By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff
On Highway 5 east of Wadena lies the tiny hamlet of Kylemore, SK. Few today would guess it was once home to a thriving agricultural colony of Doukhobor pacifists. Fewer still would guess that they once built and operated the largest grain elevator in the province there. The following is a brief account of its unique history.
In 1918, the Doukhobor organization, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd. (CCUB), under the stimulus of rising grain prices, sought out suitable farmland for a new colony in a district where land values were cheaper than at Veregin, SK.
To this end, it purchased an 11,362-acre block of wooded, undeveloped land along the Canadian Northern Railway at Kylemore, SK. Some 250 Doukhobor men, women and children from the Veregin district and BC Kootenays were settled on the tract, which they named Bozhiye Blagosloveniye in Russian, meaning ‘God’s Blessing’.
Working communally, the Doukhobors began clearing the dense trees and scrub, constructing villages, and cultivating the land into crop. The logs were sawn into cordwood and shipped by railcar back to Veregin, where they were used to fire the boilers of the large CCUB brick factory and roller flour mill plant there.
As it was cleared, the virgin soil at Kylemore proved remarkably rich and fertile – so much so, that in 1919, the Doukhobors harvested 13,610 bushels of wheat, 9,150 bushels of barley and 33,600 bushels of oats from little more than 1,000 acres of breaking – an average yield of almost 60 bushels per acre.
The large 1919 harvest was sold through the sole elevator at Kylemore operated by the Saskatchewan Co-operative Elevator Co. However, as the Doukhobors desired self-sufficiency and wished to avoid the grain handling and marketing costs charged by private grain companies, they initiated plans to build an elevator of their own.
The Doukhobors were no strangers to elevator-building, having already built and operated 9 grain elevators of their own at Veregin, Arran, Canora and Ebenezer, SK, Cowley and Lundbreck, AB and Brilliant, BC, with a cumulative storage capacity of 440,000 bushels, over the previous decade. They also built for hire numerous elevators for private grain companies.
In late 1919, a crew of some 25 Doukhobor workmen, under the supervision of CCUB elevator builder Wasyl A. Shishkin of Canora, began erecting the new elevator on the south side of the Canadian Northern Railway right-of-way. Construction continued until freeze-up, then recommenced the following spring of 1920, with the elevator completed and operational in time for the harvest.
Besides using unpaid communal labour, the Doukhobors manufactured most of their own building materials. In this regard, some 750,000 board-feet of 2 by 8 inch fir lumber milled at the CCUB sawmills in the Kootenays was shipped to Kylemore on 10-15 railcars and used in the construction. The total cost of the elevator was approximately $13,500.00. Their main external cost was the mechanical leg, scales, heads and other specialty manufactured equipment.
The resulting elevator was a ‘standard plan’ tall elevator of wood-crib construction (boards laid horizontally and nailed together) with a tin-clad exterior. It stood approximately 70 by 35 feet wide and 70 feet high on a concrete foundation with a pyramidal roof and dormered gable cupola. Its unloading spouts were attached to the sidewall on the north side facing the rail line. A driveway and receiving shed, along with a semi-detached office and engine shed with a stationary gasoline engine was constructed on the south side. Emblazoned on its east and west sides were the words, “The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd.”
It had a licensed storage capacity of 100,000 bushels with 20,000 bushels of auxiliary capacity, making it the largest free-standing wood-crib elevator in Saskatchewan at the time. This was impressive, given the average storage capacity of the 2,184 elevators operating in the province in 1920 was only 30,000 bushels. It was also built with a double leg, which meant that it had two weigh scales so that two grain wagons could unload at the same time. It also meant it could load two rail cars at the same time.
Under the rules of the colony, all grain grown by members was required to be delivered to the CCUB elevator, and members were not permitted to deliver grain to anyone but CCUB grain agents.
Initially, no member had an individual right to the grain they grew, nor was paid for its delivery, for no member was allowed individual holdings. Rather, the grain belonged to the central organization, which marketed and shipped the grain and retained all proceeds. In return for their labour, the CCUB supplied its members with food, shelter, clothing and supplies, along with land, farm implements and machinery and livestock for their use. Members held an equitable undivided interest in the corporation.
This moneyless system continued until 1928, when the CCUB was reorganized on a cash basis. Thereafter, the CCUB elevator continued to maintain a buying monopoly over all grain grown in the colony, but now purchased the grain delivered by its members, which they grew on land rented from the CCUB using their own implements and machinery.
The CCUB elevator also purchased grain from outside farmers, which at Kylemore were primarily English, Scandinavian and Ukrainian settlers. The CCUB charged them substantially less elevating and marketing fees than its competing grain buyer, the Saskatchewan Co-operative Elevator Co., thereby increasing their farm profits. The storage capacity available for outside farmers, however, was dependent upon the volume of grain grown by the Doukhobors themselves, which over time, increased with additional land clearing.
When grain was received at the elevator from colony members or outside farmers, the intake process was the same. Each loaded wagon was driven into the receiving shed where it was unhitched from its team, weighed on the scale, 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 grain received. The grain was then carried from the pit up to the ‘head’ of the elevator (housed in the cupola at the top) by the ‘leg’, a continuous belt with carrying cups. From the head, the grain was distributed, via the ‘gerber’ distribution spout and gravity chutes, into one of several bins designated according to grain type and grade. This process could be carried out in tandem with the double leg and head.
From 1920 through 1933, the CCUB elevator was annually licensed and inspected as a ‘country elevator’ through the Winnipeg Grain Commission. This was required under The Canada Grain Act in order to receive, purchase, store, ship or sell grain for commerce. After 1933, it was licensed as a ‘private elevator’ and had ceased buying grain from outside farmers, as the Doukhobors were using its full capacity for themselves.
Grain was stored in the elevator bins until it was ready to be shipped, which might be weeks or months. At such time, it was dumped from a bin into the hopper scale, where it was weighed. It was then dumped into the pit, from which it was carried up by the ‘leg’ to the ‘head’ in the cupola. From the head, the grain was then dumped, via the ‘gerber’, into the gravity-fed loading spout, through which it exited the elevator and unloaded into a boxcar ‘spotted’ (parked) on the rail siding north adjacent the elevator. Again, this process could be carried out in tandem, via the double leg and head.
All grain shipments and sales from the Kylemore elevator were centrally managed through the CCUB head office in Veregin, which instructed the local elevator manager via telephone and telegraph dispatch.
When instructed, the CCUB elevator manager shipped a requisite number of railcars of wheat (for flour milling) and oats (for livestock feed) to the CCUB colony at Brilliant, whose mountain valley land was almost exclusively dedicated to fruit-growing and not grain-growing. In exchange, the Kylemore colony received fresh fruit, the famous ‘KC Brand’ Doukhobor jam and lumber produced in the Kootenays. The balance of grain was shipped and sold to domestic and foreign markets through the Winnipeg Grain Exchange and the Fort William and Port Arthur Grain Exchange.
The elevator was managed by the CCUB Kylemore Branch Manager, which was Peter S. Chernoff in 1920, John J. Planidin in 1924, Dmitry I. Malakoff in 1925, and Nikolai I. Cazakoff from 1926-1928. They were assisted by various colony members who handled the grain at the elevator.
Interestingly, in 1927, incoming CCUB President Peter P. Verigin announced plans to install an electrical generating plant to power the Kylemore elevator and replace the existing stationary gasoline engine. At the same time, he expressed the possibility of the elevator joining the wheat pool elevator and marketing co-operative movement. However, neither would come to pass.
Sale of Elevator
Yet despite the colony’s wealth, the central organization itself was ailing financially. When the Great Depression struck in the Thirties, the financial situation of the CCUB deteriorated rapidly because all of the communal property was pledged under a blanket mortgage (taken for debts acrued off-colony) and no further loans could be negotiated due to lack of collateral. With no credit, and with membership and cash income falling rapidly, company officials looked to selling off corporate assets to raise the capital necessary to service its massive debt.
To this end, the CCUB elevator at Kylemore was sold in April 1936 to the Winnipeg, MB-based Pioneer Grain Company Ltd. The sale proved to be too little, too late. By July of that year, the CCUB could not service its debts and declared bankruptcy. In 1937-1938 the company was placed under receivership by its creditors who, the following year in 1939, foreclosed upon the CCUB lands at Kylemore, leading to the break-up of the colony. Thereafter the CCUB ceased to exist as a corporate entity.
Pioneer Grain Co. Ltd.
The Pioneer Grain Company Limited took over the Doukhobor-built elevator and continued to serve Kylemore district farmers, including former colony members, for the next fifty-four years.
No major structural modifications were made to the elevator during Pioneer’s tenure. However, in the 1950s, much of the original equipment was upgraded: the original gasoline engine was replaced with electrical equipment; the truck-dumping mechanism was improved; larger scales and larger and longer movable loading spouts to facilitate the loading of freight cars were installed; wooden legs were replaced with metal ones; and driveways extended to accommodate larger trucks.
In terms of storage capacity, Pioneer licensed the elevator at 100,000 bushels’ capacity from 1936 to 1949; 110,000 bushels from 1949 to 1960; 96,000 bushels from 1960 to 1978; and 2,690 tons from 1978 to 1990. The company never constructed annexes to increase the storage capacity.
By 1990, the 70-year-old elevator was wearing out and in need of costly repairs. At the same time, farming practices had changed and many small farms were replaced by a few large ones, which incented the grain company to have fewer, more centralized grain storage facilities. This was supported by the railway company, which no longer wished to stop every 7-10 miles to spot rail cars.
Consequently, Pioneer closed its Kylemore elevator in the spring of 1990 while adding additional storage capacity to its elevator in Wadena, a larger commercial centre 6.5 miles to the west. After its closure, the elevator stood empty for several years and was then demolished.
Today, all that remains of the elevator are its concrete foundations, one of the few reminders of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood at Kylemore, and of the pioneering efforts of the Doukhobors in the field of grain growing and storage. More enduring still is their example of what can be accomplished when people work together for community.
This article originally appeared in the following journals and periodicals:
- ISKRA (Grand Forks, Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ) No. 2186 (May 2023);
- Foam Lake Review, November 6, 2023.
 C.A. Dawson, Group Settlement: Ethnic Communities in Western Canada (Toronto: MacMillan, 1936) at 40. The undeveloped Kylemore land was purchased at $25.00 an acre: Regina Leader Post, June 3, 1918; whereas developed land in Veregin was valued at $100.00 an acre: see for example Certificate of Title No. QR20 dated July 24, 1917 issued to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Limited re: Section 1-30-1-W2.
 For a comprehensive history of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood at Kylemore, see: J. Kalmakoff, “The Kylemore Doukhobor Colony” in Saskatchewan History, Spring/Summer 2011, Vol. 63, No. 1.
 Record of harvest at Kylemore, 1919, Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. M-.
 The desire for self-sufficiency and avoidance of elevating and marketing fees charged by private grain companies was a main motivator in the Doukhobors erecting their own grain elevators: W. Blakemore, Report of Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia, 1912 (Victoria BC: King’s Printer, 1913) at 57-58.
 See for example: J. Kalmakoff, “History of Doukhobor Elevators in the Veregin District” in Canora Courier, August 31, 2022, September 7, 2022, September 22, 2022; J. Kalmakoff, “The Doukhobor Grain Elevator at Brilliant, BC” in West Kootenay Advertiser, November 4, 2020; J. Kalmakoff, “The Doukhobor Trading Company in Canora” in Canora Courier, February 25, 2018, March 7, 2018, March 14, 2018, March 21, 2018, March 28, 2018; J. Kalmakoff, “Doukhobor Elevator Building: The Alberta Farmers’ Cooperative Grain Elevator at Sedgewick AB” in Flagstaff Community Press, March 19, 2022.
 Based on the 1920 BC Interior lumber price of $25.00/1000 board feet: G.H. Hak, On the Fringes: Capital and Labour in the Forest Economies of the Port Alberni and Prince George Districts, British Columbia, 1910-1939 (Ph.D. Thesis) (Simon Fraser University, 1986) at 27-30.
 Canada Department of Trade and Commerce, List of Licensed Elevators and Warehouses in the Western Grain Inspection Division, License Year 1920-1921. (Ottawa: Department of Trade and Commerce, 1921) at 72. Note: in 1920, Quaker Oats Company in Saskatoon and Robin Hood Mills Ltd. were licensed at 380,000 and 385,000 bushels respectively; however, these structures were concrete inland terminals and not wood-crib elevators. Also, the Alberta Pacific Grain Co. Ltd. in Gravelbourg, R.B. McClean Grain Co. Ltd. in Harris and Conger & Co. Ltd. in Roleau were licensed at 120,000, 110,000 and 100,00 bushels respectively; however these were not single free-standing structures; the licensed bushels included both wood-crib elevators and adjacent annex structures.
 Saskatoon Star Phoenix, December 5, 1923; Regina Leader Post, December 7, 1923; Winnipeg Free Press Prairie Farmer, June 2, 1926.
 CCUB grain ownership was put to legal test in 1923, when brothers Alex, Wasyl and Simeon A. Horkoff, CCUB members at Veregin, SK, sold the grain grown on the farm upon which they resided and kept the money themselves in place of turning it into the central treasury. The CCUB charged them with theft of property. At preliminary hearing, the magistrate dismissed the charges, holding it was a civil not criminal matter. The Horkoffs filed a civil suit in the Court of King’s Bench, claiming the land on which the grain was grown was rightfully theirs, the CCUB having secured title to it by means of fraud. The matter was settled out of court. See: Saskatoon Star Phoenix, December 5 and 7, 1923, January 5, May 12, 1924; Saskatoon Daily Star, December 17, 1923, January 5 and 22, May 12 & 16, 1924; Regina Leader Post, December 6 and 7, 2023, May 14, 15 & 16, 1924.
 Dawson, supra, note 1; Snesarev, Vladimir N. (Harry W. Trevor), The Doukhobors in British Columbia (University of British Columbia Publication, Department of Agriculture, 1931).
 Blakemore, supra, note 5.
 List of Licensed Elevators, supra, note 8, License Years, 1920-1936.
 Regina Leader Post, December 30, 1927.
 Snesarev, supra, note 11, List of Property Owned by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Limited as at January 1, 1931 – District of Kylemore, Saskatchewan.
 Kalmakoff, supra, note 2.
 “More Rumours of Doukhobor Migrations from Saskatchewan Heard at Yorkton” in Saskatoon Star Phoenix, April 24, 1936.
 K.J. Tarasoff, Plakun Trava (Mir Publication Society: Grand Forks, 1982) at 153-154; S. Jamieson, “Economic and Social Life” in H.B. Hawthorn (Ed.), The Doukhobors of British Columbia (University of British Columbia, 1955) at 52-56.
 List of Licensed Elevators, supra, note 8, License Years, 1936-1953; Grain Elevators in Canada. Winnipeg: Board of Grain Commissioners for Canada, 1954-1990.