Kamennoye Wood Stave Pipe Factory Began Operation in 1915

by William M. Rozinkin

In 1915, the Doukhobors of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) established a wood stave pipe factory in the Kamennoye settlement area across from Brilliant, British Columbia. It was an important industrial asset of the CCUB, supplying pipe for the construction of irrigation systems for its vast communal orchards in the Kootenays. Although the factory ceased production in the early Thirties, many of the pipes it produced were still in use in the Sixties after five decades of service. The following article by Kootenay resident and historian William M. Rozinkin (1923-2007) recalls the Kammenoye wood stave pipe factory. Reproduced by permission from the Nelson Daily News (May 26, 1967).

Located on the south shore of Kootenay River, across from Brilliant and just below the bridge, was a wooden-pipe factory that supplied pipes for the extensive water systems of the Doukhobor communities of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood.

The plant went into production in the spring of 1915, just 11 years after the first wooden pipe plant was built in Canada and was one of the few such plants in existence at that time in the country. It employed 20 men when the plant was in full operation.

CCUB wood stave pipe factory and other enterprises in Kamennoye, across from Brilliant, British Columbia, 1924. BC Archives, Koozma Tarasoff Collection C-01384.

Several other operations were also located along that shore which was called Kominaya (Kamennoye) (Russian name for “rocky place”). The nearby sawmill and planer employed no less than 25 men and supplied lumber for the box factory alongside. Beside the flour mill there was the linseed oil plant, both supplied with flax and wheat grown by the villagers. Housed in a large building was a fruit tree spray manufacturing operation. Here, in large vats were mixed in proper portion, lime, sulphur and other ingredients to supply the spray needs of the large orchards throughout the Kootenay communities. Looking after the maintenance was the well-equipped blacksmith shop.

John D. Popoff, now 88, of Ootischenia, worked in this busy complex over 40 years ago. He recalled that a few years after the pipe plant was in production, a fire razed the large stock, machinery and building. As the demand was still pressing, the plant was reconstructed.

The pipes were produced from selected dry fir in standard sizes that ranged from 18 inch mains to two-inch pipes used for the branch lines. They were made in lengths of 12 feed and 16 feet. Couplings and other connections were also made there. Other pipes assembled on location in the field in continuous form were up to 24 inches in diameter.

The plant was equipped with up-to-date machinery that produced staves milled to the round form of the pipe. These were assembled into pipes and clamped tight, before being bound with heavy gauge galvanized wire to keep them together. This wire was applied by a winding machine with sufficient tension to seat the wire firmly in the wood. The ends were stapled to lock them in place.

Following the wire winding, the pipe ends were turned on the heading machine, for proper fitting of couplings.

Wood stave piping was commonly used in British Columbia in the early twentieth century. Here, a 48 inch wood stave siphon is being constructed by the Fruitlands Irrigation and Power Co., 1910. BC ArchivesĀ I-68400.

After the pipe was assembled and the turned ends covered with protective capping, it was passed to a lower level where it was dipped into a bath of hot tar. The pipe was rotated in this vat of boiling-hot tar until all the outside surface was thoroughly coated. This coating acted as a sealer and a preservative, with the protective capping, of course, keeping the ends free from tar for proper fitting.

To consolidate the sticky coating and to facilitate handling, the pipe was rolled in sawdust. Pipes assembled on location in the field also were coated with tar.

Of special importance was the spacing of the wire that bound the pipes. This was governed by the pressure it would be subjected to. The higher the water pressure, the closer the wire winding. Heavier gauge wire was used on larger pipes. Staves also varied in thickness, according to the size of the pipe and the pressure to be contained in it.

The smaller of two CCUB reservoirs at Brilliant fed by 12-inch wood pipeline, circa 1920. British Columbia Archives D-01927.

Mr. Popoff explained, “For large mains that carried great pressures of water, individual steal bands (these were made in the blacksmith shop) were used instead of wire for greater resistance. These bands or hoops were equipped with malleable iron shoes through which the threaded ends passed free for tension adjustment with a nut. These were specially used on the 24-inch line from Pass Creek that was assembled in continuous form with staggered staves.

John T. Stoochnoff, whose Ootischenia home is just below an abandoned irrigation reservoir, recalled that the huge Pass Creek water line was reduced into smaller pipes along the Brilliant flats. This water supplied the needs of Brilliant villages, the Kootenay-Columbia jam factory and the Ootischenia communities across the bridge in the lower areas where Selkirk College is now located. The other major water line was from McPhee Creek (across from Thrums) that supplied water through 12-inch mains for Ootischenia.

Large million-gallon reservoir at Ootischenia fed by 12-inch wood pipeline, circa 1920. Koozma Tarasoff Collection 245.

A steam engine supplied the power for the pipe plant in the daytime and at night it operated the largest pumps in the interior to pump water from the Kootenay River through a 12-inch pipeline for the centrally located one million gallon irrigation reservoir. A small creek also emptied into this reservoir that distributed water for the large Ootischenia fields and orchards through an eight-inch main.

Among the many men who worked at the plant were William A. Makortoff, Koozma Nazaroff, Nick Savinkoff, Mikit Samorodin and George J. Kinakin. Samuel Gretchin was mechanical supervisor.

Another smaller reservoir was located where the airport is now.

These wooden pipes were durable even through they were light weight and easy to install. There are pipes from this plant that are still in use in Glade and Ootischenia after over 50 years of service.

Remnants of 12-inch Doukhobor waterline and trestles along McPhee Creek, across from Thrums, British Columbia, 1999. Photo courtesy Walter Volovsek.

Although the pipes were not sold commercially and were used exclusively by the CCUB, the market value in 1914 was 25 cents a foot for six-inch pipes and 30 cents a foot for eight-inch pipes. Old-timers recalled that years later, the Pass Creek water project cost the Doukhobor community over $75,000. It is no longer in use.

By mid-twenties, most water works programs were completed and in 1924, after the head of the CCUB, Peter Lordly Verigin, was killed, production came to a temporary end.

A few years after Peter Chistiakov Verigin arrived in 1927, he started construction of the Raspberry Village at Robson. The wood-pipes used in the water line from Pass Creek to serve this village in the early ‘30s were probably the last pipes made at “Kominaya”. This line is still in use.

The claim that industry follows the farmers may be correct. But the production enterprises of the CCUB demonstrated that in times of need, pioneer farmers, through unified cooperation, did create and operate industry.