For Immediate Release – September 1, 2008
A wetland near Buchanan, Saskatchewan has been officially named to commemorate the history and development of the village and its Doukhobor heritage. The name “Buchanan Mill Pond”, proposed by writer and historian Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, was recently approved by the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board.
The Buchanan Mill Pond is located along the south parameter road in Buchanan, just east of Highway No. 229. It is approximately 100 feet long, 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep and covers approximately half an acre in area. Today, it is a typical-looking prairie wetland; however its historical association with the village dates back almost a century.
Our local heritage is reflected in our place names,” said Kalmakoff. “In this regard, the name “Buchanan Mill Pond” commemorates the historic flour mill in Buchanan and the contribution of its original Doukhobor builders and subsequent owners to the development of the village. It highlights the pond’s essential role in the milling operation and its subsequent role as a popular recreation spot for Buchanan residents.”
Buchanan Mill Pond from the east facing west, 2008. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
The origins of the mill and mill pond can be traced to the Independent Doukhobor Elevator Company. In 1915, the company was formed by a group of Buchanan-area Doukhobor farmers and businessmen, Peter. A. Shukin, Alex M. Demosky, Nikolai N. Dergousoff, John P. Sookocheff, Joseph W. Sookocheff, Michael J. Verigin, Nikolai P. Vanjoff, John Novokshonoff and John C. and Alex C. Plaxin, for the purpose of carrying on an elevator and milling business. It was a boom time for agriculture on the Prairies, and the war years brought high prices for grain and farm products. There was also a great need for local milling facilities, as the closest mill was 14 miles away in Canora.
With an initial investment of eight thousand dollars, the Doukhobors built a 60,000-bushel grain elevator along the CNR right-of-way in Buchanan in 1915. In 1916, they built a first-class roller flour mill (50 feet long, 36 feet wide and 40 feet high) to the east of it at a capital value of one hundred thousand dollars. A large warehouse was built near the mill to receive and store the milled flour. The Doukhobors also brought in a steam shovel and excavated the dugout pond to store and provide water for the steam-engine which ran the mill.
Mill pond from the west facing east, c. 1940. The mill warehouse (gambrel roof) is at far end. Behind is the mill (elevator-shaped roof). The mill elevator is to the north (left), second from the front. Photo by Lorne J. Plaxin.
Over the next decade, the Independent Doukhobor Elevator Company operated in Buchanan, buying, selling, storing, handling, shipping and milling grain from the local area. However, a post-war recession hit the prairies; prices for grain and farm products hit record lows; credit could not be had; and many rural businesses could no longer operate profitably. In 1925, the company ceased operations and the mill and elevator were sold.
The elevator was purchased by the National Elevator Company, which continued to operate it for several decades.
Ownership of the mill changed repeatedly over the years. In 1925, it was sold to the West Milling Company Ltd. The next year, it was run by the Buchanan Farmers Milling Company (Dave Dockas, manager). In 1929, it was bought by the Buchanan Milling Company (A.W. Slipchenko, manager). Then in 1932, the Farmers Milling Company (Paul Blonski, owner) purchased the mill and overhauled it, furnishing it with new, first-class machinery and changing it over from steam to combustion engine power. In 1941, it was taken over by the Buchanan Milling Company, which operated it under several owners (Joseph Ortinsky, Walter Mysak and T. Evaniuk until 1945, followed by Morris Naruzny) until 1947, when it ceased operations and was dismantled. The mill was Buchanan’s largest industry for over 30 years.
Buchanan railway station and elevators from the west facing east, c. 1940. The mill elevator is second from front. The mill (elevator-shaped roof) is to the south (right) of it. Photo by Lorne J. Plaxin.
After 1932, the pond ceased to be used in the milling operation, as water was no longer required for the steam engines. However, for decades thereafter, it was a popular recreation spot for Buchanan residents. In summer, the pond was used as a family picnic spot and a swimming hole. One 1948 newspaper referred to it as Buchanan’s “Beauty Spot”. In winter, it was used by schoolchildren as a skating rink. At one end, a steep hill provided an excellent toboggan run. It continued to be used by local residents until the late Sixties. Today, the pond is a wetland and wildlife habitat.
“The mill pond was our childhood hangout,” said Lorne J. Plaxin, former Buchanan resident and son of one of the original mill owners. “It is where many of us learned to dog-paddle in summer, and skate and play hockey in winter. I lived in Buchanan during this era and am sure most would agree that the pond should be formally recognized for its historic significance.”
An old pulley wheel lies beside concrete foundations, the last remnants of the Buchanan flour mill, 2008. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
The official name comes after a year of consultations by Kalmakoff to gather input and support for the name from local stakeholders. The response was collectively in favour of the name. The landowner, George Dwernychuk of Sports Grove, Alberta, provided a letter of support. The Village of Buchanan No. 331 also passed a resolution in favour of the name. As well, Lorne J. Plaxin provided an enthusiastic written endorsement.
The consultations were followed by a formal proposal by Kalmakoff to the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board, the Provincial body responsible for place names. The Board reviewed and investigated the name proposal in consultation with government departments and agencies. In determining the suitability of the name, the Board was guided by the Geographic Naming Policies, a stringent set of principles governing the naming of geographic features. Its decision – which supported the name Buchanan Mill Pond – was then recommended to the Minister Responsible for the Board, the Honourable Ken Cheveldayoff, who approved the decision.
Now that the name is official, the Board will supply the information to government ministries and agencies, cartographers, geographers, publishers and other persons engaged in the preparation of maps and publications intended for official and public use.
“The naming of the Buchanan Mill Pond signifies its important historic significance to the village,” said Kalmakoff. It commemorates the resourcefulness, industry and community spirit of its early residents.”
For additional information or inquiries about Buchanan Mill Pond, email Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.