‘The Long and Endless Journey’, Brief Memories of the Perepelkin Family

By William J. Perepelkin

Towards the end of his life, William J. Perepelkin (1922-2012) of Castlegar, British Columbia wrote a short memoir about his parents, Ivan N. and Nastya (nee Planidin) Perepelkin and grandparents Nikolai N. and Mary I. (Evdokimoff) Perepelkin during their life in the Doukhobor Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood between 1899 and 1939. On account of Nikolai’s skills in farming, livestock raising and brick-making, and on the advice of the leaders, the family frequently moved between Doukhobor settlements within and between the provinces of Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Perepelkin describes their various journeys and experiences as members of the communal organization, along with the hardship and dislocation that followed the demise of the Community and its foreclosure by creditors. He wrote these memories down in the form of a letter to his nephew Fred Samorodin, who years later, transcribed it into the following article. Foreword by Frederick T. Samorodin. Afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

Foreword

Hazel Samorodin (1929-2015), my mother, daughter of Ivan Perepelkin and Nastya Perepelkin nee Planedin, was the third of their six children. “Uncle Bill”, William J. Perepelkin (1922-2012) was Hazel’s oldest brother and the second-born sibling. Folded inside one of my adult diaries, its details almost forgotten, I have found and transcribed the “Brief Memories of the Perepelkin Family” written by my uncle, William Perepelkin and addressed to me from a time I do not recall, initially, having seen the memoir! It adds to details on my family tree and to help tie in some earlier childhood recollections of mine on scattered details of my mother’s own childhood memories.

Fred Samorodin October 6, 2020


On August 19, 1898, Grandfather Nicklai (Nikolai Nikolaevich Perepelkin 1875-1965) with his family in a group of 1,126 (Doukhobor) persons from two villages in the Caucasus – Rodionovka and Efremovka, immigrated temporarily to Cyprus. On April 18, 1899 they sailed (from Larnaca) on the S.S. Lake Superior and landed in Montreal with 1,036 other Doukhobors on May 9, 1899. Then their journey west started (un)till they reached Saskatchewan (then known as the ‘North West Territories’). They established themselves in the village of Kamenka, near Kamsack. They lived there until Peter ‘The Lordly’ Verigin came from his exile in Russia to Canada in 1902.

Nikolai N. Perepelkin family enumerated in Kamenoye village, SK in the 1906 Census of Northwest Provinces.

As soon as he came, Verigin started to reorganize the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (Doukhobors). During this time the Canadian Government was confiscating parts of the Doukhobor lands. Peter Verigin bought land around the town of Verigin and also a brick factory in Yorkton. By his advice our family moved to Yorkton to work in the brick factory. Since then, the long and endless – so to speak -journey started for our family.

Nikolai N. Perepelkin, brickmaster, and family enumerated in Yorkton, SK in the 1911 Canada Census.

For short periods, under the advice of P.V., they moved to a farm, also near Yorkton, which our people called – “Burtseva Farma”. It was bought by the Community to raise cattle and some grain crops, I guess! I can’t recall the farmer’s name that they bought the farm from. He was of German descent, I think.

Nikolai N. Perepelkin family enumerated in Plorodnoye (Glade), BC in the 1921 Canada Census.

After a short time, our family was moved to British Columbia, to Kirpichnoye (‘Claybrick’) in the Slocan Valley. We have family pictures of that period. From there, also under the advice of P.V., they were moved to Plodorodnoye (Glade), where they lived until 1924.

(l-r) Ivan (John), Nikolai, Peter, Mary and Elizabeth Perepelkin at Kirpichnoye in the Slocan Valley, c. 1915.

Then, on the advice given again, in the spring of that year (1924), the family was moved to Verigin, Saskatchewan and settled on Section 1 of the CCUB lands. That year, in the fall (October 29, 1924) Peter Verigin got killed in the train explosion near Farron, BC. Grandfather Nicolai was very close to both Verigins – Peter V. as well as his son, Peter P., and felt the tragedy deeply. On Section 1 we lived with two other families—Bloodoffs and Faminoffs, until the arrival from Russia of Peter P. Verigin (‘Chistiakov’) in 1927.

Nikolai N. Perepelkin family enumerated on Section 1, Veregin district, SK in the 1926 Census of Western Provinces.

In the year 1929, Chistiakov advised our family to move to Section 3, known as ‘Khutor’ (‘ranch’ or ‘farmstead’), which we did, to live with two families of Chernoffs: Nicolai Chernoff with his four daughters and Ivan Chernoff, with his family of five sons. The CCUB was already gradually falling apart, so the land that was jointly cultivated before, was split up, favouring those who had more power or seniority. And, the Chernoffs, having lived there longer than us, took over the two northern quarter sections, which were a full 160 acres each, with no swaps that were left to us on the southern 1.5 quarters—which has a slough across the length (of the property), leaving us only about 105 usable acres. The other quarter and Community buildings and also a huge slough in the middle! So, between these two southern quarters we had only about a total of 205 acres. Then, the Community allotted us the northern part of Section 1, which was across the C.N. Railway line from the farm buildings. This part was not quite cleared of poplar and other brush, which we eventually cleared. This gave us another strip which we could farm!

Anastasia (nee Planidin) (right), wife of Ivan N. Perpelkin near Veregin, SK, c. 1926.

In the years, 1936-37, Chistiakov went around the province of Saskatchewan to all Doukhobor Communities, advising them to move to BC. This he, Chistiakov, advised, not only to Community (CCUB) Doukhobors, but to Independents as well, saying: “Переселяйтесь в Колумбию! Землю не купите! Переселятесь как в Батум! Переживайте где у брата – где у свата!!” [Move to [British] Columbia! Don’t buy property! Move as you (once did) moved to Batum, Georgia (when preparing to emigrate to Cyprus/Canada). Settle in with a brother or a father-in-law!]

Mary Perepelkin holding granddaughter Hazel while very ill at one year of age, Veregin SK, 1929.

We (the Perepelkins) already had accumulated a lot of property: had 16 work horses and four young yearling colts, several cows, all the farm equipment needed to farm the land: a binder, McCormick-Deering for harvesting grain crops; a brand new Case mower for cutting – the first of its kind in Verigin (the first to have gears in an oil bath); a disc harrow, 5 sections of a toothed harrow; a Massey-Harris cultivator. In other words, we were all set to farm! The price of wheat went up to $1.05 a bushel and the yield was fair as compared to the early Thirties, when we barely got our seed back, and the price of feed wheat was 10 cents a bushel.

In 1937, Grandfather Nicolai took Peter Chistiakov’s advice to heart and started to disperse what we could. After the Depression, everyone was poor, so most goods, cows and horses went almost for nothing: $10.00 a head! Grandfather and Dad met with Joe Shukin, who was manager of the CCUB at the time, to deal with property being left behind, such as summer-fallow (which is land that had over 100 plus acres ready for seeding).

Advertisement for a McCormick-Deering binder, similar to the one Nikolai N. Perepelkin acquired while farming near Veregin, SK in the 1930s.

If I remember rightly, we then moved to ‘Vesyoloye’ (Lebahdo-Winlaw) in BC which was also CCUB property at the time – we would not have to pay rent to the CCUB for three years. In the meantime, the CCUB would sell our field under summer fallow, to whomever, at whatever price they could get.

So we started to prepare for the move! Uncle Pete (Peter N. Perepelkinl) and Dad went to Winnipeg and bought a 1934 Chev pickup. This was in 1937. In the spring of 1938 the folks rented a boxcar from the CNR and loaded a team of horses, two cows and other household goods, potatoes, etc. And on April 10th, 1938, Dad with two nice dogs we had, Gyp and Jack, took off for BC in the boxcar with the livestock. I don’t remember how long it took them to get to Lebahdo – about three days, I believe. There were some buildings on the property, although they were in very poor shape, but a shelter, anyway! There were some things that were taken to Auntie Elizabeth Fominoff, who lived at Claybrick, not far away.

Perepelkin siblings (l-r): Hazel ( Samorodin), William holding Frederick, Elma (Hadikin), Una (Voykin). Veregin SK, 1936.

On June 10, 1938, after three days of travel, we, the whole Perepelkin family arrived at ‘Vesyoloye’ on the pickup, dragging behind a trailer with the mower I mentioned earlier. I remember, the fastest we drove, even on paved roads was 45 miles per hour. Much of the road was not paved then!!

So we started to settle down, to fix up buildings. We got permission from the CCUB to wreck a bunkhouse, which was not being used anymore from way up Cougar Creek on the Little Slocan River. It took a few days hauling by horse and wagon to bring the salvaged lumber down. We slept up there a couple of nights while stripping the boards off the sides of the building. So finally we settled down – in a way! Some people would never believe what it was like! Looking back, I could not believe how much work was done in such a short period of time!

Then, in the spring of 1939, William Soukeroff (CCUB official) and a man named Wilson (R.N. Wilson, Sun Life loan manager) – I believe, came to our place and declared, that the Sun Life Assurance Company was foreclosing on the CCUB mortgage, and our agreement with the CCUB was no longer valid! The land now belonged to the Company, and we had to buy the property! I don’t remember if a written notice was given! The agreement would amount to half a crop payment on anything we produced! Seeing that, Grandfather said that: “We have no money, and under the circumstances, we will not buy the land!”

Perepelkin family interviewed about their eviction from Community farm at Winlaw, BC. Vancouver Sun, July 10, 1939.

So we went on living: planted our gardens, etc. On June 7th, 1939, Dad and I were cultivating potatoes of which we had a big field. The cultivator was drawn by a horse, which I led. Suddenly, we heard a lot of screaming; and looking from where the noise came, we saw a truck and a number of men around the buildings (on the property) and an RCMP car standing on the highway. So we stopped our work and went to see what was happening. Upon coming closer, we saw the men were taking anything they could get their hands on and loading the truck, and then driving to the (gravel) highway and unloading everything between the barbed wire fence and the highway! That is a very wet area! There was no more than 10 feet of space. When we moved to “Vesyoloye”, there was only a passible road for horse and wagon. The main road to the Slocan Valley was across the Slocan River. They started to build the main highway that same year, and it was finished in early 1939. It was gravel, of course, and as the traffic went by, the rocks flew up against our tents. And, of course, my brothers, Frederick and George were just – I didn’t know what to say or do! I remembered when we had Bible study in school (We had a very religious teacher). The quote was: “And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also!” (Matthew 5:40).

Somehow all fear left me! I took off my clothes and threw them at the Deputy Sheriff. Then the other family members took off their clothes! I don’t remember who all did, because the Deputy Sheriff and another man led me to the highway. I remember, I called the Deputy “Adolf Hitler”, for which he whacked me across my face! I was actually very angry at this time and a bit bigger than the Deputy. I was going to return the favour. However, a few neighbours gathered around, and a good lady by the name of Polly Rilkoff came up and stopped me from doing so!

Our family gradually settled down by bringing tents, which they made from used material they got from CM&S (Consolidated Mining and Smelting) (now Cominco) in Trail, BC. So after a while they (the Sheriff’s gang) brought everything (took) that we had: (they) let our cows and horses loose on the road, which our neighbours, the Munch brothers impounded! But a good neighbour named Frank Bailey contacted the Government at the time and freed the livestock at no cost to us! So we got two tents, and finally more—covered most of our (remaining) belongings, and settled down for the rest of the summer along the highway, in the bog—a very wet area. But, having a fairly dry summer, we fared as best as we could!

Nikolai and Mary Perpelkin, Lebahdo Flats, BC, 1948.

We stayed in the bog by the highway until October 22, 1939, when Dad decided to move us out of the coming cold weather. And it was getting cold!! Seeing as we had no money, he arranged with a woman named Mary Markin, in Slocan Park for accommodation. Our rent would be paid by labour; clearing brush and pulling stumps, with our horses.

Meantime, Grandfather and Grandmother decided to stay put! So the neighbour I mentioned before, Frank Bailey, came and asked Granddad what he intended to do, seeing as it was getting cold with winter approaching! He asked grandfather if he had any money! Grandfather answered: “Have no money and gonna die here!” Mr. Bailey told him to move back into the houses and he will take care of the rest. So he wrote to the right people and got Grandfather and Grandmother their pensions, as they were of pensionable age. So they moved back!

We lived out our terms of rent by work, and Mary Markin told us, that if we can’t pay rent, we would have to move out! Then Dad went to Glade, where he found some Community buildings that were half empty. Where we decided to move. This was in the spring and summer of 1941. That is how we landed once more in Glade (Plodorodnoye).

Dear Fred: This is an afterthought. As you know, it is hard to remember everything! After we were evicted, a lady reporter (seems to me, her name was Terry) from the Vancouver Sun came to interview us! You could probably get information from the ‘Sun’.

Sorry about my writing! When thoughts come, I have to hurry and put them down before I forget them! If there is something you don’t understand, or is not clear, don’t be afraid to write and ask! Writing something like this, at my age, is kind of hard. When a thought comes, one had to hurry and write it down before losing it!

Best Wishes from your

Uncle Bill Perepelkin

(l-r) Son-in-law Timothy N. Samorodin, a young Freddy Samorodin and grandfather Nikolai N. Perepelkin, Lebahdo Flats, BC, 1953.

P.S. Further recollections by your mother: Before our final move to BC, Father or Grandfather brought our Great-Grandmother (Grandfather’s mother) to BC. (I can’t even recall her name! – We just called her ‘Babushka’ [Anna Ilinichna (nee Muzhelskaya) Perepelkin, b. 1848]. She was left temporarily with relatives, who lived at a place known as ‘Fort Pila’ near Shoreacres. She was in her late 90’s and blind. She later was moved to live out her final days with our Grandparents (at Lebahdo Flats). But at the time of our eviction she was temporarily given shelter by a neighbour in a small shack with a dirt floor, where she stayed for four months before she moved back in with our Grandparents. During the eviction, your Aunt Una Voykin (4th sibling) and I were away at Perry’s Siding, picking strawberries, and missed all the excitement!


Afterword

The following is a summary of the many places where the Perepelkin family lived as members of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood during the 44-year period between 1895 and 1939. This rather unsettled existence, described by the writer William J. Perepelkin as a “long and endless journey”, together with the trauma associated with the break-up of the Community and their eviction from Community lands by foreclosing creditors in 1939, may have contributed to some family members subsequently becoming associated with the radical Sons of Freedom in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties.

Place of ResidenceYears
Rodionovka village, Akhalkalaki district, Tiflis province, RussiaPrior to 1895
Nizhne-Machkhaani section, Signakhi district, Tiflis province, Russia (exile)1895-1898
Island of Cyprus1898-1899
Kamenka village, Kamsack district, SK1899-1905
Novo-Kamenka village, Arran district, SK1905-1907
CCUB brick factory, Yorkton, SK1907-c.1913
Burtsevo settlement, Hamton district, SKc.1913-c.1915
Kirpichnoye village, Winlaw district, BCc.1915-c.1918
Plodorodnoye settlement, Glade district, BCc.1918-1924
Section 1-30-1-W2 village, Veregin district, SK1924-1929
Khutor village, Veregin district, SK1929-1938
Veseloye village, Lebahdo district, BC1938-1939
Road allowance (evicted), Lebahdo district, BC1939-1939
Slocan Park & Veseloye village, Lebahdo district, BC1939-1941
Glade & Veseloye village, Lebahdo district, BC1941-

The Doukhobor Grain Elevator at Brilliant , BC

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

Brilliant, British Columbia is known for many things, including its historic orchard lands, its spectacular scenic views of the Kootenay and Columbia River valleys and its picturesque mountain backdrops.  One thing it is not known for, however, is grain growing.  And yet, for a quarter-century, a tall grain elevator towered over the community; albeit one that functioned differently than most other elevators in Western Canada.  This article examines the unique history of the Doukhobor grain elevator at Brilliant.

Background

Beginning in 1908, thousands of members of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) led by Peter V. Verigin arrived in the West Kootenay from Saskatchewan, where they purchased vast tracts of heavily forested land. 

Doukhobor Communal Enterprise at Brilliant, 1924. BC Archives No. C-01386-141.

Over the next decade, 2,800 Doukhobors[i] settled on 5,350 acres[ii] at Brilliant and Dolina Utesheniya (Ootischenia) at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers.  There, they cleared the land and established 30 communal villages.[iii]  On the non-arable land, they established various industries including sawmills, a planer mill, shingle mill, stave mill, box-making factory, linseed oil processing plant, fruit spray manufacturing facility, pumping plant and electrical works, two large irrigation reservoirs, a harness shop and large jam factory.  On the arable land, they planted 1,435 acres of orchard (apple, pear, plum and cherry trees)[iv] and another 2,706 acres of berries (strawberries, raspberries and currents), potatoes, fiber crops (flax, hemp), forage crops (clover and hay) and feed crops (oats and millet).[v]     

The burgeoning settlement was self-sufficient in virtually every respect, save for one.  While the Doukhobors there grew small plots of wheat, including 55 acres at the north end of Ootischenia and 15 acres on the third bench at Brilliant, they did not produce remotely enough wheat to satisfy their domestic needs.  As flour was a staple food item among Doukhobors, this posed a serious problem.   

Prairie Wheat

To address this, Peter V. Verigin arranged for surplus wheat grown by the CCUB on the Prairies, where it had thousands of acres of grain land, to be milled into flour and shipped to Brilliant and Ootischenia from 1909 on.[vi]  At first, it was a one-way exchange.  However, as the settlement grew and developed, especially after its orchards came into bearing between 1912 and 1918, it traded its locally-produced fruit, jam and timber for Prairie wheat and flour.   

CCUB Grain Elevator at Brilliant, BC, c. 1922. BC Archives No. C-01790.

To further facilitate this exchange, in September 1912, the Doukhobor leader first proposed building a local grain elevator to store the wheat shipped in from the Prairies and a grist mill to manufacture flour from it.[vii]  The mill was constructed at the northeast end of Ootischenia, which was called Kamennoye, by December 1914.[viii]  However, it was several more years before the elevator was built.    

The Elevator

Between October 1917 and August 1918,[ix] CCUB work crews erected a large grain elevator on the south side of the Canadian Pacific Railway Rossland Branch right-of-way, immediately west of the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works jam factory on the main bench of Brilliant. 

The Doukhobors were proficient elevator builders at the time, having constructed nine grain elevators owned and operated by the CCUB at Verigin, Arran, Ebenezer, Canora and Kylemore, SK and at Cowley and Lundbreck, AB as well as numerous others built for hire for private grain companies.

The one at Brilliant was a ‘standard plan’ elevator of wood crib construction clad in tin on a concrete foundation, about 35 x 35 feet wide x 70 feet high, with a gable cupola facing north-south.  It had a storage capacity of 30,000 bushels of grain.  Originally painted white, it was repainted dark brown between 1925 and 1927.  Emblazoned on its east and west sides were the words, “The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd.”    

Attached on the south side of the elevator was a wooden ramp, receiving shed and office.  On its west side was an attached engine shed containing a stationary gasoline engine which provided the motive power to operate the elevator.  Attached on the east side was a large flour warehouse that stored bagged flour received from the Prairies.        

Operations

The Brilliant grain elevator operated continuously from 1918 until 1938.  Throughout this time, it followed a more or less regular seasonal routine.

Each September through October, after the CCUB Prairie grain harvest was completed, railroad boxcars loaded with bulk wheat were shipped from CCUB Prairie elevators to Brilliant.  Each boxcar held between 1,200 and 1,500 bushels and up to 20 boxcars were dispatched each year.  Once they arrived at Brilliant, the boxcars were spotted (parked) on the railway siding beside the elevator for unloading. 

To unload a boxcar, the exterior door was slid open and the wooden boards nailed across the interior opening were removed, one at a time, starting from the top.  This allowed the wheat to flow out the door into the horse-drawn grain wagon parked beside it.  Each wagon held 100 bushels and 12-15 wagons were required to unload a single boxcar.[x]  Once the wooden boards were removed and wheat ceased to flow out the boxcar door, the remaining wheat was shoveled out by hand.       

Inside a Grain Elevator. Courtesy Commonwealth Journal.

Each loaded wagon was then driven by a Doukhobor teamster into the elevator receiving shed where it was unhitched from its team, weighed on the scale and then lifted using hand-operated crank hoists to dump the grain into the receiving pit below.  Once empty, the wagon was lowered and reweighed.  The difference between weights determined the volume of wheat received.  The wheat was then carried from the pit to the top or ‘head’ of the elevator by means of a ‘leg’, a continuous belt with carrying cups.  From the head, the grain was dumped into one of several bins where it was stored.  Over several weeks, up to 300 wagon-loads of grain were received by the elevator until it reached its storage capacity. 

When wheat stored in the elevator was needed for milling, it was emptied by gravity flow from the bin into a hopper and back down into the pit, where it was then carried back up the ‘leg’ to an unloading spout that emptied in the receiving shed into a horse-drawn grain wagon parked there.  The loaded wagon was then driven across the suspension bridge to the grist mill at Kamennoye to be ground into flour. 

As the grist mill had a relatively limited capacity of 100 bushels a day, only one wagon-load of wheat was typically discharged from the grain elevator each day.  It therefore took some 300 days to fully empty the elevator, by which time, new boxcars of wheat would arrive from the latest Prairie harvest.  And so the cycle repeated itself.    

When flour milled by the CCUB on the Prairies was shipped to Brilliant, the bags of flour were unloaded from the boxcar by hand and carried to the elevator flour warehouse where they were stacked and stored. 

Management

Initially, the CCUB Brilliant Branch Manager was responsible for the operation of the grain elevator.  From 1918 to 1923, this was Michael M. Koftinoff, and from 1924 to 1926, it was Larion W. Verigin.  By 1928, the elevator had its own Manager, which in that year was John J. Zoobkoff, while from 1929 to 1932 it was Michael W. Soukeroff.[xi]  Several labourers assisted the Manager with grain handling.    

Licensing Status

The Brilliant elevator operated quite differently than most elevators in Western Canada.  It did not receive grain from members of the public.  And while it received grain privately owned by the CCUB, it did not receive any that was locally produced.  Indeed, it did not deal directly with producers at all.  Also, it did not handle un-inspected grain, since the grain it received was already inspected at the CCUB Prairie elevators.  Nor did it purchase, handle, store or sell any grain for commerce.  Finally, it did not ship out any grain by rail.       

Doukhobor Grain Elevator at Brilliant, 1927. Courtesy Doukhobor Discovery Centre/John Kalmakov.

Because of its unique mode of operation, the grain storage facility did not legally fit the definition of a “public elevator”, “country elevator”, “primary grain dealer” nor “private elevator” so as to require a license under The Canada Grain Act.  Consequently, with one exception, it was never licensed while in operation.[xii] 

The Demise of the CCUB

For two decades, the grain elevator served as an essential component of the CCUB food supply chain, helping keep bread on the tables of the Doukhobors of Brilliant and Ootischenia. 

However, by mid-1936, the CCUB was bankrupt.  Its collapse was the combination of various factors, including low prices for its agricultural and industrial products during the Great Depression; oppressive interest rates on its mortgaged properties; a declining membership base, placing the debt load on disproportionately less members; non-payers of annual allotments among its members; the enormous losses to its capital assets suffered from incendiarism; as well as financial mismanagement.[xiii]

In May 1938, the Brilliant grain elevator and other CCUB properties were foreclosed upon by the receiver for the National Trust Company Limited, having been pledged as collateral to secure the bankrupt organization’s debt.[xiv]  For the next five years, it sat empty and unused except as casual storage.  Then in October 1942, it was transferred to the Government of British Columbia.[xv]  However, the Government’s tenure over the elevator proved to be short-lived. 

Destruction of the Elevator

In November 1942, the vacant elevator was completely destroyed in a suspicious fire.[xvi]  The property damage was valued at $4,000.00 for the structure and $2,500.00 for its contents.[xvii]  Provincial police investigated possible incendiary origin of the fire, suspecting radical Sons of Freedom;[xviii] however, no charges were ever laid. 

News report of elevator fire, The Province, November 12, 1942.

Conclusion

Today there are no physical traces of the grain elevator at Brilliant.  The site where it stood at 1839 Brilliant Road is now occupied by a landscaping company.  However, the story of this iconic structure serves to remind us of the ingenuity, determination and productivity of the once-flourishing Doukhobor communal organization it was a part of.   

After Word

An earlier version of this article was originally published in the Trail Times, November 3, 2020 edition and the Castlegar News and Nelson Star November 4, 2020 editions.

End Notes


[i] In October 1912, there were 2,203 Doukhobors at Brilliant and Dolina Utesheniya: 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 35. By March 1914, there were 2,800 Doukhobors living there: Joseph, P. Shoukin, Calgary Daily Herald, March 28, 1914.  And in June 1921 there were 2,492 Doukhobors residing in these areas: 1921 Canada Census, District No. 18 Kootenay West, Sub-District No. 10 Trail, pages 1-30 and Sub-District No. 10A Trail, pages 1-23.

[ii] Snesarev, V.N., The Doukhobors in British Columbia (University of British Columbia, Department of Agriculture, 1931).

[iii] V. Plotnikoff, “Shining Waters, Doukhobors in the Castlegar Area” in Castlegar, A Confluence (Castlegar & District Heritage Society, 2000).

[iv] Snesarev, supra, note 2.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] See for example, “Letter to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood from Petr Verigin, 24 September 1909” in A. Donskov, Leo Tolstoy and the Canadian Doukhobors: A Study in Historic Relationships. Expanded and Revised Edition. (University of Ottawa Press, Nov. 19 2019); SFU Item No. MSC121-DC-029-001, Letter to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood from Peter Verigin, September 5, 1911; SFU Item No. MSC121-DB-052-001, Account of Income and Expenditures for Relocation to British Columbia for the year 1911 up to August 10, 1912; “Report of the General Meeting of the Doukhobor Community held in Otradnoye Village, October 13, 1912” in Winnipeg Free Press, December 5, 1912.

[vii] Blakemore, supra, note 1 at 47.

[viii] The Province, December 21, 1914.

[ix] Detailed photographic and textual depictions of Brilliant in 1917 do not include the grain elevator: Vancouver Standard, April 7, 1917; Vancouver Daily Sun, October 14, 1917. However, several 1918 and 1919 accounts make reference to the ‘recently erected’ grain elevator: Record of Christian Work, Vol. 37, No. 8, August, 1918 at 449; Letter dated April 24, 1919 from Nicholas J. Chernenkoff, CCUB to B.E. Paterson, Chairman, Committee of Enquiry & Research, Soldier Settlement Board; British Columbia Farmer, May 1, 1919; Saskatoon Daily Star, July 12, 1919.

[x] A lesser number might have been used, provided they first unloaded their wheat in the elevator and then returned to the boxcar for another load.

[xi] Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1928-1932.

[xii] Throughout its twenty years of operation from 1918 to 1938, the CCUB elevator Brilliant was only licensed once in 1930-1931: List of Licensed Elevators and Warehouses in the Western Grain Inspection Division (Ottawa: Department of Trade and Commerce, 1930-1931) at 8. This appears to have been due to a misinterpretation of the revised Canada Grain Act, 1930 (Can.), c. 5) which came into force on September 1, 1930.

[xiii] S. Jamieson, “Economic and Social Life” in H.B. Hawthorn (Ed.), The Doukhobors of British Columbia (University of British Columbia, 1955) at 52-56.

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

[xv] The Doukhobor Lands Acquisition Act (Chapter 12, Statutes of British Columbia, 1939); British Columbia Order-in-Council No. 1429 of October 21, 1942.

[xvi] Vancouver Sun, November 12, 1942; The Province, November 12, 1942.

[xvii] Steve Lapshinoff, Depredations in Western Canada Attributed to the Sons of Freedom, 1923 to 1993 (Krestova: self-published, 1994) at 11.

[xviii] Supra, note 16.

The Doukhobor Fruit Store in Cranbrook, BC, 1925-1926

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

While the Doukhobor connection to B.C. places like Grand Forks and Castlegar are well known, few today would associate them with Cranbrook. Yet for a brief period in 1925-1926, Cranbrook was the easternmost commercial outpost of the Doukhobor communal organization, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB), in that province.

In the fall of 1925, after an impressive apple harvest, the Grand Forks Branch of the CCUB looked eastward to potential distribution points in the East Kootenay and Crowsnest Pass region to market and sell its apples. A Doukhobor trading store in Blairmore, AB was established in 1924 to this end, but ceased operation in early 1925 amidst a legal dispute.

After unsuccessful negotiations with fruit sellers in Cranbrook to handle their apples, the Grand Forks Doukhobors decided to establish a wholesale branch of their own in that city by October 1925.[1]

Strategically located near the western outlet of the Crowsnest Pass, Cranbrook was an important Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) junction for shipping goods east through the Rockies to the Prairies, northwest to the Kimberly mines, north via Fort Steele up the Kootenay and Columbia River valleys to Golden, or south via Kingsgate to the United States on the Spokane International Railroad.  

View of the Doukhobor fruit warehouse at 124 Norbury Avenue (now 24 10th Avenue). The Star Theatre is located directly across, while the Canadian Hotel is located beside it to the right. Courtesy Prairie Towns.

To this end, in early November 1925, the Doukhobors leased the former Cranbrook Cooperative Stores Ltd. (CCS) building at 124 Norbury Avenue (now 24 10th Avenue) next to the Canadian Hotel and across from the Star Theatre in Cranbrook.[2] Built in 1910, it was a large 48 x 70 foot, two-story wood-frame warehouse with storefront façade, freight elevator, full concrete basement and tin gambrel roof.[3] It was conveniently located three blocks east of the CPR depot.

Within days, the CCUB shipped “several” railcars of apples from its Grand Forks packing houses to Cranbrook.[4] To give some idea of the volume, each CPR railcar held between 500 and 800 40-lb boxes of apples; and if 3 or more railcars were shipped, then between 30 to 100 tons or more of Doukhobor-grown apples arrived in Cranbrook from their Grand Forks orchards. 

In Cranbrook, a Doukhobor work crew (stationed there from Grand Forks) unloaded the apples from the railcars at the CPR depot and transported them by horse and wagon teams to the CCS building, where they were put into cold storage. From there, the Doukhobors sold and delivered wagon-loads of apples throughout the city and surrounding area. Stock was also shipped via railroad to outlying towns, villages and camps. The distribution outlet was managed by Joseph P. Shukin, the BC Vice-President of the CCUB.[5]

Directory listing for the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood in Cranbrook. Wrigley’s B.C. Directory, 1926.

By conducting their own wholesale distribution, the Doukhobors were able to sell their produce to East Kootenay retailers and retail customers at prevailing market prices while earning a larger profit margin than their competitors, since the apples were grown, picked, packed and handled by unpaid communal labour, and were sold without the intervention of middlemen or commission agents. In this regard, the Doukhobor ‘tree to consumer’ approach was an early precursor to the ‘farm gate’ model of agricultural product marketing.

The CCUB at Cranbrook launched a major advertising campaign (somewhat uncharacteristically of Doukhobors) in the local newspaper, the Cranbrook Herald, between November 1925 and February 1926 to publicly market and produce its produce.

A listing of its advertised apple varieties demonstrates the biodiversity of the CCUB fruit-growing operation in Grand Forks: Northern Spy, Wagner, Spitzenberg Greenings, Ben Davis, Alexander, Newton, Baxter, Ontario, Rome Beauty, Snows, Jonathan and Delicious.[6] Several of these varieties can no longer be found today. Prices ranged from $1.50 to $2.00 per 40-lb box. Free wagon delivery was offered to any part of the city.

Doukhobor apple advertisement, Cranbrook Herald, November 12, 1925 to January 28, 1926.

Interestingly, the CCUB Cranbrook outlet also offered chicken feed for sale at $2.30 per 100-lb bag.[7] This consisted of weed seeds, cracked and broken grains, bran and other screenings – milling waste generated from the CCUB flour milling operation in Grand Forks. In this way, the Doukhobors generated an additional revenue stream from an otherwise waste byproduct. 

By February 1926, the CCUB at Cranbrook ceased newspaper advertising, and within the next several weeks, successfully sold out its apple stock from the Fall 1925 harvest. It is estimated that the Doukhobors grossed between $2,900.00 and $7,700.00 ($45,800.00 to $121,600.00 in today’s dollars) or more in revenue from their three-plus month stay in the city. The CCUB subsequently gave up its lease on the Norbury Avenue warehouse and the Doukhobors departed back to their communal settlements in Grand Forks.

The CCUB never re-established a commercial presence in Cranbrook after 1926, opting for other marketing and distribution strategies instead. However, their brief tenure in that city demonstrated the nimbleness and practicality with which the Doukhobors approached their business dealings. As for their one-time fruit warehouse, it still stands today and remains in use as a business premises.[8]  

After Word

Special thanks to David Humphrey of the Cranbrook History Centre Archives for his assistance in tracing the history of the warehouse building.

An earlier version of this article was originally published in the Cranbrook Townsman February 17, 2022 edition as “How the Doukhobors Brought their Applies to Cranbrook.” It has subsequently appeared in the March 3, 2022 edition of the Trail News.

End Notes


[1] Cranbrook Herald, November 12, 1925.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The building was constructed in March 1910 by G.H. Gilpin of the East Kootenay Produce and Provision Co., which operated there until December 1911. In January 1912, the business was reorganized as East Kootenay Mercantile Co., occupying the premises until July 1913. In January 1914, a half-interest in the building was sold to W.B. McFarlane, who ran his Cranbrook Cooperative Stores Ltd. there until June 1917. The building was then leased to various short-term tenants, including Western Grocers from October to November 1924: Cranbrook Herald, 1910.03.24 to 1924.11.07; Cranbrook Courier, 1924.10.24. 

[4] Ibid.

[5] Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory (1926) at 95.

[6] Cranbrook Herald, November 19, 1925 to January 28, 1926.

[7] Ibid.

[8] By July 1926, the building was re-occupied by the East Kootenay Lumber Co. In February 1927, it was purchased by Hanson Garage, which added a 50-foot addition to the rear of the building. By 1946, it was taken over by Cranbrook Auto Wreckers, and in 1947, by East Kootenay Equipment Co. which operated there until 1968. In 1968, it housed Schmaltz International Ltd. for two years before it was re-occupied by B.C. Hydro in 1970. In the 2000s, it was occupied by Uniglobe Travel, and most currently, by The Paw Shop and MJ’s Floral Boutique. Cranbrook Herald, 1927.02.24, 1932.05.26, 1946.10.03, 1947.06.05; Cranbrook Courier, 1932.05.26; 1962.11.28; Lethbridge Herald, 1968.08.23, 1970.07.23; Cranbrook & East Kootenay Directory, 1946, 1953-1954.

Mikhailovka Doukhobors Commemorated by Spring Naming

For Immediate Release – November 29, 2008

A spring near Thunder Hill, Saskatchewan has been officially named to commemorate the Doukhobor pioneer settlers of Mikhailovka. The name “Mikhailovka Spring”, proposed by Doukhobor researcher and writer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, was recently approved by the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board.

Mikhailovka Spring is located on the NW 1/4 of 36-34-30-W1, two miles south of Thunder Hill, Saskatchewan and four miles northwest of Benito, Manitoba. It flows into an adjoining creek which empties half a mile east into the Swan River. It flows year-round and is considered an excellent source of fresh and abundant natural water.

“Place names reflect our country’s rich cultural and linguistic heritage,” said Kalmakoff, a leading authority on Doukhobor geographic names. “In this case, the name Mikhailovka Spring commemorates the Doukhobors of Mikhailovka, their settlement and their story.”

Mikhailovka village, 1908. The spring was located along the creek beside the bridge, center. Library and Archives Canada, PA-021116.

The village of Mikhailovka (Михаиловка) was established at the spring in 1899 by Doukhobors from Tiflis, Russia who fled to Canada to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. It was the first Doukhobor village in Canada. For eighteen years, the villagers of Mikhailovka lived, worked and prayed together under the motto of “Toil and Peaceful Life”. Then in 1917, the village was abandoned as villagers relocated to individual homesteads in the area or to communal settlements in British Columbia.

The Doukhobors of Mikhailovka had a strong and direct connection to the spring,” said Kalmakoff. “Indeed, the spring was the primary reason the settlers chose the site for their village. They dammed the spring and utilized it as a drinking water source and as a water source for their farming operations. In many ways, it defined the village settlement. Travellers of the Fort Pelly Trail, which ran past the village, also used the spring as a source of nourishment.”

The prominence of the spring at Mikhailovka was noted as early as 1899, when the famous Canadian woman journalist Mary Agnes Fitzgibbon (1862-1933), writing under the pen-name Lally Bernard, made note of it in her book “The Doukhobor Settlements” which describes her visit to the Doukhobors of Mikhailovka village that year.

Another view of Mikhailovka village, 1908. The spring was located along the creek near the bridge. Library and Archives Canada, PA-021129.

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 firmly in favour of the name. The landowners, Robert and Daren Staples of Benito, Manitoba, provided a letter of support. The Benito Doukhobor Society also endorsed the naming project. As well, the Rural Municipality of Livingston No. 331 passed a resolution in favour of the name.

The consultations were followed by a formal detailed 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 Mikhailovka Spring – 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 Saskatchewan Geographic Names 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 Mikhailovka Spring reflects the area’s strong Doukhobor heritage and their important contribution to its historic development,” said Kalmakoff. “The name is a culturally important connection between past generations, present and future.”

For additional information or inquiries about Mikhailovka Spring, email Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

Day-trip to Piers Island: Reminiscing About the Penitentiary, 1932-1935

by Gunter Schaarschmidt

From 1932 to 1935, over 600 Sons of Freedom were interred in a special penitentiary built on Piers Island in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada. Seventy-three years later, on June 17, 2008, Dr. Gunter Schaarschmidt of the University of Victoria returned to Piers Island and visited some of the physical features left from the penitentiary camp site. The following is an account of his observations and photos from his excursion. Reproduced by permission from ISKRA No. 2011 (Grand Forks, USCC, October 3, 2008).

On June 17, 2008, the University of Victoria Retirees Association organized a day-trip to Piers Island just 0.8 km (about half a mile) northwest of the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal on the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island. The island is inhabited by some 300 people many of whom live there for only part of the year. The island is accessible only by private boat – there are no roads except a dirt circle dirt road and walking trails criss-crossing the island. There are no stores but there is a Fire Station and an emergency helicopter landing site. For the retirees group one of its members and an island resident had chartered the harbour ferry that is normally used for Eco-trips from the pier at the end of Beacon Avenue in Sidney. The group assembled in the Piers Island parking lot next to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal and was ferried to the island in two trips. One of the trips arrived at a southern pier across from the ferry terminal, the other at the pier of the property that had been built on the same site as the Penitentiary for the Sons of Freedom (svobodniki), a radical group of Doukhobors, on the north side of the Island.

Plan of Piers Island, British Columbia. Note the Doukhobor penitentiary was located on ten acres in the northwest corner of the island, off of Satellite Channel.

Why was there a need for the creation of the Penitentiary on Piers Island for the Sons of Freedom, far away from their area of settlement in 1908? First of all, one must clearly differentiate between the group of Freedomite Doukhobors (svobodniki) and the Doukhobors as a whole, a pacifist philosophical movement. Lest it be thought that the group of Freedomites are all extreme anarchists, “there are many sincere and creative personalities in the group” (see Tarasoff 2002:93 who devotes an entire section to some of them on pp. 93-98). In fact, the Freedomite group has been very productive in writing diaries and autobiographies (see Rak 2004:115-142).

Figure 1. The old pier post of the camp (the new pier is farther to the right out of range of the photograph). Photo by Gunter Schaarschmidt.

An excerpt from a government document describes the establishment of the camp in part as follows (HWC/WJ 1934:1):

In May and June, 1932, at Nelson and Grand Forks, B.C., 303 males and 285 females of the faction above-named (”the Sons of Freedom faction of the Doukhobor sect”) were convicted of having publicly displayed themselves in a nude condition, and were sentenced to three years imprisonment in the British Columbia Penitentiary.
There being no accommodation for these convicts at the New Westminster Institution, arrangements were made to construct a temporary penitentiary at Piers Island, British Columbia.

Figure 2. Another view of the old pier post. Photo by Gunter Schaarschmidt.

The incarceration of the Freedomites proceeded in 18 escorted parties consisting of between 9 and 40 individuals, from August 11, 1932, to December 22, 1932. None of them served their full sentence of three years. No doubt the most important reason for their early release was a cost-saving effort in the difficult economic situation of the Depression years in Canada (see Skolrood 1995:27). Rationalizing, the warden H.W. Cooper wrote on June 20, 1934 (HWC/WJ 1934:13):

The object of the Administration has been to induce in the Sons of Freedom , confidence in Canada and Canadian ways so that upon their release they will be better citizens of the Dominion. There are signs that this has, to some extent, been attained.

Figure 3. View from the former campsite to the new pier post looking out to the NE. Photo by Gunter Schaarschmidt.

However, others do not quite see it that way stating that “their (the Sons of Freedom) attitudes were unchanged, in fact, their resolve to disobey the state was enhanced by a consciousness of martyrdom achieved at comparatively little person discomfort” (Woodcock & Avakumovic 1968:318).

The release of the Sons of Freedom proceeded in various stages – the last group of about 30 men was transferred to the New Westminster penitentiary before June, 1935. The camp was then demolished for the most part except the wharf and two buildings that had housed the penitentiary officers and matrons.

Figure 4. The owner’s flag post of property No. 119 is on the same spot as the old camp flag post. Photo by Gunter Schaarschmidt.

Of the University of Victoria retirees group visiting the island in June this year, not many knew about the “Doukhobor period”. It is, however, well remembered by the residents of Piers Island. In fact, on a small table with other information about the island, our host had placed a photograph of the campsite with the sign “Piers Island Penitentiary” attached to the pier post. This had apparently been given to him by the real estate agent at the time of the purchase of the property. Skolrood’s book (click here to read Doukhobor chapter) has a full page of photographs accompanying his chapter entitled “The Doukhobor Period, 1932-1935” (Skolrood 1995:14-32). This is a chapter well worth reading for anyone interested in the history of the Doukhobor movement as seen from the perspective of a former resident of Piers Island.

Figure 5. Rear view of the camp site (now property No. 119). Photo by Gunter Schaarschmidt.

Included are four photographs that I took of some of the physical features left from the penitentiary camp site. There is first and foremost the old pier post in Figures 1 and 2 (but without the sign “Piers Island Penitentiary”). Figure 3 shows today’s pier looking out to the NE. Then, there is the site of the camp flag post now marked by the owner’s maple-leaf flag (Figure 4). And, finally, there is the rear view of the new owner’s property which for some reason evoked in me the sight of the former women’s compound (Figure 5). Mentally, I had the eerie feeling of Doukhobor voices united in song in the beautiful surroundings of the camp whose barbed-wire fencing no doubt prevented the camp inhabitants from enjoying the scenery as much as we visitors were able to do more than three quarters of a century later.

References

  • HWC/WJ (1934). Piers Island Penitentiary (Memorandum from H.W.Cooper, Warden, British Columbia Penitentiary, to Superintendent of Penitentiaries, Ottawa).
  • Rak, Julie (2004). Negotiated Memory: Doukhobor Autobiographical Discourse. Vancouver/Toronto: UBC Press.
  • Skolrood, A. Harold (1995). Piers Island: A Brief History of the Island and Its People 1886-1993. Lethbridge, Alberta: Paramount Printers.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J. (2002). Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers’ Strategies for Living. Ottawa: LEGAS/Spirit Wrestler Publishing.
  • Woodcock, George & Ivan Avakumovic (1968). The Doukhobors. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Notes

To read about Gunter Schaarschmidt’s research about the Doukhobor dialect spoken in Canada, see Four Norms – One Culture: Doukhobor Russian in Canada and also English for Doukhobors: 110 Years of Russian-English Contact in Canada.  For his translations of 19th century German articles about the Doukhobors, see The Dukhobortsy in Transcaucasia, 1854-1856 by Heinrich Johann von Paucker and Doukhobors in the Caucasus, 1863-1864 by Alexander Petzholdt.

Kylemore Historic Doukhobor Tour

For Immediate Release – July 2, 2008

On Monday, June 30, 2008, the National Heritage Doukhobor Village hosted a guided motor coach tour of Doukhobor historical sites and points of interest in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan.

Approximately fifty people from Kamsack, Canora, Wadena, Saskatoon, Regina and elsewhere took part in the excursion, which travelled through the Kylemore and Fishing Lake areas, visiting some of the original Doukhobor communal villages and related sites, exploring surviving buildings and structures, and learning about the Doukhobors who inhabited them, their way of life, and the events that took place there.

“One of the main objectives of the tour was to highlight the historic significance of the Doukhobors and their contribution to the development of the area”, said Keith Tarasoff, tour organizer and chairman of the National Heritage Doukhobor Village.

Tour participants conduct a moleniye service at God’s Blessing Cemetery near Kylemore, SK.

In 1918, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) purchased 11,362 acres of wooded land in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan. Over 250 Community Doukhobors settled there from Ootischenia, British Columbia and Veregin, Saskatchewan, where they cleared the trees and scrub, planted grain fields, kept livestock and established thirteen communal villages as well as a general store and warehouse, elevator, central meeting house, barns, blacksmith shops, granaries and ice reservoirs. Living, praying and working under the motto of “Toil and Peaceful Life”, they operated a communal farm colony whose grain was shipped through the elevator to Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia and markets elsewhere while fruit, produce and other goods received from the British Columbia Doukhobors were sold and distributed through the store. The colony flourished until the demise of the CCUB in 1937-1938 when the lands were sold and the villages disbanded. Thereafter, a third of the Doukhobors remained in the Kylemore area as individual farmers while the rest returned to British Columbia or relocated elsewhere.

Original CCUB general store and warehouse, now in a dilapidated state, Kylemore, SK.

The Kylemore Historic Doukhobor Tour commenced at the Wadena & District Museum in Wadena at 11:00 a.m. with greeting from the Mayor of Wadena, Brian Helberg, followed by introductory remarks by Keith Tarasoff. Tour participants then enjoyed a short program comprised of Doukhobor psalm singing by the combined Saskatchewan choir members and a historic presentation by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff followed by a borshch and sandwich lunch supplied by Blue Willow Inn Catering at the museum.

Original large communal home (originally 2-story) at Chernoff Village site, Kylemore, SK.

The tour proceeded to Kylemore and visited God’s Blessing Cemetery, established in 1920 to serve the Doukhobor colony, where a group moleniye (prayer service) and commemoration was held. The next stop was the original CCUB store and warehouse built in 1918 and the adjacent sites of the CCUB elevator, the largest in Saskatchewan when it was built in 1920, and associated unnamed village. The tour then passed an original large dom (communal home) built in 1927-1928 at the Chernoff Village, followed by the sites of the Malakoff Village, Popoff Village, Hoodekoff Village, Konkin Village, South Kylemore School, Kazakoff Village and Sheloff Village. A stop was made at the Pereverzoff House; an original village home built in 1922-1924 and relocated from Pereverzoff Village to its present site in 1939.

Tour participants explore the Pereverzoff House, an original CCUB village house.

At several points along the way, the tour passed Blahoslovenie Creek, a small creek running through the heart of the Doukhobor colony, officially named by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff in 2006 to commemorate it. The tour continued to the grid intersection historically known as the Uhol (corner) where the Pereverzoff Village, Makortoff Village and Samsonoff Village once sat on three of its corners. It then passed the site of the Chernenkoff Village, followed by the lug (meadow) on the north shore of Fishing Lake where the Doukhobors historically celebrated Peter’s Day, held outdoor prayer meetings and gathered for picnics, swimming and recreation. A stop was made at the site of the Arishenkoff Village, containing the foundations of a communal barn large enough to house one hundred horses, as well as an original village home that belonged to the family of Tanya Arishenkoff, main character of Eli A. Popoff’s Doukhobor historical novel, Tanya.

An original CCUB house at Arishenkoff Village, shrouded in vines.

The tour continued past the sites of the Kanigan Village and the CCUB community well, dug in 1918 to provide the colony with good water. It then proceeded to the hamlet of Kylemore, the main commercial centre in the area and a significant historic hub of Doukhobor activity, where it passed the sites of the Fudikuf Store, Kanigan Store, Osachoff General Store, Kylemore Doukhobor Society Prayer Home, and the North Kylemore School.

On the return leg, the tour passed Horkoff Avenue in Wadena, named after Sam A. Horkoff, a historic town benefactor. The tour then returned to the Wadena & District Museum where tour participants, guided by museum staff volunteers, visited the Malekoff farm banya (bathhouse) and the Osachoff General Store, both recently relocated from Kylemore, as well as other historic buildings and artifacts. The tour concluded at 5:00 p.m.

The Osachoff General Store, formerly of Kylemore, SK, now at the Wadena & District Museum, Wadena, SK.

Throughout the five-hour excursion, expert tour guide Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, a Regina-based Doukhobor researcher and writer, provided an informative and enjoyable historical narration. Tour participants also shared interesting stories about people and places. These included Verna Negraeff, who reminisced about growing up in the Pereverzoff House, and Peter J. Pereverzoff, who recalled memories of Pererverzoff Village. Tour organizers Keith and Sonia Tarasoff also shared anecdotes.

“Many of the tour participants were surprised at what we were able to show them,” said Jonathan J. Kalmakoff. “Most had presumed that there was nothing left to see, when in fact, there are a number of buildings, sites and landmarks that still exist to attest to the rich Doukhobor history and way of life. Because of the tour, the Kylemore colony is now better documented and understood.”

Peter P. Malekoff, a lifetime resident of Kylemore, reminisces during moleniye prayer service.

For Peter P. Malekoff, an original member of the CCUB colony and lifetime resident of the Kylemore district, participating in the tour was a personal highlight. “It is very nice that people have taken an interest in the history of our Doukhobor settlement,” said Malekoff, who was instrumental in providing background information for many of the historical sites on the tour.

For additional information or inquiries about the tour of the Kylemore and other Doukhobor historic sites in Saskatchewan, contact the National Heritage Doukhobor Village at Box 99, Veregin, Saskatchewan, S0A 4H0. Phone number (306) 542-4441.

Highway map of Kylemore and Fishing Lake, Saskatchewan.

Doukhobors Featured in 100 Saskatchewan Stories Documentary Series

by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

The Doukhobors are featured in an episode of 100 Saskatchewan Stories, a thirteen-part television documentary that tells the story of the people, places and events in the history of Saskatchewan. The half-hour episode, entitled “Left, Right & Centre – Part 1”, originally premiered on the Saskatchewan Communication Network (SCN) on January 25, 2006. It has since been regularly aired by SCN.

In 1899, over 7,500 Doukhobors emigrated from Russia to Saskatchewan in order to escape religious persecution. They settled in large blocks of homestead land reserved for them in the Pelly, Arran, Kamsack, Veregin, Canora, Buchanan, Langham and Blaine Lake districts. There, they cleared and broke the land, planted grain fields and established over sixty communal villages as well as brickworks, sawmills, flourmills, gristmills, elevators, warehouses, general stores, blacksmith shops, roads, bridges, ferries and other communal enterprises. In 1907, a crisis over land ownership resulted in hundreds of thousands of acres of Doukhobor homestead lands reverting to the Crown. Thereafter, the majority of community Doukhobors relocated to British Columbia while independent Doukhobors settled on individual homesteads. Subsequent Doukhobor settlements were established in the Veregin, Kylemore, Sheho, Insinger, Kelvington, Wadena and Watson districts in the Teens and Twenties. Following the demise of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood in 1937-1938, the communal lands in Saskatchewan were sold and the vast communal enterprise was dismantled.

The 100 Saskatchewan Stories episode “Left, Right & Centre – Part 1” tells the unique story of the Doukhobors in Saskatchewan. The story is woven together with photographs, illustrations, music, interviews, narration and archival and current footage.  The episode features extensive interview footage with Doukhobor writer and historian Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, who discusses the Doukhobor contribution to the 100-year history of the province. A four-minute Flash streaming video excerpt of the Doukhobor episode “Left, Right & Centre – Part 1” on 100 Saskatchewan Stories is available below.

“Doukhobor immigration has had a profound effect on the character and prosperity of Saskatchewan,” said Kalmakoff. “They were the largest single mass immigration of settlers to Canada, and for that reason alone, they remain unique in their contribution to Saskatchewan.”

100 Saskatchewan Stories is a documentary series alive with the history of Saskatchewan. It is a celebration of the province’s past with a shining outlook for its future. The stories cover the province geographically and span a timeline from the pioneers who first broke soil, to the scientists who have developed some of the latest cutting edge technologies.

100 Saskatchewan Stories is produced by Dacian Productions Inc. and produced and directed by Regina-based filmmaker Jarrett Rusnak. “The series builds bridges between our people, and connects us to our land,” said Rusnak. “Some stories will make us laugh, others will make us cry, and many will surprise us. All the stories will captivate us.”

For information or inquiries about the 100 Saskatchewan Stories television series or to obtain a DVD copy of the series visit the 100 Saskatchewan Stories website at: http://www.dacian.biz/100/indexGO.html.

Doukhobors Featured at Canadian Council of Archives National Conference

For Immediate Release – May 26, 2008

The Doukhobors were among the topics featured at the Canadian Council of Archives National Conference held in Regina, Saskatchewan May 24 to 25, 2008. The conference programme included a presentation by Doukhobor writer, historian and web-designer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The two-day conference was an important meeting place for users of archives, including genealogists, researchers, teachers, librarians, historians, students, curators, volunteers, and anyone with interest in Canada’s documentary heritage. It was intended to enhance archival users’ know-how and expertise and strengthen their relationship with the archival community. Entitled “Archives and You!” it is Canada’s only national conference for users of archives.

The conference included first-rate plenary sessions, as well as “Ask the Experts” roundtable discussions to permit the exchange of ideas on topics such as the management of small private archives, the management of digital records, the preservation of photographs, and the management of personal archives. There were also nine concurrent workshops covering specialized topics such as privacy and access, basic records management, ethnic genealogy and the creation of ethnic archives, linking youth to archival work and local history, and the preservation of home records. Additional activities included exhibits and tours of local archives in the Regina area.

One of the concurrent workshops held on May 24th featured the presentation, “Researching Your Russian Doukhobor Roots” by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff. His workshop provided an overview of Doukhobor history and highlighted the special challenges and advantages faced by Doukhobor genealogists. Topics included migration and settlement in Russia and Canada; names and naming patterns; the importance of oral tradition; as well as select archival resources, including ship passenger lists, census records, membership lists, vital statistic records, homestead documents and cemetery information. His presentation also outlined recent archival discoveries in Canada, Russia and the Former Soviet Republics of importance to Doukhobor family historians. The Doukhobor workshop was well attended, with participants travelling from as far away as Nelson, British Columbia and Ottawa, Ontario to attend it.

Jonathan J. Kalmakoff presenting at Canadian Council of Archives National Conference, 2008.

Participation in this national event was an exceptional opportunity to share the Doukhobor story with members of the Canadian archival community.” said Kalmakoff. “It was exciting to promote a broader understanding of the Doukhobors’ place in Canada’s documentary heritage.”

The conference host, the Canadian Council of Archives, is a coordinating body whose mission is to nurture and sustain the nationwide efforts of over 800 archival organizations – member institutions all operating independently but sharing a common passion for Canada’s rich and wonderfully varied history. Millions of documents, heritage photographs, maps and audio-visual material are held in these institutions, nationally, regionally and locally. The Council’s goal is to work with its many stakeholders and partners to ensure preservation of and access to all these materials for teaching, learning, promotional and general interest purposes.

For additional information or inquiries about the Canadian Council of Archives or the Archives & You! national Conference, please visit the CCA web site at: http://www.cdncouncilarchives.ca/.

Student Seeks Participants From Across Canada to Broaden Research

by Sonya White

Are you interested in Doukhobor pasts, presents, and futures in Canada? Would you like to share your views on the importance that memory has in contemporary visions of Doukhoborism? Learn about University of Toronto Master’s student Sonya White’s research on Doukhobor memory, history and healing and how you can participate in her research interview. Her call for interview participants, originally focused on British Columbia Doukhobors, has now been broadened to include Doukhobors living in other parts of Canada.

Hello from British Columbia – the information below was originally posted on the Doukhobor Message Board in September as a means of generating interest in my university research on conflict, memory, and healing in the West Kootenay and Boundary Doukhobor community in British Columbia. My initial research suggests that the 20th century depredations and conflicts in British Columbia affected the daily lives of Doukhobors across Canada. I am therefore hoping to broaden my research to explore the effects that the 20th century conflict had on Doukhobors living in other parts of Canada. I would like to invite interested members of the Doukhobor community in Canada to participate in an interview with me by telephone or email – the questions will focus on the effects of the B.C. depredations and conflict on the lived experiences of Doukhobors who resided outside of the West Kootenay and Boundary regions. Please contact me by telephone at 1-(250)-421-2055 or by email at swhite@oise.utoronto.ca for more information. Thank you. Sonya White

Dear reader of the Doukhobor Genealogy website,

Hello. My name is Sonya White. I was born and raised in Cranbrook, British Columbia and am presently working on my Master’s degree in adult education and community development at the University of Toronto. My mother grew up in a West Kootenay Doukhobor family and I have spent time in the West Kootenay and Boundary regions with adults and elders who have taught me about Doukhoborism and Doukhobor experiences in British Columbia. I am returning to the West Kootenay and Boundary regions this autumn to conduct a series of research conversations about memory, history, and healing.

I am initiating this research project as part of my Master’s degree to explore the ways in which memories of conflict persist in the lives of people who have lived through experiences of conflict. Specifically, I will be asking questions about the different ways in which diverse members of the Doukhobor community in south-central British Columbia live with and remember their experiences of 20th century Doukhobor conflict. I am conscious of the broad reach that conflict has and am therefore interested in speaking with people who experienced the 20th century conflict as direct participants or indirect non-participants.

Sonya White, University of Toronto Masters student researching Doukhobor memory.

As the researcher, I will be conducting individual interviews with adult and elder Doukhobors who lived in the West Kootenay and Boundary districts of British Columbia during periods of 20th century conflict. I believe in effectively representing a diversity of experiences and am hoping to interview men and women of different ages and different affiliations to the heterogeneous Doukhobor community who experienced the conflict as discussed above. If you fit this criteria, or know of people who fit this criteria and might be interested in having a research interview with me, please contact me directly or pass my contact information on to those people who might be willing to get in touch with me.

You might wonder why this research is important. I believe that it holds many potential benefits for Doukhobor people and non-Doukhobor people who are interested in knowing more about how people find peace after conflict has been resolved. Specifically, I see this research as being important and of interest to the broader Doukhobor community because it aims to accomplish the following goals:

  • it will make an important contribution to the public understanding of Doukhobor history and experience in western Canada;
  • it will validate and legitimize the knowledge of a minority cultural community in Canada;
  • it will explore the ways in which different generations of Doukhobors experienced the “Doukhobor troubles”;
  • it will give diverse members of the Doukhobor community in Canada an opportunity to reflect on their experiences of conflict and ask how these memories of difficult pasts should be integrated into a contemporary understanding of Doukhoborism today;
  • and it will identify different strategies for living with difficult pasts and learning to heal from direct or indirect experiences of conflict.

If you have specific questions about this research and/or would like to participate in a research interview with me, please contact me by telephone at (250)-421-2055, by email at swhite@oise.utoronto.ca, or by mail:

Sonya White
1631 Staple Crescent
Cranbrook, British Columbia
V1C 6J1

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Sonya White

Oospenia Spring Commemorates Doukhobor Pioneers

For Immediate Release – August 23, 2006

A spring near Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan has been officially named to commemorate the Doukhobor settlers of the area. Oospenia Spring, the name proposed by Doukhobor researcher and writer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, was recently approved by the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board.

Oospenia Spring is located on the NW 1/4 of 31-43-5-W3 on the scenic west bank of the North Saskatchewan River, eighteen kilometres south-east of Blaine Lake. It issues from the top of the river bank to form a small, crystal clear pool. The pool overflows down the bank to the flats, and from the flats, into the river. Flowing year-round, it is an excellent source of clean, cool, fresh and abundant water.

“Place names define our landscape and help record our history,“ said Kalmakoff, a leading authority on Doukhobor geographic names. “In this regard, the naming of the spring provides official recognition of the Doukhobors of Oospenia who made a significant contribution to the history and development of the area in which it is located.”

View of Oospenia Spring. Photo courtesy Donna Choppe.

The village of Oospenia was established near the spring in 1899 by Doukhobors from Kars, Russia who fled to Canada to escape persecution for their pacifist beliefs. For five years, the Russian-speaking settlers lived in dug-outs on the river bank before constructing a log village on level ground nearby. Following the motto of ‘Toil and Peaceful Life’, they lived, prayed and worked together, transforming the prairie wilderness into productive farmland. By 1913, Oospenia was abandoned as villagers relocated to individual homesteads or to communal settlements in British Columbia.

“The Doukhobors of Oospenia had a direct and meaningful association with the spring,” said Kalmakoff. “Indeed, the spring was the primary reason they chose the location for their village site. Throughout the history of their settlement, the Oospenia Doukhobors utilized the spring as a drinking water source and as a water source for their livestock and farming operations. In many ways, it helped define the village settlement.”

The official name comes after two and a half years of consultations by Kalmakoff to gather feedback on the suitability and acceptance of the name from persons familiar with the area. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The owner of the land on which the spring is located, Brenda Cheveldayoff, submitted a letter of support. The Blaine Lake Doukhobor Society also endorsed the naming project. As well, the Rural Municipality of Blaine Lake No. 434 passed a resolution in favour of the name.

The consultations were followed by a formal proposal 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 was firmly in favour of the name Oospenia Spring – was then recommended to the Minister Responsible for the Board, the Hon. Eric Cline, Q.C. who approved the decision.

Now that the name is official, the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board will supply the information to government ministries and agencies, cartographers, publishers and other persons engaged in the preparation of maps and publications intended for official and public use.

For Kalmakoff, the naming of Oospenia Spring was a personal project. His great-great-grandparents, Grigory and Maria Ivin, were among the original group of Doukhobors who founded the village of Oospenia and used the spring in their daily life.

“Oospenia Spring is not just a name on a map or sign,” said Kalmakoff. “It signifies that the contribution of the Doukhobors of Oospenia was substantial to the area and will assure the continued remembrance of them and their deeds by generations that follow.”

For additional information about Oospenia Spring, see the article Doukhobor Dugout House Unveils Monument Commemorating Oospenia Spring by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.