction of Christianity in Russia in 988 A.D., the day of Peter and Paul has been one of the great festivals of the Orthodox Church. It was considered a day of mandatory church attendance, where Russian peasants attended an all-night vigil on the eve, and a liturgy service on the morning of the feast-day. The Orthodox priest offered prayers to the apostles, who were venerated by the church as saints. Afterwards, the people held feasts, while young people assembled to play games, sing and enjoy themselves in the villages.
During the mid to late 1700s, while the Doukhobors were still living among Orthodox Russians, they also outwardly celebrated Peter and Paul’s Day in the traditional manner. Some Doukhobors went to church for appearances sake; others avoided going altogether, having already rejected the physical church in favour of the ‘inner church’ within themselves; nonetheless at home they celebrated with prayer meetings, followed by visits to family and friends.
However, by this time, the Day of Peter and Paul had acquired its own distinctive spiritual meaning and significance among Doukhobors.
A Remembrance of Sufferingfor Faith
After Doukhobors openly rejected the Orthodox Church and were permitted to settle together at Molochnye Vody (‘Milky Waters’) near the Crimea in the early 1800s, they ceased to celebrate most Orthodox feast days, as they neither venerated saints nor invoked them in prayers, but simply respected them for their good works. Nonetheless, they continued to commemorate the Day of Peter and Paul in their own way, as they held these apostles in particular respect.
The Doukhobors’ admiration for Peter and Paul is reflected in the Zhivotnaya Kniga (‘Living Book’), where the apostles are mentioned in several psalmy (Psalms 6, 144, 302) and stishki (“verses”) as ‘martyrs’ who ‘hold the keys’ that ‘unlock the souls’ of the righteous and which ‘open the gates’ to God’s heavenly kingdom.
It was the apostles’ martyrdom for their faith and their victory of spirit over flesh which the Doukhobors considered worthy of emulation, and which evoked memories of their own suffering at the hands of Orthodox and Tsarist authorities in the late 18th century, when they were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and mutilated, had their property and children confiscated, and were banished to the furthest reaches of the Empire. Thus the holiday became a day of memoriam of those Doukhobor martyrs who, like the apostles Peter and Paul, had endured suffering and hardship for their beliefs.
An Orthodox tradition which some Doukhobor families retained after breaking away from the church was the practice of naming a child after the saint on whose feast day he or she was born; at least those saints whom the Doukhobors continued to commemorate. Hence, in many cases, when a male Doukhobor child in Russia was born on or around the Day of Peter and Paul, he received one or the other name.
Seasonal Changes in Nature
In addition to its religious significance, the Day of Peter and Paul was associated in pre-Christian Russian folk tradition with the occurrence of seasonal changes in nature. In particular, it marked the beginning of summer haying among the agrarian peasantry. In Russia, the Doukhobors traditionally began haymaking the day after the festival. Mowing the hay with scythes was primarily the men’s responsibility, but women also helped. The hay was then gathered into stacks or stored in haylofts until it was needed in the winter. It was a very important activity for the Doukhobors, being agriculturalists, as they needed sufficient hay to feed their livestock during the long winters. Hence, this gave the festival additional significance among them.
Sacred Places of Celebration
In the early 19th century on the Molochnaya, the Day of Peter and Paul was typically celebrated in the village of Terpeniye. Doukhobors from surrounding villages gathered there the morning of the festival to hold a large mass moleniye (‘prayer meeting’). The moleniye was held either inside the Sirotsky Dom (‘Orphan’s Home’) or, if weather permitted, outside in the courtyard in front of this building. After, they held an outdoor banquet in the scenic park-like grounds of the Sirotsky Dom, with its well-tended orchards, beautiful springs and fountains.
During the late 19th century in the Caucasus, the Doukhobors chose a central location in each of the districts they settled, where people from the surrounding villages would congregate to commemorate the festival. These were often places of tremendous natural beauty, which over time, came to be viewed as sacred or holy places in their own right.
in Tiflis guberniya (‘province’) in what is now Georgia, they met on the flat, rocky plateau above the cave-like grotto known as Peshcherochki near the village of Orlovka. It was a favorite place of Doukhobor leader Luker’ya (‘Lushechka’) Kalmykova to spend time in quiet reflection.
in Elisavetpol guberniya in present-day Azerbaijan, they gathered at a sacred grove (svyashchennaya roshcha) on the outskirts of Slavyanka village, which had a well-ordered and carefully-tended orchard, a summer pavilion where visiting Doukhobor leaders stayed, and a mineral spring with carbonated, slightly sour water that tasted refreshingly like kvas.
in Kars oblast (‘region’) in modern Turkey, they met on a high, wide plateau that overlooked the surrounding plains and villages. Known as Krasnaya Gora (the ‘Red Hill’) it was situated next to a valley with a myriad of small springs that nurtured a grove of trees that, according to Doukhobor tradition, were planted by Christ and the apostles.
In each of these sacred places, the Doukhobors of the Caucasus assembled and held moleniye. Afterwards, they would spread about their blankets and have an outdoor picnic.
Association with Leaders
During the second half of the nineteenth century, the Day of Peter and Paul came to be closely associated with two much-revered Doukhobor leaders, as it was the name day of both.
Peter Ilarionovich Kalmykov, born on June 29, 1836, led the Doukhobors of the Caucasus from 1856 to 1864. Despite his short rule, he was much-beloved and renowned for his dynamic personality, force of character and feats of bravery, for which he was nicknamed Khrabryy, meaning the “Brave”.
The second Doukhobor leader by this name was, of course, Peter Vasil’evich Verigin, born on June 29, 1859. After 1886, Verigin became leader of the ‘Large Party’ of Doukhobors in the Caucasus. In 1887, Verigin was exiled to Shenkursk in Arkhangel’sk guberniya in the Russian Far North, then in 1890 he was transferred even further north to Kola on the Barents Sea. Later, in 1894, he was transferred to Obdorsk in northwestern Siberia. Throughout his exile, Verigin emphasized a return to traditional Doukhobor pacifist beliefs and issued secret teachings and counsel to his followers in the Caucasus, through trusted messengers.
Burning of Arms
It was through one such communique that, in 1895, Verigin bade his followers to collect all the weapons that were in their possession and on June 29th, burn them in a large bonfire doused with kerosene in a mass renunciation of violence and militarism. This dramatic demonstration was carefully and deliberately timed to correspond with the Day of Peter and Paul because of its deep religious symbolism among the Doukhobors.
His instructions were carried out simultaneously in each of the three regions of the Caucasus where his followers traditionally assembled to celebrate the festival. As their guns burned and melted, the Doukhobors gathered around the bonfire, prayed and recited psalms and sang hymns of universal brotherhood.
In the regions of Elisavetpol (Azerbaijan) and Kars (Turkey), the Doukhobor ‘Burning of Arms’ occurred with minimal government intervention. However, in the region of Tiflis (Georgia), local Tsarist officials viewed the burning as an act of civil insurrection and rebellion, and the fiercest punishments were at once applied.
Two squadrons of mounted Cossacks were dispatched, posthaste, to the Peshcherochki to pacify the protestors and quell the civil disorder. Once they arrived, the Cossacks charged the praying crowd of men, women and children, slashing through them with whips. Many were brutally beaten and some severely injured when they were trampled by horses. The dazed and bloodied Doukhobors were then forcibly herded to Bogdanovka for questioning.
In the days that followed, Cossack troops were billeted in the Tiflis Doukhobor villages, where they ravaged the homes of the Large Party, taking food, smashing furnishings, beating males and raping females without check or rebuke. Four thousand, five hundred of them were then banished, without supplies, to poor Georgian villages in oppressively hot and unhealthy climates, left to scrape by as best they could, or survive on whatever charity the local Georgians and Tatars dared give them under threat of arrest. Many perished in exile.
The Burning of Arms was a seminal event in the history of the Doukhobor movement; one that has become indelibly and permanently connected with the celebration of Petrov Den’ to this day.
After the Large Party of Doukhobors immigrated to Canada in 1899, those Doukhobors who remained in the Caucasus became split on their observance of Petrov Den’. Members of the Middle Party (who recognized Verigin as their spiritual leader but declined to accept his more radical teachings) continued to observe the holiday as before. However, members of the Small Party (who refused to accept Verigin’s leadership) abandoned the holiday altogether, given its association with Verigin, and thereafter celebrated Troitsa (‘Trinity Day’) as their major summer festival.
Upon immigrating to and settling in Canada, Doukhobors continued to observe Petrov Den’ in much the same manner as they had in Russia. From 1899 to 1938, both those belonging to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood and those who lived and farmed as Independents commemorated the event with a moleniye, often followed by a social gathering and picnic.
The locations where they congregated to celebrate Peter’s Day often varied depending on the facilities available, the needs and circumstances of the particular group, and of course, the state of the weather.
At Devil’s Lake SK, Independent Doukhobors gathered at a lug (‘clearing’) on the north shore of the lake. After 1916, members of the Buchanan Doukhobor Society also gathered at their meeting hall in the nearby village of Buchanan, SK.
At Veregin SK, CCUB members met at the ornate prayer home in the village, afterward picnicking in the tree grove beside the building to the west.
In Pelly SK, Independents assembled on the south shore of the Swan River, 4 miles northeast of the village beside the Doukhobor-built steel truss bridge. After 1936, members of the Pelly Doukhobor Society also met at their meeting hall half a mile east of the village.
In Kylemore SK, Community Doukhobors met at a lug (‘meadow’) on the northwest shore of Fishing Lake near the Arishenkoff village. After 1954, members of the Kylemore Doukhobor Society also met at their prayer home in the village of Kylemore.
At Blaine Lake SK, Independent Doukhobors erected a large tent at a lug (‘meadow’) near Pozirayevka cemetery, a mile and a half east of the town. After 1931, members of the Blaine Lake Doukhobor Society also met at their brick meeting hall in the town.
At Lundbreck, AB, CCUB members met atop the hill known as Safatova Gora beside Bogatyi Rodnik village. After 1953, members of the United Doukhobors of Alberta were also held in the prayer home built in the village of Lundbreck.
In Grand Forks BC, gatherings occurred at the Sirotskoye meeting hall. On at least one occasion in the 1930s, an open-air mass moleniye was held at Saddle Lake, where Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin gave an address from a boat on the lake to his followers gathered on the shore.
In Brilliant BC, Community Doukhobors often gathered at the trading store/warehouse; although in some years after 1927, an open-air mass moleniye was held at Verigin’s Tomb, from which Chistyakov addressed his followers gathered below.
In Ootischenia BC, such Community gatherings were typically held at either the Belyi Dom meeting hall, or else the lug (‘meadow’) on the banks of the Kootenay River.
In Thrums BC, Independent Doukhobors gathered at the brick meeting hall built there.
This is by no means an exhaustive list.
Upon its formation in 1938, the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ in British Columbia ceased to actively celebrate Peter’s Day in favour of Declaration Day, a new event celebrated annually by members of that organization in August.
However, other local Doukhobor societies from across Western Canada (including the Benito Doukhobor Society, Pelly Doukhobor Society, Kamsack Doukhobor Society, Veregin Doukhobor Society, Canora Doukhobor Society, Buchanan Doukhobor Society, Watson Doukhobor Society, Langham Doukhobor Society, Blaine Lake Doukhobor Society, Saskatoon Doukhobor Society, United Doukhobors of Alberta, Canadian Doukhobor Society and others) continued to commemorate Petrov Den’ throughout the 20th century and 21st century to present.
It is perhaps because of its many rich layers of meaning and significance that Peter’s Day, in contrast to other traditional festivals, remains one of the popular and enduring celebrations among Canadian Doukhobors to this day.
And as we commemorate this day through fellowship, prayer, food and song, let us also reflect on the achievements and impacts of the Doukhobor people in the name of peace and faith.
This address was originally presented by the author at the following Petrov Den’ commemorations:
National Doukhobor Heritage Village, Veregin, Saskatchewan. June 29, 2018; and
Blaine Lake Doukhobor Prayer Home, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan, June 30, 2019.
Bonch-Breuvich, V.D., Psalms6, 144, 302, 383 in Zhivotnaia Kniga Dukhobortsev (Winnipeg: Union of Doukhobors of Canada, 1954);
Inikova, Svetlana A. Holidays and Rituals of Doukhobors in the Caucasus (Doukhobor Heritage);
Ivanits, Linda J. Russian Folk Belief. (Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 1989); and
Popoff, Eli A., Stories from Doukhobor History (Grand. Forks, B.C.: Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ, 1992).
In the era of coal and wood, residents and businesses of Nelson relied on transfer companies[i] to sell and deliver these fuels by horse-drawn wagon to their premises for heating, cooking and power. One such transfer was the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co, communally owned and operated by the Doukhobors between 1913 and 1926. This article examines the history of this long-forgotten local enterprise.
In the early 20th century, the main source of fuel for Nelsonites was wood and coal,[ii] which was burned for heating in fireplaces and pot belly stoves or for cooking in cast iron kitchen stoves. By the 1910s, newer homes and commercial buildings were equipped with radiators connected by pipes to a basement boiler that burnt coal or wood to produce steam heat. Buildings of the era had little insulation, were drafty and required constant heating outside of summer. Local industries such as Hall Smelter, Nelson Iron Works and Kootenay Engineering Works also burnt large volumes of coal and wood to power their operations.
At the start of 1913, there were two main transfer companies supplying retail wood and coal in the city –the Kootenay Ice & Fuel Co. and West Transfer Co.[iii] However, another competitor was poised to enter the market.
Doukhobor Sawmills & Wood-Waste
Between 1908 and 1913, the Doukhobor Society purchased 10,611 acres of heavily forested land in West Kootenay.[iv] As the Doukhobors communally cleared each tract for fruit-growing, they established a mill to saw the logs into lumber to build villages.[v] By the start of 1913, the Society had 7 mills running at Brilliant, Ootischenia, Pass Creek, Glade, Crescent Valley and Champion Creek, collectively sawing several million feet of lumber a year.[vi]
These logging and milling operations, like others of the time, generated wood waste[vii] such as slabs (the first piece sawn off the face of a log, sawn on one side, rounded on the other), board ends (ends of boards cut off by the sawmill trimmer to cut boards to standard length) and cordwood (logs too small to saw into lumber) as well as tree bark, wood shavings, sawdust, low-grade or rejected cuts, etc.
The Doukhobors utilized much of this waste wood as heating fuel in their communal homes and industries. And by 1910, they were selling the surplus for profit. Cordwood was rafted down the Columbia River to Trail and sold to the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co. to fuel its blast furnaces, while wood slabs were sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for snow fences.[viii] Recognizing the revenue potential from this otherwise waste byproduct, the Doukhobor Society began seeking opportunities to expand its market.
That opportunity came with the Nelson general strike of 1913.
On April 1, 1913, the unionized tradesmen of Nelson (machinists, electricians, bricklayers, painters, pipe-layers, quarrymen, carpenters, teamsters, etc.) went on a city wide strike, demanding higher wages and the institution of an eight-hour workday.[ix] For the next 14 days, Nelson ground to a halt, leading, among other things, to a serious fuel situation as citizens were practically without heat for days.[x]
One of the many affected businesses was the Kootenay Ice & Fuel Co., whose teamsters were among the strikers. Unable to pay the wages asked for, the company was forced out of business on account of the labour disturbance. Consequently, on April 7, 1913, at the height of the strike, the company sold its wood and coal business for cash to Peter V. Verigin, acting for the Doukhobor Society.[xi]
The Doukhobors purchased the company assets, including: 6 teams of horses, wagons, sleds, harness and tools; .80 acre coal and wood yard in the CPR Flats (now 29 Government Rd) with buildings and bunkers;[xii] leased wood-stacking sites across the city; office lease and fixtures in the Allan Building at Ward and Baker St; the goodwill of the business, including its different industrial clients and a very large number of residential patrons.[xiii] Coal supply contracts with mines and the lucrative Galt coal agency were also included.[xiv] The deal was put through by Nelson realtors Konstantine Popoff and Henry H. Crofts.
The Doukhobor Society took immediate possession of the business. The next morning on April 8, 1913, a large number of Doukhobors from Brilliant arrived in the city to commence wood and coal deliveries, thus alleviating the fuel situation to the great relief of Nelsonites.[xv] Despite delivering many loads, by midday, their office was flooded with orders to the point that deliveries could not be guaranteed for up to 3 days.[xvi]
Company Formation, 1913
In the days that followed, the new business was organized as the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co.,[xvii] an unincorporated subsidiary of the Doukhobor Society (after 1917, Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd. or CCUB). While wholly-owned and controlled by its parent company, the subsidiary maintained its own business identity, with head office, officers, staff and employees, books and records, letterhead, cheques, invoices and advertisements. Its assets, however, were registered in the name of Peter V. Verigin until 1917, and thereafter, under the federally-incorporated parent company.
Peter V. Verigin was named president and John W. Sherbinin business manager of the new company.[xviii] Henry H. Crofts[xix] was engaged as secretary-treasurer and office manager.[xx] Some 10 or so Doukhobors were seasonally stationed at Nelson as labourers and drivers.[xxi] Within a month of its formation, the company moved offices to the more commodious McCulloch Block at 371-77 Baker St.[xxii]
This was not the Doukhobors’ first commercial business venture in Nelson. In April 1911, the Society purchased the Kootenay Jam Co. factory at 601 Front St. and commenced a large-scale canning and preserving enterprise as the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works, producing the famous ‘K.C. Brand’ jams.[xxiii]
From the outset, the company offered a variety of fuel products. Wood from Doukhobor Society sawmills included fir, tamarack, cedar and birch cordwood in 4-foot, 16-inch and 12-inch lengths; 4-foot or 16-inch slabs; and board ends.[xxiv] Bituminous and anthracite coal from the Galt Coal Co. and Chinook Coal Co. Ltd. mines at Lethbridge and Canada West Coal Co. mine at Taber, AB came in nut, stove and lump sizes.[xxv]
As well, it sold fence posts from the Doukhobor sawmills[xxvi] and feed oats and hay grown at outlying Doukhobor settlements.[xxvii] It offered general cartage service, transporting goods for hire (typically from the CPR and GNR freight depots to their final destination) within the city.[xxviii] Building contracting was also carried out.[xxix]
Coal was sold by weight (imperial ton) and wood by measure (cord or rick) as was customary. The company sold these at prevailing local prices.[xxx] However, its costs were markedly lower than its competitors, since its wood cost only the freight charges, its coal was purchased bulk wholesale directly from the mines, and its communal labour force did not receive wages. It thus enjoyed a wider profit margin.
Coal was shipped in by railcar from Alberta on the CPR Crow’s Nest line. Each car held 30-50 tons.[xxxi] On arriving at the CPR Flats in Nelson, the cars were spotted (parked) on the rail siding that ran behind the coal bunkers in the company yard. Using steel shovels and wheelbarrows, Doukhobor workmen unloaded the coal from the cars into the bunkers, which held 1,000 tons or 20-30 carloads of coal.
Similarly, wood from the Doukhobor sawmills arrived by railcar on the CPR Nelson & Slocan Branch.[xxxii] Each car carried 15-18 cords of wood.[xxxiii] Once spotted on the siding, the cars were unloaded and the wood stacked in the company yard or conveyed to its wood-stacking sites throughout the city. Cordwood arrived in 4-foot lengths and a saw was used in the yard to cut it into 12 and 16-inch lengths for delivery.[xxxiv]
Bulk hay and feed oats from outlying Doukhobor settlements were also brought in by rail in this manner.
As the stockpiles were continually drawn down by customer deliveries, the yard foreman requisitioned new shipments to replenish them. During peak heating season, the coal bunkers could be completely emptied within 24 days, with railcars of new coal being unloaded on an almost daily basis.[xxxv]
Customer fuel orders were placed with Henry H. Crofts at the business office, who also handled cash transactions. Residential orders were made year-round, with the highest volume in September-October before winter. An average family of 6 Nelsonites burned 8-24 cords of wood or 5-16 tons of coal annually.[xxxvi] Industrial orders were continuous, with large industrial clients consuming up to 1-4 tons of coal daily.[xxxvii]
The orders were relayed to the CPR Flats yard, where a teamster was dispatched by wagon in summer, or sleigh in winter, to make each delivery. The teamster drew up his conveyance and either shoveled a ton of coal from the bunkers, or stacked a half-cord or 2-3 ricks of wood from the stacks, to load it to capacity.[xxxviii] Coal loads were weighed at the adjacent city scales to confirm tonnage. The loaded team was then driven to the customer premises.
Most residential customers had their own wood or coal bins. The former was typically in the backyard while the latter was in the basement, accessible by a cast-iron door at the house backyard wall. The Doukhobor teamster drew up his wagon/sleigh and either unloaded and stacked the wood in the bin, or dumped the coal through the coal door using a chute attached to the wagon/sleigh box.
A loaded wagon/sleigh team travelled an average speed of 4 miles per hour, and each team had a daily capacity of 7-14 loads of coal or wood over a one-mile distance (the length of the city).[xxxix] The company fleet of 6 teams, therefore, was capable of delivering up to 42-84 loads of coal or wood a day.[xl] Throughout the day, the teams of horses had to be regularly fed, watered and rested.
When not in use, wagons and sleighs were kept in the implement shed and the horses in the barn (sarai) at the CPR Flats yard. An open portion of the yard was used for walking and exercising the horses. An ample supply of hay and feed oats for the horses was stored in the barn. The blacksmith shop (kuznya) was used to keep the horses shoed and the wagons, sleighs and harnesses in good repair.
The Doukhobor teamsters initially stayed in a tiny house in the CPR Flats (now 79 Government Rd), a few lots west of the coal and wood yard, purchased in April 1911 for Doukhobor jam factory workers in Nelson.[xli] The house could not accommodate them all and a number of men slept in a tent.[xlii]
Business manager John W. Sherbinin played a pivotal role in the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. As he was also manager of the Doukhobor Society sawmills, he coordinated the supply of waste wood generated by the mills with the demand for firewood sales by the company.
President Peter V. Verigin made routine trips from Brilliant to Nelson to oversee the fuel company.[xliii] During his stays, the Doukhobor leader counseled the office manager and yard foreman on day-to-day matters, examined the ledger and account books, and provided overall business direction.
In March 1914, Henry H. Crofts left the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. amid the dissolution of his Popoff & Crofts real estate partnership.[xliv] The timing of his departure was problematic, as a new competitor, MacDonald Cartage & Fuel Co., had just entered the Nelson market.[xlv] Fortunately, he was quickly replaced by another Nelson realtor, Charles F. McHardy, on April 1, 1914.[xlvi]
McHardy was no stranger to the Doukhobors, having sold them his 1,270-acre ranch in Crescent Valley in October 1911.[xlvii] He was instrumental in the Doukhobor Society joining the Kootenay Fruit Growers Union in April 1912[xlviii] and testified on their behalf at the Doukhobor Royal Commission hearings in Nelson in September 1912.[xlix] Active and popular in the city, he was well-suited to represent their fuel business.
McHardy moved the company office to his real estate office in the Green Block at 512-14 Ward St.[l] Engaged on an agency commission basis, he was motivated to work hard and grow the company. He launched a major advertising campaign, placing over 100 ads a year in the Daily News[li] that succeeded in not only retaining the patronage of old customers, but in securing many new ones. His bookkeeper Gilbert Arneson also regularly assisted with the fuel business.[lii]
The outbreak of the Great War in August 1914 saw the price of wood, coal and other commodities in Nelson skyrocket. As the world’s demand for coal and wood rose in wartime, so did its price in the local market, with wood soaring from $5.00 to $7.00 a cord and coal from $8.00 to $10.00 a ton – an increase of 40 percent.[liii] Wartime also resulted in higher wages and lower unemployment, with Nelsonites having more money to spend on these commodities than usual as the local standard of living increased.
Increased wartime demand and high prices led to a boom in sales for the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co., enabling it to reap bonanza profits. This spurred a substantial expansion of the company between fall 1914 and spring 1917 through a series of building projects and land purchases.
To accommodate Peter V. Verigin’s frequent business visits to Nelson in connection with the company, a large two-story residence was purchased at 509 Falls St in November-December 1914 to serve as his stopping house.[liv] Anton F. and Polya Strelaeff of Glade were selected to serve as its caretakers and as the Doukhobor leader’s personal attendants during his visits. The house was conveniently located a five-minute buggy ride away from the coal and wood yard in the CPR Flats.
In December 1914, Peter V. Verigin selected Konstantine P. Verigin, his step-father Michael A. Bawoolin and their family to resettle from Glade to Nelson to communally operate the CPR Flats yard, with Konstantine serving as yard foreman.[lv]
To house the family, a one-story dwelling (dom) was constructed at the CPR Flats yard in early 1915.[lvi] It had 3 bedrooms, a living room and special room (gornitsa) reserved for Peter V. Verigin when he visited.[lvii] The cellar housed a bakery kitchen (pekarnya) with wood stove and large brick oven for the family’s private use when there were no other guests at the yard, which was rare.[lviii]
Across from the house, a steam bathhouse (banya) was built for the family and visitors.[lix] It consisted of two parts: in one room all the clothing and linens were washed by hand by Konstantine’s wife Dasha and mother Hanyusha, and in the other was the steam bath.[lx] During his stays in Nelson, Peter V. Verigin often came to visit the family and enjoy the cleansing, relaxing and rejuvenating vapors of the bathhouse.[lxi]
A large two-story wood structure was erected between 1915-1917.[lxii] On the ground floor was a communal kitchen (obshchinnaya kukhnya) with cooking and dining area, and on the upper floor were sleeping quarters (khvateri).[lxiii] It housed labourers from outlying Doukhobor settlements who worked at the yard during peak heating season, such as Konstantine’s brother-in-law Eli D. Poznikoff of Ootischenia[lxiv], Andrei S. Fofonoff of Shoreacres, and many others. Doukhobor travellers who came to Nelson on business matters or to see a doctor also stayed there.[lxv] Dasha Verigin and Hanyusha Bawoolin cooked on its wood-burning stove and hosted the guests.[lxvi]
Peter V. Verigin, as company president and batyushka (caring ‘father’ figure) of the Community, was not adverse to involving himself with the minutiae of his members’ lives. In the case of those seeking medical treatment in Nelson, he had no issue with paying their costs and providing accommodations at the yard during their stay, but he ensured they were not a drain on the Community by requiring them to work off the costs of their stay and treatment with their labour. For example, in a letter to yard foreman Konstantine P. Verigin dated November 18, 1915, the Doukhobor leader wrote, “My dear friend Kostya, The bearer of this letter, Andrei Fofanoff, wishes to treat (heal) his teeth. Let Anton (Strelaeff) take him to the doctor (dentist). But you are to give him work for as long as he requires to treat his teeth. During this time he will be employed. Wishing you all the blessings of the Lord. P.V.”
Between 1915-1917, a large two-story 40’ x 75’ brick warehouse (sklad) with full concrete basement, high ceilings and a sheet iron roof was built in the yard.[lxvii] The bricks used to construct it were made at the Doukhobor Society brickworks in Grand Forks and shipped by rail to Nelson.[lxviii] It was mainly used for storing feed oats and hay for use by the company and for resale.[lxix] After October 1917, it was also used as a fruit depot managed by Anton F. Strelaeff for the Doukhobor jam factory.[lxx]
A large communal vegetable garden and 16-hive apiary was also established at the coal and wood yard to help feed the Verigin and Bawoolin families and their many guests.[lxxi]
Finally, in June 1915, Peter V. Verigin bought the adjoining half-acre lot (now 45 Government Rd) west of the yard from Konstantine Popoff.[lxxii] Verigin had earlier purchased a portion of the lot from Popoff to build a wooden warehouse for the Doukhobor jam factory in April 1911.[lxxiii] However, by March 1915, the jam factory relocated to Brilliant[lxxiv] and the fuel company took over the warehouse to store livestock feed. The remainder of the lot was used for wood-stacking, eliminating the need for leased stacking sites elsewhere.
Steep increases in bulk wholesale prices and aggravating shortages of Alberta coal during wartime drove the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. to diversify its supply sources.
Peter V. Verigin shrewdly realized that lignite coal could be purchased from Wyoming and brought in on the Great Northern Railway (GNR) Marcus-Nelson line for 75¢ to $1.00 a ton cheaper, in spite of duty and freight charges.[lxxv] The GNR freight depot at Mountain Station, however, was located at the opposite end of Nelson from the company yard in the CPR Flats.
To this end, Verigin purchased a 1.75 acre lot (bounded by Hall, Hendryx, Gore and Innes St) on the GNR right-of-way south of Mountain Station from Charles F. McHardy in January 1915.[lxxvi] Over the next 2 years, a second coal and wood yard was developed at this location. The Wasyl F. Kootnikoff family of Brilliant was selected to operate the yard, with Wasyl as foreman and sons William and Nick driving horses.
A one-and-a-half-story dwelling (dom) was constructed at the yard (now 710 Gore St) to house the family.[lxxvii] It had 3 bedrooms, a living room and a special room (gornitsa) where Peter V. Verigin stayed when he visited. Additional sleeping quarters (khvateri) were located in the attic for seasonal workers. A steam bathhouse (banya) was built near the house for the family and workers.[lxxviii]
South of the house, a large two-story 40’ x 30’ wooden warehouse (sklad) was constructed with 500-ton coal bunkers, stables for the horse teams and hay loft for feed.[lxxix] Nearby an implement shed was erected to house wagons and sleighs transferred there from the CPR Flats yard.[lxxx] A large portion of the yard to the south of the buildings was used for wood-stacking.
Communal vegetable gardens were grown on the remaining vacant lots by Wasyl’s wife Tanya and daughter-in-law Tanya, as well as by Dasha Verigin, Hanyusha Bawoolin and Polya Strelaeff, who would catch the street car from the Hudson Bay Co. store on Baker St to go and work in these gardens.[lxxxi]
With the establishment of the second company yard, customer orders placed with Charles F. McHardy at the business office in the Green Block were dispatched to either the CPR Flats yard or Mountain Station yard, depending on the product requested and the customer location.
Commencing in the winter of 1916-1917, coal from the Wyoming Coal Co. mine at Monarch and Carney Coal Co. mine at Carneyville, Wyoming arrived by railcar to Mountain Station, where the cars were spotted on a side track,[lxxxii] unloaded and carted to the warehouse in the yard.[lxxxiii] Despite its lower heating value, the company sold the cheaper American coal at prevailing local prices with a significant profit margin.
From spring 1917 onwards, the Mountain Station yard also began receiving railcars of wood from the Doukhobor Society’s new sawmill operations on the GNR Salmo-Nelson line.
The one drawback of the yard was that the city scales were located in the CPR Flats. This significantly increased the distance and travel time for each delivery of coal from the yard, since it first had to be driven across town to be weighed. Charles F. McHardy thus began lobbying the City of Nelson on behalf of the company to have it install a second set of scales at that point.[lxxxiv]
City of Trail
Building on its commercial success at Nelson, the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. opened another branch in the City of Trail. In November 1914, Peter V. Verigin purchased 4 lots on the corner of Bay Ave and Eldorado St where the company erected a large brick warehouse, coal and wood bunkers, and store the following year.[lxxxv] Managed by Sam A. and Wasyl W. Lazareff, it sold coal and wood, hay and feed oats, lumber and building supplies and carried out building contracting.[lxxxvi]
The history of the Trail branch of the company will be chronicled in a separate article by the writer.
At the outbreak of the Great War, the Doukhobor Society still had five sawmills in operation at Brilliant, Ootischenia, Pass Creek, Glade and Crescent Valley supplying waste wood to its fuel subsidiary in Nelson. These were small to mid-sized operations at the time, with 10,000-35,000 board foot-per-day capacity.
However, in response to soaring wartime lumber prices, the Doukhobor Society launched several new commercial sawmill operations at Koch Siding in January 1916,[lxxxvii] Porto Rico Siding in January 1917[lxxxviii] and Hall Siding in May 1917.[lxxxix] These were large-scale operations with 30,000-60,000 board foot-per-day capacity, vastly increasing the volume of wood available to the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. to sell.
Now having multiple supply points, each company yard received wood from the mills in closest proximity so as to minimize rail transport distances and rates. The Mountain Station yard was supplied by the Porto Rico Siding and Hall Siding mills, the CPR Flats yard by the Koch Siding mill, and the Trail yard by the remainder.
Peak of Success
For a three year period between fall 1914 and summer 1917, the wartime boom and high profits propelled the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. to become the largest, most successful fuel business in Nelson. Indeed, by summer 1917, its three wood and coal yards, including stock, buildings, vehicles, equipment and livestock, were valued at $30,000.00 (over half a million dollars today).[xc]
There are no available records of company revenues at this time. However, taking into accounts its daily delivery capacity and local prices, the Nelson branch may have earned as much as $8,820.00 in coal or $3,087.00 in wood gross revenue per month in the 1916-1917 heating season.[xci] As its profit relative to cost was small for coal but very high for wood, the company’s profit from this same gross revenue may have been in the neighbourhood of $882.00 for coal or $2,778.30 for wood per month ($15,500.00 or $49,000.00 a month, respectively, today).[xcii]
The success of the Doukhobor fuel company was a remarkable feat in itself. Even moreso that it was a spin-off subsidiary, generating a significant secondary revenue stream from the wood waste produced by the core CCUB sawmilling and lumber operations, which were also experiencing a boom.
However, this success was not to last. Social factors outside of the company’s control would lead to challenging times ahead.
Rising Wartime Anti-Doukhobor Sentiment
From the onset of the Great War, Doukhobors in Nelson encountered discrimination because of their refusal to actively participate in the war effort.[xciii] Yet it was the enactment of conscription in Canada in September 1917 that drew particularly intense backlash against them.[xciv] The idea of pacifists prospering during the war, owing to high wartime prices and their large military-exempt pool of men, aroused popular resentment at a time when hundreds of Nelsonites were being drafted to fight overseas.[xcv]
The recent (and in hindsight, ill-timed) expansion of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. only heightened this resentment among Nelsonites. It now seemed to matter little in the court of public opinion that the Doukhobor fuel business was playing a critical role in heating and powering the local home front.
Despite its reputation for honest, reliable and prompt service, by the winter of 1917-1918, the company began to lose customers who, caught up in the jingoistic fervor, sought wood and coal from other more ‘patriotic’ and ‘Canadian’ companies. At the same time, new competitors sprang up to challenge the besieged company such as Irwin’s Transfer & Storage and D.A. McFarland.[xcvi]
It was probably no coincidence that around this time, Nelson City Council voted against installing another set of weigh scales up the hill at Mountain Station for the Doukhobor fuel company, despite the civic revenue it stood to gain by doing so.[xcvii] This effectively ended the long-term prospects of the Mountain Station yard as a coal depot, which ceased to bring in American coal after the 1917-1918 heating season.[xcviii]
To make matters yet worse, the company lost its prized Galt coal franchise to business rival West Transfer Co. in late 1917, forfeiting its most popular and highest-selling coal brand.[xcix] The reason for the agency cancellation is not known; it may have been in retaliation for the company’s importation of cheaper American coal, or it might perhaps have been fueled by anti-Doukhobor sentiment.
Against this backlash, Charles F. McHardy remained on good terms with the Doukhobors, selling the CCUB his 20-acre ranch at Shoreacres in September 1917.[c] He continued to serve as agent of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. However, he would find it increasingly difficult to navigate between that role and the rest of his business and civic career.
In November 1917, McHardy joined the Nelson Victory Bonds Committee to sell bonds to finance Canada’s war effort.[ci] Within days, he publicly distanced himself from the pacifist Doukhobor company by dropping its name from his fuel advertising.[cii] Over the next 20 months, he continued to advertise and sell company wood and coal under his own name.[ciii] Finally, in July 1919, after having been elected city alderman at the height of wartime anti-Doukhobor sentiment in Nelson, McHardy left the company.[civ]
After the Great War, the Nelson economy struggled in a global post-war recession, as prices for lumber, ore and other commodities plummeted. Despite this, local prices for heating coal and wood remained buoyant and even increased. In 1921, coal sold for $10.00-13.00 a ton and wood for $6.00-9.50 a cord,[cv] while in 1923 coal sold for $10.50-13.00 a ton and wood for $7.50-10.00 a cord.[cvi]
With high post-war prices, new companies flooded the Nelson wood and coal market. These included Minnis Transfer & Fuel Co., Olynyk Fuel & Transfer Co., Fairview Fuel & Teaming Co., Haggart & Son, A. Balcom, Fred Williams Transfer and Nelson Transfer Co. Ltd.[cvii] that vied with Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co., West Transfer Co., MacDonald Cartage & Fuel Co. and D.A. McFarland for business.
For its part, the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. emerged from the war battered but not broken. It lost a sizeable portion of the Nelson market, its business reputation was unfairly tarnished, and it no longer had a downtown office presence. Nevertheless, it retained enough customers to remain viable on a reduced scale. From thereon, it was one of a number of mid-sized transfer companies in the city.
After July 1919, the company no longer retained an outside business agent and managed its own customer orders and books instead. John F. Masloff of Ootischenia was appointed secretary-treasurer and bookkeeper for this purpose.[cviii] A small office was constructed at the CPR Flats yard where orders were placed, delivery records kept, and cash stored in a strong box.[cix] Company advertising ceased altogether.
The company’s clientele was now comprised mainly of residential rather than commercial or industrial customers. With lower volumes of deliveries and less stock turnover, fewer workers were required to run the operation. The company’s fleet of wagons and sleighs was reduced to two at each of the CPR Flats and Mountain Station yards.[cx]
The company further downsized by selling or leasing land and buildings no longer used. In April 1920, the westerly .80 acres of the CPR Flats yard with the smaller warehouse was sold to the Imperial Oil Co. leaving a half-acre yard remaining.[cxi] Then in August 1922, the larger warehouse in the CPR Flats yard was leased to the Okanagan United Growers Ltd. as a fruit packing house until its liquidation in June 1923.[cxii]
Coal was shipped to the CPR Flats yard from the Pacific Coal Co. mine at Bankhead and Canada West Coal Co. mine at Taber, AB,[cxiii] which also continued to receive wood from the Koch Siding mill. Now exclusively a wood depot, the Mountain Station yard continued to receive shipments from sawmills on the GNR Salmo-Nelson line, which after July 1921, included two large new mills at Porcupine Creek.[cxiv]
The Verigin family continued to occupy the CPR Flats yard. When the Canada Census was taken in June 1921, Konstantine (26) and Dasha (26) Verigin were enumerated there with daughter Mary (7) and sons Peter (4) and Konstantine (1) and step-father Michael (65) and mother Hanyusha Bawoolin (58).[cxv]
During this period, Konstantine also broke and trained wild horses for communal use. According to an account by his granddaughter Mary Shukin, this was carried out as follows:
“Occasionally, wild horses were unloaded from the train into the CPR stock yard. A horse would be chosen and lassoed by grandfather and a helper. A harness would be thrown on while the animal bucked and fought. They would then hitch the untamed horse with an older horse, and for several days have them pull a heavy sleigh on the ground, until the wild horse was ‘broken in’.[cxvi]
The new horses were then either kept at the yards to haul coal and wood or else sent to the different outlying Doukhobor settlements, wherever they were needed.
The Kootnikoffs also remained at the Mountain Station yard. At the taking of the 1921 Canada Census, Wasyl (47) and Tanya (45) Kootnikoff, son William (21), daughter-in-law Tanya (19), granddaughter Vera (5 months), son Nick (17) and daughter Mary (8) were enumerated there.[cxvii]
Beginning in 1921, the youngest Kootnikoff child, Mary, attended Central School in Nelson. In 1923, she was joined by all three Verigin children. On enrollment, the Doukhobor children spoke only Russian, but rapidly acquired English. Within a year of their enrolment, the Verigin children were promoted from Grade 1 to 3.[cxviii] The children of both families regularly made the honour rolls for academic achievement.[cxix]
In terms of spiritual life, the Verigin and Kootnikoff families each held prayer service (moleniye) on Sunday morning at their own homes.[cxx] Later that day, dressed in their best attire, they exchanged visits with other Doukhobor families living in or near Nelson, where they would all take part and enjoy the singing of hymns and psalms.[cxxi] From time to time, they were joined by Peter V. Verigin and a special choir of 20 Doukhobor singers from Brilliant and Glade who often accompanied him on his trips.[cxxii]
Decline & Dissolution
The Nelson branch of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. might have continued to operate into the foreseeable future. However, between January 1923 and January 1926 it suffered a series of devastating setbacks from which it was unable to recover.
First, with the post-war collapse in lumber prices, the CCUB opted not to renew its lease of the Koch Siding sawmill when it expired in January 1923.[cxxiii] Three months later, in May 1923, the Hall Siding mill caught fire and was destroyed.[cxxiv] It was not rebuilt given the lumber crash. Finally, the two sawmills at Porcupine Creek were destroyed in a July 1924 forest fire along with their timber stands.[cxxv]
Consequently, the Nelson branch of the company lost most of its wood supply, which was its primary revenue source, and indeed, its raison d’etre. The Mountain Station yard continued to receive some wood from the Porto Rico Siding sawmill, although its output after 1924 was relatively small. The CPR Flats yard received comparatively little, as the Slocan and Kootenay River sawmills continued to primarily supply the Trail branch with their output.
Then, in October 1924, Peter V. Verigin was killed in a mysterious train explosion at Farron. His death was a devastating blow to his followers, including those at Nelson, who revered him as their spiritual guide and secular leader. From a business standpoint, Verigin was the directing mind and force behind the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. and upon his death, the subsidiary was left largely rudderless.
In December 1924, the CCUB Board of Directors appointed Andrew P. Verigin of Crescent Valley as business manager and Timofey A. Stoochnoff of Ootischenia as secretary-treasurer of the Nelson branch of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co.[cxxvi] Over the next year, the pair managed the branch as best they could, but with little wood to sell and little revenue coming in, it continued to flounder.
Amid this turmoil, a newsworthy event occurred in February 1925, when Peter V. Verigin’s choir of special singers arrived in Nelson to perform in memory of the departed leader.[cxxvii] The Daily News reported that they led an 8:00 a.m. prayer service at the Verigin-Bawoolin house in the CPR Flats, then sang at the Strelaeff stopping house at 9:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., singing for about an hour each time. In the evening they sang at the Trinity Methodist Church before departing by train to their settlements.
By November 1925, the Nelson branch of the company was having difficulty paying property taxes and several lots were listed for sale by public auction for arrears.[cxxviii] The taxes were ultimately redeemed by the CCUB; however, its Board of Directors concluded that the branch was no longer viable.
Two months later, at the annual CCUB Board of Directors meeting at Brilliant in January 1926, it was resolved that the Nelson branch of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. be dissolved and its associated properties put up for sale.[cxxix] A telegram to this effect was summarily issued to the Verigin and Kootnikoff families in Nelson, reassigning them at once to Ootischenia and Brilliant, respectively.[cxxx]
And so, with a show of hands in the Brilliant central office, the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. ceased branch operations in Nelson on January 12, 1926 after 14 years of business.
Having grown accustomed to a less rigidly communal life while running the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. in Nelson, neither the Kootnikoff nor Verigin family remained long at their reassigned places. By May 1927, Wasyl F. Kootnikoff resettled to Rossland, where he and his sons worked as carpenters.[cxxxi] In December 1931, Konstantine P. Verigin resettled to Blewett, where he bought a 40-acre farm.[cxxxii]
The Anton F. Strelaeff family initially remained in Nelson at 509 Falls St,[cxxxiii] their caretaking role expanded to include the now-vacant coal and wood yards. In February 1926, Anton started a fuel business of his own, the Doukhobor Transfer Co.[cxxxiv] Using wagons and remaining stock from the yards, with his house as his office, he offered coal, wood and transfer services.
Anton’s fuel enterprise would be short-lived. MacDonald Cartage & Fuel Co. had already taken over the customers of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co.,[cxxxv] leaving him to advertise for new ones amid stiff competition.[cxxxvi] Months later, he lost his voice due to illness, making continuation of the business impossible.[cxxxvii] In May 1928, he was reassigned to the Doukhobor settlement of Dorogotsennoye at Taghum.[cxxxviii]
Interestingly, it was only at this time that the CCUB advertised its various Nelson properties for sale. The two-year gap following the closure of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. may be explained by the Board of Directors’ reluctance to dispose of the properties until their new leader, Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin, arrived in Canada to guide them in September 1927.
By late 1928, the Strelaeffs were replaced by Eli N. and Malanya Chernoff of Ootischenia, who took up residence at 509 Falls St.[cxxxix] They were joined by Malanya’s parents Philip P. and Nastya Lazareff, and for several months, by Russian Tolstoyan Pavel I. Birukoff and his daughter Olga.[cxl] A carpenter by trade, Eli worked for building contractor T.H. Waters & Co. Ltd. while caretaking the Doukhobor yards.
Two years later, in November 1930, the house at 509 Falls St was sold to Bud Sevens,[cxli] whereupon the Chernoffs relocated to the house at the CPR Flats yard.[cxlii] There, they discovered that the road running past the front was built six feet over the CCUB property, while the CPR rail spur running past the back was also encroaching, resulting in a lawsuit by the CCUB against the City of Nelson and CPR for trespass.[cxliii]
Meanwhile, in July 1930, Eli bought the vacant yard at Mountain Station from the CCUB.[cxliv] The large warehouse there was destroyed by fire shortly after.[cxlv] In early 1931, he resold the yard to none other than Wasyl F. Kootnikoff, who returned with his family from Rossland to reside at 710 Gore St.[cxlvi]
Wasyl died within months of his return. His widow Tanya remained at 710 Gore St. with daughter Mary until her death in 1949,[cxlvii] followed by Mary and husband William J. Shukin until 1959.[cxlviii] By 1937, son William W. Kootnikoff and wife Tanya (Emma) built a home at 724 Gore St for themselves, and in 1950, a home at 723 Innes St. for their son Michael. In 1962, the Kootnikoffs and Shukins subdivided and sold the remaining Innes St. lots.[cxlix] The Kootnikoffs joined the Shukins at the coast in 1965.[cl]
Eli N. Chernoff lived at the CCUB yard in the CPR Flats until September 1931 when the property was leased out, then resettled to Taghum. The lessees, Harry and son Gordon K. Burns, established a fuel distributorship there as Burns Coal & Cartage Company,[cli] which offered coal and wood as well as moving, storage and distributing services. The business operated at the lease site for nine years. The Burnses used all the existing buildings for storage except for the dwelling house, which was rented out.
In February 1939, the Burns purchased the property from the receiver of the now-bankrupt CCUB and established a new business, Burns Lumber & Coal Co., selling building materials and supplies, fuel, transfer and storage services over the next 39 years.[clii] By September 1948, the original Doukhobor dwelling house and workers kitchen were dismantled,[cliii] while the coal bunker, blacksmith shop, barn and implement shed continued to be used for storage until at least May 1959.[cliv]
In September 1978, the lumber yard was purchased by Louis Maglio,[clv] whose sons Tony and Dominic operated it as Maglio Building Centre. By this time, the Doukhobor brick warehouse was the only original structure still standing and in use. In February 2019, the business was purchased by Fraser Valley Building Supplies, which continues to operate as Rona Maglio Building Centre today.[clvi]
Nearly a century after the demise of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co., evidence of the Doukhobor fuel business can still be found throughout the City of Nelson.
The McCulloch Block on Baker St and Green Block at Ward St, which housed the company’s business office over its first six years, are going concerns. The foreman’s dwelling house at 710 Gore St still stands in its original condition. The stopping house of Peter Verigin is also in pristine form, although it no longer stands at 509 Falls St, having been moved to 120 Vernon St in May 1931.[clvii] The two-story brick warehouse remains a hidden mainstay of the RONA Maglio Building Centre at 29 Government Rd, three of its exterior walls now interior walls of the store building.
Perhaps a more pervasive reminder is the cast-iron coal doors that still adorn the exterior of scores of Nelson heritage buildings; many if not most of which were served by the Doukhobor fuel business in the Teens and Twenties.
Special thanks toGreg Nesteroff, Lucille Ostrikoff, Mike & Lorraine Malakoff, Klaas, Lorrie and James Büter, Jean-Philippe Stienne and Judy Deon (Touchstones Nelson), Barry and Stephanie Verigin (ISKRA) for sharing their information and images.
This article was originally published in the following periodical:
ISKRA Nos. 2172 (March 2022), 2173 (April 2022) and 2174 (May 2022). (Grand Forks: Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ).
An abridged version of this article was published in the following newspaper:
[i] From the 1880s through 1920s, a ‘transfer’ was a transportation company that used a fleet of horse-drawn wagons and sleighs to deliver coal, wood, livestock feed, ice and other bulk goods short distances within a community.
[ii] Most stoves, boilers and furnaces burned either fuel or could be converted to do so. Frequently, the choice came down to price and practicality. Wood was considerably cheaper than coal, while coal burned much longer and hotter than wood but was also much dirtier to handle.
[iii]W.A. Jeffries Nelson City Directory (1913) (Nelson, BC: W.A. Jeffries, 1913) at 117; Nelson Daily News, 1913.01.06.
[iv] 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 31. Based on the West Kootenay average of 5,000 feet of saw timber per acre, the Doukhobor lands may have held as much as 53,055,000 feet of saw timber based on their West Kootenay landholdings as of 1913: Canadian Pacific Railway, British Columbia, Canada’s Pacific Province: Its Natural Resources, Advantages and Climate (Victoria: The Colonist Presses, 1910) at 63.
[v] Doukhobor sawmilling in the 1908-1913 period manufactured lumber primarily for their own communal building purposes. However, there was some commercial sale of surplus lumber; most notably the sale of 100,000 railway ties from Glade and another 100,000 ties from Brilliant to the CPR in 1910-1911: Nelson Daily News, 1910-09-21; Victoria Daily Times, 1910-09-28; The Province, 1911-03-17; Winnipeg Free Press, 1911-04-25.
[vi]Supra, note 3at 33; Manitoba Free Press, April 25, 1911.
[vii] Based on the standards of the day, wastage was upwards of 45 percent of every foot of saw timber: J.H. Jenkins, “Wood-Waste Utilization in British Columbia” in The Forestry Chronicle (Vol. 15, No. 4, December 1939) at 192.
[xi]Nelson Daily News, 1913.04.07; New Westminster News, 1913.04.08; Winnipeg Free Press, 1913.04.12. The Kootenay Ice & Fuel Co. (renamed Kootenay Ice Co. in April 1923) continued selling ice (only) from its Mirror Lake plant in Nelson and district until 1931.
[xii] The easterly 208 feet of Lot 1, of subdivision of part of Lot 95 and Lot 304, Group 1, Kootenay District, Map 904 was sold for $6,000.00 under Agreement for Sale dated April 7, 1913 by William P. Tierney (railroad contractor and Kootenay Ice & Fuel Co. principal) to Peter Verigin. Upon payment in full, title was transferred from Tierney to Verigin under Indenture No. 18505a dated November 10, 1913. Verigin filed for title on November 22, 1913, registered as Certificate of Title AFB 30/234 dated November 26, 1913. The property was subsequently transferred to the CCUB by Deed of Land No. 4927 dated October 20, 1917 and new Certificate of Title No. 4927i dated October 26, 1917 was issued.
[xiv] Mined in Lethbridge by the Galt Coal Company, this fuel burned more cleanly than most coals generally available and enjoyed a high reputation across Western Canada. It was a lucrative contract for the Doukhobor Society as it gave it control of the Nelson market for the best and most practical source of heat in the often bitter winters. See: McCord Museum: https://tinyurl.com/mjbdztjv; Toole Peet 1897 – 1997: https://tinyurl.com/yvub6924.
[xv]Nelson Daily News, 1913.04.08; New Westminster News, April 8, 1913.
[xvii] The company name was a reference to the Doukhobor Society’s headquarters at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers. It also leveraged the name-recognition of the Society’s existing and well-known subsidiary in Nelson, the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works (est. 1911). Variations of the name sometimes used: Kootenay Columbia Fuel Company, Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Co., Kootenay Columbia Fuel Co., Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Company, Kootenay Columbia Fuel Supply, Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co., Kootenay Columbia Fuel & Supply Co., Kootenay Columbia Fuel & Supply Co. Ltd.
[xviii]W.A. Jeffries Nelson and District Directory (1914) (Nelson, BC: W.A. Jeffries, 1914) at 78.
[xix] Henry Howard (H.H.) Crofts (1877-1952), a confectioner from Warwick, Eng., immigrated to Canada in June 1903, settling in Winnipeg, MB. From September 1907 to July 1911, he served as Deputy-Sherriff of the Winnipeg Judicial District, then relocated to Nelson, BC to engage in real estate. In September 1911, he formed a realty partnership with Russian émigré realtor Konstantine Popoff as ‘Popoff & Crofts’. Over the next 15 months, he “sold quite a bit of land” to the Doukhobors in Nelson, at Brilliant and on the Slocan: Transcript of Proceedings, Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia (1912), Volume 2 at 567 (BC Archives Item No. GR-0793.2).
[xxvi]Nelson Daily News, 1914.04.27 to 1914.05.02.
[xxvii] Mary Shukin, “The Kootenay Columbia Fuel Supply” in ISKRA No. 1708, April 11, 1990 (Grand Forks: Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ).
[xxviii] While there are no Nelson Daily New adverts, the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. almost certainly offered general transfer services through its fleet of wagon and sleigh teams when not in active use delivering coal or wood. Its wagon teams may also have been used for fruit hauling by sister subsidiary Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works in the summer fruit season.
[xxix] Nelson Daily News: 1917.09.24; Stan Sherstobitoff photograph collection: Doukhobors construction work, Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works in foreground, Nelson, c. 1912: tiny.cc/zwkmuz; Doukhobor scaffolding, Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works in foreground, Nelson, c. 1912: tiny.cc/7xkmuz.
[xxx] A common complaint by Nelson merchants was that the Doukhobors’ large pool of unpaid labour enabled them to undercut the local market by selling goods for less than local merchants could afford to: Nelson Daily News: 1912:09.17. However, Nelson Daily News advertisements from 1913-1915 confirm that the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co sold fuel at prevailing local rates. For example, in October 1914, it sold Galt Coal for $8.00 per ton, the same price advertised by West Transfer Co.; while it sold wood from $4.75 to $5.50 a cord while Taylor Milling Co. sold it at $5:00 per cord: Nelson Daily News, 1914.10.02. Indeed, by 1917, all Nelson transfer companies were selling wood and coal under a common rate sheet: Nelson Daily News, 1917.09.28.
[xxxi] V.N.L. Van Vleck, “Delivering Coal by Road and Rail in Britain” in The Journal of Economic History Vol. 57, No. 1 (Mar 1997) at 140 quoting Thorstein Veblen, Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution (New York and London: Macmillan, 1915); Nelson Daily News, 1917.07.31.
[xxxii] See for example Nelson Daily News, 1914.03.05 which reported, “The Doukhobor colony shipped another car of wood to Nelson on Saturday.”
[xxxiii]The Use of Wood for Fuel (Bulletin No. 753) (Washington D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture, March 10 1919) at 16. Note a ‘cord’ was a stack of wood four feet high, four feet wide and 8 feet long.
[xxxvi] Christopher F. Jones, “Fraud, Failure, and Frustration: This Is the Story of America’s First Energy Transition” in The Atlantic, April 15, 2014. Based on this estimate, Nelson’s population of 5,000 or so residents in 1913 consumed from 6,700 to 20,000 cords of wood or 4,200 to 13,300 tons of coal annually.
[xxxvii] For example, the Nelson Iron Works operated a 80-horsepower boiler that consumed approximately 4.5 lbs. of coal per horsepower-hour: Mining and Engineering World, Vol. 43, November 27, 1915 (Chicago: Mining World Company) at 876; Alessandro Nuvolari, “The theory and practice of steam engineering in Britain and France, 1800-1850 in Documents pour l’histoire des techniques, No. 19, December 1, 2010 at 194. Note wood was not generally preferred by most industries because of its lower heating value.
[xxxviii]The Use of Wood for Fuel, supra, note 33 at 15; The Black Diamond (Vol. 53, No. 12) (National Coal Exchange, September 19, 1914) at 225.
[xl] Interestingly, if the company fleet of 6 wagon teams delivered a minimum of 42 loads of coal (42 tons) or wood (21 cords) per day, then the company 1,000-ton coal and wood bunkers would have required replenishment at least once every 24 days.
[xli]Royal Commission Into All Matters Pertaining to the Doukhobor Sect in British Columbia, BC Archives Series GR-0793 (1912), Vol. 1 at 10 and 121 (B56).
[xliii] For instance, the Nelson Daily News reported on July 11, 1913 that “Peter Veregin, the leader of the Doukhobors, was in town on Wednesday looking over the local Doukhobor property.”
[xliv]Nelson Daily News advertsfor Popoff & Crofts dwindled over the winter of 1913-1914 and ceased altogether on May 6, 1914. By June 8, 1914, Crofts and family left Nelson and returned to Winnipeg, MB. On August 8, 1914, Popoff published formal notice of dissolution of partnership, and on October 10, 1914, obtained a court order seizing Crofts’ Nelson property for absconding from the partnership debts. Back in Winnipeg, Crofts served as a government registrar until his retirement in the 30s.
[xlv]Nelson Daily News, 1914.10.03 and 1914.12.05.
[xlvi]Nelson Daily News, 1914.04.1. Charles Forbes McHardy was born in Lucknow Township, Bruce County, ON in August 1875. In late 1900, he resettled to Nelson, BC where he clerked at Nelson Hardware Co. until July 1903. He then partnered with Edward B. McDermid to purchase the real estate and insurance business of Harry H. Ward, operating as McDermid & McHardy. Between September 1906 and August 1908, McHardy and McDermid obtained Crown Grants over 1,270 acres of land at the Slocan River and Goose Creek confluence (named Crescent Valley by McHardy). McHardy then bought out McDermid’s interest in the land and their partnership dissolved in July 1909 as McHardy developed his ranch. In October 1911, McHardy sold the ranch to the Doukhobor Society. In October 1912, he became the first man to ride a horse from Nelson to Vancouver. That November 1912 bought out McDermid’s insurance and rental business while also starting a real estate business. His extensive civic involvement throughout this time included the Nelson Board of Trade, Nelson Improvement Association, Kootenay Fruit-growers Union, Nelson Conservative Association and others.
[xlix] Royal Commission, supra, note 41, Vol. 2 at 341-348.
[l]Nelson Daily News, 1914.04.1; 1914-04-03 to 1914.04.14.
[li] Between April 1914 and October 1917, McHardy placed an incredible 388 advertisements in the Nelson Daily News: 1914.04.01; 1914.04.03 to 1914.04.14; 1914.04.27 to 1914.05.02; 1914.07.08 to 1914.07.14; 1914.08.14; 1914.08.15; 1914.08.26; 1914.09.02 to 1914.09.08; 1914.09.29 to 1914.10.02; 1914.10.17 to 1914.10.21; 1914.11.10 to 1914.11.18; 1914.11.30 to 1914.12.08; 1914.12.21 to 1914.12.24; 1915.01.28 to 1915.03.04; 1915.04.22 to 1915.05.08; 1915.06.24 to 1915.07.15; 1915.09.13 to 1915.10.02; 1915.10.06 to 1915.10.28; 1915.11.09 to 1915.11.27; 1916.01.10 to 1916.03.20; 1916.06.16 to 1916.07.03; 1916.08.28 to 1916.09.11; 1916.10.15 to 1916.10.24; 1917.02.15 to 1917.03.28; 1917.04.16 to 1917.04.21; 1917.09.28; 1917.09.29; 1917.10.13 to 1917.11.13.
[liii]Nelson Daily News advertisements from 1915-1917 show the Nelson transfer companies sold heating fuel at 25% above previous local rates. For instance, the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. sold coal at $9.25 to $10.50 a ton and wood at $7.00 a cord: Nelson Daily News, 1916.10.15, 1917.03.09, 1917.10.13. See Note 30 for 1913-1915 prices.
[liv] The two-story dwelling house at 509 Falls St. stood on Sub-Lots 1-3 of Block 92 of Lot 95, Kootenay District. It was purchased by Peter Verigin on behalf of the Doukhobor Society in late 1914: Nelson Daily News, 1914.12.08. For an excellent historical study of this property, see Greg Nesteroff, “Little-Known Nelson Heritage Buildings: 120 Vernon St.”: https://tinyurl.com/54k47bym.
[lvi] Tax rolls for 1915 indicate that the building was part of $2,000 of improvements carried out that year: Shawn Lamb Archives, Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History (courtesy Greg Nesteroff); “List of Property Owned by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Limited, as at January 1st, 1931” in Snesarev, V.N., The Doukhobors in British Columbia (University of British Columbia, Department of Agriculture, 1931).
[lxxii] The westerly 138 (130) feet of Lot 1, of subdivision of part of Lot 95 and Lot 304, Group 1, Kootenay District, Map 904 was transferred from Konstantine Popoff to Peter Verigin by Indenture dated June 29, 1915 and registered June 30, 1915 as No. 20403a.
[lxxiii] Part of the westerly 138 (130) feet of Lot 1, of subdivision of part of Lot 95 and Lot 304, Group 1, Kootenay District, Map 904 was transferred from Konstantine Popoff to Peter Veregin by Agreement for Sale dated April 19, 1911 and registered as 6470D in Charge Book Volume 18, Folio 159.
[lxxv] The Doukhobor leader may have been aware that since 1913, cheap American lignite and sub-bituminous coal had flooded the B.C. Coast market, where it sold for the same price as Canadian bituminous coal, despite the latter’s superior heating value. See for example The Vancouver Sun, 1913.01.30; “Diether Coal” in Vancouver Daily World, 1915.11.18; “Mackay & Gillespie, Ltd” in Victoria Daily Times, 1914.09.01; Alberta’s Coal Industry 1919 (Bercuson, D.J. Ed.) (Alberta Records Publication Board: Historical Society of Alberta, 1978).
[lxxvi] On March 11, 1913, C.F. McHardy purchased Sub-Lot 33(A) of District Lot 304, Group 1, Kootenay District as shown on Map 766 from Nelson grocer John Alexander Irving, registered as new Certificate of Title AFB 30/9 No. 17465a. On January 16, 1915, McHardy advertised the lot for sale for $2,100.00 in the Nelson Daily News. Evidently, Peter Verigin subsequently entered an Agreement for Sale with McHardy for the lot, as it was reported owned by the Doukhobor Society in 1917: Vancouver Daily World, 1918.09.28. Once all payments were made under the Agreement for Sale, title was transferred from McHardy to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood under Indenture No. 6620i dated December 3, 1919.
[lxxvii]Fire Insurance Plan of Nelson, BC Surveyed August 1923, Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History (courtesy Greg Nesteroff).
[lxxxii] Although the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. did not have a spur track of its own running into its Mountain Station yard, the GNR had a passing and house track running parallel between the city and it main line on which cars were parked for unloading, and which conveniently ran to within 400 feet of the coal and wood yard: Great Northern Railway Historical Society, Mountain Station Blueprint, dated April 23, 1913.
[lxxxiii]Nelson Daily News, 1917.02.15 to 1917.03.08, 1917.09.28-1917.09.29, 1917.10.13-1917.09.30.
[xci] Presuming the company made 42 deliveries per day (6 wagon teams x 7 trips each), then it would have delivered 882 tons of coal (1 ton/load x 42 loads x 21 workdays) at an average price of $10.00 per ton, earning gross revenue of $8,820.00 a month; whereas it would have delivered 441 cords of wood (½ cord/load x 42 loads x 21 workdays) at an average price of $7.00 per cord, earning a gross revenue of $3,087.00 a month.
[xcii] It is estimated that the Doukhobors’ profit per ton of coal was 10-15%: The Vancouver Sun, 1917.07.05, 1917.09.13; The Retail Coalman, c. 31, v. 31, July 1917 at 96. However, as their only cost associated with wood was freight, the Doukhobors’ profit per cord of wood may have been as high as 85-90%.
[xciii] As early as December 1914, the Nelson Board of Trade advocated a special tax be levied on Doukhobors who “would not either fight for, or subscribe to, the protection which is afforded under the British flag: Nelson Daily News, 1914.12.11. In December of 1915 and January of 1916, it passed resolutions asking the government to adopt such a tax, declaring “it is an outrage that a large body of men should be living in our midst and enjoying every privilege and the protection of the country without contributing one cent directly to the cause of the country.”: Nelson Daily News, 1915.12.10 and 1916.01.28. The Board also called for a boycott of Doukhobor products in July of 1915, arguing that they were an “alien race” who “could not be called upon in time of war to come to the assistance of the country in which they made their living: Nelson Daily News, 1915.07.09.
[xciv] By 1917-1919, anti-Doukhobor rhetoric intensified in Nelson, with the Nelson Branch of the Canadian Patriotic Fund publicly demanding a $75,000.00 subscription in arrears from the Doukhobor Community: Nelson Daily News, 1919.11.17; the Nelson victory bond campaign demanding $50,000.00 subscription from the Doukhobor Community: Vancouver Daily World, 1919.11.14; local citizens’ meetings in Nelson passing resolutions demanding the purchase of Doukhobor lands and local reconstruction committees formed for the purpose of securing the land for returned soldiers: Calgary Herald, 1919.04.21 and Vancouver Daily World, 1919.04.24; the Nelson Branch of the Great War Veterans Association passing a resolution that the Dominion Government deport all Doukhobors presently in the country: The Gazette, 1919.03.20 and Calgary Herald, 1919.04.07; and the Nelson Board of Trade resolved that the Dominion Government “make the Doukhobors live as Canadian citizens or deport them.”: Calgary Herald, 1919.05.02.
[xcv] George Woodcock & Ivan Avakumovic, The Doukhobors (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1968) at 253. This sentiment is captured in the September 17, 1917 letter to the editor of the Nelson Daily News from rancher J. Marsden of Taghum: Nelson Daily News: 1917.09.24.
[xcvi]Nelson Daily News, 1916.01.21 to 1923.11.30; Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1916-1919.
[xcvii]Nelson Daily News, 1930.08.06. Unfortunately, the specific date the Nelson City Council voted against installing weigh scales at Mountain Station is not known, as the council minutes for this period are lost and missing: Shawn Lamb Archives, Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History.
[xcviii] The last company advertisements for Wyoming coal appears in the Nelson Daily News on November 17, 1917.
[xcix] The last advertisement for Galt coal by the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. appears in the Nelson Daily News on September 28, 1917. By April 1918, Galt coal was being advertised in the newspaper by West Transfer Co.
[cii] On November 13, 1917, three days after C.F. McHardy’s appointment to the Nelson Victory Bonds Committee, his hitherto-prolific advertising for the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. in the Nelson Daily News abruptly ceased. Thereafter, from November 14, 1917 to July 5, 1919, McHardy advertised in the newspaper as “Charles F. McHardy, Insurance, Fuel, Real Estate.”
[ciii] Despite the absence of newspaper advertising for the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co., C.F. McHardy continued to be listed as agent for the company in the 1918 and 1919 editions of Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory.
[civ] There are no further references to C.F. McHardy as a fuel dealer after the July 5, 1919 edition of the Nelson Daily News. McHardy went on to serve two terms as alderman between January 1919 and January 1921, unsuccessfully running for mayor in 1920. He was elected mayor for two terms between January 1921 and January 1923. In May-June 1924, he was a conservative candidate for the BC Legislature. For many years McHardy headed the Nelson Conservative Association and was also one-time president of the Board of Trade, a life member of the Kootenay Lake General Hospital Society and for six years was president of its board of directors. He was also a charter member of the Nelson Rotary Club, and early president of the Nelson Fair Board, early member of Clan Johnstone, later Clan McLeary, a member of St. Saviour’s Anglican Church Parish, on the board of B.C. Fire Underwriters, and vice-president of the Notary Public’s provincial organization.
[cvii]Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1919-1924; Nelson Daily News, 1919.12.01 to 1925.12.01.
[cviii] At the taking of the 1921 Canada Census, John F. Masloff was living in Ootischenia but his occupation was listed as “Bookkeeper, Fuel Supply”: British Columbia, District 18, Sub-district 10A, page 3. By 1922, Masloff had left the fuel subsidiary to manage the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works in Brilliant.
[cxi]Nelson Daily News, 1920.04.16. The westerly 110 feet of Lot 1, of subdivision of part of Lot 95 and Lot 304, Group 1, Kootenay District, Map 904 was transferred from the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. to Imperial Oil Ltd. for $8,000.00 under Indenture No. 7260i dated April 9, 1920.
[cxii] On August 1, 1922, the Nelson Daily News reported that the Okanagan United Growers had taken over fruit marketing in Nelson from the Kootenay Fruit Growers’ Union and would erect a warehouse at once in the CPR Flats for assembling that season’s crop. Evidently, it opted to lease the large warehouse at the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. yard instead. On October 6, 1922, the Nelson Daily News reported that the packing house of the Okanagan United Growers situated in the Doukhobor building on the CPR Flats was a busy centre with fruit coming into the house from all the ranches in and around the city. On June 13, 1923, the Okanagan United Growers had gone into bankruptcy and liquidation.
[cxxix] The two-day CCUB shareholders and Board of Directors meeting held January 11-12, 1926 appointed 14 Directors and 24 Officers of the various CCUB local branches and subsidiaries, including the Trail branch of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co.; the Nelson branch of the fuel subsidiary was conspicuously omitted: Nelson Daily News, 1926.01.13. The letter sent to Konstantine P. Verigin pursuant to that meeting stated that the CCUB properties at Nelson, Hall Siding, Skalistoye and Dorogotsennoye were all to be put up for sale: Shukin, supra, note 27.
[cxxxviii] Nesteroff, 120 Vernon St., supra, note 54.
[cxxxix]Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1929-1930.
[cxl]Ibid. Friend, follower and biographer of Lev N. Tolstoy, Pavel Ivanovich Biryukov (1860-1931) investigated the Doukhobor movement in the Caucasus in 1895 and was exiled in 1897 to Courland for publishing an appear on behalf of their plight. A year later he was permitted to go abroad, where he stayed until 1907. Later, he spent considerable time in Russia, Switzerland and the UK. In September 1927 he accompanied Doukhobor leader Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin to Canada to help establish Russian schools and a newspaper among the Doukhobors. Within a year, however, he suffered a debilitating stroke. Thereafter, the ailing Tolstoyan was cared for by the Chernoffs at 509 Falls St in Nelson until his daughter Olga left art school in Paris and came to Canada in October 1928. The Biryukovs remained in Nelson until April 1929, whereafter they returned to Geneva where Biryukov died in October 1931.
[cxlii]Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory for the year 1931, which was compiled prior to November 1930 when the 509 Falls St property was sold, lists the Chernoff family still living there; however the 1932 directory lists the family living at Granite Road where the former coal and wood yard of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co was located.
[cxliv] Lot 33A of District Lot 304, Group 1, Map 766 was transferred by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. to Eli N. Chernoff by Indenture No. 30611i dated July 25, 1930.
[cxlv]Nelson Daily News, 1930.08.05 and 1930.08.06.
[cxlvi] British Columbia Death Registration No. 39244 dated June 19, 1931.
[cxlvii] British Columbia Death Registration No. 49-09-001741 dated January 28, 1949.
[cxlviii] Nelson Directory, 1955; British Columbia Death Registration No. 63-09-004738. In 1959, the house at 710 Gore St. was sold to Tony and Gladys Semeniuk: Urban Preliminary List of Electors, Electoral District of Kootenay West, City of Nelson, Urban Polling Division No. 128, September 27, 1965.
[cxlix] Subdivision Plan No. 4558 dated January 8, 1962 of Lot 4, Block 33, Plan 349 of Lot 150 and part of Block 33A, Plan 766 of Lot 304. Interestingly, the house at 723 Innes was purchased by Kay Verigin, who grew up at the CPR Flats yard 40 years earlier when his father Konstantine ran the coal and wood yard there: 1965 City of Nelson Voters’ List, ibid.
[cl] British Columbia Death Registration No. 1965-09-002145.
[clii] Agreement for Sale from the Receiver for the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd. to Harry and Gordon K. Burns dated February 1, 1939. Five years later, in 1944 when the property was paid in full, title was transferred to Harry and Gordon K. Burns under Certificate of Title No. 58607i.
[cliii]Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1931-1939; Fire Insurance Plan of Nelson, BC Surveyed August 1938 (Revised August 1940 and September 1948), Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History (courtesy Greg Nesteroff).
[cliv]Fire Insurance Plan of Nelson, BC Surveyed May 1959, Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History (courtesy Greg Nesteroff).
[clv] In 1978, the property was transferred to Louis Maglio under Certificate of Title No. M7771. In 1986, the property was transferred to Louis Maglio Enterprises, under Certificate of Title No. V17188.
[clvi] ”’Business as usual’ in Trail after sale of Maglio Building Centre” in Trail Times, 2019.02.26.
[clvii] Nesteroff, 120 Vernon St., supra, note 54.