In 1913, the prominent Cannery Building was constructed in downtown Grand Forks. Yet despite its name and original purpose, it only served as a canning facility for 6 of its 62 years of existence. It also variously housed a sharpshooter’s range, farmers market, creamery, potato dehydrator plant, fruit packing house, apple butter factory, seed warehouse and retail department store. This article examines one of the largest commercial buildings in Grand Forks history, its various proprietors, and its untimely destruction.
In the early 1910s, produce-growing assumed an increasingly significant role in the economy of Grand Forks, which until then, was primarily mining, smelting and ranching-based. Not only were large acreages of fruit trees coming into bearing, but growers were producing ever-greater surpluses of small fruit, berries and vegetables. This brought calls for the establishment of a local cannery to process Kettle Valley produce unsuitable for shipping to distant markets in fresh form. Although a succession of non-local firms expressed an interest in developing one, nothing materialized from their proposals. It thus fell on local capital to advance the Grand Forks canning industry.
Grand Forks Canning Company Limited, 1912-1914
To this end, in November 1912, a business syndicate led by accountant D.A. McKinnon formed the Grand Forks Canning Company Ltd to build a modern fruit and vegetable cannery. Capitalized at $50,000.00, it issued a prospectus to sell $20,000.00 in shares to cover land and construction costs.
In September 1913, an expert processor, J.H. Wilson, was hired to operate the prospective plant. By October, sufficient capital was raised to procure a site and arrange for the construction of the plant building. Seven lots were purchased on Main St (72nd Ave) between Second and Third St (3 and 4 St) adjacent to the CPR main line. Contractor A.E. McDougall was hired to construct the building.
Completed in December at a cost of $14,000.00, the impressive new Cannery Building was lauded as “the most modern structure erected in the Interior for the purpose” and “one of the largest commercial buildings in Grand Forks”. It was 125 by 50 feet, 2 stories high with basement, built of brick and ruble stone with concrete floors. It had a square façade with stepped sides. A rail spur from the south side to the main CPR line was built January, 1914.
In the meantime, the company secured fruit supply contracts with local growers and arranged for the sale of its entire production output. It also obtained a ‘bonus’ from the City of Grand Forks in the form of a 10-year property tax exemption plus water and light at cost, approved by plebiscite in January 1914.
Yet despite this all, troubles were afoot for the local enterprise. Construction overruns and undersubscribed/unpaid shares left it without sufficient capital to procure plant equipment, deferring installation from March to May to June, 1914. In June, it was voluntarily wound up and liquidated.
Grand Forks Canning Association, 1914-1924
In September 1914, the principals of the Grand Forks Canning Company Limited launched a new entity, the Grand Forks Canning Association, capitalized at $50,000.00. Having the same objective as the old company and having inherited all of its share capital and property, including the Cannery Building, it was incorporated under The Agricultural Associations Act, 1914, which entitled it to government funding.
By March 1915, the association received a $10,000.00 loan from the province for the installation of a cannery plant in the building and its operation. It came with certain conditions: it was repayable with interest over a 20-year period; 20 percent of the association’s subscribed shares had to be fully-paid; and the association had to install and operate the equipment by the 1916 fruit season prior to the release of all funds.
The Association, however, immediately faced the same issues as its predecessor; namely a shortfall in subscribed/paid-up shares. While it endeavored to raise additional capital, it leased out the Cannery Building to a variety of firms and groups described below.
Shooting & Drilling Range, 1914
From April through December, 1914, the Grand Forks Sharpshooters, a local militia company, held parades and drills at the Cannery Building.[xviii] Following the outbreak of the Great War in July 1914, there was discussion about the building being requisitioned as a recruiting barracks, but it did not come to pass.[xix]
City Market, 1914-1915
From December 1914 until March 1915, the City Market was held in the Cannery Building, returning to its outdoor venue on Second Street (3 Street) for the summer months.[xx] Each week, local ranchers sold wagonloads of fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy, and baked goods directly to city residents there.
In January 1915, part of the Cannery Building main floor was let to Curlew Creamery Co. of Curlew, WA, operating as the Grand Forks Creamery Co.[xxi] A large ice storage was erected adjoining the building and plant equipment installed in March.[xxii] Initially, the firm produced and sold over 3,000 lbs. of butter and large quantities of ice-cream weekly.[xxiii]
By April 1917, an uptake in local dairy supply enabled it to double butter production capacity and commence pasteurizing cream and milk.[xxiv] After operating 8 years, it sold out in November 1923 to J.E. Keatly and Associates of Nelson, which continued business in the building as the Kettle Valley Creamery Co.[xxv]
Potato Dehydrator Plant, 1915-1916
In November 1915, the balance of the Cannery Building was briefly leased to Graham & Co. of Bellevue, ON to run a potato dehydrator plant to fill wartime contracts.[xxvi] By December, the company contracted a local supply of 2,000 tons of potatoes and installed a 4-unit plant with a 700-bushel per day capacity.[xxvii] Over the next 4 months, it processed and shipped 250 tons of dehydrated product.[xxviii] Despite intentions to run a second season, a decline in local potato supply resulted in the plant closure in August 1916.[xxix]
Fruit Packing House, 1919-1921
The Cannery Building remained largely vacant from August 1916 to June 1919, leading G.A. Evans, editor of the Grand Forks Sun, to dub it a ‘white elephant’. In the meantime, the viability of the Grand Forks Canning Association continued to deteriorate. First, it defaulted on its loan, having failed to install and operate a cannery by 1916.[xxx] Second, it struggled to repay the loan from the nominal rents received.[xxxi] Third, as the building was not used for its intended purpose, the City rescinded its bonus in April 1917, subjecting it to taxes and regular light and power rates.[xxxii] By July 1917, the City threatened to sell the building for taxes, but was persuaded not to; in May 1919, it forgave half the taxes owed on the property.[xxxiii]
In June 1919, the Association let the balance of the Cannery Building to the Kelowna-based Occidental Fruit Co., with an option to purchase the property.[xxxiv] Occidental intended to install plant equipment in the building to operate a fruit cannery the following season and received a bonus from the City for water and light at cost in this regard. However, following the devastating loss of its Carson packing plant and fruit to fire, it used the Cannery Building for packing for the remaining season, then ceased operations in Grand Forks.[xxxv]
The following year, Staples Fruit Co. of Creston bought up the local fruit crop and leased the balance of the Cannery Building as a packing house for the 1920 season.[xxxvi]
In July 1921, the Grand Forks Cooperative Growers’ Exchange leased the balance of the Cannery Building as a fruit packing house until construction of its own new packing plant was completed in September.[xxxvii] Meanwhile, the City agreed to a further grant on taxes owed against the building.[xxxviii]
Apple Butter Plant, 1923
By 1922, renewed calls for a local cannery were raised by the Department of Agriculture, Grand Forks Farmers’ Institute, Board of Trade and others.[xxxix] At the same time, G.A. Evans of the Grand Forks Sun called it a ‘fiasco’ that Grand Forks had a Cannery Building without a cannery – a huge building which sat vacant and unused, despite the financial outlay for canning equipment being comparatively small. Nevertheless, the Grand Forks Canning Association remained unable to raise the necessary capital on its own.
In January 1923, the Association let the balance of the Cannery Building to Fruit Products Co., a local venture headed by Board of Trade secretary J.D. Campbell, which installed an apple butter and cider plant.[xl] Following a successful first season, the firm expanded operations to include the production of plum jam. This technically marked the first canning operations in the building’s decade-long history.
Ministry of Agriculture, 1924-1940
After 10 fruitless years, the Grand Forks Canning Association failed to install canning equipment in the Cannery Building and remained unable to maintain principal and interest payments on its government loan. Finally, in September 1924, the Ministry of Agriculture appointed a receiver under The Agricultural Associations Act, 1914 to take possession of the property, title to which was quit-claimed by the Association to the Ministry.[xli]
Thereafter, the Ministry continued to let the building to tenants. Despite only producing apple butter in 1923 and 1924, Fruit Products Co. continued to lease space until September 1927.[xlii] The creamery occupied the rest: in March 1926, Kettle Valley Creamery Co. was purchased by Calgary, AB-based P. Burns Co. Ltd. and operated as Grand Forks Creamery until it ceased operations in September 1933.[xliii] Burns kept a lease on the vacant building until February 1940; allegedly to restrict competition from others.[xliv]
Eventually, in November 1939, in order to stimulate agricultural production in the Grand Forks district for the war effort, the Ministry of Agriculture issued a tender for the purchase of the Cannery Building to be operated as a cannery for fruit, vegetable and other agricultural products.[xlv] In February 1940, a successful tender of $2,500.00 was received for the property from Elwood L. Cross and Robert R. Broder.[xlvi]
Grand Forks Canners Limited, 1940-1952
Both men had years of experience in the canning industry: Cross as supervisor for Western Packing Corp. Ltd. in Kelowna, and Broder as principal of Broder Canning Co. of Taber, AB. When both independently considered coming to Grand Forks to set up a tomato cannery, they agreed to cooperate by jointly incorporating the Grand Forks Canners Ltd in June 1940, capitalized at $50,000.00.[xlvii]
The firm launched its Grand Forks operation by securing contracts from local growers to supply some 400 acres of tomatoes, supplying them with plants from Cross’ Kelowna hotbeds and providing expert advice on commercial tomato growing.[xlviii] It also obtained special City taxation and electricity and water rates.[xlix]
In June, 1940 the 27-year old Cannery Building was significantly expanded to equip it with a canning plant. A 125 by 50 foot concrete and metal addition was erected on the east side by contractors Charles W. Clark and J.B. McDonald at a cost of $30,000.[l] The addition housed the plant machinery, including 40-ton steam boiler, 3 steam cookers, weigh scale and various equipment for sorting, washing and peeling tomatoes. The original building was used largely for storage and office space. An adjacent 120 by 30 foot hothouse was erected to house a million tomato seedlings for spring distribution to growers.[li] A new rail siding was laid by the CPR on the south side, and 2 east adjacent lots were purchased for additional storage.[lii]
The resulting Grand Forks Canners Ltd. cannery had a capacity of 250 cases per hour of canned tomatoes, catchup and tomato juice. Its first season proved a success, with some 100,000 cases (70-80 railcars) of product manufactured and shipped.[liii] However, a tomato crop failure in 1941 followed by inadequate tomato acreage planted in 1942 resulted in significant losses for the company, which ceased operations in fall 1942.[liv] Thereafter, the Cannery Building and plant sat idle for a year and a half.
Kettle Valley Packers Limited, 1944-1947
In March 1944, E.C. Miller of Ladner, BC incorporated the Kettle Valley Packers Ltd. for the purpose of taking over the Cannery Building and plant owned by Grand Forks Canners Ltd. via lease with purchase option.[lv] It installed additional fruit canning equipment alongside the existing tomato canning equipment in the building.
By May 1944, contracts were entered into for the local supply of 100 acres of tomatoes.[lvi] This was supplemented by peaches, pears and apricots shipped in from the Okanagan as well as locally-grown prunes.[lvii] During its initial season, the plant processed and shipped some 60,000 cases of tomatoes and 60,000 cases of fruit and employed 175 people.[lviii]
In early 1945, E.C. Miller publicly advised that the cannery would require local contracts for at least 300 acres of corn and beans in order to operate that season; failing which the plant would be dismantled and the machinery sent to the Okanagan.[lix] Only half the required acreage was contracted; however, the plant managed to run a second season, shipping in Okanagan fruit to supplement local produce.[lx]
The Kettle Valley Packers Ltd. did not operate its cannery during the 1946 canning season due to inadequate acreages of local produce planted.[lxi] The following year, in May 1947, it dismantled the canning machinery and sent it to Lethbridge, thus ending the canning business in Grand Forks.[lxii] After multiple failed attempts to operate a cannery, no other company would consider coming in.
Van der Giessen Bros. Seed Growers, 1947-1950
Despite its failure as a canning plant, the Cannery Building did not remain vacant long. In March 1947, Nic Van der Giessen and family arrived in Grand Forks to open a branch of Van der Giessen Brothers Seed Company of Utrecht, Holland. The family had previously visited most seed growing areas of the continent and was so impressed by Grand Forks that the company decided to make it its headquarters for its Canadian subsidiary, Van der Giessen Brothers Ltd.[lxiii]
To this end, in July 1947, Van der Giessen Brothers Ltd. leased the Cannery Building for use as a seed warehouse from which it distributed its famous Dutch Bulbs, imported from Holland, through catalogue sales to Boundary and Okanagan residents.[lxiv] It was also used to store seeds grown in British Columbia for post-war export to Holland and other European countries.[lxv]
The seed warehouse operated in Grand Forks for 4 years, after which the Van der Giessen family relocated its business to Kamloops in August 1950.[lxvi]
Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society, 1952-1975
In June 1947, members of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ (‘USCC’) chartered a consumer co-operative in Grand Forks as the Sunshine Valley Co-Operative Society.[lxvii] In October, it opened its first retail store in the Burns Block, opposite the Gazette building on First St (2 St).[lxviii] Initially it offered flour, feed and groceries, but by 1950-51 entered the hardware, dry goods and oil retail sales fields.[lxix] In keeping with Doukhobor religious tenets, the Co-op did not sell meat, alcohol, tobacco, ammunition or fishing tackle.[lxx]
In April 1952, the Co-op purchased the 39-year old Cannery Building from Robert Broder as a branch of its First St location.[lxxi] Extensive alterations were made to it, whereafter the feed, flour, hardware and furniture departments were moved into the main floor and greatly expanded.[lxxii] The ground around the building was filled and raised to road level. In May 1952, the Co-op opened a service station on the north side with two gasoline pumps as agent for the British America Oil Co. Ltd.[lxxiii]
In March 1953, the second floor of the Cannery Building was remodeled to house the USCC Central Organizational Office, which included the offices of the Executive Committee, the Union of Youth, the print office of the publication ISKRA along with the USCC central library.[lxxiv] The main office of the Grand Forks & District Credit Union was also briefly relocated there from May 1954 to June 1955.[lxxv]
By October 1954, the Co-op further renovated the Cannery Building, relocating its grocery department there from the old store.[lxxvi] Thereafter, the hardware department occupied one-third and the grocery the other two-thirds of the main floor. Other improvements included a free parking lot, lunch counter, and faster service at the gas pumps and grocery counters, making the store one of the most modern in the Interior.[lxxvii]
With the new expanded location and greater volume of business at the Cannery Building, annual sales of the Sunshine Valley Co-Operative Society skyrocketed from $33,000.00 in 1948 to half a million dollars in 1954.[lxxviii]
In September 1958, the Co-op leased the Zak Bros. garage diagonally across the street from the Cannery Building as a full-service garage offering automotive repairs.[lxxix] Then, following further renovation of the second floor of the Cannery Building, some 2,500 square feet of floor space was made available, resulting in the dry goods department moving there from the old store in October 1959.[lxxx]
With the consolidation of the Co-op in the Cannery Building, plans for expansion were put in motion. In December 1962, a new supermarket and dry goods single-storey wing was built on the north side, adding 10,000 square feet of space.[lxxxi] Renovations to the hardware and furniture departments yielded 7,000 square feet of space on the Cannery Building main floor, with the second floor devoted to office space.[lxxxii] Contractor for the $100,000.00 project was Walter Wlasoff, the consulting engineer, E.M. Bauder of Joseph B. Ward & Associates and the architect, R.B. Howard of Vancouver.[lxxxiii]
The 1962 expansion saw the last major modification to the Cannery Building, which now had 16,000 square feet of sales area housing the dry goods, hardware, furniture, grocery and bulk oil departments, and another 12,000 square feet of rear warehouse.[lxxxiv] Over the next 13 years, it continued to be home to one of the largest co-operatives in BC, with annual sales surpassing a million dollars.[lxxxv]
Destruction of the Cannery Building, 1975
The Cannery Building might well have remained in use for decades longer had it not been for the events of 1975. In December of that year, the building housing the Co-op’s hardware and feed operations – as well as USCC offices and library – was consumed in a fire of mysterious origin.[lxxxvi] The loss of the structure was valued at $400,000.00, while the library filled with old Russian books and paintings was valued at more than a million dollars.[lxxxvii] The supermarket wing on the north side was saved from the conflagration. It was later determined that the fire was deliberately set by members of the Sons of Freedom.[lxxxviii]
The Cannery Building was never rebuilt, thus ending 62 years of nearly continuous operation. In its absence, the Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society was forced to substantially curtail its operations to its one remaining building – the supermarket wing. The Co-op then went into a decade-long period of decline, ending with its foreclosure in 1986.[lxxxix] The supermarket was subsequently purchased by the Grand Forks Home Hardware, whose parking lot today occupies the site of the Cannery Building.
Special thanks to Sue Adrain, Boundary Community Archives for her generous assistance in locating and sharing fire insurance maps and other information.
This article was originally published as a two-part series in the Grand Forks Gazette, October 4 and 11, 2023.
 That the Grand Forks district had ideal conditions for the successful operation of a cannery was the opinion expressed by provincial horticulturalists at the time: Grand Forks Gazette, May 11, 1912, July 26, 1913. A sufficient variety of produce suitable for canning were already grown in the district to keep a cannery running throughout the season. A cannery offered a ready market and quick cash returns for local produce unable to be shipped fresh to distant points without spoilage, given the speed and conditions of rail transport. It would also save on shipping costs for the many railcar loads of produce already shipped out of the district for canning purposes. And besides offering significant employment opportunities, it would spur the cultivation of hundreds of acres of additional land in the district which lay fallow.
 Non-local firms that expressed an interest in establishing a cannery at Grand Forks in the 1910s included: the St. Catherines, ON firm Dominion Canneries Co. (Grand Forks Sun, April 11, June 27, 1913, August 21, 1915.); Grand Forks Produce Association (Grand Forks Gazette, June 28, 1913); Calgary-based Canadian Pacific Railway Industrial Department (Grand Forks Gazette, July 26, 1913; Grand Forks Sun, July 25, 1913); the Kelowna, BC firm Western Cannery Company Ltd (Grand Forks Gazette, August 2, 1913; Grand Forks Sun, August 1, 1913); and the Orser Canning Co. of Colbourne, ON (Grand Forks Gazette, January 15 & 29, 1916; Grand Forks Sun, January 14, 1916).
 The original objects of incorporation were considerably broader than canning, and included the “purchase, production, raising, preserving, curing, drying, smoking, evaporating, pressing, packing, pickling, manufacturing and preparation for sale of all kinds of fruit, vegetables, nuts and farm, garden and orchard products, dairy products, meat and animal products and fish products”: British Columbia Gazette, December 5, 1912 at 11376-11377. See also: Grand Forks Gazette, August 10, September 21, October 5, October 26, November 16, December 14, 1912, March 15 & 22, April 5 & 12, August 9, September 6 & 20, October 4, 1913; Grand Forks Sun, December 20, 1912, March 14, 1913, April 11, June 27, 1913.
 In September 1913, J.H. Wilson of Indianapolis, IN was hired for this purpose: Grand Forks Gazette, September 6 and 20, November 29, December 13 and 20, 1913, February 7, April 4, May 30, 1914; Grand Forks Sun, December 12 and 19, 1913.
Grand Forks Gazette, October 18 and 25, November 1, 8 & 22, 1913.
Grand Forks Gazette, October 25, November 1 and 8, 1913.
Grand Forks Sun, December 12, 1913; Grand Forks Gazette, April 10, 1952.
Grand Forks Sun, December 19, 1913; Grand Forks Gazette, October 18 and 25, 1913. There is evidence would suggest the bricks used to construct the building were sourced from the Doukhobor Society brick factory west of the city, as the contractor A.E. McDougall used Doukhobor brick to construct a number of other Grand Forks structures in the same period.
Grand Forks Gazette, September 20, November 29, December 13, 1913, March 7 and 14, April 25, May 9, 1914; Grand Forks Sun, December 12, 1913.
Grand Forks Gazette, August 9, November 22 and 29, 1913, April 25, 1914.
 The Grand Forks Canning Company Limited initially asked for a bonus in the form of $3,000.00, being the cost of the site. The City of Grand Forks responded by drafting a bylaw granting the company a 10-year tax exemption and provision of water and light at cost; the bylaw was submitted to ratepayers as a plebiscite in January 15, where it received majority approval: Grand Forks Gazette, November 29 and December 13 and 27, 1913, January 3, 10, 17 and31, 1914.
Grand Forks Gazette, February 7 and March 14, April 25, May 9 and 16, 1914; Grand Forks Sun, December 12, 1913, January 16 and 30, May 15 and 29, July 3, 1914.
British Columbia Gazette, July 16, 1914 at 4192; Grand Forks Gazette, June 27, July 4, 1914.
British Columbia Gazette, September 10, 1914 at 5397; Grand Forks Gazette, July 4, August 1 and September 5, 1914.
 British Columbia Executive Council, Order-in-Council No. 690/1915 dated June 29, 1915; British Columbia Executive Council, Order-in-Council No. 36/1916 dated January 17, 1916; Grand Forks Gazette, December 19, 1914,January 20 and March 20, 1915, ; Grand Forks Sun, March 12, 1915.
Grand Forks Gazette, June 21, 1913, January 8, February 5, 1916. $8,000.00 of the $10,000.00 was immediately released to the Grand Forks Canning Association; an additional $1,000.00 would be released upon installation of the plant and operation of the plant, respectively.
Grand Forks Gazette, April 18 and 25, May 30, June 20, July 18 and 25, and August 1, 8 and 29, 1914; Grand Forks Sun, April 17, August 14, September 4, 1914.
Grand Forks Gazette, December 12, 1914; Grand Forks Sun, December 18, 1914.
Grand Forks Gazette, December 12 and 26, 1914, February 13 and March 13, 1915; Grand Forks Sun, December 11, 1914, January 1, 8, 15 and 22, February 5, 12, 19 and 26, March 5, 12 and 19, 1915.
Grand Forks Gazette, January 9 and 16, 1915; Grand Forks Sun, January 22, 1915.
Grand Forks Gazette, February 6, March 27, 1915.
Grand Forks Gazette, April 10, 1915, July 27, 1915.
Grand Forks Gazette, March 20 and May 19, 1917.
Grand Forks Gazette, August 31, November 2, 23, 30, 1923; Grand Forks Sun, December 14 and 21, 1923.
Grand Forks Gazette, November 6, 13, 20, 1915; Grand Forks Sun, November 26, 1915.
Grand Forks Gazette, November 27, December 11 and 25, 1915; Grand Forks Sun, November 26, December 3, 10 & 17, 1915.
Grand Forks Gazette, February 5, 26, March 4, 11, 18 and April 1, 15, 22, 1916; Grand Forks Sun, November 26, December 3, 10, 17, 1915 and March 31, 1916.
Grand Forks Gazette, August 12 & 19, 1916; Grand Forks Sun, August 18, 1916.
Grand Forks Gazette, April 14, 1917, July 27, 1917.
Grand Forks Gazette, July 27, 1917, May 2 and 16, 1919.
Grand Forks Gazette, May 30, June 13, 20, 27 1919,
 Occidental’s departure from Grand Forks operationswas precipitated by the destruction of their second fruit packing house at Carson due to fire, with fruit and property losses of $10,000.00: Grand Forks Gazette, October 31, 1919.
Grand Forks Gazette, August 6 and 27, September 24 and 27, 1920.
Grand Forks Gazette, July 29, August 5 and 12, September 2, 1921; Grand Forks Sun, July 29, September 2, 1921.
Grand Forks Gazette, July 21, 1921; Grand Forks Sun, May 18, 1923.
Grand Forks Gazette, January 20, March 10, 17, 22 and 24, May 19, October 20, 1922. Pundits for a local fruit and vegetable cannery emphasized the need for coordinated growers’ support and the growing of substantially larger acreages of small fruit to facilitate the industry. At the same time, G.A. Evans, editor of the Grand Forks Sun, railed against the Cannery Building as a ‘fiasco’, arguing that had local promotors used an old building for a cannery and taken their money and put it into equipment and operating expenses, they would have a dividend-paying cannery instead of having their money tied up in a vacant building: Grand Forks Sun, April 22, 1921.
Grand Forks Gazette, January 5, 12, 19 and 27, February 2, March 23, June 8 & 22, September 28, October 5, 1923; Grand Forks Sun, January 19, 1923.
 British Columbia Executive Council, Order-in-Council No. 189/1940 dated February 17, 1940. The amount of the $8,000.00 loan owed by the Grand Forks Canning Association in September 1924 was $7,727.63, indicating that virtually nothing had been paid against the principal. The Association was subsequently dissolved in July 1928: British Columbia Gazette, July 26, 1928 at 2804.
Grand Forks Gazette, October 5, 1923; Grand Forks Sun, September 16, 1927; Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1923-1928. Although Fruit Products Company of Grand Forks appears in the 1928 civic directory, the listings were prepared in late 1927 and there is no record of corporate activity after September 1927.
Grand Forks Gazette, January 15, February 19, March 5, 1926, September 1, 1933; Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1925-1932. Note the Grand Forks Creamery continued to market butter and ice cream under its predecessor’s ‘K.V. Brand’.
Grand Forks Gazette, February 20, 1936; February 29, 1940.
 British Columbia Executive Council, Order-in-Council No. 189/1940 dated February 17, 1940; Grand Forks Gazette, November 16, 1939.
Grand Forks Gazette, March 12 and 19, April 23, 1942. Grand Forks Canners Limited was eventually struck off the corporate register and dissolved in April 1952: British Columbia Gazette, April 10, 1952 at 1075.
British Columbia Gazette, March 9, 1944 at 410; Grand Forks Gazette, March 2, April 20, 1944.
Grand Forks Gazette, July 20, August 31, September 28, 1950.
 The organization and development of producer and consumer co-operatives among members of the USCC in BC was initiated at a USCC convention held in Grand Forks on May 26, 1946: Grand Forks Gazette, June 4, 1953, March 21, 1963; ISKRA No. 1937 (U.S.C.C., February 26, 2003 at 7). Initially, membership in the Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society was limited to Doukhobors belonging to the U.S.C.C. but within five years was expanded to the general public after the co-operative enterprise became better established. Regarding the Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society charter, see: British Columbia Gazette, June 26, 1947 at 1963; Grand Forks Gazette, August 14, 1947; Peter P. Podovinikoff, “Doukhobor Credit Unions and Co-operatives 1940s-1990s,” in K. J. Tarasoff (ed.), Spirit-Wrestlers’ Voices: Honouring Doukhobors on the Centenary of their Migration to Canada in 1899. (Toronto: Legas, 1998) at 157.
 Erected at First Street in October 1911, the Burns Block housed various businesses, beginning with the P. Burns & Co. meat market, followed by J.M. McLean’s bakery in March 1939, John Onion’s store in May 1941 and Albert Talarico’s Grand Forks Meat Market in May 1947. The Sunshine Valley Co-operative Society purchased the block from Talarico in August 1947 for the sum of $6,000.00. The place was renovated enough to start a little grocery store with $485.00 work of stock, opening in October 1947. On New Year’s Eve, 1947-48, the Burns Block was destroyed by fire with a $14,000.00 loss due to arson by Sons of Freedom. In March 1948, the Co-op rebuilt its store on the same premises; however, the City of Grand Forks refused to reissue a trade license for almost a year until ordered to do so by the courts. The rebuilt store was finally licensed and re-opened in March 1949. In October 1959, the Co-op ceased operations in the building, and in February 1961, sold it to Mark Soon, who thereafter operated it as the Honey Confectionary & Restaurant.
 The Sunshine Valley Co-operativefirst advertised clothing and dry goods in the Grand Forks Gazette on February 9, 1950; and furniture and British American Oil Company Ltd. products on October 11, 1951. As the B.A. bulk sales agency, it supplied all B.A. service stations in the Boundary with petroleum products as well as fuel oil to householders.
British Columbia Gazette, May 19, 1966 at 1137.
Grand Forks Gazette, April 10, 1952, March 21, 1963; British Columbia Executive Council, Order-in-Council No. 1890/1954 dated August 20, 1954.
Grand Forks Gazette, May 15, 1952, March 21, 1963.
Grand Forks Gazette, March 21, 1963; ISKRA No. 1937 (Brilliant: USCC, February 26, 2003).
Grand Forks Gazette, April 10, May 1 and 13, 1954, February 17, June 23, 1955, March 21, 1963.
Grand Forks Gazette, August 12, October 7, 1954, March 21, 1963. The relocation of the grocery department to the Cannery Building was made following the realization that the floor space at the original First St. location was insufficient to allow desired expansion. Following the move, only the dry goods department was left at the original store.
In May 1912, Nelson Daily News reporter James Lightbody visited the community of Brillant (then centred in Dolina Utesheniya) at the junction of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers. There, he found 1,300 Russian-speaking Doukhobors living in a ‘Socialist Utopia’ who, after four short years, had transformed 2,900 acres of forest into a veritable garden paradise with 600 acres planted into trees. Lightbody wrote an article about his experience and observations, including the Doukhobors’ history in Russia, their settlement at Brilliant, their learning of English, communal system and management, their land-clearing, industrial development and financial system. It was first published in The Nelson Daily News on June 1, 1912. It was subsequently republished in The Daily Province on June 8, 1912 and the Victoria Daily Times on June 25, 1912. Editorial comments [in square brackets] and After Word by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
An hour’s ride from Nelson, British Columbia, there exists a foreign country, 2,900 acres in extent, where nearly 1,300 people live without a knowledge of English, without money in circulation and without an elective government, and yet contented and prosperous. It is the Doukhobor community at Brilliant, at the junction of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers, where fruit farming upon a strip of land encircled by steep mountains is conducted on a scale not attempted in any other part of British Columbia. These exiles from their unhappy land in Russia are part of a band of 7,500 in Canada and beyond a few hundred in British Columbia and their kindred living in far away Canora in the prairie provinces of Saskatchewan, these people live out of touch with all races and creeds in Canada.
Twelve years ago they began to come to Canada to escape the tyranny to which they were subject under the bureaucratic government of the Czar’s dominions, and under the liberty allowed them under British rule, they have proved themselves to be so industrious that they have carried out agricultural operations on a scale almost impossible to the English speaking citizen of the country. They have cleared hundreds of acres of their land of the dense timber that covered it four years ago and have planted it with fruit trees and bushes. They have received not a cent in return for their fruit but are still living upon what their countrymen in Canora [district, Saskatchewan] can send them and from what they have raised from selling timber and potatoes and other minor products of their land.
Nor are they concerned mainly about getting an immediate recompense for their labor. Rather they are building up for the future with a foresight which will surely be repaid. There is mapped out and in part operation an irrigation system covering the whole of their territory, and already a domestic water system fed by springs in the mountains connects every one of the thirty or more dwellings upon the plateau.
That is only one part of the story of industry and thrift that a visitor to Brilliant sees. Their quant customs; their odd form of government with its freedom from complications, yet efficient in its simplicity, their adaptability to new conditions and new surroundings; all these things tell a story seldom met with in the rush of the present-day life.
Settlement at Brilliant
To the person who alights from the train at the new station at Brilliant just being built by the Canadian Pacific railway, there opens a panorama which is puzzling to one who has no hint of what the settlement is. After journeying through a gully hemmed in by steep mountains, a wide level stretch of land takes their place and here and there upon it are dotted houses, peculiarly set in pairs of with acres and acres of trim gardens round them. In places a rugged stump-dotted patch, not yet cleared, shows what the neat, trim gardens were in their rough state. Close at hand there is a busy scene along the water’s edge, as if some gigantic industry was being established there. And so there is. As one descends the bank one encounters a gang of men loading heavy masses of machinery upon a ferry strung across the swirling Kootenay.
You journey across with the gang, few of them can speak a word of English, and on closer view find a water pump being placed in position, and boilers being set together with noisy activity. You ask what it all means and are informed that it is the pumping plant for irrigating the fruit fields that you are yet to see. Pressing on, guided by one of the obliging settlers, you pass sawmill, stables, several houses, and rise to the top of a bank to come upon an immense tableland whose houses you have seen from the station upon the railway track. For some distance you walk along until you come upon a wide expanse of cultivated land both under crop and ready for planting. On each side of the road there are large houses; always in pairs, always of the same plan, bare of exterior but eminently practical.
In your walk, if school be not in session, you will be passed by picturesque children, the girls in bright colors and the boys – well, as growing mischief-loving boys always dress. But all have an inquiring, inquisitive look, for strangers are not seen every day. Yet disrespect is totally absent and they call to you “Hello,” their first word of English probably, and the boys raise their hats and the girls nod their heads.
There is a schoolhouse there, just put in commission by the provincial government, with an English-speaking school ma-am in it, and the children, so they say, flock to the school with such eagerness that playing truant is an unheard of offence. In fact, they come round from school and clamor to be taught before their teacher rises in the morning, and she is an early riser.
A peep into the houses discloses the tidiness that characterizes everything. Paint has not been found absolutely necessary everywhere but cleanliness cannot be sacrificed at any cost. Around the house are gardens both for flowers and for vegetables, with walks neatly bordered with stones among them. Not a fence can be seen, for the land belongs to no one and to everyone.
Then you visit the post office [at Waterloo], where John Sherbinin, the purchasing agent and financial manager, holds forth, and you find to your astonishment everything for a well-appointed office already there. There are typewriters, one in English and the other to master the vagaries of the Russian alphabet; letter files and account books and also a certificate that this is one of his majesty’s post offices.
How They Came
To see the state of improvement the settlement has reached it is hard to believe it has all been done in four years. Yet that is the time which has elapsed since the first band migrated from Canora, near Saskatoon. In the early winter of that year, Peter Verigin, acknowledged head of the whole Doukhobor sect, came to British Columbia and found what he thought would be an advantageous site for a colony. He bought the land, piece by piece, and a month or so later, in April, 1908, ninety men came down from the Saskatchewan community, and began the work of making the stubborn bush yield to the coming of the fruit rancher.
The hardships the Doukhobor sect have passed through since it was founded in the middle of the eighteenth century are no doubt responsible for the sterling qualities of the men and women at the present time.
Primarily the ill-treatment followed their severance from the Orthodox Russian church and the methods of conscription employed by the Russian government in the nineteenth century forced them to flee the country. At the age of 21, every young man becomes liable to be called upon to bring the standing army up to a certain mark. Each year army officers come round to the Doukhobors and took away their sons to fight, and they would, it is said, take the same man year after year, seemingly to do their worst towards the nonconformists.
Many resisted this and were put in prison and Peter Verigin, who rose as a champion of his race, was seized and sent to Siberia for 16 years. At other times as a reminder of the czar’s rule, Cossacks would be sent down to their villages with horse whips to beat the communists into subjection.
Resolved to stand the tyranny no longer, the Doukhobors decided to emigrate, and in 1898 many moved to the Island of Cyprus, which is under British protection, in the Mediterranean Sea, being assisted by Count Tolstoi. Not satisfied with this and hearing of the opportunities that Canada offered, they moved to Canada in 1899 and 1900 in large numbers, settling at once near Saskatoon. In all 7,500 persons of the Doukhobor sect have come to this country. Each man of 18 years of age or more took out 160 acres of land for farming purposes. Put together, the thousand odd quarter sections made an immense tract, and true to their customs they established a community such as may be seen at Brilliant.
But they made a fatal mistake, which they blame upon the Canadian government as not having brought to their notice. The regulations say that the settlers must cultivate at least 15 acres of his quarter section by the end of three years when a patent will be granted. Instead of doing this the Doukhobors cultivated one large piece in the centre, equal to 15 acres for every homestead in the settlement, thinking it was in compliance with the requirements. When they came to ask for title they did so for the whole piece and not individually, it appears, which the government would not grant. They now say the government would not grant them a patent because they had not cultivated a piece as required by the regulations.
The area they retained after their homesteads had been forfeited was hardly sufficient to support the whole of their 7,500 people. The winters, too, were hard on them, used as they were to the comparative warmth of Southern Russia. Finally Peter Verigin set out to find a new country to which his people without a home might go. How his wanderings brought him to British Columbia has already been shown.
When the 90 men, like [Biblical] spies into Canaan, came to Brilliant, they found an unpromising piece of land on which to start their settlement. Before their arrival it had barely been scratched as a fruit raising district, but some of the timber had been cut and floated down the river [to Trail], leaving the stumps standing. Hundreds of acres on the other hand were in their virgin state, while still more had been burned off ready to be grubbed of their dense underbrush and second growth trees.
They set to work, however, and cleared a piece of land more than a hundred acres in extent ready for planting the following spring. In April, 1909, another party of 180 men were brought out to the new settlement from Saskatchewan and joined the pioneers in putting the land in crop. That year they planted many acres with fruit trees brought from nurseries in Canada and the United States. But to obviate purchasing from an outside source, which is against their policy, they have started a nursery of their own, where thousands of young bushes may be seen approaching the stage when they may be transplanted.
While gangs of men were treating the soil others were erecting houses, and in June of the same year the wives and families and aged men were brought out from Saskatchewan and joined the able bodies in working towards getting a crop. In 1910 another batch of 200 men came out, some going to neighbouring settlements, of which there are Pass Creek, Crescent Valley, Glade and Grand Forks. In the spring of the present year a party of 346 passed through on their way to Glade and Slocan Valley. At Brilliant there are now 1,285 people, while at Grand Forks there are an additional 500 living in like communistic manner.
Since their first coming to Kootenay, the Doukhobors have not received a cent from their fruit plantations. Their expenses are small, for where possible food is grown and articles of wear are made. There is a strong aversion to being dependent upon outsiders, hence the Brilliant community subsists upon flour made at the Doukhobor mill at Canora, Saskatchewan.
Harmony and Contentment
The harmony and contentment which pervade Brilliant impress the visitor at first sight, and a glance into the economic system in vogue there reveals the reason for this. It is a Socialist Utopia, the realization of equality which is being advocated for the rest of the world to-day.
At Brilliant, unlike the modern city, there are no cares as to where the next day’s meals will come from. There is no stinting to provide sustenance when one’s strength has ebbed in declining years. There is no division between “mine” and thine”; no man richer than his fellow; no jealousies or envies as to the possessions of another.
Cares as to money are totally absent, for there is no money in circulation. Neither is there any need for money, for food and clothing are doled out as needed from the department in charge of these matters. All men are equal and have a voice in the government, and more than this, women are recognized as being competent to judge upon the affairs of their community.
Their houses are large, and for economy are made to accommodate from 30 to 36 people. At the rear of each pair, there is a long low building which puzzles the stranger. It contains the baths, made of wood and looking like punts. A boiler in the centre of the room heats the water for the numerous baths round about.
The food for all the months is handed out at the general store, to which the head of the household repairs on certain days. To the storekeeper he intimates the number he must feed, and gets doled out to him food in proportion. The bread is baked in each house, and vegetables are raised in gardens surrounding them, it being part of the women’s work to look after them.
How Community is Run
The executive of the community is in the hands of several heads of departments. There are two men who manage the fruit-growing and the general affairs of the colony. One man does the purchasing for them, another oversees the building of the houses and the carpenter work, another superintends the sawmills, another the waterworks, and so on. These men are responsible for the part of the work they look after.
They form the executive, but the government is in the hands of the people, effectively and simply, although with no machinery of government whatever. Once a week all persons both men and women who have reached years of mature understanding, crowd into the school house [to hold a sobranya or ‘meeting’] and discuss the affairs of the community. At these meetings, according to the popular sentiment, the managers of each department are given their instructions.
Should one of the managers ever be guilty of doing something wrongly he is required to make an explanation and allowed to clear himself if he is able. But if not, one of the electors, if you can call them such, may propose another man, and the case is disposed of on its merits. No definite time is specified at the appointment of an officer, but he holds office as long as he does his work well. This is the initiative, referendum and recall system without the cumbersome machinery in use at the present day.
There is no police force at Brilliant, and none is needed. Every man is so loyal to this community that misdemeanors are practically unknown. As no one possesses anything to the exclusion of others, there is no stealing. If anyone should do wrong, however, he is dealt with by the society.
Land Worked in One Piece
In tilling the land it is all done in one piece. There are no divisions of the whole 2,900 acres as far as that is concerned. Men are put to work on whatever task they are best suited for and may be changed to another more congenial to them if it means greater efficiency. Thus some are at work in the fields, others in the sawmills and others at carpenter work. Should any man display a lazy disposition he is put to work tidying up the garden round the house, and if he does not keep it spic and span he will suffer derision at the hands of his comrades. But such a penalty is seldom necessary because of the intense interest taken by everyone in the welfare of the colony.
Two Big Sawmills
Two big sawmills are kept busy all the time at Brilliant, and have seen busier day in the early life of the settlement. There, the logs that were taken from the land in preparation for the fruit trees coming, were sawn up into hundreds of thousands of railway ties and shipped all over the country. In connection with the sawmills, where, also, all lumber needed for the buildings is turned out, there is a planing mill. Finished lumber is made there, and mouldings, indistinguishable from the product of a big factory, are manufactured. There is also a joiner’s shop, and all tables, chairs and furniture used in the houses are made by Doukhobor labor there. More than this, window frames have been turned out, but for economy’s sake they are not bought.
In the high parts of the territory the guide will point to two immense reservoirs, big concrete tanks containing water. These, he will explain, are the nucleus of the irrigation system they are planning for the whole of their land. By and by when they have their pumping plant on the Kootenay in working order, the fields will be covered by a network of pipes giving water to the thirsty soil.
At the present time all is activity with the fruit trees, but when winter comes and work on the land ceases, electric light and power wires will be installed everywhere. In connection with the new pumping plant a generating station will be built to supply energy to the whole colony. You may ask the Doukhobor, on perceiving the high tension power wires of an electric company passing over the land, why he does not buy his power from the company. He will tell you that he prefers to be independent and generate it himself.
Overlooking nothing, a school-house of generous proportions has been built in the centre of the territory and was just opened during the present year. The settlement does not attempt to give education to all the children at once, but that will come in time. At present about one hundred young hopefuls are being taught in English and Russian, and show an avidity to learn often absent in English-speaking children. They look upon schooling as a privilege they must not abuse.
The Financial End
The material assets of the Doukhobors at Brilliant would do justice to many communities of larger size. The land was bought by Peter Verigin four years ago for $150,000 under an agreement for sale covering a number of years. There is yet a small balance left to be paid. The timber they sold gave them many thousands of dollars, part of which was used to pay for their land and part to bring others of their band from Canada and Russia. There are now 50 buildings of all kinds valued for the purpose of obtaining a loan at a conservative sum of $50,000. The two reservoirs and equipment are estimated for the same purpose to be worth $30,000. The largest sawmill is assessed at $15,000, and the new pumping and electric light plant is reckoned to need an outlay of $25,000. These figures were made by a bank valuator and are authentic.
To provide transportation across the Kootenay river a bridge is in the course of construction high up on the bank to allow vessels to pass under it. It will be of the suspension type. At present a ferry driven by a horses and windlass gives communication from bank to bank. There is also a ferry between the settlement and Kinnard on the Columbia river.
There are now 600 acres planted with fruit and the acreage is constantly increasing. The settlement has spread upon the banks of the Kootenay and down the Columbia river. In the course of time the whole of the Doukhobor sect in Canada and many more from Russia will have migrated to British Columbia, for it is the intention of those already there to assist their brethren to come out. With the warmer climate and the freedom they enjoy they are sure to prosper and help to develop the natural wealth of the province.
Born 1891 in Edinburgh, Scotland, James Lightbody emigrated to Canada in 1904. He started his newspaperman’s career in Winnipeg with the Tribune and Telegram. In 1911, he was briefly employed as a reporter with the Nelson Daily News. It was during this time that Lightbody visited Brilliant and wrote his article about the Doukhobor colony. It was perhaps as a result of the article’s successful syndication in several Vancouver and Victoria newspapers that he moved to Vancouver in 1913 to work as a reporter for the News Advertiser and Daily Province. In 1916, Lightbody began a 33-year career as publicity manager for the B.C. Electric Railway Company (later B.C. Electric), also serving on the executives of numerous civic and service organizations prior to his retirement in 1949. He died at age 96 in 1986.
It should be noted that at the time Lightbody visited ‘Brilliant’, the place name applied exclusively to the Doukhobor settlement in the Valley of Consolation (Dolina Utesheniya) on the southeast side of the Kootenay-Columbia confluence. The lands known as ‘Brilliant’ today on the northeast side of the confluence were only purchased by the Doukhobor Society in July 1912 – a month after Lightbody’s visit.
It is possible to trace the route of Lightbody’s visit to Brilliant in May 1912. After disembarking at the C.P.R. Brilliant Station, then the only building on the northeast side of the confluence, he walked a quarter mile southeast along the Doukhobor-built Pass Creek Road. After crossing the Kootenay River on the Doukhobor cable reaction ferry, he arrived at that part of the Valley of Consolation known as Kamennoye, where a sawmill and several large communal houses had been built and where a large irrigation pumping plant was under construction. He then traversed the length of the Valley of Consolation on the Doukhobor-built road which today forms parts of Ootischenia and Waterloo Roads. He passed by the Community meeting house known as the Belyi Dom (‘White House’) which at the time in 1912, briefly served as a public school. He then continued on to the former Waterloo mining camp which, at the time, served as the business and administrative centre of the Brilliant colony.
Lightbody’s article provides a fascinating snapshot of the state of agricultural and industrial development of Brilliant at the time. As of May 1912, there were 1,300 Doukhobors living on 2,900-acres in the Valley of Consolation. About half the acreage had been cleared, with 600 acres planted in fruit trees. The Doukhobors had not yet received any returns from the plantation, as the orchards would take another 7-10 years to reach full bearing. The Doukhobors had constructed two large concrete irrigation reservoirs on the second bench and a pumping station on the edge of the Kootenay River; this orchard irrigation system would be finally completed in 1926. However, in the meantime, a water pipeline for domestic purpose, sourced from mountain creeks, was already serving the Doukhobor communal homes throughout the colony. Two sawmills (the Bol’shaya Pil’nya or ‘Large Sawmill’ at the edge of the second and third benches and the Malaya Pil’nya or ‘Small Sawmill’ in Kamennoye) were in operation, with a planer mill located at the former.
Lightbody explains the Doukhobors’ early history in Russia and initial settlement on the Prairies, and provides a fairly detailed account of their initial settlement at Brilliant, only four years after it occurred. He also describes the colony in glowing terms as a ‘Socialist Utopia’ where cash and divisions of property were absent, and where the communal ownership system enabled all persons to have their basic needs met, to be equal and to have a voice in the government and management of the colony. Lightbody clearly attributes the Doukhobors’ social structure as the basis upon which they were able to transform Brilliant from a forest to a garden oasis in only four short years.
In terms of financial arrangements, Lightbody notes that the Doukhobor Society purchased the 2,900 acres at the Valley of Consolation for $150,000.00 under an agreement for sale, whereby payments were made under installments over five years. Now in its fourth year, there was only “a small balance left to be paid.” He does not provide an updated value for the improved land; however, its value must have increased manifold. Lightbody does note that the chattel improvements to the colony equaled $95,000.00; almost two-thirds of the original purchase price of the land in 1912.
Lightbody’s article was highly-complimentary of the Doukhobors, precisely at a time when anti-Doukhobor sentiment was reaching a fevered pitch in the Kootenay and Boundary regions. This was primarily on account of the Doukhobors’ reluctance to send their children to public school, their refusal to register vital statistics, as well as perceptions about their large, unpaid labour force undercutting local wages and commodity prices. These various public grievances – real and perceived – culminated in the formation of the Royal Commission on Doukhobor Affairs in late August 1912, only three months after Lightbody’s visit. As such, his article stands out for its objectivity and insightful, fact-based analysis, in contrast to most highly-critical, opinion-based accounts of the Doukhobors that appeared in local newspapers at the time.
The Doukhobor ‘Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood’ at Grand Forks is probably best historically known for its religious pacifism, large brick communal homes, and once-vast fruit orchards. Less recognized, but also important are the many local agricultural and industrial enterprises it established. The following article examines the Doukhobor agro-industrial complex created west of the city from 1909 to 1939, and its contribution to the growth and development of the Kettle Valley.
Between 1909 and 1912, Peter V. Verigin on behalf of the Community purchased 4,182 acres of land west of Grand Forks.[i] These acquisitions included the historic Coryell Ranch in February 1909; Newby Ranch in March 1909; Vaughan Ranch in November 1909; Spencer/Macey Ranch in May 1910; Collins Orchard in July 1910; Hoffman Ranch in April 1911; Capsey Ranch in April 1912; and Pettijohn/Bell Ranch in December 1912; among others.
By 1931, the Community’s holdings expanded to 5,104 acres to include the historic Ashfield/Dinsmore Ranch acquired in June 1913; Hardy Bros Ranch in July 1919; Ward/Perkins Ranch in March 1921; Averill Estate between March 1924 and June 1928; and Hammer/Dewdney Ranch in May 1930.[ii]
These landholdings were grouped by the Community into three somewhat distinct geo-administrative areas and given rich, evocative Russian names as follows:
Descriptively named Dolina Fruktovaya (the ‘Valley of Fruit’) or simply Fruktovoye by Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin,[iii] this tract was bounded by Spencer Hill to the north and west, Saddle Mountain to the north and east, the Kettle River to the south and east and the Covert Ranch to the south. In 1932, it was renamed Sion (‘Zion’) by Verigin’s son and successor, Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin;
Christened Dolina Khristovaya (the ‘Valley of Christ’) or simply Khristovoye by Peter V. Verigin,[iv] the tract was bounded by Eagle Mountain and Saddle Mountain to the south, Hardy Mountain to the west, Observation Mountain to the east and Smelter Lake to the north; and
Ubezhishche, a name given by Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin meaning (place of) ‘refuge’ or ‘hideway’,[v] was bounded by Spencer Hill and Hardy Mountain to the east, the U.S. border to the south, July Creek and its tributaries to the west and Skeff Creek to the north.
Between 1909 and 1912, 713 Doukhobor men, women and children from Saskatchewan were resettled at the new Grand Forks colony.[vi] By 1921, their number had increased to 928 persons;[vii] and by 1931, to 1,000 persons.[viii]
They were primarily housed in large, two-storey brick communal homes, each with a capacity of 30-40 persons. Some 25 such communal homes were built, each with a large barn, several single-family frame dwellings and numerous outbuildings. Each communal home was situated on approximately 100 acres of arable land which it was allotted to manage and maintain.
Two to four communal homes were each administered as a village unit.[ix] Numbering 11 in total, these villages originally received numbers rather than names (e.g. Village No. 6). However, by the 1940s, many of them came to be descriptively known by the predominant family grouping that resided in them (e.g. Popoff Village, Novokshonoff Village, etc.) while others acquired quaint nicknames (e.g. London, Sleepy Hollow, Paris, etc.) and even more colourful Russian epithets.
The Grand Forks colony was acquired by the Doukhobors, first and foremost, for large-scale fruit-growing. While a small acreage was already under mature orchard when they purchased it,[x] most was virgin ranchland, open or lightly wooded. There were also some hundred acres of rough, forested land. Working together under the motto ‘Toil and Peaceful Life’, the Doukhobors rapidly cleared and cultivated it.
By 1912, the Doukhobors set out 50,000 apple, plum, pear, prune and cherry trees on 593 acres, making them (by far) the largest fruit grower in the Boundary.[xi] By 1921, the colony had some 85,000 fruit trees on 1,000 acres coming into full bearing; 2,000 acres cultivated in small fruit (strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries) as well as vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers), grain (wheat, oats), and forage (alfalfa, clover, timothy), with the remainder in pasture and timber.[xii]
To support their orchard development, beginning in 1911, the Doukhobors established an extensive gravity-flow irrigation system, using over 30,000 feet of flume, ditch and self-manufactured wood stave pipeline to convey water from July Creek and tributaries, Ward Lake, Hardy Creek, and the Kettle River to their fruit trees.[xiii] In May 1911, they had 100 acres under irrigation; the following year, 230 acres; and by 1923, over 758 acres irrigated.[xiv] They also completed a large concrete and earthen irrigation reservoir (later known as Saddle Lake) in the draw near Hardy Mountain by 1919.[xv]
Undoubtedly, what contributed to the early and rapid success of the Doukhobors as fruit growers was their large pool of communal labour. All of the men, women and children of the colony were engaged in the growing effort on an unpaid basis. In return for their labour, the Community supplied its members with food, clothing, shelter and other necessities. This arrangement gave them a competitive advantage vis-à-vis other orchardists as their cost of fruit production at all stages was significantly less.
From the outset, the Doukhobor Community saw opportunities to expand their operations beyond merely growing fruit and other agricultural produce, and began to engage in the secondary manufacture of agricultural byproducts as well as other industrial commodities.
Between 1909 and 1939, an agro-industrial complex was established for the mass production of agricultural and industrial goods, both for the Doukhobors’ own domestic use and for commercial sale. Most of these enterprise coalesced at the rough geographic centre of the colony, in Fruktovoye, between what is today Spencer and Canning Roads and also along Mill Road.
Each of these agro-industrial enterprises is discussed below.
Upon acquiring the Coryell Ranch in February 1909, the Community inherited Frank Coryell’s small-scale brickworks, which comprised a horse-powered clay mixer, a small hand-operated brick molding machine and large, promising clay pit.[xvi] By March, they substantially updated the brickworks by adding a steam power plant, a ‘Martin’ industrial brick-making machine and other modern equipment and turned out a million first-class bricks by the end of the summer.[xvii] The refurbished plant had a capacity of 24,000 bricks daily.
The Doukhobor brick-making process can be described as follows: clay was manually excavated from the adjacent pits and loaded into carts, which were drawn by horse up to a hopper chute, then dumped into the side mixer and combined with specific quantities of dried sand and water. The mixture was then filled into brick molds and compressed by the brick-making machine into raw ‘wet’ bricks. The raw bricks were placed on a 300-foot conveyor leading to a series of drying sheds, where they were stored for 1-2 weeks. Once air-dried, the bricks were stacked to form up to 10 kilns, which were fired for up to a week, using cordwood and sawmill slabs and ends, to produce the final bricks.
The manufactured bricks were used by the Doukhobors themselves to face the two-storey communal homes in the Grand Forks colony as well as in many in their colonies at Brilliant, Ootischenia, Pass Creek, Shoreacres and elsewhere. They were also used in various Community undertakings, such as the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works jam factory at Brilliant, warehouses, retail stores, Community schools and other endeavors.
Many of the bricks manufactured at the Community brick factory were also sold commercially to builders throughout the Boundary. Some of the best-known structures built with the brick include the Davis Block,[xviii] Bower & Pribilsky Block,[xix] Royal Bank Building[xx] and Kerman Block[xxi] on Market Avenue, the Perley School Annex[xxii] and old Court House[xxiii] on Central Avenue, the old Post office[xxiv] on 4th Avenue, as well as the Beran Residence[xxv] on Hardy Mountain Road and the Glaspell Residence on Highway 3.[xxvi] Hundreds of thousands of bricks were also shipped to the Trail Smelter, with 325,000 shipped in April 1917 alone.[xxvii]
In 1927-1928, the Community brickworks were substantially enlarged under Doukhobor leader Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin, with increased mechanization and manufacturing capacity expanded from 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 bricks annually.[xxviii]
The brickyard ceased operation in 1932; however, many of the buildings and equipment remained until the 1940s through the 1970s. Today, the depressions of the clay pits can still be seen today near the corner of Spencer and Reservoir Roads.
In 1909, the Community erected a sawmill in Fruktovoye with which to manufacture rough lumber for building their homes and village structures.[xxix] Operated for the Doukhobors’ own use, it was a small portable sawmill with a capacity of 10,000 board-feet per day, powered by a self-propelled steam engine. There was no planer.
It was originally located below Village No. 5 (Hremakin village) near Saddle Mountain along present-day York Road.[xxx] Logs cut along the north bank of the Kettle River and south foot of Saddle Mountain were brought to the mill on horse-drawn dollies or sleighs (in winter).
When the supply of logs was exhausted in one place, the sawmill was moved to another location. By about 1918, it was relocated north adjacent the Community brickworks.[xxxi] There, it milled logs cut from the west and north foot of Saddle Mountain, east foot of Eagle and Hardy Mountains, and south foot of Spencer Hill.
During this time, the Grand Forks Community also maintained commercial logging, pole-cutting and sawmill camps on leased Crown timber limits at Cedar Creek on the North Fork (1923-1925),[xxxii] Myers Creek near Midway (1924-1927),[xxxiii] and elsewhere.
In 1927, the Community sawmill operation was relocated to Ubezhishche along July Creek at Village No. 10 (Horkoff village) near present-day Gibbs Creek Road and greatly expanded.[xxxiv] It operated as a 35,000 board-per-day facility and manufactured lumber for commercial sale from the Community’s extensive timber lots there. Much of the output was shipped south to the United States. It produced upwards of 2 million board-feet of lumber and 3,000 poles annually and had an adjacent planing mill, pole-making operation and box factory.[xxxv]
After 12 years of operation at this location, having survived an arson attempt in August 1931[xxxvi] and the July Creek Forest Fire of August 1934,[xxxvii] it was destroyed by incendiarism in October 1939 at a loss of $30,000.00.[xxxviii]
In 1910, the Community established a stone grist mill to grind their wheat into flour in Fruktovoye.[xxxix] Operated for their own use, it had a capacity of 100 bushels of flour per day. Beside it stood a 10,000-bushel granary for storing wheat prior to milling. It was located beside Village No. 5 (Kootnikoff village).
The Doukhobor flour-milling process can be described as follows: a pair of large millstones was used as the grinding mechanism. The bottom or ‘bed’ stone was fixed into position, while the upper or ‘runner’ stone rotated above it. Motive power from a stationary steam engine was directed to the runner stone by a shaft which went through its middle and turned it. Wheat was fed from a chute above between the stones, where it was ground into flour collected in a hopper below. The distance between millstones could be adjusted to vary flour courseness.
The bread made of the mill’s wholegrain flour was dark but very healthy. Nothing from the manufacturing process was wasted: weed seeds, cracked and broken grains, bran and other mill screenings were sold commercially as chicken feed.[xl]
In 1917, the production of linseed oil was started at the flour mill.[xli] Flax or linseed was mechanically pressed to produce cooking oil. A seed-cleaning plant was also added during this period.
In 1930, the Community flour mill was shut down.[xlii] Six years later, in 1936, an arson attempt wiped out surrounding buildings, but the flour mill building itself survived because of its laminated wood.[xliii] Another arson attempt in May 1946 destroyed a barn and implement shed but the mill remained undamaged.[xliv]
Beginning in 1962, the flour mill was retrofitted as an electric hammer mill by the Doukhobor Milling Heritage Society and reopened in May 1964.[xlv] The new, modern process created a cleaner, more refined product and could handle a higher volume of wheat processing – up to 200 pounds an hour. It was sold throughout the Kootenay-Boundary as the famous ‘Pride of the Valley’ flour.
Today the flour mill still stands on Mill Road, named after it. It is jointly managed by the Doukhobor Milling Heritage Society and Boundary Museum Society and continues to mill grain on demand.
Fruit Packing Houses
In order to process fruit from their orchards as they came into bearing, the Community built a large packing house in 1912.[xlvi] Located in Khristovoye at Village No. 3 (Vanjoff village) along present-day Hardy Mountain Road, it was a two-storey, 100 by 30 foot wood-frame structure with concrete basement and gable roof. It had a fruit box-making plant on the second floor.
Large and small fruit grown in the colony arrived by wagonload to the packing house. There, it was received, unloaded, and weighed. It was then turned out on tables, graded and sorted, culling the bruised, spoilt or small fruit aside, and packed into boxes. The packed fruit was stored in the basement until shipment. It was shipped from the adjacent Great Northern VV&E Phoenix Branch at Copper Junction.
The packing houses also processed Community-grown vegetables for outside markets, which were grown in massive quantities. In 1912 alone, the Community sold 8,000 100-lb. sacks of potatoes from Grand Forks.[xlvii]
By 1919, the Community’s orchards were coming into full bearing and a second fruit packing house was built.[xlviii] Located in Fruktovoye south of the Community brickworks at the corner of present-day Reservoir and Canning Roads, it was a two-storey, 100 by 60 foot wood-frame structure with elevator lifts, concrete basement and monitor-style roof. As there was no adjacent railway, fruit packs were hauled to the Community warehouses in Columbia Flats for shipping.[xlix]
By 1920, the Community packing houses were shipping 120-130 railcar-loads of fruit annually – apples, pears, plums and prunes as well as strawberries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries – to outside markets.[l] This included 50 carloads of Italian prunes alone.[li]
In August 1912, the Doukhobors installed a small fruit and vegetable cannery at Grand Forks for their own use.[lii] Then in 1924, the Community erected a large, commercial-scale tomato canning plant beside their Community flour mill.[liii] It was the first cannery established at Grand Forks.
Operated as the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works, large volumes of tomatoes harvested from the Community fields were brought to the plant, where they were cleaned and blanched in large copper kettles filled with boiling water, then plunged into smaller copper pots filled with cold water, then finally poured into sterilized 28-oz. cans, topped with water and sealed. Sold under the ‘K.C. Brand’ label, they were marketed across Western Canada. It operated until 1936, when it was destroyed by arson.[liv]
In 1924, the Community erected a commercial-scale fruit evaporating plant beside their flour mill – the first permanent facility of its kind at Grand Forks.[lv] Small fruit and berries picked from the Community fields were brought to the plant. Once dehydrated, fruit was preserved at one-tenth of its original weight. In its first year of operation, some 12,000 lbs. of small fruit and berries was dehydrated into 1,200 lbs. of dried fruit.[lvi] The dried fruit could be stored for extended lengths of time without spoilage.
Most of the dehydrated fruit was sent to the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works jam factory in Brilliant. Once it arrived, it was soaked in water for several hours, after which it returned to practically its original state with all its colour and nutrients retained. It was then processed into jam. The plant operated until 1936, when it was destroyed by incendiarism.[lvii]
As early as 1912 and again in 1923-1924 and 1927-1928, the Community proposed building a jam factory at Grand Forks to serve its orchards there.[lviii] However, each time, the Community elected instead to focus on developing and expanding its Brilliant jam factory. It was not until 1935 that the Doukhobors established a local jammery – the first ever in Grand Forks.
In spring 1935, the existing fruit packing house near the brick factory was retrofitted as a jam plant. A brick veneer was added to the building exterior.[lix] Twelve steam-activated jam-making kettles, ordered from England, were installed on the upper floor.[lx] Fruit and vegetable canning equipment was also ordered.[lxi] It had a production capacity of 12 tons of jam per day.
Adjacent to the north, a two-storey, brick 40 by 36 foot boiler house with concrete foundation and monitor-style roof was built to supply steam power to the jam plant.[lxii] A 30-foot high water tower was erected nearby to supply water to the boilers.[lxiii] An adjacent wood lot was stocked with cordwood, slabs and board ends from the Community sawmill to fire the boilers.
Over the first two weeks of August 1935, considerable quantities of strawberries, raspberries, cherries and other small fruit arrived at the new plant from the Community fields and from other Grand Forks fruit growers under contract.[lxiv] It was sorted and stored in the basement of the jam plant.
When production began, the fruit was brought to the main floor, where it was cleaned, peeled, de-cored/de-stoned, then cut into pieces and/or crushed. It was then taken to the second floor, where equal portions of fruit pulp and sugar were placed in each large copper kettle and cooked for 15 minutes while continually stirred. Once cooked, the kettles were emptied into smaller copper pots and wheeled over to long cooling trays filled with cold water, in which they were placed. As the jam cooled, it received a final skimming, and was then ladled by hand into sterilized cans and sealed.
The jammery operated roughly ten days, producing 194,250 lbs. of jam.[lxv] However, on August 17, 1935, the jam plant building burned to the ground in an incendiary blaze.[lxvi] It was a devastating blow to the Community with $100,000.00 in losses, including $40,000.00 of jam that was not shipped to market because of a delay in receiving jam tin labels from the printer.[lxvii] The arsonists were never brought to justice.
The jam factory boiler house still stands, having been converted, along with adjacent former Community buildings, into a family home in 1979.[lxviii] It is located on Canning Road, named after the jam factory.
Railway facilities played an important role in Community operations, both for receiving incoming goods and supplies purchased from Eastern Canadian manufacturers, and for shipping outgoing agricultural and industrial commodities (bricks, lumber products, fruit and preserves) to market. This required the establishment of Community warehouses for storing goods before their internal distribution or outside export, as the case was.
In circa 1912, the Community built a two-storey, 45 x 60 foot warehouse near the Great Northern Weston station in Columbia Flats, near present-day Northfork Franklin Road.[lxix] It was used for the shipping of produce to points on the Great Northern VV&E line. In about 1923, it was sold following the dismantling of the Weston station yards.
In 1912, the Community built a two-storey brick 75 x 50 foot warehouse with concrete basement and elevator lift near the Canadian Pacific west end station in Columbia Flats on present-day Donaldson Avenue.[lxx] The basement was used for fruit cold storage, the main floor for storing dry goods, while the upper floor was divided into living quarters and offices for the Community branch manager.
The Community store warehouse operated for 27 years. In 1940, it was purchased by Peter S. Polonicoff and run as Polonicoff’s Store until its closure in 1984.[lxxi] Today the building stands in good structural condition and has been converted into two heritage-style apartments.
Workers’ Cafeteria & Apartments
Another facility that supported the Community agro-industrial complex was a large, two-storey brick 40 x 30 foot rooming house. Built in 1918 in Fruktovoye adjacent to the fruit packing house, it housed a communal kitchen on the main floor for the Doukhobor workmen labouring at the various adjacent enterprises.[lxxii] Originally, the upper floor housed a Community shoemaker’s shop; after 1928, the shoemaker’s shop was relocated to the Community warehouse in Columbia Flats.[lxxiii] Thereafter, the upper floor was converted to workers’ sleeping quarters. In 1979, the structure was refurbished and is now a private residence.[lxxiv]
In July 1936, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. declared bankruptcy during the height of the Great Depression.[lxxv]
Its collapse resulted from a combination of complex factors, including low prices assigned to agricultural and industrial products during the Great Depression; burdensome interest rates on its mortgaged properties; a declining membership base, increasing the debt load on fewer members; members who defaulted on annual allotments; the enormous losses to its capital assets suffered from incendiarism; as well as financial mismanagement.[lxxvi]
In June 1937 and May 1938 it was placed under receivership by creditors who foreclosed upon the company and its property valuated at $4,000,000.00 for a total debt of $360,580.64.[lxxvii] Thus ended the largest agro-industrial enterprise ever undertaken in the Boundary and the largest experiment in communal living ever attempted in North America.
Enduring to this day is the Doukhobor example of bringing forth the bounty of the land, with the help of fertile valley soil and a moderate climate, fueled by the desire to work together in community towards a common purpose. The Doukhobors’ contribution to the early agricultural and industrial growth and development of Grand Forks deserves to be recognized and acknowledged.
An earlier version of this article was originally published in:
ISKRA No. 2185, April 2023;
Grand Forks Gazette, May 24 and 31, 2023; and
Trail Times, May 30 and June 17, 2023.
[i] 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 31. See also Certificate of Title Nos. 1155D, 14260F, 52D & 49126F, 14274F, 14262F, 14141F, 42009F, 14269F, 15D & 42183F & 48428F & 42008F & Map 523, 14262F, Similkameen Land District.
[ii] Snesarev, Vladimir N. (Harry W. Trevor), The Doukhobors in British Columbia (University of British Columbia Publication, Department of Agriculture, 1931). See also Certificate of Title Nos. 14257F, 47277F, 49665F, 50579F, 49666F, 42104F, 55398F, Similkameen Land District.
[iii] The first known recorded use of the names Dolina Fruktovaya is found in a letter from Peter V. Verigin to his followers dated August 5, 1909: Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. 016-004-001-001. The first known recorded use of Fruktovoye is found in a December 7, 1910 letter from Peter V. Verigin to followers: Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DC-079-003. The name was still in use on January 1, 1931: Snesarev, ibid. The first known recorded use of the name Sion for the same area is found in a letter by Peter P. Verigin to his followers dated October 18, 1932: Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DB-036-002. This tract comprised District Lot Nos. 453, 2651, E ½ 518, E ½ 1025, E ½ 1027, 365, 364, Blocks 10, 13-16 of Lot 497, Blocks 21-22 of Lot 517, and 1699.
[iv] The first known recorded use of the names Dolina Khristovaya is found in a Record of Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Income and Expenditure dated August 7, 1909: Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DB-049-001. The first recorded use of Khristovoye is found in a December 7, 1910 letter from Peter V. Verigin to followers: Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DC-079-003. This tract comprised District Lot Nos. 538, 334, 333, 332, 1494.
[v] The first known recorded use of the name Ubezhishche is found on January 1, 1931 in Snesarev, supra note 2. This tract comprised District Lot Nos. W ½ 1027, Sub-Lot 8 of Lot 2701, W ½ 1025, Sub-Lot 5 of Lot 2701, W ½ 518, 1737, 2681, 2657, Sub-Lot 4 of Lot 2701.
[ix] These village units were not compact; rather the comprised 2-4 large communal homes in proximity to one another over 200-400 acres of land.
[x] The acreage acquired by the Doukhobors that was already in orchard was relatively small. It included 10 acres on the Vaughan Ranch (Grand Forks Gazette, May 24, 1902 and December 23, 1905); 30 acres on the Collins Ranch (Grand Forks Sun, 1910.07.09); 65 acres on the Newby Ranch (Nelson Daily News, March 20, 1908; Grand Forks Sun, June 2, 1911; Greenwood Ledge 1912.04.25; Grand Forks Gazette 1912.04.20); and 8 acres on the Hoffman Ranch (Grand Forks Sun, June 2, 1911). These 113 acres of orchard ranged from fifteen to twenty years old and in full bearing, to five years old and just beginning to bear by 1912.
[xi] Blakemore, supra, note 1 at 32. Indeed, by 1911 the CCUB was the largest fruit grower in the Boundary Region, and second only to the Coldstream Ranch at Vernon (with 650 acres planted) in the combined Okanagan-Boundary Region. The next-largest fruit grower in the Boundary was the Kettle Valley Irrigated Land Co. with 340 acres planted, while in Grand Forks in particular, the next largest fruit grower was W.H. Covert with 140 acres planted.
[xiii] Province of British Columbia, Department of Lands, Water Rights Branch, Water License Nos. 5393 dated January 20, 1888, renewed July 22, 1926; 5394 dated October 24, 1888, renewed July 22, 1926; 8502 dated November 9, 1926, renewed July 10, 1933; 710 dated February 2, 1914; 289 dated November 9, 1889, renewed July 22, 1926; 290 dated June 13, 1916; 5397 dated August 3, 1914, renewed July 22, 1926; 9557 dated May 8, 1914, renewed January 20, 1936; 2689 dated May 9, 1917, renewed May 10, 1926; 5391 dated August 8, 1911; 699 dated June 12, 1913; 8499 dated April 8, 1911, renewed July 10, 1933.
[xiv] In May 1911, the CCUB had the fourth-largest irrigation system in the Kettle Valley covering 100 acres: Grand Forks Sun, May 19, 1911. At the time, the three largest irrigation enterprises in the valley were that of the Covert Estate (280 acres), L.A. Campbell (220 acres), and Kerman and Kerby & Atwood (180 acres). By 1912, the Society increased its irrigated acreage to 230 acres; and by 1923, to over 758 acres.
[xv]Nelson Daily News, August 22, 1919; Vancouver Daily Sun, August 27, 1919. See also: Province of British Columbia, Grand Forks Water District, May 3039 dated February 1, 1983 re: Water License No. 58084.
[xvi] Vera Novokshonoff, Lucy Reibin & Marion Obedkoff, “Doukhobors in the Boundary” in Boundary History: Third Report of the Boundary Historical Society, 1964 and Boundary History: Fourth Report of the Boundary Historical Society, 1964; William Rozinkin, “Grand Forks Brick Plant Launched in 1909” in Nelson Daily News, May 26, 1967. See also: Grand Forks Sun, May 27, 1902, May 16, 1905, June 21, 1907.
[xvii]Grand Forks Sun, March 13, 1909, June 5, 12, 19 & 26, July 3, 1909; Grand Forks Gazette, March 18, 1909; Greenwood Ledge, June 10, 1909; Boundary Creek Times, November 5, 1909; Report about incomes and expenditures for relocation to Columbia and payment in part for lands for 1911 year and for the period from the beginning of 1912 up to August 10, 1912, Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DB-052-006.
[xviii]Grand Forks Sun, March 13 & 20, June 5 & 19, 1909.
[xix] According to the Boundary Creek Times, November 5, 1909: “all the bricks for the several new brick blocks (i.e. David Block, Bower & Pribilsky Block, Royal Bank Building, etc.) in Grand Forks are made by the colony of Doukhobors who bought the Coryell ranch and are buying the Vaughan ranch.” This is corroborated by a review of the bricks used in these buildings, carried out by Jan DeHaan, MFA – Ceramics, owner/operator of Kettle River Pottery on September 11, 2020 for the writer, which found that the colouring and quality (weathering degradation and lime popping) of the bricks in question were consistent with Doukhobor-manufactured brick from Grand Forks. Chemical isotope testing of the brick is required for absolute verification.
[xxv] Joe Beran, “A Bohemian Immigrant in Canada” in Boundary History: Fifteenth Report of the Boundary Historical Society, 2006 at 47-48; Boundary History: Sixteenth Report of the Boundary Historical Society, 2014) at 101.
[xxvi] Melvin Glaspell, “The Glaspells of Grand Forks” in Boundary History: Twelfth Report of the Boundary Historical Society, 1992 at 136; Grand Forks District Heritage Survey, supra, note 22.
[xxvii]Greenwood Ledge, April 12, 1917; Vancouver Sun, April 16, 1917; The Standard, April 21, 1917; Creston Review, April 24, 1917; Rozinkin, supra, note 16.
[xxviii]Grand Forks Gazette, November 25, 1927; Nelson Daily News, November 21, 1927; Grand Forks Gazette, March 30, 1928; Rozinkin, supra, note 16.
[xxix] By June 1909, the Doukhobor sawmill was producing lumber for the first two-storey brick communal home in Grand Forks, being Village No. 5 (Kootnekoff/Nevokshonoff Village) located on present-day Mill Road: Grand Forks Gazette, June 17, 1909. See also: Edmonton Journal, May 2, 1910; The Canada Gazette, May 12, 1910 at 179; Grand Forks Sun, July 2, 1910; Nelson Daily News, December 2, 1911; Blakemore, supra note 23 at 33.
[xxx] Doukhobors in the Boundary, supra, note 16; Florence Kalmakoff, Interview by Anne Verigin for the writer, March 25, 2021.
[xxxi] The Community sawmill was still in its original location in December 1914: The Daily Province, December 21, 1914; but had already relocated to the brickyard by May 1923: Grand Forks Gazette, May 18, 1923. Photographic evidence indicates it was relocated between 1918 and 1922: Simon Fraser University, Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC130-3580.
[xxxii] In 1923-1924, the Community was awarded the tender for one or more Crown timber sales (X5285 and possibly X4773, X5440 and/or X6755) at Cedar Creek on the North Fork (Granby) River to cut several tens of thousands of lineal feet of railroad ties, poles, saw logs and cordwood over 2 years: Grand Forks Sun, February 9, July 13, August 31, 1923 and November 28, 1924. The Community established a camp near Stanwell Siding on the CPR Kettle Valley Railroad, which was used for shipping purposes. In May 1925, some 1900 ties, 21,000 lineal feet of poles, 5500 board-feet of saw logs, 2300 fence posts and other chattels belonging to the Community were seized by provincial police and sold by public auction at Stanwell Siding to satisfy fines levied against the colony for the failure to send its children to public school: Grand Forks Sun: May 1 & 8, 1925.
[xxxiii] In April 1924, the Community was awarded the tender for timber sale X5222 to cut 5,100,000 feet of saw logs and 96,000 ties over 3 years at Cedar and Marsh Creeks, west of Midway: Greenwood Ledge, February 14 to April 23, June 5 & 19, 1924; Journals, Legislative Assembly of BC 1924, Volume LIV, and December 9, 1924. The Community established a logging camp and sawmill at McArthur Siding on the GNR VV&E Railway, which was used for shipping purposes: Greenwood Ledge, May 15, October 10, December 4, 1924, February 19, 1925, April 8, 1926, November 17, 1927; Grand Forks Sun, May 16, 1924, April 16, 1926; Nelson Daily News, February 22, 1927.
[xxxiv] The expanded sawmill was relocated from Myers Creek to Fourth of July Creek near Grand Forks in November 1927: Nelson Daily News, February 22, 1927; Greenwood Ledge, November 17, 1927; Grand Forks Gazette, March 30, 1928; Snesarev, supra, note 2.
[xxxv]Nelson Daily News, November 21, 1927; Snesarev, supra, note 2; Nick D. Arishenkoff and Cecil W. Koochin, “Life in the Doukhobor Commune” in MIR Vol. 2, No. 3-6, September 1974.
[xlv]Grand Forks Gazette, May 14, 1964; Gardezi, supra, note 41 at 23.
[xlvi] W. Blakemore, Photographs, Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia, 1912, British Columbia Archives, Item No. GR-0793.5, Accession No. 197904-015; Mike Sookochoff, Grand Forks, interview by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, April 25, 2020.
[xlvii] T.R. Powers, Grand Forks: Royal Commission on Doukhobors (1912), Proceedings, Volume 1; BC Archives GR-0793.2.1.
[xlviii]Nelson Daily News, August 20, 1935; Vancouver Daily World, September 1, 1921; Doukhobors in the Boundary, supra, note 16.
[liii] The cannery erected in 1924 was a large-scale commercial plant intended primarily for tomatoes but which could also be used for other vegetables as well as fruit: Nelson Daily News, March 13, 1924; Snesarev, supra, note 2; Gardezi, supra, note 41 at 23. Interestingly, in April 1925, 1110 lbs. of canned fruit (10 lb. tins) and 10 cases of tomatoes (24 oz. tins) were confiscated from the new cannery by provincial police to satisfy fines levied against the colony for the failure to send its children to public school: Grand Forks Gazette, April 17, 1925.
[liv] The tomato cannery is believed to have been destroyed by arson in March 1936: Lapshinoff, supra, note 43; however, it is possible the building (by then inoperative) was destroyed by incendiarism in May 1946: Grand Forks Gazette, May 30, 1946.
[lv] As early as 1915, the Community installed an evaporator at its Brilliant jam factory: Nelson Daily News, February 21, 1913, December 2, 1914 and March 6, 1919. Once dehydrated, fruit was preserved without spoilage at 1/10 its original weight; when required, dried fruit was soaked in water and returned to practically its original state with all colour and nutrients retained. The evaporator erected at Grand Forks in 1924 served the same end: Snesarev, supra, note 2; Gardezi, supra, note 41 at 23.
[lvi] In April 1925, 1180 lbs. of dried fruit (equivalent to 11,800 lbs. of fresh fruit) were confiscated from the new evaporator by police to satisfy fines levied against the colony for failing to send its children to public school: Grand Forks Gazette, April 17, 1925
[lvii] The fruit evaporator is believed to have been destroyed by arson in March 1936: Lapshinoff, supra, note 43; however, it is possible the building (by then inoperative) was destroyed by incendiarism in May 1946: Grand Forks Gazette, May 30, 1946.
[lviii]Nelson Daily News, January 8, 1912; “Report of Consular Agent, W.S. Riblet, Nelson, BC.” in Daily Consular and Trade Reports, No. 76, March 30, 1912 at 1289; Blakemore, supra, note 1; Grand Forks Gazette, April 13, 1923, February 8 & 15, 1924, March 21, 1924; Vancouver Daily World, February 21, 1924; Nanaimo Daily News, March 19, 1924; Grand Forks Gazette, November 25, 1927, March 30, 1928.
[lix]Grand Forks Gazette, August 22, 1935. The bricks forming the factory building veneer were self-manufactured at the adjacent Community brickworks.
[lxviii] Sheila Gardezi, “From Toil to Peaceful Life” in Route 3 (Spring 2010) at 15-17.
[lxix]Plan of Great Northern Railway, Grand Forks, B.C., Weston Yard, c. 1918 (Boundary Museum & Archives Society); Letter dated April 24, 1919 from Nicholas J. Chernenkoff, CCUB to B.E. Paterson, Chairman, Committee of Enquiry & Research, Soldier Settlement Board in James Mavor Doukhobor Collection, Simon Fraser University.
[lxx]Grand Forks Gazette, August 17, 1912, February 15, 1913; Grand Forks Sun, September 6, 1912.
[lxxi]Grand Forks Gazette, July 18, 1940; Elizabeth Faminoff, “Polonicoff’s Store – A Personalized Reflection of the Past” in ISKRA, April 26, 2000 and in Boundary History, 17th Report of the Boundary Historical Society at 115.
[lxxvi] 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.
[lxxvii]Ibid; Winnipeg Tribune, June 30, 1937 at 39; Medicine Hat News, June 29, 1939; National Trust Company v. The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. (SCC)  SCR 601,  3 DLR 529; 23 CBR 1; Medicine Hat News, June 29, 1939.
Following their arrival on the Canadian Prairies in 1899, the Doukhobors regularly grew crops of flax. The fibers of the plant were retted, spun and woven to produce linen, while the seeds were fried, ground and pressed to extract cooking oil. The following is a history of the mill erected by the Doukhobors of Petrovka (aka Petrofka) village on the North Saskatchewan River to manufacture flax seed oil.
In August 1899, 155 Doukhobor immigrant settlers arrived at the North Saskatchewan River, 12 miles south of present-day Blaine Lake, SK. There, on its west bank, they chose a site with a strong spring of clear water, rolling grassy hills and warm sandy soil that reminded them of their former home in the Kars region of Russia.[i] They named their village Petrovka (Петровка) after their spiritual leader, Peter Vasil’evich Verigin, and his name day, Petrov Den, a Doukhobor religious holiday.[ii]
The village initially consisted of 24 crude half-dugouts built into the side of a ravine running down into the river.[iii] However, by the following year, the Doukhobors moved to a more level upland site, where they built 28 log houses facing into a single central street.[iv] Labouring under the motto, “Toil and Peaceful Life”, the Petrovka Doukhobors strove to improve their material circumstances.
Within a few short years, the industrious villagers increased their horse herd from 11 to 41, cows from 5 to 93, sheep from none to 38, plows from 6 to 15, and cultivated acreage from 30 to 1,257 acres.[v] In 1901, they established a water-powered grist mill for grinding wheat into flour on a creek 3 miles north of the village jointly with the villages of Troitskoye and Terpeniye.[vi] That same year, they began operation of a river ferry crossing[vii] and established a Quaker-run school in the village.[viii]
It was during this period of rapid progress and development that the Doukhobors of Petrovka decided to build a mill (Russian: mel’nitsa) for the production of flax oil in their village.
Building the Mill
The task of designing, building and operating the flax mill was given to Ivan Fedorovich Strelioff.[ix] Strelioff had established a reputation in the village for being a “very inventive and capable” individual with a knack for improvisation and innovation.[x]
For instance, Strelioff built a boat with a foot-crank-operated paddle wheel for crossing the North Saskatchewan River in half the time it took a boat with oars.[xi] Before there was a ferry crossing, and villagers had to walk 20 miles east to Rosthern for supplies, then carry them home on their backs, he assembled a wheelbarrow-like cart with a large, 4-foot diameter wheel, enabling him to easily push large loads of supplies over rough terrain to Rosthern and back.[xii] Strelioff also made a bicycle, using wheels from spinning wheels, homemade sprockets made from a spade and a chain with links shaped from wire.[xiii]
Harnessing his creativity, Strelioff designed a rolling stone crusher mill of the type used by the Doukhobors in the 19th century Russian Caucasus. Using a slab of limestone drawn from the riverbank, he dressed it by hand to fashion a large, circular 3-foot-diameter, 8-inch-thick millstone.[xiv] He dressed another limestone slab to form a 5-foot-diameter, 8-inch-thick circular concave base.[xv]
Standing the millstone upright on the base (which lay flat), he fixed a long horizontal shaft through the hole in the middle of the millstone. The horizontal shaft was fixed to a vertical shaft that freely rotated in the hole in the middle of the base. The millstone was thus held upright by the axis and the handle of the horizontal shaft could be pushed, causing the millstone to roll along the circumference of the base.
Strelioff also designed and built various ancillary equipment for the mill, including a frying plate and oil press, both of which are described in detail below.
A two-storey log structure with clay-plaster and a sod roof was erected in the village to house the grinding mill, frying plate and oil press. The millhouse was located at the northwest end of the village.[xvi]
With the flax mill operational, the processing and milling of flax (Russian: len) at Petrovka followed a fairly well-established routine.
In late summer, the women of the village harvested the flax fields. The flax was pulled up from the roots (rather than cut with a scythe or sickle) and tied into a bundle or sheaf.[xvii] The sheaves were then hauled to a hardened, well-trodden area of the harvested field, known as the ‘threshing floor’ (Russian: tok) where the women beat the heads of the sheaves with a hand-held wooden mallet (Russian: chekmar’), loosening the seeds from the seed heads.
Once the seeds were threshed, the sheaves were taken down to the river for soaking or ‘retting’. They were placed in 6 to 18 inches of water, anchored down by smooth river rocks so that the current would not carry them away.[xviii] After a week to ten days, the flax was cleared of its outer, wood-like straw, leaving the inner, cotton-like fibers. The fibers were given a final washing, then carried up the steep bank to the village, where they was placed on clotheslines to dry.[xix] Once dry, it was spun on spinning wheels into yarn, then woven on a loom into linen for sewing garments.
Meanwhile, the women and children rubbed the skins off the threshed flax seeds by hand at the threshing floor, then hauled the seed in bags to the village flax mill for processing.[xx] When there was a sufficient volume of flax seed for milling, Ivan Fedorovich Strelioff operated the mill as follows:
As raw flax oil has a flat, unpalatable taste, the flax seeds were first fried on a frying plate (Russian: skovoroda) set upon a stone base; the stone was plastered around to keep the smoke, fire and heat concentrated under the plate.[xxi] The flax seeds were roasted over a low fire and stirred frequently, until a certain taste was obtained.
The next step was grinding. A horse was hitched to the horizontal shaft of the grinding mill (Russian: mel’nitsa). Roasted flax seeds were spread along the track of the rolling millstone. The horse was then walked around the mill, causing the millstone to roll along the circumference of the base, crushing the seed.[xxii] Several rounds were made, with the seeds continually mixed to ensure thorough grinding. Once ground, the crushed seeds were removed and the process was repeated with more seed.
The final step was extraction. This was done by a homemade oil press (Russian: stupa) made of a hollowed-out log with grated metal filters at the bottom.[xxiii] The ground flax seed was placed inside the hollowed-out log. A second, upper log (that fit smoothly into the hollowed-out log, via a spiral screw drive) was then attached. The miller then walked around, turning this wooden spiral to create proper pressure; thus the oil was extracted and oozed through the grated metal filters at the bottom of the press into pails. To release the pressure and to take out the oil cakes left at the bottom of the press, the spiral lever was spun in reverse. Once the extracting process began, it continued day and night until completed.
The oil cakes, a nutritious byproduct of the extracting process, were fed to the village cattle.[xxiv] The raw extracted oil was run through a fine filter, then poured into bottles or cans for domestic use.
The flax oil (Russian: olifa or oleya) was used by the Doukhobors for frying potatoes and other foodstuffs, and for pouring over sauerkraut, a particularly favorite dish of their people.
Operation and Dismantling
The flax mill at Petrovka was the only one of its kind in the district; the only other plant in the Doukhobor ‘Saskatchewan Colony’ was operated by Mikhail Mikhailovich Chernoff, 16 miles north in the village of Spasovka.[xxv] The Petrovka mill was community owned and maintained, serving not only the village, but also the neighbouring villages of Troitskoye and Terpeniye. It operated for a decade, from 1901 to 1911, at which time most villagers moved out onto their individual homesteads.
Thereafter, the millhouse ceased operation and was dismantled for building material, with the millstone and base laid out on the ground beside. Peter P. Makaroff (1906-1997), whose family homesteaded the village quarter, recalled playing near the abandoned millstone as a young boy.[xxvi] Jeanette (nee Postnikoff) Lodoen (1936-2023), whose family later purchased the village quarter, similarly recalled playing near the stone in her girlhood.[xxvii] Indeed, the millstone lay at the former village site, half-buried and largely forgotten, for over seventy years.
In 1985, Gregory and Zonia Postnikoff, then-owners of the village quarter, donated the millstone and its base to the Town of Blaine Lake to serve as a commemorative historic marker.[xxviii] Peter Esakin excavated and hauled the stones to their new location. The stones were installed in a memorial garden on a concrete pad and enclosure beside the Blaine Lake Wapiti Public Library.
In 2012, as part of the Town of Blaine Lake Centenary, a bronze plaque was installed at the millstone marker, inscribed as follows:[xxix]
Today the millstone marker at Blaine Lake commemorates the industry, ingenuity and pioneer spirit of the Doukhobors of Petrovka and their expert miller, Ivan Fedorovich Strelioff. It also stands as a testament to what can be locally achieved, using the material resources at hand, when neighbours work together for a common purpose.
A detailed analysis by the writer of Doukhobor village grain-growing during the 1899-1912 period reveals that flax typically constituted 2-3 percent of total grain production.
For example, in the year 1900, Petrovka and other villages of the Saskatchewan Colony produced a total of 12,913.5 bushels of grain, of which flax comprised 2.6 percent of total bushels:
The small volumes of flax relative to total volumes of grain grown by Doukhobor villages highlights the fact that Doukhobors only grew as much flax as they required for domestic purposes (i.e. linen and oil production). That is, the Doukhobors did not grow a surplus volumes of flax for commercial sale.
The flax mill at Petrovka village was built according to the model used by the Doukhobors in 19th century Russia. Numerous other mills were established in Doukhobor villages during the same 1901-1903 period which followed this same model. Other villages confirmed to have built flax mills include the following villages:
Clearly, not every Doukhobor village erected a flax mill. Typically, a flax mill established in one village also served the neighbouring 2-3 villages in the immediate vicinity.
Essentially the same flax milling technology was exported by the Doukhobor Community from Saskatchewan to British Columbia in the 1908-1913 period, where flax mills were established at Grand Forks (Fruktovoye), Ootischenia (Kamennoye), Pass Creek, Glade and Krestova.
This article was originally published in:
The Shellbrook Chronicle, June 22, 2023.
ISKRA (Grand Forks: Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ) No. 2189, August 2023.
[i] Peter J. Serhienko, “Settlement of the Petrofka Village,” in Bridging the Years, Era of Blaine Lake and District, 1790-1980 (Blaine Lake, SK: Town of Blaine Lake and Rural Municipality of Blaine Lake #434, 1984) at 23.
[iii] William B. Harvey, “Schedule of Doukhobor Villages and Statistics, November 1899”, Library & Archives Canada, Immigration Branch Records (RG 76, Volume 184, File 65101, Part 6), Microfilm Reel No. C-7338; Carl J. Tracie, “Toil and Peaceful Life” Doukhobor Village Settlements in Saskatchewan 1899-1918 (Regina: University of Regina, Canadian Plains Research Centre, 1996) at 86.
[v]Petrofka Village File, Library & Archives Canada, RG15V1164 F5391335; Tracie, supra, note 3 at 148.
[vi] John Ashworth, “Flour Mills Built by the Doukhobors” in ManitobaFree Press Home Journal, May 9, 1901; Jonathan E. Rhoads, “A Day with the Doukhobors” in Manitoba Morning Free Press, March 1, 1902; Peter J. Serhienko, “Radouga Creek” in Bridging the Years, supra, note 1 at 33.
[vii] Joseph Elkinton, “Work Among the Doukhobors” in Friends’ Intelligencer (Philadelphia, Seventh Month 26, 1902) at 474; Joseph Elkinton, The Doukhobors, Their History in Russia, Their Migration to Canada (Philadelphia: Ferris & Leach, 1903) at 36-38; J. J. McKenna, Dominion Land Surveyor, “Report” in Department of the Interior, Report of the Surveyor General of Dominion Lands for the Year ending June 30, 1904 (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1904) at 112.
[viii] Michael Sherbinin, “From the Doukhobors” in Friends’ Intelligencer (Philadelphia, Seventh Month 13, 1901) at 441; The Friend, A Religious and Literary Journal, No. 19, Vol. LXXVI (Seventh Day, Eleventh Month 22, 1902) at 1; J.E., “The Doukhobor Situation” in Friends’ Intelligencer (Philadelphia, Eighth Month 16, 1902) at 521; “Petrofka S.D. #23” in Bridging the Years, supra, note 1 at 261.
[ix] Peter P. Makaroff, “Paul Makaroff” in Bridging the Years, supra, note 1 at 569.
[xvi] Jeanette Lodoen, Interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, October 20, 2020.
[xvii] Victoria Hayward, Romantic Canada (Illustrated with Photographs by Edith S. Watson), (Toronto: Macmillan Company Canada Ltd., 1922) at 234.
[xviii]Ibid; Victoria Hayward and Edith S. Watson, “Doukhobors Beat H.C.L. – Farms Supply All Needs” in Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, November 22, 1919; Alexei I. Popoff, “Childhood Memories” in Autobiography of a Siberian Exile (Eli A. Popoff, trans.), (Kelowna: self-published, 2006).
During the First World War (1914-1919), the overwhelming majority of Doukhobors in Canada opposed the conflict, based on strongly-held pacifist tenets. Relying upon the exemption from military service granted to them under Order-in-Council No. 1898-2747 by the Dominion government upon their arrival in Canada, they not only refused enlistment and conscription, but actively resisted any direct, partisan support for the war effort.
Notwithstanding their staunch anti-war position, many Doukhobors felt great compassion for those suffering from the conflict. This prompted them to seek opportunities to provide humanitarian aid in ways that did not run counter to their pacifist principles. One most notable example was their donations of jam.
Since 1911, the Doukhobor Society had been communally producing hundreds of tons of the famous ‘K.C. Brand’ of jams, jellies and preserved fruit each year at its jam factory and canning facilities in Nelson and later Brilliant, BC under its business enterprise, the ‘Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works.’ And when the Nelson Daily News reported in late 1916 that soldiers were asking for jam, this stirred the Society into action.
On Sunday, December 10, 1916, a mass meeting of members of the Doukhobor Society was held at Brilliant, where their leader Peter V. Verigin told them of the sufferings of the men at the front, and of the recent losses at the Somme and on the Ancre. The reaction of those gathered was one of shock and compassion.
Living apart from the world, and being mainly illiterate, the rank-and-file members of the Society had been largely unaware of the monumental scale of human devastation occurring on the European continent, and when told this, the Doukhobor women wept. Once informed, however, they set to act.
The women at the meeting resolved to gift a railcar load of jam, made by fruit grown by them in their own orchards and gardens, and manufactured at their jam factory in Brilliant, to the convalescent and sick soldiers in hospitals across Western Canada, their wives and children.
Jam was rationed within the Society, and those at the meeting realized that in sending the carload to the soldiers, they would have to go without it themselves. Nonetheless, they were willing to do so as an expression of their sympathy and desire to help those who were suffering.
The carload comprised 5,000 five-pound tins totaling 24,000 pounds (12 tons) of jam from the last season’s pack. It was valued at $5,000.00 at the time and was composed chiefly of strawberry jam, the Doukhobors understanding “that the soldiers like strawberry better than plum and apple and jams of that kind.”
The gift was formally conveyed by the Doukhobor women to British Columbia Premier Harlan C. Brewster in Victoria on December 15, 1916 via William Blakemore, newspaper editor of The Week and former commissioner of the 1912 Royal Commission on Doukhobors. It was expressed on behalf of the women that, “You know we do not believe in fighting; we are anxious to see the war end, but we will do what we can to assist those who are suffering through the war.”
Premier Brewster publicly conveyed the thanks of the province and the soldiers “to the women whose kindness of heart ha(d) prompted this generous gift”. He also arranged through government and private channels for the distribution of the jam in “in such manner that the wishes of the donors for its full usefulness shall be fulfilled.”
The jam consignment had originally been given to the Province of British Columbia; however, by mid-January 1917, provincial authorities in charge of the distribution found that the “quantity was so large that it would be well to share it with outside institutions.” The Doukhobors readily consented to the other provinces sharing in the gift. Premier Brewster subsequently notified the Doukhobors through William Blakemore that “Communication has been made with representatives of the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta with the result that the offer has been gratefully accepted.”
Accordingly, 14,000 pounds of the consignment was kept in BC, and was turned over to Major J.S. Harvey, commandant of the Military Convalescent hospital at Esquimalt, for use in the convalescent hospitals and homes in that province. The remaining 10,000 pounds was distributed through the Mewburn wholesale supply house as follows: 2,000 pounds to the St. Chad’s Military Convalescent Hospital in Regina, SK; 2,000 pounds to the Returned Solders’ Association in each of Calgary and Edmonton, AB; and 4,000 pounds to the Returned Solders’ Association in Winnipeg, MB.
In addition to being distributed through military hospitals to convalescing soldiers, a free jam gift was made through local women’s patriotic clubs and veterans’ committees to every soldier’s household in those cities.
The donation elicited many public expressions of appreciation of the kindness and thoughtfulness of the Doukhobors. For instance, Miss Violet M. Ryley, the General Organizing Dietician for Military Hospitals in Canada wrote, “Jam is the most universally popular delicacy on the soldier’s menu, whether he is sick or well, and no gift could be more welcome.”
It was also widely applauded across the Canadian press, with the Vancouver Province calling it a “magnificent gift”, while the Edmonton Journal wrote, “the Doukhobors have conscientious scruples against fighting. But they are at any rate helping to win the war with good honest jam.”
The outpouring of public appreciation for the jam donation came at a time when Doukhobors across Western Canada encountered widespread discrimination and censure because of their refusal to actively participate in the war effort. These sentiments can be seen in the backhanded reporting by some newspapers such as the Edmonton Journal, which wrote that “their donation of fruit jams to convalescent soldiers… went a long way to atone for their pacifist attitude”.
Inspired by the overall response, the Doukhobor Society redoubled its assistance. One month later, in January of 1917, Peter V. Verigin declared that the Society would make a donation of two more carloads (48,000 pounds or 24 tons) of Doukhobor jam worth $10,000.00; this time for shipment overseas to the soldiers at the front.
Yet again, in January of 1918, the Doukhobor Society (now incorporated as the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood) donated another carload (20,000 pounds or 10 tons) of jam worth $5,000.00 from its jam factory in Brilliant to the Canadian Military Hospitals Commission for distribution to convalescing soldiers in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
This latest (and what would be the last) consignment comprised 7,500 pounds of strawberry jam, 7,500 pounds of raspberry jam, and 5,000 pounds of various other kinds, including peach and plum. The Community members, in making their gift, reiterated “their abhorrence of war and that it is against the tenets of their faith to go into battle” but that they were quite prepared to assist those who suffered as a result of it.
The public response was once again overwhelmingly positive, with the Regina Leader-Post writing, for example, that the “universally popular” jam consignment gifted by the Doukhobors “is recommended as being just like mother used to make.”
In total, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood gifted 92,000 pounds (46 tons) of jam worth $20,000.00 ($375,000.00 in today’s dollars) to convalescing soldiers and their dependent families across Western Canada between 1916 and 1918. This was by no means the only humanitarian aid provided by Doukhobors in the First World War; however, it was undoubtedly the most popular and well-known example.
In making these donations, the Doukhobors navigated between two of their fundamental religious values: demonstrating compassion and brotherly love for those in distress because of war, while fulfilling the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”
An earlier version of this article was originally published in:
Ibid;Victoria Daily Times, December 15, 1916; Grand Forks Sun, December 22, 1916; Kelowna Record, December 28, 1916; Vernon News, December 28, 1916; The Montreal Star, January 3, 1917; Greenwood Ledge, January 4, 1917; Similkameen Star, January 5, 1917; Creston Review, January 5, 1917; The Montreal Gazette, January 11, 1917; Brantford Daily Expositor, January 27, 1917; Macleod News, February 1, 1917; Munson Mail, February 17, 1917; Courtney Review, February 22, 1917; Hedley Gazette, March 15, 1917.
Edmonton Journal, February 22 and December 31, 1917.
The Leader Post, January 3, 1918; Montreal Daily Star, January 5, 1918; Brantford Daily Expositor, January 7, 1918; Calgary News Telegram, January 7, 1918; Kingston Whig-Standard, January 8, 1918; Edmonton Bulletin, January 17, 1918; Calgary Herald, February 2 and 4, 1918; Macleod News, February 7, 1918; Alderson News, February 7, 1918; Irma Times, February 7, 1918; Bow Island Review, February 8, 1918; Kamloops Telegram, February 14, 1918; Munson Mail, February 14, 1918; Bassano Mail, February 14, 1918; Claresholm Review-Advertiser, February 15, 1918; Drumheller Review, February 22, 1918; The Ledge, March 14, 1918; Lethbridge Telegram, April 2, 1918.
Recently, Judy Brown of Calgary made an interesting discovery while exploring the Vancouver Public Library’s digitized collection of BC civic directories. While looking for something unrelated, she ended up studying the listings for Procter, where she grew up. The 1918 and 1919 editions of Wrigley’s BC Directory, she discovered, included the curious entry: “Doukhobor Colony bee-keeping.” 
The entry is intriguing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is there is no memory of a Doukhobor colony at that place.
The entry does not identify who the Doukhobors were. No Doukhobor individuals or organization are specifically named. This stands in contrast with other West Kootenay towns listed in the same directories, where Doukhobors appear by corporate name (e.g. “Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood” in Brilliant or “Abrossimoff Bros & Co general store” at Thrums) or by personal name (e.g. “Arakoff, Sam, logging foreman, Salmon Valley Lumber & Pole Co” at Porto Rico or “Samarodin, Nick, planerman, Slocan Valley Lumber & Pole Co” at Koch Siding).
Also, the term “colony” is deceptively non-specific. Most Doukhobor colonies in the West Kootenay numbered from 250 to 2,500 persons. However, the term did not necessarily entail any sort of large-scale presence. As newspapers of the period demonstrate, English-speaking locals seemed to use the term any time two or more families of “foreigners” settled in their midst, especially when they were unfamiliar with their language and customs.
Moreover, it is not clear where the colony was actually located. While the entry appears in the directories under “Procter,” the listings extend well beyond the town itself to the surrounding Procter postal district and include rural farms and ranches as well as the settlement of Sunshine Bay but not Harrop, which was listed separately.
As well, the colony appears to have been short-lived. It is only listed in the civic directories in 1918 and 1919. By 1921, there were no Doukhobors enumerated in the Canada census listings for Procter, Sunshine Bay, Harrop or surrounding West Arm settlements.
Finally, while the colony evidently engaged in beekeeping it is not obvious why it did so at Procter, some 30 miles (48 km) east of the main Doukhobor settlements located along the mid to lower reaches of the Slocan and Kootenay River valleys. There is no record of Doukhobors owning land there at the time.
So who were the Doukhobor colonists at Procter?
Community Doukhobors on the West Arm
In April 1911, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) purchased the former Kootenay Jam Company factory in Nelson and renamed it the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works.  As the factory was capable of processing a substantially larger quantity of produce than the CCUB could initially supply, it purchased fruit and berries from other fruit ranchers throughout the West Kootenay. 
Within days of its formation, the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works announced it was making contracts for fruit with the ranchers on the West Arm, which contained many mature, bearing orchards.  The contracts were typically three to five years long, with the Doukhobors often purchasing the fruit on the tree, putting their own pickers in the fields to gather them.
This was a welcome economic stimulus for West Arm fruit-growers, who were often unable to find a market for their excess produce at any price. Indeed, the guaranteed income from these contracts became a selling feature for many improved ranches on the West Arm subsequently placed for sale.  The Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works continued to contract fruit from ranchers throughout the surrounding district through 1918-19.
The supply of Doukhobor communal pickers under these contracts was also a significant benefit to West Arm fruit-growers, who often confronted labour shortages at the height of the picking season.  Many growers, impressed with the Doukhobors’ strong work ethic and industry, began hiring them to tend their orchards and market gardens throughout the growing season. By 1912-1913, numerous Doukhobors worked outside their villages on fruit ranches throughout the surrounding district. 
Typically, an entire Doukhobor family, and sometimes several, were hired by a fruit-grower in March or early April to live and work on his ranch for the season. They were often provided a rough dwelling or outbuilding for quarters, although some slept in tents. There, they undertook general orchard management, including planting fruit tree saplings, small fruit and vegetables, as well as pruning, spraying, thinning, cultivating, weeding and watering the existing orchard.
They might also clear new land for orchard planting the next year. The entire family participated. By mid-July, they picked and packed fruit and by mid-September, harvested vegetables. By October, they returned to their communal village and turned in their earnings to the central treasury. This working out among the Angliki (English) became an important source of revenue for the CCUB.
By 1916, the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works, now relocated to Brilliant, was purchasing honey as well as fruit from ranchers on the West Arm and elsewhere throughout the district. In February 1918, the Creston Review reported that the Doukhobor enterprise had purchased the “entire output” of beekeepers from as far afield as Creston “at very attractive prices” for the past two years. 
It was not stated whether these purchases were intended for the Doukhobors’ own domestic use or for commercial processing and sale. However, considering there is no record of the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works having sold honey,  they likely supplemented the CCUB’s own domestic honey production
Piecing together the Procter colony
In light of the Doukhobor Community’s ongoing purchase of fruit, berries and honey and hiring out of orchard workers and pickers on the West Arm, a picture begins to emerge of the bee-keeping colony at Procter.
The “colony” was surely located on the ranch of an English Canadian fruit-grower at or near Procter; one who contracted his fruit to the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works in Brilliant. The contract was probably of three years’ duration, commencing in 1917 and ending in 1919. This would explain why the “colony” was already present when the Wrigley’s Directory was compiled in early 1918 but no longer appeared by the 1920 edition. 
The “colonists” were almost certainly two to three or more CCUB families; enough to constitute a colony in the eyes of locals. They would have been hired to manage the orchard throughout the growing season, then pick, pack and ship the fruit to the Doukhobor jam factory at Brilliant. They may have even wintered at the ranch.
As for why the Doukhobors were listed in the directory as a colony and not merely as fruit ranch employees, it was undoubtedly because they also engaged in their own beekeeping operation there. The Doukhobors had been avid beekeepers for generations and maintained sizeable apiaries throughout their Kootenay settlements, from the largest to the very smallest.  Most often this was not a main vocation but a sideline activity to their agricultural operations.
As the Doukhobors well knew, beekeeping and orchard-keeping were highly complementary pursuits, since the fruit tree blossoms provided bees with nectar and pollen as a food source for the hive, while the production of fruit was highly dependent on pollination by bees. Moreover, the fruit-growing season from March through August closely coincided with the bee-foraging, honey production and honey harvest season.
Evidently, the CCUB families hired by the Procter-area rancher brought several beehives from their communal village along with them while they lived and worked at his orchard over several growing seasons. As a single Doukhobor family was capable of keeping 15 to 20 hives as a sideline,  the several colony families probably tended as many as 45 to 60 hives and possibly more. This would have made quite an impression upon local residents.
Ultimately, the bees benefited the rancher and neighbours by promoting greater fruit production (and thus profits) through fruit sales to the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works. For their part, the Doukhobor families gained sizeable honey cash crops of their own while also earning wages for managing the orchard. This helped offset the CCUB’s then-current honey production deficit,  reducing the volume of honey it needed to privately purchase for its members.
What is more, the identity of one of the colony families was revealed in a 1952 memoir by former CCUB secretary-treasurer Simeon F. Reibin as well as a very unfortunate circumstance that made local headlines.
As Reibin described it, Alesh (Alex) Stoochnoff (or Stoshnoff) was an old man who lived with his wife and two sons and worked an orchard at Harrop, near Sunshine Bay. Although “very industrious” and “honest,” his character was “dismally peculiar.” Hot-tempered and unable to get along with others, he was exiled with his family from the CCUB settlement at Shoreacres by leader Peter V. Verigin. 
Stoochnoff’s sons won Verigin’s approval for their hard work and expertise in tree pruning. Both, however, died prematurely, one from natural causes and the other after falling down a rocky hillside while working at Sunshine Bay.  Alex and his “very kind hearted wife” Mavra were left “lonesome and discouraged.” 
There was even more grief to endure. Although Reibin did not mention it, the Stoochnoffs also had a daughter, Malicia.  In August 1918, the Nelson Daily News reported that Malicia, a “Sunshine Bay Doukhobor,” appeared in provincial police court after neighbours laid an information alleging she “took fits and threw rocks and rushed about,” “attacked” them, and tried “to commit suicide by drowning.” 
She was clearly suffering from mental illness, which at the time carried a great deal of fear and stigma. Sadly, the judge found her “insane and dangerous to be at large” and committed her to the New Westminster asylum “for medical examination.” 
At the time of her committal in 1918, Malicia was reported as “living at” Sunshine Bay and had dwelt there long enough to be deemed a “resident” of that place.  Malicia languished in the asylum for three years, dying there in November 1921 at age 36.  By that time, her family was back living at Shoreacres, having been removed from their Kootenay Lake orchard after a further falling out with Verigin. 
That the Stoochnoffs were members of the “Doukhobor colony” listed in the 1918 and 1919 Procter directories, there can be little doubt. Their tenure at Sunshine Bay, from sometime prior to August 1918 until sometime prior to June 1921 corresponds to the same period the colony was known to exist. Moreover, Sunshine Bay and its residents were listed under Procter in the directory. Finally, they are the only newspaper references to Doukhobors in the Procter district during this period.
Furthermore, a careful study of Malicia’s complainants enables us to pinpoint where the Stoshnoffs were living, and by extension, where the Doukhobor colony was located, in 1918.
The 1918 information laid against Malicia was lodged by Sunshine Bay rancher Robert S. Francis.  His allegations were corroborated in provincial police court by the witness testimony of ranchers Oscar B. Appleton and Percival Coles, also of Sunshine Bay.  All three men appear in the same directory as the Doukhobor colony under Procter in 1918 and 1919.  And as it turns out, they all lived a stone’s throw away from each other.
According to Kootenay Outlet Reflections, the Francis, Appleton and Coles ranches were all situated along Ferguson Road and its intersection with Harrop-Procter Road at the west end of Sunshine Bay.  As all three men — and only these three — witnessed episodes of Malicia’s erratic behavior, it is safe to presume that the Stoochnoffs resided in the immediate vicinity within eyeshot of the ranchmen.
It follows that the location of the Doukhobor colony recorded in the 1918 and 1919 directory can be reasonably narrowed down to an area of about a quarter-mile (500 m) radius around the intersection of Ferguson and Harrop-Procter Roads at Sunshine Bay. Based on these deductions, we may even hazard to guess the identity of the fruit rancher who hosted the Doukhobor colony.
In comparing the 1918 and 1919 Wrigley’s Directory listings for Procter with the Kootenay Outlet Reflections map and legend of early Sunshine Bay ranches, it turns out that the only other ranches in the vicinity at the time were those of Fred Rucks and Joseph Dosenberger, both located on Harrop-Procter Road, immediately east of the Appletons. Either of their ranches could very well be where the Doukhobor colony once stood, although we will likely never know for sure.
In any event, while the “colony” ceased to exist after 1919, it did not spell the end of the Doukhobor presence at Sunshine Bay, Procter and surrounding district.
CCUB member families continued to seasonally work and live on area ranches, picking fruit, managing orchards and growing market gardens through the 1920s and ’30s. For instance, between 1932 and 1939, the Muirhead family of Procter usually hired “four girls from a Doukhobor settlement … They lived in a cabin built for them. They did their own cooking and looked after themselves.” 
And by this period, CCUB members were not the only Doukhobors in the area.
Independent Doukhobors at Sunshine Bay & Procter
As early as 1910, Independent Doukhobors settled at Thrums and Tarrys, where they farmed and worked as sawmill labourers and ranch hands. By 1921, census listings and civic directories indicate they had spread out to many small towns and camps in the Trail, Castlegar, Nelson and Grand Forks districts.
By 1922-23, other Independent Doukhobor families settled at Harrop, Procter, and Sunshine Bay to farm or to work in logging and on the railway. Many were already familiar with the area and its opportunities, having worked there as fruit pickers while members of the CCUB. Their presence remained in the area at least into the early 1970s.
In the early 1920s, John and Anna Shlakoff moved to Sunshine Bay from Ootischenia and rented a converted chicken coop on Len Appleton’s property.  With them came daughter Polly, son Eli, daughter-in-law Florence, and grandchildren Nellie, Mary, and John. Another grandchild, Florence, was born in 1924. Soon after, the family leased a house in Harrop. They moved to Ymir four years later. 
In 1923, Sam and Helen Podmeroff arrived in Procter from Castlegar and settled on the Johnson property. Helen was likely related to the Shlakoffs who were already in the area, as that was her maiden name. The Podmeroffs later moved to Harrop and then to Sunshine Bay, where they built a log home in 1932 and raised four children (including Eli, who was born at Procter).
Sam worked as an engineer aboard the tugboat Valhalla. His son, Sam Jr., followed his footsteps into the CPR lake service and became a deckhand, then mate, and finally captain of the SS Moyie on Kootenay Lake. He later worked on several other BC lakes. The Podmeroffs also raised a grandson, Serge Plotnikoff, who became well known as a musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer in the Kootenays. In 1971, the Podmeroffs moved to Pitt Meadows. 
Peter and Marfa Repin (or Rapin) moved to Sunshine Bay from Brilliant in 1924 with daughters Mary, Daria, and Ahafia to work on farms picking fruit and digging potatoes. Peter and Marfa later relocated to Winlaw, but daughter Mary stayed in Procter with husband Harry Stoochnoff, who worked for the CPR. 
The 1925 civic directory for Procter listed a gardener named S. Zarikoff, who may have been the same man as John S. Zarikoff, who married Lucy W. Rilkoff at Procter in 1932. They later moved to Blewett. 
In 1934, Alex and Vera Voykin and their children Annie and Alex Jr. moved to the Clift-Donaldson farm about halfway between Procter and Sunshine Bay. Another daughter, Helen, was born there in 1937, delivered by an army doctor who lived next door. In addition to working on the farm, Alex was a night watchman for the CPR. The family moved to Procter around 1940 and built a house there. A final child, Grace, was born in 1943. The Voykins moved to Nelson in 1948. 
Peter and Annie Gretchen came to Procter in the 1930s, where Peter worked as a logger and railway section hand. They lived there until their deaths in the late 1960s. 
Peter Gretchen’s sister Molly and her husband Bill Malahoff later moved to the area as well. Bill was a section foreman for the CPR at Tye, on the south arm of Kootenay Lake. Their son Walt boarded with the Gretchens while attending school in Procter in 1936. He would take the train from Tye to Procter on Monday mornings and return on Fridays around midnight. In the late 1930s, Bill and Molly bought the Heighton dairy farm at Procter. Walt and his brother Mike helped out there during the summer, but found jobs away from home during the winter. In 1952, Bill and Molly traded their farm for a home in Kamloops. 
Another Malahoff brother, Steve, bought the Procter general store and post office with his wife Tillie and ran it for a few years before moving to Rossland.  Tillie served as acting postmaster from 1943-45. 
CPR employee Bill Laktin was transferred from South Slocan to Procter in 1953. He brought his wife Mary and their children Billy, Johnny, Sarah, Nadia, and Elizabeth. They initially lived at Sunshine Bay before moving to Procter. However, they left the area within two years. 
To sum up, from 1911 to 1938, the CCUB contracted with ranchers at Sunshine Bay, Procter and elsewhere on the West Arm for the supply of fruit for its jam factory, often supplying Doukhobor pickers and also hiring out Doukhobor families to manage their orchards and market gardens throughout the growing season. The presence of these workers was significant enough in 1918-19 to be listed as a “Doukhobor colony.”
From at least 1922-23 on, they were joined by Independent Doukhobors who settled permanently in the area as farmers, loggers and railwaymen through to the 1970s. They made an important, albeit somewhat unchronicled, contribution to the growth and development of the area.
 From February to May 1918, Wrigley Directories Limited compiled a new directory for BC, printing it in June: British Columbia Record, Feb. 25, 1918; Nanaimo Daily News, May 9, 1918; Vancouver Daily World, June 11, 1918.
 For instance, at Brilliant, the CCUB maintained an apiary of no less than 60 beehives in 1919: William M. Rozinkin, Brilliant History, Fading in to Obscurity: https://tinyurl.com/9dwm7d9j. Even single-family outposts, such as the CCUB stopping house at Nelson had an apiary of 16 hives in 1921: Greg Nesteroff, Little known Nelson-heritage buildings: 120 Vernon St: https://tinyurl.com/54k47bym.
Wrigley Henderson Amalgamated British Columbia Directory 1925, p. 292: https://tinyurl.com/3typf3mj; John S. Zarikoff and Lucy W. Rilkoff marriage registration, BC Archives Reg. No. 1932-09-900969; John Zarikoff death registration, BC Archives Reg. No. 1981-09002800: https://tinyurl.com/cufcyxu3.
Supra, note 26, p. 266-67, based on information provided by Grace Voykin Kolle.
Supra, note 26, p. 233-34, based on information provided by Walt Malahoff. Curiously, of all the families enumerated in this book, the Malahoff entry is the only one that actually uses the word “Doukhobor.”
In the era of coal and wood, residents and businesses of Nelson relied on transfer companies[i] to sell and deliver these fuels by horse-drawn wagon to their premises for heating, cooking and power. One such transfer was the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co, communally owned and operated by the Doukhobors between 1913 and 1926. This article examines the history of this long-forgotten local enterprise.
In the early 20th century, the main source of fuel for Nelsonites was wood and coal,[ii] which was burned for heating in fireplaces and pot belly stoves or for cooking in cast iron kitchen stoves. By the 1910s, newer homes and commercial buildings were equipped with radiators connected by pipes to a basement boiler that burnt coal or wood to produce steam heat. Buildings of the era had little insulation, were drafty and required constant heating outside of summer. Local industries such as Hall Smelter, Nelson Iron Works and Kootenay Engineering Works also burnt large volumes of coal and wood to power their operations.
At the start of 1913, there were two main transfer companies supplying retail wood and coal in the city –the Kootenay Ice & Fuel Co. and West Transfer Co.[iii] However, another competitor was poised to enter the market.
Doukhobor Sawmills & Wood-Waste
Between 1908 and 1913, the Doukhobor Society purchased 10,611 acres of heavily forested land in West Kootenay.[iv] As the Doukhobors communally cleared each tract for fruit-growing, they established a mill to saw the logs into lumber to build villages.[v] By the start of 1913, the Society had 7 mills running at Brilliant, Ootischenia, Pass Creek, Glade, Crescent Valley and Champion Creek, collectively sawing several million feet of lumber a year.[vi]
These logging and milling operations, like others of the time, generated wood waste[vii] such as slabs (the first piece sawn off the face of a log, sawn on one side, rounded on the other), board ends (ends of boards cut off by the sawmill trimmer to cut boards to standard length) and cordwood (logs too small to saw into lumber) as well as tree bark, wood shavings, sawdust, low-grade or rejected cuts, etc.
The Doukhobors utilized much of this waste wood as heating fuel in their communal homes and industries. And by 1910, they were selling the surplus for profit. Cordwood was rafted down the Columbia River to Trail and sold to the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co. to fuel its blast furnaces, while wood slabs were sold to the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) for snow fences.[viii] Recognizing the revenue potential from this otherwise waste byproduct, the Doukhobor Society began seeking opportunities to expand its market.
That opportunity came with the Nelson general strike of 1913.
On April 1, 1913, the unionized tradesmen of Nelson (machinists, electricians, bricklayers, painters, pipe-layers, quarrymen, carpenters, teamsters, etc.) went on a city wide strike, demanding higher wages and the institution of an eight-hour workday.[ix] For the next 14 days, Nelson ground to a halt, leading, among other things, to a serious fuel situation as citizens were practically without heat for days.[x]
One of the many affected businesses was the Kootenay Ice & Fuel Co., whose teamsters were among the strikers. Unable to pay the wages asked for, the company was forced out of business on account of the labour disturbance. Consequently, on April 7, 1913, at the height of the strike, the company sold its wood and coal business for cash to Peter V. Verigin, acting for the Doukhobor Society.[xi]
The Doukhobors purchased the company assets, including: 6 teams of horses, wagons, sleds, harness and tools; .80 acre coal and wood yard in the CPR Flats (now 29 Government Rd) with buildings and bunkers;[xii] leased wood-stacking sites across the city; office lease and fixtures in the Allan Building at Ward and Baker St; the goodwill of the business, including its different industrial clients and a very large number of residential patrons.[xiii] Coal supply contracts with mines and the lucrative Galt coal agency were also included.[xiv] The deal was put through by Nelson realtors Konstantine Popoff and Henry H. Crofts.
The Doukhobor Society took immediate possession of the business. The next morning on April 8, 1913, a large number of Doukhobors from Brilliant arrived in the city to commence wood and coal deliveries, thus alleviating the fuel situation to the great relief of Nelsonites.[xv] Despite delivering many loads, by midday, their office was flooded with orders to the point that deliveries could not be guaranteed for up to 3 days.[xvi]
Company Formation, 1913
In the days that followed, the new business was organized as the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co.,[xvii] an unincorporated subsidiary of the Doukhobor Society (after 1917, Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd. or CCUB). While wholly-owned and controlled by its parent company, the subsidiary maintained its own business identity, with head office, officers, staff and employees, books and records, letterhead, cheques, invoices and advertisements. Its assets, however, were registered in the name of Peter V. Verigin until 1917, and thereafter, under the federally-incorporated parent company.
Peter V. Verigin was named president and John W. Sherbinin business manager of the new company.[xviii] Henry H. Crofts[xix] was engaged as secretary-treasurer and office manager.[xx] Some 10 or so Doukhobors were seasonally stationed at Nelson as labourers and drivers.[xxi] Within a month of its formation, the company moved offices to the more commodious McCulloch Block at 371-77 Baker St.[xxii]
This was not the Doukhobors’ first commercial business venture in Nelson. In April 1911, the Society purchased the Kootenay Jam Co. factory at 601 Front St. and commenced a large-scale canning and preserving enterprise as the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works, producing the famous ‘K.C. Brand’ jams.[xxiii]
From the outset, the company offered a variety of fuel products. Wood from Doukhobor Society sawmills included fir, tamarack, cedar and birch cordwood in 4-foot, 16-inch and 12-inch lengths; 4-foot or 16-inch slabs; and board ends.[xxiv] Bituminous and anthracite coal from the Galt Coal Co. and Chinook Coal Co. Ltd. mines at Lethbridge and Canada West Coal Co. mine at Taber, AB came in nut, stove and lump sizes.[xxv]
As well, it sold fence posts from the Doukhobor sawmills[xxvi] and feed oats and hay grown at outlying Doukhobor settlements.[xxvii] It offered general cartage service, transporting goods for hire (typically from the CPR and GNR freight depots to their final destination) within the city.[xxviii] Building contracting was also carried out.[xxix]
Coal was sold by weight (imperial ton) and wood by measure (cord or rick) as was customary. The company sold these at prevailing local prices.[xxx] However, its costs were markedly lower than its competitors, since its wood cost only the freight charges, its coal was purchased bulk wholesale directly from the mines, and its communal labour force did not receive wages. It thus enjoyed a wider profit margin.
Coal was shipped in by railcar from Alberta on the CPR Crow’s Nest line. Each car held 30-50 tons.[xxxi] On arriving at the CPR Flats in Nelson, the cars were spotted (parked) on the rail siding that ran behind the coal bunkers in the company yard. Using steel shovels and wheelbarrows, Doukhobor workmen unloaded the coal from the cars into the bunkers, which held 1,000 tons or 20-30 carloads of coal.
Similarly, wood from the Doukhobor sawmills arrived by railcar on the CPR Nelson & Slocan Branch.[xxxii] Each car carried 15-18 cords of wood.[xxxiii] Once spotted on the siding, the cars were unloaded and the wood stacked in the company yard or conveyed to its wood-stacking sites throughout the city. Cordwood arrived in 4-foot lengths and a saw was used in the yard to cut it into 12 and 16-inch lengths for delivery.[xxxiv]
Bulk hay and feed oats from outlying Doukhobor settlements were also brought in by rail in this manner.
As the stockpiles were continually drawn down by customer deliveries, the yard foreman requisitioned new shipments to replenish them. During peak heating season, the coal bunkers could be completely emptied within 24 days, with railcars of new coal being unloaded on an almost daily basis.[xxxv]
Customer fuel orders were placed with Henry H. Crofts at the business office, who also handled cash transactions. Residential orders were made year-round, with the highest volume in September-October before winter. An average family of 6 Nelsonites burned 8-24 cords of wood or 5-16 tons of coal annually.[xxxvi] Industrial orders were continuous, with large industrial clients consuming up to 1-4 tons of coal daily.[xxxvii]
The orders were relayed to the CPR Flats yard, where a teamster was dispatched by wagon in summer, or sleigh in winter, to make each delivery. The teamster drew up his conveyance and either shoveled a ton of coal from the bunkers, or stacked a half-cord or 2-3 ricks of wood from the stacks, to load it to capacity.[xxxviii] Coal loads were weighed at the adjacent city scales to confirm tonnage. The loaded team was then driven to the customer premises.
Most residential customers had their own wood or coal bins. The former was typically in the backyard while the latter was in the basement, accessible by a cast-iron door at the house backyard wall. The Doukhobor teamster drew up his wagon/sleigh and either unloaded and stacked the wood in the bin, or dumped the coal through the coal door using a chute attached to the wagon/sleigh box.
A loaded wagon/sleigh team travelled an average speed of 4 miles per hour, and each team had a daily capacity of 7-14 loads of coal or wood over a one-mile distance (the length of the city).[xxxix] The company fleet of 6 teams, therefore, was capable of delivering up to 42-84 loads of coal or wood a day.[xl] Throughout the day, the teams of horses had to be regularly fed, watered and rested.
When not in use, wagons and sleighs were kept in the implement shed and the horses in the barn (sarai) at the CPR Flats yard. An open portion of the yard was used for walking and exercising the horses. An ample supply of hay and feed oats for the horses was stored in the barn. The blacksmith shop (kuznya) was used to keep the horses shoed and the wagons, sleighs and harnesses in good repair.
The Doukhobor teamsters initially stayed in a tiny house in the CPR Flats (now 79 Government Rd), a few lots west of the coal and wood yard, purchased in April 1911 for Doukhobor jam factory workers in Nelson.[xli] The house could not accommodate them all and a number of men slept in a tent.[xlii]
Business manager John W. Sherbinin played a pivotal role in the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. As he was also manager of the Doukhobor Society sawmills, he coordinated the supply of waste wood generated by the mills with the demand for firewood sales by the company.
President Peter V. Verigin made routine trips from Brilliant to Nelson to oversee the fuel company.[xliii] During his stays, the Doukhobor leader counseled the office manager and yard foreman on day-to-day matters, examined the ledger and account books, and provided overall business direction.
In March 1914, Henry H. Crofts left the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. amid the dissolution of his Popoff & Crofts real estate partnership.[xliv] The timing of his departure was problematic, as a new competitor, MacDonald Cartage & Fuel Co., had just entered the Nelson market.[xlv] Fortunately, he was quickly replaced by another Nelson realtor, Charles F. McHardy, on April 1, 1914.[xlvi]
McHardy was no stranger to the Doukhobors, having sold them his 1,270-acre ranch in Crescent Valley in October 1911.[xlvii] He was instrumental in the Doukhobor Society joining the Kootenay Fruit Growers Union in April 1912[xlviii] and testified on their behalf at the Doukhobor Royal Commission hearings in Nelson in September 1912.[xlix] Active and popular in the city, he was well-suited to represent their fuel business.
McHardy moved the company office to his real estate office in the Green Block at 512-14 Ward St.[l] Engaged on an agency commission basis, he was motivated to work hard and grow the company. He launched a major advertising campaign, placing over 100 ads a year in the Daily News[li] that succeeded in not only retaining the patronage of old customers, but in securing many new ones. His bookkeeper Gilbert Arneson also regularly assisted with the fuel business.[lii]
The outbreak of the Great War in August 1914 saw the price of wood, coal and other commodities in Nelson skyrocket. As the world’s demand for coal and wood rose in wartime, so did its price in the local market, with wood soaring from $5.00 to $7.00 a cord and coal from $8.00 to $10.00 a ton – an increase of 40 percent.[liii] Wartime also resulted in higher wages and lower unemployment, with Nelsonites having more money to spend on these commodities than usual as the local standard of living increased.
Increased wartime demand and high prices led to a boom in sales for the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co., enabling it to reap bonanza profits. This spurred a substantial expansion of the company between fall 1914 and spring 1917 through a series of building projects and land purchases.
To accommodate Peter V. Verigin’s frequent business visits to Nelson in connection with the company, a large two-story residence was purchased at 509 Falls St in November-December 1914 to serve as his stopping house.[liv] Anton F. and Polya Strelaeff of Glade were selected to serve as its caretakers and as the Doukhobor leader’s personal attendants during his visits. The house was conveniently located a five-minute buggy ride away from the coal and wood yard in the CPR Flats.
In December 1914, Peter V. Verigin selected Konstantine P. Verigin, his step-father Michael A. Bawoolin and their family to resettle from Glade to Nelson to communally operate the CPR Flats yard, with Konstantine serving as yard foreman.[lv]
To house the family, a one-story dwelling (dom) was constructed at the CPR Flats yard in early 1915.[lvi] It had 3 bedrooms, a living room and special room (gornitsa) reserved for Peter V. Verigin when he visited.[lvii] The cellar housed a bakery kitchen (pekarnya) with wood stove and large brick oven for the family’s private use when there were no other guests at the yard, which was rare.[lviii]
Across from the house, a steam bathhouse (banya) was built for the family and visitors.[lix] It consisted of two parts: in one room all the clothing and linens were washed by hand by Konstantine’s wife Dasha and mother Hanyusha, and in the other was the steam bath.[lx] During his stays in Nelson, Peter V. Verigin often came to visit the family and enjoy the cleansing, relaxing and rejuvenating vapors of the bathhouse.[lxi]
A large two-story wood structure was erected between 1915-1917.[lxii] On the ground floor was a communal kitchen (obshchinnaya kukhnya) with cooking and dining area, and on the upper floor were sleeping quarters (khvateri).[lxiii] It housed labourers from outlying Doukhobor settlements who worked at the yard during peak heating season, such as Konstantine’s brother-in-law Eli D. Poznikoff of Ootischenia[lxiv], Andrei S. Fofonoff of Shoreacres, and many others. Doukhobor travellers who came to Nelson on business matters or to see a doctor also stayed there.[lxv] Dasha Verigin and Hanyusha Bawoolin cooked on its wood-burning stove and hosted the guests.[lxvi]
Peter V. Verigin, as company president and batyushka (caring ‘father’ figure) of the Community, was not adverse to involving himself with the minutiae of his members’ lives. In the case of those seeking medical treatment in Nelson, he had no issue with paying their costs and providing accommodations at the yard during their stay, but he ensured they were not a drain on the Community by requiring them to work off the costs of their stay and treatment with their labour. For example, in a letter to yard foreman Konstantine P. Verigin dated November 18, 1915, the Doukhobor leader wrote, “My dear friend Kostya, The bearer of this letter, Andrei Fofanoff, wishes to treat (heal) his teeth. Let Anton (Strelaeff) take him to the doctor (dentist). But you are to give him work for as long as he requires to treat his teeth. During this time he will be employed. Wishing you all the blessings of the Lord. P.V.”
Between 1915-1917, a large two-story 40’ x 75’ brick warehouse (sklad) with full concrete basement, high ceilings and a sheet iron roof was built in the yard.[lxvii] The bricks used to construct it were made at the Doukhobor Society brickworks in Grand Forks and shipped by rail to Nelson.[lxviii] It was mainly used for storing feed oats and hay for use by the company and for resale.[lxix] After October 1917, it was also used as a fruit depot managed by Anton F. Strelaeff for the Doukhobor jam factory.[lxx]
A large communal vegetable garden and 16-hive apiary was also established at the coal and wood yard to help feed the Verigin and Bawoolin families and their many guests.[lxxi]
Finally, in June 1915, Peter V. Verigin bought the adjoining half-acre lot (now 45 Government Rd) west of the yard from Konstantine Popoff.[lxxii] Verigin had earlier purchased a portion of the lot from Popoff to build a wooden warehouse for the Doukhobor jam factory in April 1911.[lxxiii] However, by March 1915, the jam factory relocated to Brilliant[lxxiv] and the fuel company took over the warehouse to store livestock feed. The remainder of the lot was used for wood-stacking, eliminating the need for leased stacking sites elsewhere.
Steep increases in bulk wholesale prices and aggravating shortages of Alberta coal during wartime drove the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. to diversify its supply sources.
Peter V. Verigin shrewdly realized that lignite coal could be purchased from Wyoming and brought in on the Great Northern Railway (GNR) Marcus-Nelson line for 75¢ to $1.00 a ton cheaper, in spite of duty and freight charges.[lxxv] The GNR freight depot at Mountain Station, however, was located at the opposite end of Nelson from the company yard in the CPR Flats.
To this end, Verigin purchased a 1.75 acre lot (bounded by Hall, Hendryx, Gore and Innes St) on the GNR right-of-way south of Mountain Station from Charles F. McHardy in January 1915.[lxxvi] Over the next 2 years, a second coal and wood yard was developed at this location. The Wasyl F. Kootnikoff family of Brilliant was selected to operate the yard, with Wasyl as foreman and sons William and Nick driving horses.
A one-and-a-half-story dwelling (dom) was constructed at the yard (now 710 Gore St) to house the family.[lxxvii] It had 3 bedrooms, a living room and a special room (gornitsa) where Peter V. Verigin stayed when he visited. Additional sleeping quarters (khvateri) were located in the attic for seasonal workers. A steam bathhouse (banya) was built near the house for the family and workers.[lxxviii]
South of the house, a large two-story 40’ x 30’ wooden warehouse (sklad) was constructed with 500-ton coal bunkers, stables for the horse teams and hay loft for feed.[lxxix] Nearby an implement shed was erected to house wagons and sleighs transferred there from the CPR Flats yard.[lxxx] A large portion of the yard to the south of the buildings was used for wood-stacking.
Communal vegetable gardens were grown on the remaining vacant lots by Wasyl’s wife Tanya and daughter-in-law Tanya, as well as by Dasha Verigin, Hanyusha Bawoolin and Polya Strelaeff, who would catch the street car from the Hudson Bay Co. store on Baker St to go and work in these gardens.[lxxxi]
With the establishment of the second company yard, customer orders placed with Charles F. McHardy at the business office in the Green Block were dispatched to either the CPR Flats yard or Mountain Station yard, depending on the product requested and the customer location.
Commencing in the winter of 1916-1917, coal from the Wyoming Coal Co. mine at Monarch and Carney Coal Co. mine at Carneyville, Wyoming arrived by railcar to Mountain Station, where the cars were spotted on a side track,[lxxxii] unloaded and carted to the warehouse in the yard.[lxxxiii] Despite its lower heating value, the company sold the cheaper American coal at prevailing local prices with a significant profit margin.
From spring 1917 onwards, the Mountain Station yard also began receiving railcars of wood from the Doukhobor Society’s new sawmill operations on the GNR Salmo-Nelson line.
The one drawback of the yard was that the city scales were located in the CPR Flats. This significantly increased the distance and travel time for each delivery of coal from the yard, since it first had to be driven across town to be weighed. Charles F. McHardy thus began lobbying the City of Nelson on behalf of the company to have it install a second set of scales at that point.[lxxxiv]
City of Trail
Building on its commercial success at Nelson, the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. opened another branch in the City of Trail. In November 1914, Peter V. Verigin purchased 4 lots on the corner of Bay Ave and Eldorado St where the company erected a large brick warehouse, coal and wood bunkers, and store the following year.[lxxxv] Managed by Sam A. and Wasyl W. Lazareff, it sold coal and wood, hay and feed oats, lumber and building supplies and carried out building contracting.[lxxxvi]
The history of the Trail branch of the company will be chronicled in a separate article by the writer.
At the outbreak of the Great War, the Doukhobor Society still had five sawmills in operation at Brilliant, Ootischenia, Pass Creek, Glade and Crescent Valley supplying waste wood to its fuel subsidiary in Nelson. These were small to mid-sized operations at the time, with 10,000-35,000 board foot-per-day capacity.
However, in response to soaring wartime lumber prices, the Doukhobor Society launched several new commercial sawmill operations at Koch Siding in January 1916,[lxxxvii] Porto Rico Siding in January 1917[lxxxviii] and Hall Siding in May 1917.[lxxxix] These were large-scale operations with 30,000-60,000 board foot-per-day capacity, vastly increasing the volume of wood available to the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. to sell.
Now having multiple supply points, each company yard received wood from the mills in closest proximity so as to minimize rail transport distances and rates. The Mountain Station yard was supplied by the Porto Rico Siding and Hall Siding mills, the CPR Flats yard by the Koch Siding mill, and the Trail yard by the remainder.
Peak of Success
For a three year period between fall 1914 and summer 1917, the wartime boom and high profits propelled the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. to become the largest, most successful fuel business in Nelson. Indeed, by summer 1917, its three wood and coal yards, including stock, buildings, vehicles, equipment and livestock, were valued at $30,000.00 (over half a million dollars today).[xc]
There are no available records of company revenues at this time. However, taking into accounts its daily delivery capacity and local prices, the Nelson branch may have earned as much as $8,820.00 in coal or $3,087.00 in wood gross revenue per month in the 1916-1917 heating season.[xci] As its profit relative to cost was small for coal but very high for wood, the company’s profit from this same gross revenue may have been in the neighbourhood of $882.00 for coal or $2,778.30 for wood per month ($15,500.00 or $49,000.00 a month, respectively, today).[xcii]
The success of the Doukhobor fuel company was a remarkable feat in itself. Even moreso that it was a spin-off subsidiary, generating a significant secondary revenue stream from the wood waste produced by the core CCUB sawmilling and lumber operations, which were also experiencing a boom.
However, this success was not to last. Social factors outside of the company’s control would lead to challenging times ahead.
Rising Wartime Anti-Doukhobor Sentiment
From the onset of the Great War, Doukhobors in Nelson encountered discrimination because of their refusal to actively participate in the war effort.[xciii] Yet it was the enactment of conscription in Canada in September 1917 that drew particularly intense backlash against them.[xciv] The idea of pacifists prospering during the war, owing to high wartime prices and their large military-exempt pool of men, aroused popular resentment at a time when hundreds of Nelsonites were being drafted to fight overseas.[xcv]
The recent (and in hindsight, ill-timed) expansion of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. only heightened this resentment among Nelsonites. It now seemed to matter little in the court of public opinion that the Doukhobor fuel business was playing a critical role in heating and powering the local home front.
Despite its reputation for honest, reliable and prompt service, by the winter of 1917-1918, the company began to lose customers who, caught up in the jingoistic fervor, sought wood and coal from other more ‘patriotic’ and ‘Canadian’ companies. At the same time, new competitors sprang up to challenge the besieged company such as Irwin’s Transfer & Storage and D.A. McFarland.[xcvi]
It was probably no coincidence that around this time, Nelson City Council voted against installing another set of weigh scales up the hill at Mountain Station for the Doukhobor fuel company, despite the civic revenue it stood to gain by doing so.[xcvii] This effectively ended the long-term prospects of the Mountain Station yard as a coal depot, which ceased to bring in American coal after the 1917-1918 heating season.[xcviii]
To make matters yet worse, the company lost its prized Galt coal franchise to business rival West Transfer Co. in late 1917, forfeiting its most popular and highest-selling coal brand.[xcix] The reason for the agency cancellation is not known; it may have been in retaliation for the company’s importation of cheaper American coal, or it might perhaps have been fueled by anti-Doukhobor sentiment.
Against this backlash, Charles F. McHardy remained on good terms with the Doukhobors, selling the CCUB his 20-acre ranch at Shoreacres in September 1917.[c] He continued to serve as agent of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. However, he would find it increasingly difficult to navigate between that role and the rest of his business and civic career.
In November 1917, McHardy joined the Nelson Victory Bonds Committee to sell bonds to finance Canada’s war effort.[ci] Within days, he publicly distanced himself from the pacifist Doukhobor company by dropping its name from his fuel advertising.[cii] Over the next 20 months, he continued to advertise and sell company wood and coal under his own name.[ciii] Finally, in July 1919, after having been elected city alderman at the height of wartime anti-Doukhobor sentiment in Nelson, McHardy left the company.[civ]
After the Great War, the Nelson economy struggled in a global post-war recession, as prices for lumber, ore and other commodities plummeted. Despite this, local prices for heating coal and wood remained buoyant and even increased. In 1921, coal sold for $10.00-13.00 a ton and wood for $6.00-9.50 a cord,[cv] while in 1923 coal sold for $10.50-13.00 a ton and wood for $7.50-10.00 a cord.[cvi]
With high post-war prices, new companies flooded the Nelson wood and coal market. These included Minnis Transfer & Fuel Co., Olynyk Fuel & Transfer Co., Fairview Fuel & Teaming Co., Haggart & Son, A. Balcom, Fred Williams Transfer and Nelson Transfer Co. Ltd.[cvii] that vied with Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co., West Transfer Co., MacDonald Cartage & Fuel Co. and D.A. McFarland for business.
For its part, the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. emerged from the war battered but not broken. It lost a sizeable portion of the Nelson market, its business reputation was unfairly tarnished, and it no longer had a downtown office presence. Nevertheless, it retained enough customers to remain viable on a reduced scale. From thereon, it was one of a number of mid-sized transfer companies in the city.
After July 1919, the company no longer retained an outside business agent and managed its own customer orders and books instead. John F. Masloff of Ootischenia was appointed secretary-treasurer and bookkeeper for this purpose.[cviii] A small office was constructed at the CPR Flats yard where orders were placed, delivery records kept, and cash stored in a strong box.[cix] Company advertising ceased altogether.
The company’s clientele was now comprised mainly of residential rather than commercial or industrial customers. With lower volumes of deliveries and less stock turnover, fewer workers were required to run the operation. The company’s fleet of wagons and sleighs was reduced to two at each of the CPR Flats and Mountain Station yards.[cx]
The company further downsized by selling or leasing land and buildings no longer used. In April 1920, the westerly .80 acres of the CPR Flats yard with the smaller warehouse was sold to the Imperial Oil Co. leaving a half-acre yard remaining.[cxi] Then in August 1922, the larger warehouse in the CPR Flats yard was leased to the Okanagan United Growers Ltd. as a fruit packing house until its liquidation in June 1923.[cxii]
Coal was shipped to the CPR Flats yard from the Pacific Coal Co. mine at Bankhead and Canada West Coal Co. mine at Taber, AB,[cxiii] which also continued to receive wood from the Koch Siding mill. Now exclusively a wood depot, the Mountain Station yard continued to receive shipments from sawmills on the GNR Salmo-Nelson line, which after July 1921, included two large new mills at Porcupine Creek.[cxiv]
The Verigin family continued to occupy the CPR Flats yard. When the Canada Census was taken in June 1921, Konstantine (26) and Dasha (26) Verigin were enumerated there with daughter Mary (7) and sons Peter (4) and Konstantine (1) and step-father Michael (65) and mother Hanyusha Bawoolin (58).[cxv]
During this period, Konstantine also broke and trained wild horses for communal use. According to an account by his granddaughter Mary Shukin, this was carried out as follows:
“Occasionally, wild horses were unloaded from the train into the CPR stock yard. A horse would be chosen and lassoed by grandfather and a helper. A harness would be thrown on while the animal bucked and fought. They would then hitch the untamed horse with an older horse, and for several days have them pull a heavy sleigh on the ground, until the wild horse was ‘broken in’.[cxvi]
The new horses were then either kept at the yards to haul coal and wood or else sent to the different outlying Doukhobor settlements, wherever they were needed.
The Kootnikoffs also remained at the Mountain Station yard. At the taking of the 1921 Canada Census, Wasyl (47) and Tanya (45) Kootnikoff, son William (21), daughter-in-law Tanya (19), granddaughter Vera (5 months), son Nick (17) and daughter Mary (8) were enumerated there.[cxvii]
Beginning in 1921, the youngest Kootnikoff child, Mary, attended Central School in Nelson. In 1923, she was joined by all three Verigin children. On enrollment, the Doukhobor children spoke only Russian, but rapidly acquired English. Within a year of their enrolment, the Verigin children were promoted from Grade 1 to 3.[cxviii] The children of both families regularly made the honour rolls for academic achievement.[cxix]
In terms of spiritual life, the Verigin and Kootnikoff families each held prayer service (moleniye) on Sunday morning at their own homes.[cxx] Later that day, dressed in their best attire, they exchanged visits with other Doukhobor families living in or near Nelson, where they would all take part and enjoy the singing of hymns and psalms.[cxxi] From time to time, they were joined by Peter V. Verigin and a special choir of 20 Doukhobor singers from Brilliant and Glade who often accompanied him on his trips.[cxxii]
Decline & Dissolution
The Nelson branch of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. might have continued to operate into the foreseeable future. However, between January 1923 and January 1926 it suffered a series of devastating setbacks from which it was unable to recover.
First, with the post-war collapse in lumber prices, the CCUB opted not to renew its lease of the Koch Siding sawmill when it expired in January 1923.[cxxiii] Three months later, in May 1923, the Hall Siding mill caught fire and was destroyed.[cxxiv] It was not rebuilt given the lumber crash. Finally, the two sawmills at Porcupine Creek were destroyed in a July 1924 forest fire along with their timber stands.[cxxv]
Consequently, the Nelson branch of the company lost most of its wood supply, which was its primary revenue source, and indeed, its raison d’etre. The Mountain Station yard continued to receive some wood from the Porto Rico Siding sawmill, although its output after 1924 was relatively small. The CPR Flats yard received comparatively little, as the Slocan and Kootenay River sawmills continued to primarily supply the Trail branch with their output.
Then, in October 1924, Peter V. Verigin was killed in a mysterious train explosion at Farron. His death was a devastating blow to his followers, including those at Nelson, who revered him as their spiritual guide and secular leader. From a business standpoint, Verigin was the directing mind and force behind the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. and upon his death, the subsidiary was left largely rudderless.
In December 1924, the CCUB Board of Directors appointed Andrew P. Verigin of Crescent Valley as business manager and Timofey A. Stoochnoff of Ootischenia as secretary-treasurer of the Nelson branch of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co.[cxxvi] Over the next year, the pair managed the branch as best they could, but with little wood to sell and little revenue coming in, it continued to flounder.
Amid this turmoil, a newsworthy event occurred in February 1925, when Peter V. Verigin’s choir of special singers arrived in Nelson to perform in memory of the departed leader.[cxxvii] The Daily News reported that they led an 8:00 a.m. prayer service at the Verigin-Bawoolin house in the CPR Flats, then sang at the Strelaeff stopping house at 9:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., singing for about an hour each time. In the evening they sang at the Trinity Methodist Church before departing by train to their settlements.
By November 1925, the Nelson branch of the company was having difficulty paying property taxes and several lots were listed for sale by public auction for arrears.[cxxviii] The taxes were ultimately redeemed by the CCUB; however, its Board of Directors concluded that the branch was no longer viable.
Two months later, at the annual CCUB Board of Directors meeting at Brilliant in January 1926, it was resolved that the Nelson branch of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. be dissolved and its associated properties put up for sale.[cxxix] A telegram to this effect was summarily issued to the Verigin and Kootnikoff families in Nelson, reassigning them at once to Ootischenia and Brilliant, respectively.[cxxx]
And so, with a show of hands in the Brilliant central office, the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. ceased branch operations in Nelson on January 12, 1926 after 14 years of business.
Having grown accustomed to a less rigidly communal life while running the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. in Nelson, neither the Kootnikoff nor Verigin family remained long at their reassigned places. By May 1927, Wasyl F. Kootnikoff resettled to Rossland, where he and his sons worked as carpenters.[cxxxi] In December 1931, Konstantine P. Verigin resettled to Blewett, where he bought a 40-acre farm.[cxxxii]
The Anton F. Strelaeff family initially remained in Nelson at 509 Falls St,[cxxxiii] their caretaking role expanded to include the now-vacant coal and wood yards. In February 1926, Anton started a fuel business of his own, the Doukhobor Transfer Co.[cxxxiv] Using wagons and remaining stock from the yards, with his house as his office, he offered coal, wood and transfer services.
Anton’s fuel enterprise would be short-lived. MacDonald Cartage & Fuel Co. had already taken over the customers of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co.,[cxxxv] leaving him to advertise for new ones amid stiff competition.[cxxxvi] Months later, he lost his voice due to illness, making continuation of the business impossible.[cxxxvii] In May 1928, he was reassigned to the Doukhobor settlement of Dorogotsennoye at Taghum.[cxxxviii]
Interestingly, it was only at this time that the CCUB advertised its various Nelson properties for sale. The two-year gap following the closure of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. may be explained by the Board of Directors’ reluctance to dispose of the properties until their new leader, Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin, arrived in Canada to guide them in September 1927.
By late 1928, the Strelaeffs were replaced by Eli N. and Malanya Chernoff of Ootischenia, who took up residence at 509 Falls St.[cxxxix] They were joined by Malanya’s parents Philip P. and Nastya Lazareff, and for several months, by Russian Tolstoyan Pavel I. Birukoff and his daughter Olga.[cxl] A carpenter by trade, Eli worked for building contractor T.H. Waters & Co. Ltd. while caretaking the Doukhobor yards.
Two years later, in November 1930, the house at 509 Falls St was sold to Bud Sevens,[cxli] whereupon the Chernoffs relocated to the house at the CPR Flats yard.[cxlii] There, they discovered that the road running past the front was built six feet over the CCUB property, while the CPR rail spur running past the back was also encroaching, resulting in a lawsuit by the CCUB against the City of Nelson and CPR for trespass.[cxliii]
Meanwhile, in July 1930, Eli bought the vacant yard at Mountain Station from the CCUB.[cxliv] The large warehouse there was destroyed by fire shortly after.[cxlv] In early 1931, he resold the yard to none other than Wasyl F. Kootnikoff, who returned with his family from Rossland to reside at 710 Gore St.[cxlvi]
Wasyl died within months of his return. His widow Tanya remained at 710 Gore St. with daughter Mary until her death in 1949,[cxlvii] followed by Mary and husband William J. Shukin until 1959.[cxlviii] By 1937, son William W. Kootnikoff and wife Tanya (Emma) built a home at 724 Gore St for themselves, and in 1950, a home at 723 Innes St. for their son Michael. In 1962, the Kootnikoffs and Shukins subdivided and sold the remaining Innes St. lots.[cxlix] The Kootnikoffs joined the Shukins at the coast in 1965.[cl]
Eli N. Chernoff lived at the CCUB yard in the CPR Flats until September 1931 when the property was leased out, then resettled to Taghum. The lessees, Harry and son Gordon K. Burns, established a fuel distributorship there as Burns Coal & Cartage Company,[cli] which offered coal and wood as well as moving, storage and distributing services. The business operated at the lease site for nine years. The Burnses used all the existing buildings for storage except for the dwelling house, which was rented out.
In February 1939, the Burns purchased the property from the receiver of the now-bankrupt CCUB and established a new business, Burns Lumber & Coal Co., selling building materials and supplies, fuel, transfer and storage services over the next 39 years.[clii] By September 1948, the original Doukhobor dwelling house and workers kitchen were dismantled,[cliii] while the coal bunker, blacksmith shop, barn and implement shed continued to be used for storage until at least May 1959.[cliv]
In September 1978, the lumber yard was purchased by Louis Maglio,[clv] whose sons Tony and Dominic operated it as Maglio Building Centre. By this time, the Doukhobor brick warehouse was the only original structure still standing and in use. In February 2019, the business was purchased by Fraser Valley Building Supplies, which continues to operate as Rona Maglio Building Centre today.[clvi]
Nearly a century after the demise of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co., evidence of the Doukhobor fuel business can still be found throughout the City of Nelson.
The McCulloch Block on Baker St and Green Block at Ward St, which housed the company’s business office over its first six years, are going concerns. The foreman’s dwelling house at 710 Gore St still stands in its original condition. The stopping house of Peter Verigin is also in pristine form, although it no longer stands at 509 Falls St, having been moved to 120 Vernon St in May 1931.[clvii] The two-story brick warehouse remains a hidden mainstay of the RONA Maglio Building Centre at 29 Government Rd, three of its exterior walls now interior walls of the store building.
Perhaps a more pervasive reminder is the cast-iron coal doors that still adorn the exterior of scores of Nelson heritage buildings; many if not most of which were served by the Doukhobor fuel business in the Teens and Twenties.
Special thanks toGreg Nesteroff, Lucille Ostrikoff, Mike & Lorraine Malakoff, Klaas, Lorrie and James Büter, Jean-Philippe Stienne and Judy Deon (Touchstones Nelson), Barry and Stephanie Verigin (ISKRA) for sharing their information and images.
This article was originally published in the following periodical:
ISKRA Nos. 2172 (March 2022), 2173 (April 2022) and 2174 (May 2022). (Grand Forks: Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ).
An abridged version of this article was published in the following newspaper:
[i] From the 1880s through 1920s, a ‘transfer’ was a transportation company that used a fleet of horse-drawn wagons and sleighs to deliver coal, wood, livestock feed, ice and other bulk goods short distances within a community.
[ii] Most stoves, boilers and furnaces burned either fuel or could be converted to do so. Frequently, the choice came down to price and practicality. Wood was considerably cheaper than coal, while coal burned much longer and hotter than wood but was also much dirtier to handle.
[iii]W.A. Jeffries Nelson City Directory (1913) (Nelson, BC: W.A. Jeffries, 1913) at 117; Nelson Daily News, 1913.01.06.
[iv] W. Blakemore, Report of Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia, 1912 (Victoria: Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, 1913) at 31. Based on the West Kootenay average of 5,000 feet of saw timber per acre, the Doukhobor lands may have held as much as 53,055,000 feet of saw timber based on their West Kootenay landholdings as of 1913: Canadian Pacific Railway, British Columbia, Canada’s Pacific Province: Its Natural Resources, Advantages and Climate (Victoria: The Colonist Presses, 1910) at 63.
[v] Doukhobor sawmilling in the 1908-1913 period manufactured lumber primarily for their own communal building purposes. However, there was some commercial sale of surplus lumber; most notably the sale of 100,000 railway ties from Glade and another 100,000 ties from Brilliant to the CPR in 1910-1911: Nelson Daily News, 1910-09-21; Victoria Daily Times, 1910-09-28; The Province, 1911-03-17; Winnipeg Free Press, 1911-04-25.
[vi]Supra, note 3at 33; Manitoba Free Press, April 25, 1911.
[vii] Based on the standards of the day, wastage was upwards of 45 percent of every foot of saw timber: J.H. Jenkins, “Wood-Waste Utilization in British Columbia” in The Forestry Chronicle (Vol. 15, No. 4, December 1939) at 192.
[xi]Nelson Daily News, 1913.04.07; New Westminster News, 1913.04.08; Winnipeg Free Press, 1913.04.12. The Kootenay Ice & Fuel Co. (renamed Kootenay Ice Co. in April 1923) continued selling ice (only) from its Mirror Lake plant in Nelson and district until 1931.
[xii] The easterly 208 feet of Lot 1, of subdivision of part of Lot 95 and Lot 304, Group 1, Kootenay District, Map 904 was sold for $6,000.00 under Agreement for Sale dated April 7, 1913 by William P. Tierney (railroad contractor and Kootenay Ice & Fuel Co. principal) to Peter Verigin. Upon payment in full, title was transferred from Tierney to Verigin under Indenture No. 18505a dated November 10, 1913. Verigin filed for title on November 22, 1913, registered as Certificate of Title AFB 30/234 dated November 26, 1913. The property was subsequently transferred to the CCUB by Deed of Land No. 4927 dated October 20, 1917 and new Certificate of Title No. 4927i dated October 26, 1917 was issued.
[xiv] Mined in Lethbridge by the Galt Coal Company, this fuel burned more cleanly than most coals generally available and enjoyed a high reputation across Western Canada. It was a lucrative contract for the Doukhobor Society as it gave it control of the Nelson market for the best and most practical source of heat in the often bitter winters. See: McCord Museum: https://tinyurl.com/mjbdztjv; Toole Peet 1897 – 1997: https://tinyurl.com/yvub6924.
[xv]Nelson Daily News, 1913.04.08; New Westminster News, April 8, 1913.
[xvii] The company name was a reference to the Doukhobor Society’s headquarters at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers. It also leveraged the name-recognition of the Society’s existing and well-known subsidiary in Nelson, the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works (est. 1911). Variations of the name sometimes used: Kootenay Columbia Fuel Company, Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Co., Kootenay Columbia Fuel Co., Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Company, Kootenay Columbia Fuel Supply, Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co., Kootenay Columbia Fuel & Supply Co., Kootenay Columbia Fuel & Supply Co. Ltd.
[xviii]W.A. Jeffries Nelson and District Directory (1914) (Nelson, BC: W.A. Jeffries, 1914) at 78.
[xix] Henry Howard (H.H.) Crofts (1877-1952), a confectioner from Warwick, Eng., immigrated to Canada in June 1903, settling in Winnipeg, MB. From September 1907 to July 1911, he served as Deputy-Sherriff of the Winnipeg Judicial District, then relocated to Nelson, BC to engage in real estate. In September 1911, he formed a realty partnership with Russian émigré realtor Konstantine Popoff as ‘Popoff & Crofts’. Over the next 15 months, he “sold quite a bit of land” to the Doukhobors in Nelson, at Brilliant and on the Slocan: Transcript of Proceedings, Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia (1912), Volume 2 at 567 (BC Archives Item No. GR-0793.2).
[xxvi]Nelson Daily News, 1914.04.27 to 1914.05.02.
[xxvii] Mary Shukin, “The Kootenay Columbia Fuel Supply” in ISKRA No. 1708, April 11, 1990 (Grand Forks: Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ).
[xxviii] While there are no Nelson Daily New adverts, the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. almost certainly offered general transfer services through its fleet of wagon and sleigh teams when not in active use delivering coal or wood. Its wagon teams may also have been used for fruit hauling by sister subsidiary Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works in the summer fruit season.
[xxix] Nelson Daily News: 1917.09.24; Stan Sherstobitoff photograph collection: Doukhobors construction work, Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works in foreground, Nelson, c. 1912: tiny.cc/zwkmuz; Doukhobor scaffolding, Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works in foreground, Nelson, c. 1912: tiny.cc/7xkmuz.
[xxx] A common complaint by Nelson merchants was that the Doukhobors’ large pool of unpaid labour enabled them to undercut the local market by selling goods for less than local merchants could afford to: Nelson Daily News: 1912:09.17. However, Nelson Daily News advertisements from 1913-1915 confirm that the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co sold fuel at prevailing local rates. For example, in October 1914, it sold Galt Coal for $8.00 per ton, the same price advertised by West Transfer Co.; while it sold wood from $4.75 to $5.50 a cord while Taylor Milling Co. sold it at $5:00 per cord: Nelson Daily News, 1914.10.02. Indeed, by 1917, all Nelson transfer companies were selling wood and coal under a common rate sheet: Nelson Daily News, 1917.09.28.
[xxxi] V.N.L. Van Vleck, “Delivering Coal by Road and Rail in Britain” in The Journal of Economic History Vol. 57, No. 1 (Mar 1997) at 140 quoting Thorstein Veblen, Imperial Germany and the Industrial Revolution (New York and London: Macmillan, 1915); Nelson Daily News, 1917.07.31.
[xxxii] See for example Nelson Daily News, 1914.03.05 which reported, “The Doukhobor colony shipped another car of wood to Nelson on Saturday.”
[xxxiii]The Use of Wood for Fuel (Bulletin No. 753) (Washington D.C.: United States Department of Agriculture, March 10 1919) at 16. Note a ‘cord’ was a stack of wood four feet high, four feet wide and 8 feet long.
[xxxvi] Christopher F. Jones, “Fraud, Failure, and Frustration: This Is the Story of America’s First Energy Transition” in The Atlantic, April 15, 2014. Based on this estimate, Nelson’s population of 5,000 or so residents in 1913 consumed from 6,700 to 20,000 cords of wood or 4,200 to 13,300 tons of coal annually.
[xxxvii] For example, the Nelson Iron Works operated a 80-horsepower boiler that consumed approximately 4.5 lbs. of coal per horsepower-hour: Mining and Engineering World, Vol. 43, November 27, 1915 (Chicago: Mining World Company) at 876; Alessandro Nuvolari, “The theory and practice of steam engineering in Britain and France, 1800-1850 in Documents pour l’histoire des techniques, No. 19, December 1, 2010 at 194. Note wood was not generally preferred by most industries because of its lower heating value.
[xxxviii]The Use of Wood for Fuel, supra, note 33 at 15; The Black Diamond (Vol. 53, No. 12) (National Coal Exchange, September 19, 1914) at 225.
[xl] Interestingly, if the company fleet of 6 wagon teams delivered a minimum of 42 loads of coal (42 tons) or wood (21 cords) per day, then the company 1,000-ton coal and wood bunkers would have required replenishment at least once every 24 days.
[xli]Royal Commission Into All Matters Pertaining to the Doukhobor Sect in British Columbia, BC Archives Series GR-0793 (1912), Vol. 1 at 10 and 121 (B56).
[xliii] For instance, the Nelson Daily News reported on July 11, 1913 that “Peter Veregin, the leader of the Doukhobors, was in town on Wednesday looking over the local Doukhobor property.”
[xliv]Nelson Daily News advertsfor Popoff & Crofts dwindled over the winter of 1913-1914 and ceased altogether on May 6, 1914. By June 8, 1914, Crofts and family left Nelson and returned to Winnipeg, MB. On August 8, 1914, Popoff published formal notice of dissolution of partnership, and on October 10, 1914, obtained a court order seizing Crofts’ Nelson property for absconding from the partnership debts. Back in Winnipeg, Crofts served as a government registrar until his retirement in the 30s.
[xlv]Nelson Daily News, 1914.10.03 and 1914.12.05.
[xlvi]Nelson Daily News, 1914.04.1. Charles Forbes McHardy was born in Lucknow Township, Bruce County, ON in August 1875. In late 1900, he resettled to Nelson, BC where he clerked at Nelson Hardware Co. until July 1903. He then partnered with Edward B. McDermid to purchase the real estate and insurance business of Harry H. Ward, operating as McDermid & McHardy. Between September 1906 and August 1908, McHardy and McDermid obtained Crown Grants over 1,270 acres of land at the Slocan River and Goose Creek confluence (named Crescent Valley by McHardy). McHardy then bought out McDermid’s interest in the land and their partnership dissolved in July 1909 as McHardy developed his ranch. In October 1911, McHardy sold the ranch to the Doukhobor Society. In October 1912, he became the first man to ride a horse from Nelson to Vancouver. That November 1912 bought out McDermid’s insurance and rental business while also starting a real estate business. His extensive civic involvement throughout this time included the Nelson Board of Trade, Nelson Improvement Association, Kootenay Fruit-growers Union, Nelson Conservative Association and others.
[xlix] Royal Commission, supra, note 41, Vol. 2 at 341-348.
[l]Nelson Daily News, 1914.04.1; 1914-04-03 to 1914.04.14.
[li] Between April 1914 and October 1917, McHardy placed an incredible 388 advertisements in the Nelson Daily News: 1914.04.01; 1914.04.03 to 1914.04.14; 1914.04.27 to 1914.05.02; 1914.07.08 to 1914.07.14; 1914.08.14; 1914.08.15; 1914.08.26; 1914.09.02 to 1914.09.08; 1914.09.29 to 1914.10.02; 1914.10.17 to 1914.10.21; 1914.11.10 to 1914.11.18; 1914.11.30 to 1914.12.08; 1914.12.21 to 1914.12.24; 1915.01.28 to 1915.03.04; 1915.04.22 to 1915.05.08; 1915.06.24 to 1915.07.15; 1915.09.13 to 1915.10.02; 1915.10.06 to 1915.10.28; 1915.11.09 to 1915.11.27; 1916.01.10 to 1916.03.20; 1916.06.16 to 1916.07.03; 1916.08.28 to 1916.09.11; 1916.10.15 to 1916.10.24; 1917.02.15 to 1917.03.28; 1917.04.16 to 1917.04.21; 1917.09.28; 1917.09.29; 1917.10.13 to 1917.11.13.
[liii]Nelson Daily News advertisements from 1915-1917 show the Nelson transfer companies sold heating fuel at 25% above previous local rates. For instance, the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. sold coal at $9.25 to $10.50 a ton and wood at $7.00 a cord: Nelson Daily News, 1916.10.15, 1917.03.09, 1917.10.13. See Note 30 for 1913-1915 prices.
[liv] The two-story dwelling house at 509 Falls St. stood on Sub-Lots 1-3 of Block 92 of Lot 95, Kootenay District. It was purchased by Peter Verigin on behalf of the Doukhobor Society in late 1914: Nelson Daily News, 1914.12.08. For an excellent historical study of this property, see Greg Nesteroff, “Little-Known Nelson Heritage Buildings: 120 Vernon St.”: https://tinyurl.com/54k47bym.
[lvi] Tax rolls for 1915 indicate that the building was part of $2,000 of improvements carried out that year: Shawn Lamb Archives, Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History (courtesy Greg Nesteroff); “List of Property Owned by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Limited, as at January 1st, 1931” in Snesarev, V.N., The Doukhobors in British Columbia (University of British Columbia, Department of Agriculture, 1931).
[lxxii] The westerly 138 (130) feet of Lot 1, of subdivision of part of Lot 95 and Lot 304, Group 1, Kootenay District, Map 904 was transferred from Konstantine Popoff to Peter Verigin by Indenture dated June 29, 1915 and registered June 30, 1915 as No. 20403a.
[lxxiii] Part of the westerly 138 (130) feet of Lot 1, of subdivision of part of Lot 95 and Lot 304, Group 1, Kootenay District, Map 904 was transferred from Konstantine Popoff to Peter Veregin by Agreement for Sale dated April 19, 1911 and registered as 6470D in Charge Book Volume 18, Folio 159.
[lxxv] The Doukhobor leader may have been aware that since 1913, cheap American lignite and sub-bituminous coal had flooded the B.C. Coast market, where it sold for the same price as Canadian bituminous coal, despite the latter’s superior heating value. See for example The Vancouver Sun, 1913.01.30; “Diether Coal” in Vancouver Daily World, 1915.11.18; “Mackay & Gillespie, Ltd” in Victoria Daily Times, 1914.09.01; Alberta’s Coal Industry 1919 (Bercuson, D.J. Ed.) (Alberta Records Publication Board: Historical Society of Alberta, 1978).
[lxxvi] On March 11, 1913, C.F. McHardy purchased Sub-Lot 33(A) of District Lot 304, Group 1, Kootenay District as shown on Map 766 from Nelson grocer John Alexander Irving, registered as new Certificate of Title AFB 30/9 No. 17465a. On January 16, 1915, McHardy advertised the lot for sale for $2,100.00 in the Nelson Daily News. Evidently, Peter Verigin subsequently entered an Agreement for Sale with McHardy for the lot, as it was reported owned by the Doukhobor Society in 1917: Vancouver Daily World, 1918.09.28. Once all payments were made under the Agreement for Sale, title was transferred from McHardy to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood under Indenture No. 6620i dated December 3, 1919.
[lxxvii]Fire Insurance Plan of Nelson, BC Surveyed August 1923, Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History (courtesy Greg Nesteroff).
[lxxxii] Although the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. did not have a spur track of its own running into its Mountain Station yard, the GNR had a passing and house track running parallel between the city and it main line on which cars were parked for unloading, and which conveniently ran to within 400 feet of the coal and wood yard: Great Northern Railway Historical Society, Mountain Station Blueprint, dated April 23, 1913.
[lxxxiii]Nelson Daily News, 1917.02.15 to 1917.03.08, 1917.09.28-1917.09.29, 1917.10.13-1917.09.30.
[xci] Presuming the company made 42 deliveries per day (6 wagon teams x 7 trips each), then it would have delivered 882 tons of coal (1 ton/load x 42 loads x 21 workdays) at an average price of $10.00 per ton, earning gross revenue of $8,820.00 a month; whereas it would have delivered 441 cords of wood (½ cord/load x 42 loads x 21 workdays) at an average price of $7.00 per cord, earning a gross revenue of $3,087.00 a month.
[xcii] It is estimated that the Doukhobors’ profit per ton of coal was 10-15%: The Vancouver Sun, 1917.07.05, 1917.09.13; The Retail Coalman, c. 31, v. 31, July 1917 at 96. However, as their only cost associated with wood was freight, the Doukhobors’ profit per cord of wood may have been as high as 85-90%.
[xciii] As early as December 1914, the Nelson Board of Trade advocated a special tax be levied on Doukhobors who “would not either fight for, or subscribe to, the protection which is afforded under the British flag: Nelson Daily News, 1914.12.11. In December of 1915 and January of 1916, it passed resolutions asking the government to adopt such a tax, declaring “it is an outrage that a large body of men should be living in our midst and enjoying every privilege and the protection of the country without contributing one cent directly to the cause of the country.”: Nelson Daily News, 1915.12.10 and 1916.01.28. The Board also called for a boycott of Doukhobor products in July of 1915, arguing that they were an “alien race” who “could not be called upon in time of war to come to the assistance of the country in which they made their living: Nelson Daily News, 1915.07.09.
[xciv] By 1917-1919, anti-Doukhobor rhetoric intensified in Nelson, with the Nelson Branch of the Canadian Patriotic Fund publicly demanding a $75,000.00 subscription in arrears from the Doukhobor Community: Nelson Daily News, 1919.11.17; the Nelson victory bond campaign demanding $50,000.00 subscription from the Doukhobor Community: Vancouver Daily World, 1919.11.14; local citizens’ meetings in Nelson passing resolutions demanding the purchase of Doukhobor lands and local reconstruction committees formed for the purpose of securing the land for returned soldiers: Calgary Herald, 1919.04.21 and Vancouver Daily World, 1919.04.24; the Nelson Branch of the Great War Veterans Association passing a resolution that the Dominion Government deport all Doukhobors presently in the country: The Gazette, 1919.03.20 and Calgary Herald, 1919.04.07; and the Nelson Board of Trade resolved that the Dominion Government “make the Doukhobors live as Canadian citizens or deport them.”: Calgary Herald, 1919.05.02.
[xcv] George Woodcock & Ivan Avakumovic, The Doukhobors (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1968) at 253. This sentiment is captured in the September 17, 1917 letter to the editor of the Nelson Daily News from rancher J. Marsden of Taghum: Nelson Daily News: 1917.09.24.
[xcvi]Nelson Daily News, 1916.01.21 to 1923.11.30; Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1916-1919.
[xcvii]Nelson Daily News, 1930.08.06. Unfortunately, the specific date the Nelson City Council voted against installing weigh scales at Mountain Station is not known, as the council minutes for this period are lost and missing: Shawn Lamb Archives, Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History.
[xcviii] The last company advertisements for Wyoming coal appears in the Nelson Daily News on November 17, 1917.
[xcix] The last advertisement for Galt coal by the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. appears in the Nelson Daily News on September 28, 1917. By April 1918, Galt coal was being advertised in the newspaper by West Transfer Co.
[cii] On November 13, 1917, three days after C.F. McHardy’s appointment to the Nelson Victory Bonds Committee, his hitherto-prolific advertising for the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. in the Nelson Daily News abruptly ceased. Thereafter, from November 14, 1917 to July 5, 1919, McHardy advertised in the newspaper as “Charles F. McHardy, Insurance, Fuel, Real Estate.”
[ciii] Despite the absence of newspaper advertising for the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co., C.F. McHardy continued to be listed as agent for the company in the 1918 and 1919 editions of Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory.
[civ] There are no further references to C.F. McHardy as a fuel dealer after the July 5, 1919 edition of the Nelson Daily News. McHardy went on to serve two terms as alderman between January 1919 and January 1921, unsuccessfully running for mayor in 1920. He was elected mayor for two terms between January 1921 and January 1923. In May-June 1924, he was a conservative candidate for the BC Legislature. For many years McHardy headed the Nelson Conservative Association and was also one-time president of the Board of Trade, a life member of the Kootenay Lake General Hospital Society and for six years was president of its board of directors. He was also a charter member of the Nelson Rotary Club, and early president of the Nelson Fair Board, early member of Clan Johnstone, later Clan McLeary, a member of St. Saviour’s Anglican Church Parish, on the board of B.C. Fire Underwriters, and vice-president of the Notary Public’s provincial organization.
[cvii]Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1919-1924; Nelson Daily News, 1919.12.01 to 1925.12.01.
[cviii] At the taking of the 1921 Canada Census, John F. Masloff was living in Ootischenia but his occupation was listed as “Bookkeeper, Fuel Supply”: British Columbia, District 18, Sub-district 10A, page 3. By 1922, Masloff had left the fuel subsidiary to manage the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works in Brilliant.
[cxi]Nelson Daily News, 1920.04.16. The westerly 110 feet of Lot 1, of subdivision of part of Lot 95 and Lot 304, Group 1, Kootenay District, Map 904 was transferred from the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. to Imperial Oil Ltd. for $8,000.00 under Indenture No. 7260i dated April 9, 1920.
[cxii] On August 1, 1922, the Nelson Daily News reported that the Okanagan United Growers had taken over fruit marketing in Nelson from the Kootenay Fruit Growers’ Union and would erect a warehouse at once in the CPR Flats for assembling that season’s crop. Evidently, it opted to lease the large warehouse at the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co. yard instead. On October 6, 1922, the Nelson Daily News reported that the packing house of the Okanagan United Growers situated in the Doukhobor building on the CPR Flats was a busy centre with fruit coming into the house from all the ranches in and around the city. On June 13, 1923, the Okanagan United Growers had gone into bankruptcy and liquidation.
[cxxix] The two-day CCUB shareholders and Board of Directors meeting held January 11-12, 1926 appointed 14 Directors and 24 Officers of the various CCUB local branches and subsidiaries, including the Trail branch of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co.; the Nelson branch of the fuel subsidiary was conspicuously omitted: Nelson Daily News, 1926.01.13. The letter sent to Konstantine P. Verigin pursuant to that meeting stated that the CCUB properties at Nelson, Hall Siding, Skalistoye and Dorogotsennoye were all to be put up for sale: Shukin, supra, note 27.
[cxxxviii] Nesteroff, 120 Vernon St., supra, note 54.
[cxxxix]Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1929-1930.
[cxl]Ibid. Friend, follower and biographer of Lev N. Tolstoy, Pavel Ivanovich Biryukov (1860-1931) investigated the Doukhobor movement in the Caucasus in 1895 and was exiled in 1897 to Courland for publishing an appear on behalf of their plight. A year later he was permitted to go abroad, where he stayed until 1907. Later, he spent considerable time in Russia, Switzerland and the UK. In September 1927 he accompanied Doukhobor leader Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin to Canada to help establish Russian schools and a newspaper among the Doukhobors. Within a year, however, he suffered a debilitating stroke. Thereafter, the ailing Tolstoyan was cared for by the Chernoffs at 509 Falls St in Nelson until his daughter Olga left art school in Paris and came to Canada in October 1928. The Biryukovs remained in Nelson until April 1929, whereafter they returned to Geneva where Biryukov died in October 1931.
[cxlii]Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory for the year 1931, which was compiled prior to November 1930 when the 509 Falls St property was sold, lists the Chernoff family still living there; however the 1932 directory lists the family living at Granite Road where the former coal and wood yard of the Kootenay-Columbia Fuel Supply Co was located.
[cxliv] Lot 33A of District Lot 304, Group 1, Map 766 was transferred by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. to Eli N. Chernoff by Indenture No. 30611i dated July 25, 1930.
[cxlv]Nelson Daily News, 1930.08.05 and 1930.08.06.
[cxlvi] British Columbia Death Registration No. 39244 dated June 19, 1931.
[cxlvii] British Columbia Death Registration No. 49-09-001741 dated January 28, 1949.
[cxlviii] Nelson Directory, 1955; British Columbia Death Registration No. 63-09-004738. In 1959, the house at 710 Gore St. was sold to Tony and Gladys Semeniuk: Urban Preliminary List of Electors, Electoral District of Kootenay West, City of Nelson, Urban Polling Division No. 128, September 27, 1965.
[cxlix] Subdivision Plan No. 4558 dated January 8, 1962 of Lot 4, Block 33, Plan 349 of Lot 150 and part of Block 33A, Plan 766 of Lot 304. Interestingly, the house at 723 Innes was purchased by Kay Verigin, who grew up at the CPR Flats yard 40 years earlier when his father Konstantine ran the coal and wood yard there: 1965 City of Nelson Voters’ List, ibid.
[cl] British Columbia Death Registration No. 1965-09-002145.
[clii] Agreement for Sale from the Receiver for the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd. to Harry and Gordon K. Burns dated February 1, 1939. Five years later, in 1944 when the property was paid in full, title was transferred to Harry and Gordon K. Burns under Certificate of Title No. 58607i.
[cliii]Wrigley’s British Columbia Directory, 1931-1939; Fire Insurance Plan of Nelson, BC Surveyed August 1938 (Revised August 1940 and September 1948), Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History (courtesy Greg Nesteroff).
[cliv]Fire Insurance Plan of Nelson, BC Surveyed May 1959, Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History (courtesy Greg Nesteroff).
[clv] In 1978, the property was transferred to Louis Maglio under Certificate of Title No. M7771. In 1986, the property was transferred to Louis Maglio Enterprises, under Certificate of Title No. V17188.
[clvi] ”’Business as usual’ in Trail after sale of Maglio Building Centre” in Trail Times, 2019.02.26.
[clvii] Nesteroff, 120 Vernon St., supra, note 54.
Although Grohman Narrows Provincial Park west of Nelson, British Columbia is a well-known destination for local outdoor recreation and nature appreciation, its storied past has largely slipped from collective memory. The following article examines the property’s many different owners, occupiers, names and uses over its 150-plus years of recorded history.
The property covers the river flats on the left (south) bank of the Kootenay River at what was once called the Narrows, a natural constriction of the river at the downstream end of the West Arm formed by beds of uneroded hard rock. During periods of high inflow into Kootenay Lake, the constriction raised water levels upriver, causing flooding. The rich alluvial material deposited over millennia enriched the lower portions of the flats, yielding fertile soil, while the higher, unflooded portions remained largely exposed rock.
For centuries before white settlers capitalized upon its agricultural potential, First Nations encamped on the flats, as the Narrows created an ideal location for trapping fish. Its importance as fishing grounds also made it highly sought after, and it is thought to have been the site of a 19th century battle between the Sinixt and Ktunaxa over its control. In the early 20th century, many First Nations artifacts were recovered along the flats.
In October 1886, 50 acres of the flats were conceded to the Kootenay Lake Syndicate led by Anglo-Austrian author and hunter William Adolph Baillie-Grohman as part of a plan to blast out the Narrows, thereby lowering the lake level in order to drain and reclaim Creston Valley and Kootenay Flats for colonization and agriculture. In 1889, Grohman’s engineer Leslie Hall and his crew set up camp on the flats, detonating tons of dynamite against the obstructing rock at the Narrows, but the rock did not yield. By 1894, the scheme was a bust and the land reverted to the Crown. More enduring were the names left behind in the form of Grohman Narrows and Grohman Creek, opposite the property.
Early Miners & Ranchers
In 1891, the CPR’s Columbia and Kootenay Railway line was built through the north edge of the property, close to the river, opening it up for mining and later agricultural development.
By November 1898, Dr. E.C. Arthur of Nelson staked the RecluseMine claim on the property, receiving certificates of work in November 1903 and a grant of mineral rights in February 1905 as Lot 4228; Dr. Arthur still owned the claim as of October 1908, but it was sold for unpaid taxes soon thereafter. A brickyard also reportedly existed in the vicinity, but it’s not clear who operated it.
Meanwhile, in July 1901, New Brunswick native Alfred Bunker (1855-1937) received a Crown grant for the 50.6-hectare (125-acre) property (Lot 5180), subject to the mining claim, for $125. It thereafter became known as the Bunker Ranch. By April 1902, Bunker had cleared some 10-12 acres and planted about 1,000 fruit trees on the ranch, including cherry and pear, and cultivated a large piece for strawberries and other small fruits, making it the acknowledged oldest fruit farm in the Nelson district.
The ranch was accessible by various means. The CPR built Quarry Siding on the property in May 1902 to serve its quarry on the adjacent east lot, which Bunker also used for loading cars with fruit and agricultural products. The ranch was also accessible by boat or via a road at its southern boundary that connected to a wagon road (soon to be known as Granite Road) that led to the City of Nelson power plant on the Kootenay River.
In addition to farming, Bunker was active in the Kootenay Fruit Growers’ Association as vice-president. He was involved in a proposal to assume the assets of the Nelson streetcar service. He bought and sold lots, cottages, and mining claims. And he ran unsuccessfully for Nelson city council in 1912.
In June 1907, Bunker sold his ranch to Robert W. Hulbert, former editor of the North Battleford News, who registered it under his wife Rose Elizabeth Hulbert. Hulbert renamed the property the Durban Ranch, after the South African city where Rose was born and the couple married in 1902. Besides ranching, he served as a delegate of the Kootenay Fruit Growers’ Association, proprietor of the Empire Moving Picture Theatre in Nelson, a founding director of the Nelson branch of the YMCA and compiler of the 1909 Nelson telephone directory.
However, Hulbert soon ran into financial difficulty and by March 1908 advertised the ranch for sale through Regina realtors McCallum Hill & Co. By this time, 25 acres of the property had been cleared and planted into apples, cherries, plums, peaches, pears and other small fruits, with 1,000 trees in bearing, 1,200 more soon to bear, and 500 in nursery.
Despite the advert running in over 105 issues of the Nelson Daily News, the ranch failed to sell. Undoubtedly, a significant deterrent was the fact that half of the ranch was rocky outcropping, of little use for anything except quarrying.
Under pressure from creditors, Hulbert sold the Durban ranch to McCallum Hill & Co. in August 1908, staying on as ranch manager until 1911. In the interim, the realtors satisfied many of Hulbert’s local debts, although he lost his theatre to foreclosure in February 1910.
As McCallum Hill & Co. purchased the ranch under an agreement for sale, title did not transfer until all outstanding payments were made in January 1910. At that time, it was registered in the names of company principals Ernest A. McCallum, Walter H.A. Hill and Edgar D. McCallum. The realtors never lived at the property, having bought it purely on speculation. For three years they collected revenues from ranch fruit sales before placing it back on the market in 1911.
This time, they used a more creative marketing strategy. On 5 and 6 April 1911, they took out an eye-catching, half-page advertisement in the Nelson Daily Newswhich painted the ranch in colourful, hyperbolic terms, emphasizing its overall acreage, fertile soil, number and type of fruit trees along with its development potential, accessibility and nearness to Nelson, while downplaying the limited cleared acreage and rocky portions. Indeed, the rock was euphemistically described as “extremely picturesque,” “suitable for quarrying,” with the granite “being considered the finest in the district.” To create a sense of urgency, the ad stressed a “price for quick sale,” “at great sacrifice” and imposed a five-day deadline for offers. The two-day listing worked and the following day, on 7 April 1911, the Durban ranch sold for the $10,000 asking price.
The Doukhobors, 1911-61
The purchaser under agreement for sale was Russian revolutionary-turned-Nelson real estate agent Konstantine Popoff via the local firm of McQuarrie and Robertson. Only four days earlier, Popoff had sold his 30-acre ranch two miles downriver at Taghum to Peter V. Verigin on behalf of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) for $15,000. Evidently Popoff used the sale proceeds to finance the purchase of the Bunker/Durban Ranch.
Popoff immediately put some men to work pruning the 2,200 fruit trees on the ranch in preparation for the season’s operations. However, he had no intention of keeping the property for long. Four days later, Popoff resold it to a second buyer, none other than Peter V. Verigin, again via McQuarrie and Robertson.
Verigin assumed Popoff’s interest under the agreement for sale with McCallum Hill & Co., whereby the Durban Ranch would be paid for in $1,000 annual installments over a 10-year period. In addition, Verigin paid Popoff a $3,000 ‘commission’ for his troubles, with the Daily News aptly reporting that, Popoff had “made a substantial profit over the price he paid for the ranch.”
Verigin’s reasons for purchasing the ranch seem to be have been two-fold. First, he had already bought up all the available large blocks in the Kootenay, Columbia and Slocan valleys, such as those at Brilliant and Ootischenia, Champion Creek, Pass Creek and Crescent Valley. Going forward, he was limited to purchasing small ranches and farms on the upper reaches of the Kootenay and Slocan Rivers on which to settle his people.
Second, the CCUB had just purchased the jam factory at Nelson and formed the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works to operate it. As the Doukhobors’ earliest planted orchards were only beginning to bear and would not be fully bearing for several years, they required mature, producing orchards to supply their jam factory with fruit and the Bunker Ranch was “one of, if not the most highly developed, fruit ranches in the Kootenays” at the time.
At the time of the Doukhobor purchase, the ranch had 25 acres set out in 2,200 fruit trees, 1,500 of which were apple, including 360 that were already bearing; 60 pear, of which 25 were bearing; 100 plum in bearing, 500 cherry, of which 125 were bearing, and 40 peach, with eight bearing. About 13 acres was under cultivation for small fruits and vegetables, including one acre of strawberries and raspberries, and half an acre of gooseberries and currants.
Buildings on the property consisted of two small houses (one of two stories, measuring 12 by 23 feet and another of a single story, 10 by 23 feet). There was also a small packing shed, stable, large hay barn, pig and chicken house and root cellar. The buildings were collectively valued at about $1,500.
Verigin forthwith “arranged to put a large staff of men at work on the ranch” to manage the orchard and develop the remaining arable land. By 1913, the Daily News reported the Doukhobors had made “extensive improvements” in clearing and planting the property into orchard and small fruit.
The Doukhobors named the ranch Skalistoye (Скалистое),meaning “rocky” or “craggy” in Russian. The name reflected the fact that despite its rich, fruit-growing soil in places, a large portion of the ranch was barren and unusable for agricultural purposes.
In November 1917, Peter V. Verigin transferred his interest under the agreement for sale to the newly-incorporated CCUB with $3,000 owing. In September that same year, McCallum and Hill assigned their respective interests to John Allen Wetmore, former accountant of the Imperial Bank at Nelson, now Imperial Bank manager at Regina, in September 1917. In January 1920, after paying the balance owing to Wetmore, the CCUB received legal title to the Skalistoye property.
Typically, one or two Doukhobor families was stationed at Skalistoye at a time; often for a period of three or four years before they were rotated back to larger Doukhobor settlements and another family was brought in to take their place.
When the census was taken in June 1911, no Doukhobor families were yet permanently living on the ranch.
By the taking of the 1921 census (which referred to the property as “Quory” after its railway siding), the Famenoff (or Fominoff) family of 13, originally from Ootischenia, were living there. John and his wife Ahaphia, both 55, were listed along with their four sons and their families, namely Larion, 34, and wife Oprosia, 33, with sons Brilliant, 12, and Fred, 3; Wasil, 29, and wife Fedosia, 34, with daughters Mary, 10, and Polly 3; John, 25, and his son John, 5; and Savely, 16.
Savely married Florence (Fenya)Chigmaroff in Krestova in 1923. Their son, Cecil Fominoff of Winlaw, says the Chigmaroffs briefly joined the Fominoffs at Skalistoye before the families later moved to Porcupine, near Salmo, then to Claybrick, near Winlaw, where Cecil was born.
In 1924, the family of George J. (32) and Polly (30) Rozinkin, along with their son Peter (7) and daughter Lucy (4), were re-stationed from Brilliant to Skalistoye. They remained on the ranch for five years until 1929.
In August that year, the couple were swept up in a peace protest of several hundred former CCUB members from Thrums who marched past Skalistoye. George and Polly joined them, leaving their children at the ranch house while they trekked to Nelson. Their granddaughter Sharon Hoodicoff recalls that her mother Lucy and brother Peter had no idea if their parents would return and, out of a sense of survival, began planting potatoes, although it was the wrong season. Their aunt soon came and took them to their parents. Sadly, the family never returned to the ranch, being subsequently confined with 530 other protestors at Porto Rico, an abandoned CCUB lumber camp, until July 1930.
By late 1929, another family was place at Skalistoye, that of Fred A. (23) and Poly W. (20) Konkin and their son Phillip (1), formerly of Brilliant. The family tended the ranch for two years before leaving the CCUB and resettling in Thrums as Independent Doukhobors in 1931.
Life at Skalistoye was communal and revolved around the agricultural seasons. In spring, the men pruned the orchard fruit trees, while on the cultivated land, the women planted annual vegetables and small fruit where perennial berries were not already established. Throughout the summer, the men laboured to clear and break additional land on the property. By late summer, the entire family picked the fruit and berries grown at the ranch. These were shipped from the siding, initially to Nelson and after 1915 to Brilliant for processing in the CCUB jam factories. A portion of the vegetables grown were retained by the ranch families for their own use, with the bulk redistributed among other Doukhobor settlements as needed or else sold at the Doukhobor market in Nelson. Over late fall and winter, the men worked at the CCUB sawmills or else sought employment from local ranchers.
The farm also served as an important stopping place for Doukhobor wagon teamsters travelling from outlying settlements. Steve Hoodicoff says that his grandmother Mary S. Hoodicoff often mentioned how her parents Stepan and Marfa Samorodin of Koch Siding, near Slocan Park, and other Doukhobors would regularly stop at Skalistoye to rest, water and feed their horse teams before heading out to Nelson.
By January 1931, after 20 years of communal ownership and operation, the Doukhobors had more than doubled the amount of cleared land, with 30 acres in orchard at Skalistoye and another 30 acres under cultivation, with the remaining 65 acres of rocky outcropping used for pasture.
For all its rocks, the ranch generated significant produce and income for the CCUB during this period from the produce grown there, with the orchard yielding approximately 240 to 450 tons of fruit per year, and the cultivated land yielding about 2,000 cases of berries and 180 tons of potatoes and other vegetables per year.
As for the property itself, the Doukhobors do not appear to have made any substantial improvements or additions to the buildings over this period, their value depreciating from $1,500 in 1911 to $800 in 1931. An inventory conducted in the latter year listed “Two dwelling houses, one barn and other small buildings,” valued at $800. And despite significant improvements made to the land in terms of clearing, the property value increased only modestly after 20 years from $10,000 in 1911 to $15,450 in 1931.
However, by this time, Skalistoye no longer held the strategic and locational value to the CCUB it once had, with the organization owning over 3,500 acres of bearing orchard and another 10,000 acres of small fruit and vegetables at larger, more centralized tracts elsewhere in the Kootenay and Boundary. Accordingly, then-president Peter P. (Chistyakov) Verigin arranged to sell the isolated and remote ranch to Doukhobor John George Evin in March 1931.
Evin was a founding member of the board of directors of the CCUB following its federal incorporation in April 1917. By 1921, he relocated from Brilliant to the CCUB colony at Cowley, Alta. where he remained until at least 1926. However, by 1930, he left the CCUB to live and farm as an Independent Doukhobor at Blaine Lake, Sask.
Evin subsequently returned to the Kootenay with his family of five. However, if they lived at Skalistoye, it was exceedingly brief, as from 1933 on they were living at Slocan Park although they continued to own the property.
The East Half
What is known is that by September 1938, the West Kootenay Power and Light Company had its corporate eye on Evin’s property. At that time, it applied to the International Joint Commission to make certain river improvements upstream from its Corra Linn dam; namely dredging the Kootenay River at Grohman Narrows and excavating rock on the south side of the narrows at Evin’s property to improve river flow for flood control and hydroelectric power generation. The Commission green-lit the project in December 1938.
Within weeks, the West Kootenay Power and Light Company acquired the east half of Evin’s Lot 5180 consisting of 24.3 hectares (60 acres); however, it is unclear whether it did so by purchase or expropriation. Presumably, Evin would have been a willing seller, since the east half contained the rockiest portions of his ranch.
Between April and October 1939, the utility excavated some 500,000 cubic feet of rock, boulders and gravel from the shore of the east half of Lot 5180, along with nine million cubic feet dredged on either side of Narrows Island, thus successfully deepening and widening the narrows where Baillie-Grohman had failed 50 years earlier.
Once the river improvement project was completed, the east half of Lot 5180 apparently reverted to the Crown. Four years later, a reserve was placed over it on 9 Dec 1943, as part of an order-in-council securing all vacant Crown land in the province.
However the land wasn’t actually vacant. At some point prior to 1939, Evin rented out his Skalistoye ranch to William George Hadikinwho occupied it with his family. Owing to some mix-up, Hadikin continued to pay rent for the entire Lot 5180 after the east half was transferred to the West Kootenay Power and Light Company. This only became apparent in May 1946 after Evin died.
In order to validate his occupancy of the land and protect the improvements he had made, Hadikin applied to purchase the east half of Lot 5180, now subject to the Crown reserve. The government approved his purchase request on 8 May 1946 by order-in-council at a price of $5.50 per acre for a total of $330.
The reserve was cancelled but the property transfer wasn’t completed until 12 Jul 1947. William Hadikin died at his home on 10 Nov 1948 at age 73 and his wife Mary followed a year later. The property passed to their son Bill W. Hadikin in 1948, who in turn, sold it to Louis H. Skapple in 1952.
The Andersons & Creation of Grohman Narrows Provincial Park
In 1950, Donna and Wilbert Anderson bought the west half of Lot 5180 from the Evin estate and began farming, although the property was not actually transferred into their name until August 1954. By 1961, they also purchased the east half of Lot 5180 from Louis Skapple.
In 1966, the Department of Highways bought 19 acres of the Anderson Ranch as part of a project to reroute Highway 3A through the middle of the property. The purchase saved the government the trouble of building an underpass and fence for the Andersons’ cattle.
However, the Andersons only agreed to the sale on the condition that the northerly portion of the land, now cut off by the highway, be developed as a park. The government paid for the property but for some reason it was never properly conveyed. Officials tried to rectify this oversight in 1971, minus the conditions of the 1966 agreement. The Andersons refused.
Incidentally, one of the workers rerouting Highway 3A through the ranch in 1967 was John N. Derhousoff, who, according to his daughter Joyce Tucker, recalled that it was a former Doukhobor orchard. John approached Wilbert Anderson about picking the fruit from the orchard trees, now gone to wild. Anderson agreed, and for the next 15 years, the Derhousoff family went to Skalistoye, as they still called it, to pick fruit each fall.
Meanwhile, in 1971, the Department of Highways let the City of Nelson build a road through the north part of the property to access its new sewage treatment plant, built on adjoining Crown land. This violated the agreement with the Andersons, who still held title to the property. The access road was constructed directly through the original two-storey ranch house and outbuildings, resulting in their demolition.
In 1978, the City of Nelson asked the Andersons to let them use part of the property for an incinerator. They declined. The provincial government then tried to clear the way for the incinerator by establishing the entire 19 acres as a highway and obtaining title. But it became a moot point when Nelson residents defeated the proposed incinerator in a referendum.
The BC Ombudsman’s office investigated the matter, concluding the actions of the highways ministry were “unjust and improper.” The Ombudsman also helped find a solution that gave the City of Nelson continued access to their sewage treatment plant while converting the remaining property to a park.
Grohman Narrows Provincial Park was finally established on 21 May 1981 containing 13.23 hectares (33 acres), but a few months later, it was reduced to 10.23 hectares (25 acres). It may have simply been the correction of a typo, but the order-in-council didn’t provide a reason. The park consists of the northerly Lot 1 of District Lot 5180 and an adjacent unsurveyed mid-channel island, known as Narrows Island.
The park wasn’t formally dedicated until a year after its creation. The BC Ombudsman, Karl Friedmann, was present at the opening with other officials and the Andersons. Friedmann previously noted in his annual report: “Although the Parks Branch has decided to give the park a rather dry name for historical reasons, to me it will always be the Anderson Provincial Park.”
A monument in the park recognizes the Andersons, but otherwise it’s devoid of interpretive signage. No acknowledgement was made during the park process that Lot 5180 was a Doukhobor farm for over 40 years, although Donna Anderson briefly mentioned this fact in a family history she contributed to Granite Road Memories, a local history book published in 1985 and reprinted in 2020.
The Andersons retained the southerly portion of the property, Lot A of District Lot 5180, containing 46.3 hectares (114.41 acres) for several more decades. Today, it is the site of a mini-storage facility and surplus store development, which stand across the highway from the park.
Over the course of the past half-century, subdivision, highway construction and new development have made it difficult to imagine what the Skalistoye ranch originally looked like in full bloom. However, vestiges are still visible today to those who look for it. The foundations of the one-storey ranch house lie just south of the head of the loop trail at the parking lot. The barn foundations can be found on the lakeside of the trail, half-way between the parking lot and the road to the sewage treatment plant. A row of fruit trees stand along the sewage treatment plant access road itself, while others can be found near the mini-storage facility. These, and the memories held by descendants of the ranch families, all bear witness to its communal fruit-growing past.
Special thanks to Stan Sherstobitoff, Sharon Hoodicoff, Valentina Loukianoff, Galena Hadikin, Steve Hoodicoff, Cecil Fominoff, Bill W. Evin, Vera Maloff, Sierra Dante and Steve Cleary for sharing their information and photographs.
 Mabel E. Jordon, “The Kootenay Reclamation and Colonization Scheme and William Adolph Baillie-Grohman” in British Columbia Historical Quarterly, (Vol XX, Nos. 3 and 4, July-October 1956) at 187-220.
The Daily News (Nelson), 28 Jul 1910 reported that Granite rancher Frank Phillips “brought in a number of Indian curious … He found them in an Indian mound which is supposed to have been an old Indian battle ground …”
First Nations’ Ethnography and Ethnohistory in British Columbia’s Lower Kootenay/Columbia Hydropower Region, Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy (Castlegar: Columbia Power Corporation, 2000) at 229-30.
 The property was legally described as “50 acres on the left bank at the Narrows”: Jordon, supra, note 1; “Lease: Kootenay Reclamation and Colonization,” British Columbia Sessional Papers, 1887, at 315-32. See also International Kootenay Lake Board of Control, 2005 Annual Report to the International Joint Commission (Vancouver, 2005) at 6.
 Agreement for Sale dated 7 April 1911 between Ernest A. McCallum, Walter H.A. Hill and Edgar D. McCallum and Kanstantan (sic) Popoff appended to Certificate of Title 7275-I dated 17 April 1920; The Daily News (Nelson), 10 Apr 1911. The realtors went on to become two of the most successful businessmen and real estate developers in Regina’s history: https://tinyurl.com/fwjbv4a9.
 Assignment of Agreement for Sale dated 15 April 1911 between Kanstantan (sic) Popoff and Peter Verigin appended to Certificate of Title 7275-I dated 17 April 1920; “Quick profits in Bunker ranch,” The Daily News (Nelson), 17 Apr 1911.
 Certificate of Title 7275-I dated 17 April 1920.
 1921 Canada census, viewed at https://tinyurl.com/yxrv28hf and https://tinyurl.com/y6997qcv. Note Brilliant Fominoff was reportedly the first Doukhobor child born in BC. When leader Peter V. Verigin heard of his birth, he visited, offered a blessing, and asked to name the newborn Brilliant. In his late teens, Brilliant contracted tuberculosis and at Verigin’s recommendation, he went to Arizona for treatment, dying there in 1928 age 19: ISKRA, 3 Mar 2008.
 Cecil Fominoff, interview with Greg Nesteroff, 26 Mar 2020.
 Sharon Hoodicoff, interview with Jonathan Kalmakoff, 3 Apr 2021.
Although the historical Doukhobor connection to Cowley and Lundbreck, Alberta is well known, few would associate them with the Crowsnest Pass. Yet for decades in the Teens, Twenties and Thirties, the Pass was an important market for Doukhobor communally-grown field and garden products. And for a brief time, they even established a commercial retail outlet there. This article traces the forgotten history of the Doukhobor trading store in Blairmore.
Beginning in 1915, the Doukhobor enterprise known as the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (‘CCUB’) purchased land near Cowley and Lundbreck for a new agricultural colony. Within several years, it acquired over 14,000 acres of some of the best grain-growing and grazing land in the foothills, on which over 250 Doukhobors established a dozen settlements.
The Russian-speaking settlers lived communally. All goods and property were held in common, all fieldwork and animal husbandry was done jointly and all income was deposited in a central treasury. They did not receive wages for their labour, but were provided with all basic necessities by the organization. Sober-minded, industrious and simple-living, they embodied their motto of ‘Toil and Peaceful Life.’
To bring their land to peak production, the Doukhobors practiced irrigation and worked it with heavy machinery, running six steam engines. To store their grain, they built a 35,000-bushel grain elevator at Lundbreck in 1915 and a 70,000-bushel elevator at Cowley in 1916, along with large warehouses at each point for their supplies. And in 1922, they moved the Pincher Creek flour mill to Lundbreck to commercially mill wheat.
In addition to grain-growing, the CCUB raised several hundred head each of draft working horses, shorthorn dairy cattle and wool-bearing sheep. Being strict vegetarians, they did not raise animals for meat. For livestock feed, they produced large quantities of hay and forage crops. And they grew huge truck gardens of assorted vegetables.
The Doukhobors kept some farm products for their own consumption and shipped railcar loads to CCUB settlements in B.C. in exchange for fresh fruit, jams and other goods produced there. Surplus grain was marketed by rail. Surplus feed, flour and vegetables were sold locally or else conveyed by wagon-load up the Crowsnest Pass, where they found a ready market at high prices.
Indeed, the Pass trade proved lucrative enough that in 1924, the Doukhobors endeavored to establish a permanent commercial presence there.
In February 1924, the CCUB purchased the former Poggiali store premises in Blairmore from realtor and insurance agent Chrystom J. Tompkins and CPR agent James J. Murray of Frank. The $4,000.00 purchase was made under an agreement for sale whereby payment was made in three yearly installments, with title transferring to the purchasers upon payment in full.
The premises (Lots 10, 11 and Pt A of Block 2) was located at the east end of Blairmore on Victoria Street (now 20th Avenue), the town’s main thoroughfare, near the corner of 13th Avenue (now 135th Street) at the present site of 13601 and 13609 20th Avenue.
The store (Lot 10) was of a typical boomtown design – a two-story, rectangular 35 x 45 foot wood-frame structure with whitewashed clapboard exterior and a rectilinear false façade attached to a gable roof to given an impression of a larger size from the street. The façade had large display windows and a bracketed cornice. The main floor housed the store and upper floor contained office/living quarters.
It was built in 1910 or early 1911 by Italian immigrants Antonio and Angelina Poggiali who ran a grocery and dry goods store there (as part of a chain of three stores in Blairmore, Bellevue and Frank) in conjunction with their next door residence/rooming house until May 1922, when they sold out to Tompkins and Murray and moved to the Bronx, New York.
A 20 x 20 foot post-frame barn with hip roof (Lot 11) and a 20 x 25 foot log stable with hip roof (Lot A) at the rear of the property housed up to four horses used to pull the store drays (low, flat delivery wagons without sides used to haul freight).
The CCUB assigned Nicholas J. Verigin (1866-1950) to manage the new store, assisted by his son-in-law Alex M. Salekin (1885-1957). A nephew of Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin, Nicholas was regarded for his integrity and knowledge of basic business principles. Alex, a kucher (‘coachman’) for the Doukhobor leader when he visited the locality, shared these qualities and also possessed basic fluency in English. Relocating from Lundbreck, they took up residence above the store with their combined family of eight.
Reporting to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood of Alberta (the CCUB’s Alberta subsidiary) branch office in Cowley, the men were responsible for all aspects of store inventory management and sales.
When a freight load of Doukhobor products arrived at the Canadian Pacific Railway station in Blairmore from Cowley and Lundbreck, the men drove the store drays and teams down Victoria Street to the depot, where they transferred sacks, boxes, bales and pallets from the standing railcar to the station platform, and from the platform to the dray. It sometimes took several wagon-loads to haul away the entire shipment.
The stock was then hauled back to the store, unloaded and stored until needed. In this regard, Verigin and Salekin erected a one-story 52 x 45 foot wood-frame warehouse on a concrete slab foundation with flat slanted roof (Lot 11) adjoining the east side of the store in mid-1924 using lumber shipped from the CCUB’s Kootenay sawmills. Samples of merchandise were prominently displayed in the store windows.
The store primarily sold local communally-produced flour (100 lb sacks), livestock feed (baled grass, alfalfa and clover and 100 lb sacks of oats) and chicken feed (100 lb sacks of cracked/broken grains, bran and other mill screenings). It also offered bagged wool as well as fresh eggs, butter, cheese and cream by the pound, and a wide array of seasonal fresh vegetables including potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, carrots and cucumbers.
In addition to field and garden products produced by the CCUB at Cowley and Lundbreck, the store brought in seasonal fresh fruit (apples, pears, plums, peaches and cherries) grown in the CCUB orchards in the Kootenays along with the famous ‘K.C. Brand’ jams produced at the CCUB jam factory in Brilliant. Communally-milled lumber, poles, shingles and fence posts from the Kootenays were likely sold on order.
The Doukhobors sold goods at prevailing local prices. However, its costs were markedly lower than other retailers since the CCUB produced all its own goods and used unpaid communal labour at all stages of the supply chain without the intervention of middlemen or commission agents. Its only external cost was for rail freight, which all local merchants bore. The store thus earned a higher profit margin than its local competitors.
The Doukhobors did not advertise in the local Blairmore Enterprise newspaper, relying instead on established word of mouth, particularly among Ukrainian, Polish, Czech and other immigrant coal miners and laborers. Based out of the store, Verigin and Salekin sold and delivered dray loads of goods throughout Blairmore and surrounding towns within a 3-5 mile radius, such as Sentinel, Coleman, Lille, Hillcrest, Frank, Bellevue and Maple Leaf.
In addition to selling farm products, the Doukhobors offered cartage services, hauling freight by wagon for hire. For instance, Veregin and Salekin were engaged to haul rock, cement and supplies by local Italian contractor H.J. Pozzi for the cribbing of Lyon (now Blairmore) Creek near 9th Avenue (now 131st Street) between March 1924 and February 1925, earning $450.00.
Paul N. Potapoff (1885-1958), branch manager of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood of Alberta in Cowley, made periodic visits to Blairmore to oversee and inspect the store operation, examine the ledger and account books and collect the cash revenue held in the office strong box.
The Verigin and Salekin family lived the same simple life as other members of the CCUB. They were issued clothes (shoes, boots, etc.), foodstuffs (flour, salt, grain etc.) and provisions in exchange for living and working at the store. Their days were spent in communal labour with few opportunities for leisure.
Nikolai’s wife Anastasia and their daughter, Alex’s wife Mary, performed all domestic tasks including cooking, baking, housecleaning, washing, sewing and mending clothes and child-rearing. They milked the milk cow allotted to the family and grew a vegetable garden behind the store for their own use.
Upon their arrival in town, the youngest Verigin child Anastasia attended the Blairmore Public School. The Salekin children followed upon reaching school age. On enrollment, the Doukhobor children spoke only Russian, but over the course of the year, readily acquired English and excelled at their studies.
In terms of spiritual life, the family held prayer meetings (moleniye) on Sunday mornings in their living quarters, conducted in the Russian language. The afternoon was spent in group singing of hymns and folk songs or visiting Doukhobor friends and family in from Cowley and Lundbreck, followed by Sunday dinner.
After a successful first year, the Doukhobor store in Blairmore seemed poised to continue business operations into the foreseeable future, had it not been for a series of events that left the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood devastated and divided.
Following the death of Peter V. Verigin in a mysterious train explosion at Farron, B.C. in October 1924, the CCUB was plunged into grief over the loss of their leader. Members withdrew children from public schools for a four-month period of mourning. By December, a split arose over succession. The minority ‘Leaders’ group comprised of CCUB officials and Veregin’s family members backed his niece Anastasia Holuboff and the status quo; while the majority rank and file ‘Working Brothers’ chose his son Peter in Russia and called to replace the managerial elite with their own candidates, or at least someone different from those in charge.
Amidst this upheaval, Nicholas J. Verigin found himself at odds with the CCUB majority on several fronts. He had continued to let his children attend public school in Blairmore. As a Verigin family member, he was presumed by default to support Holuboff as successor. And as a member of the ‘Leaders’ group who held a good job in the CCUB, he was now viewed as a privileged apparatchik (‘functionary’) and nepotee living on the shoulders of the working Doukhobors.
Eviction from Community
Consequently, within weeks of the election of a ‘Working Brother’ to the Cowley branch directors in January 1925, the Verigin and Salekin family in Blairmore ceased receiving supplies and rations from the CCUB, their milking cow sent to winter in Cowley was not returned to them, they were relieved of their posts at the store, and were allegedly advised they were no longer members of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood.
In February 1925, Community officials printed a notice of disavowal of debt in the Blairmore Enterprise and Lethbridge Herald: “The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood of Alberta, Limited, wish to state that they will not be responsible for any debts incurred by Aleck Seliken and Nick Veregin, who were running our store in Blairmore. All business may be transacted care of head office, Cowley. Dated at Cowley, Alberta, this 16th day of February, 1925.”
What was expected to happen next was that the Verigin and Salekin family would vacate the store to be replaced by another Doukhobor family who would carry on the business on behalf of the CCUB. However, Nicholas stood his ground and refused to leave, claiming he was entitled to the property as his share of the communal organization. A stalemate ensued for the rest of 1925.
In the interim, the CCUB at Cowley and Lundbreck continued to sell field and garden products throughout the Pass by the wagonload. At the same time, the CCUB Grand Forks branch opened a Doukhobor fruit store in Cranbook on the other side of the Pass in 1925-1926.
By 1926, local CCUB officials decided on a new tack. Upon obtaining legal title to the store property in February, they purported to sell it to land surveyor John D. Anderson of Trail, B.C. by agreement for sale in April. Anderson subsequently initiated eviction proceedings against the Doukhobor ‘squatters’.
By then, Nicholas had more family living on the property. At the taking of the Census of Prairie Provinces in June 1926, the occupants were: Nicholas, 60, wife Mabel (Anastasia), 52, and daughter Mabel (Anastasia), 15; their daughter Mary, 25, husband Alex Salekin, 26, and sons Pete, 5, Wasyl, 4, and Alexander, 5 months; and their other daughter Helen (Hanya), 35, husband Kuzma W. Glookoff, 36, and daughter Mabel (Anastasia), 16. Listed on the same lot in a different building was their niece Vera, husband Jack J. Smoroden, both 34, and children John, 15, Jack, 6, and Vera, 4.
Faced with eviction, Nicholas doubled down on his ownership claim, producing a 1924 letter from his uncle, the late Peter V. Verigin, purportedly deeding him the premises. This unexpected move frustrated not only the eviction action but Anderson’s purchase, with title reverting to the CCUB in October 1926.
Nicholas then went on the offensive.
In January 1927, Nicholas launched a suit in the Supreme Court of Alberta against the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood alleging that he was unlawfully expelled from it because he educated his children according to the laws of Canada and claiming $21,466.00 as recompense for 26 years of labour performed for the organization, $5,000.00 damages and an order establishing his right to the Blairmore property.
The suit was an important test case, for if successful, it would set a major precedent and make it possible for other members to secede from the CCUB with significant financial ramifications to the organization. However, on cross-examination, CCUB officials rebutted the claims by contending they had always counseled that the children be sent to public schools when possible; that Verigin was mistaken in his belief that he was expelled; that he was still a member with full rights; and that he would be given a comfortable living for the rest of his life. After a 3-day trial in June 1927, the case was dismissed on the basis that Verigin failed to prove he was in fact expelled.
Nicholas remained undeterred. In mid-September 1927, he filed a formal appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal alleging that, irrespective of whether he was evicted, the CCUB, by organizing itself in such a way that individual member shareholders were debarred from obtaining their share of the organization’s assets, and by removing its children from public education, was contrary to public policy.
If Verigin’s initial lawsuit threatened to pave the way for member succession from the CCUB, his appeal threatened the communal organization’s very existence, since for the first time in the history of Canadian courts, it was alleged that the formation of community along the lines of the Doukhobors’ was illegal.
Settlement & Transfer to Nicholas Verigin
Only days before the appeal was to be heard, Nicholas’ first cousin, Peter P. ‘Chistyakov’ Verigin, arrived in Calgary, Alberta from Russia to assume leadership of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood in Canada. Recognizing the tremendous risk to the organization posed by the appeal, the new leader promptly and quietly settled the matter out of court in October 1927 by agreeing to transfer the Blairmore property to Nicholas in exchange for a withdrawal of the appeal.
Following these somewhat dramatic events, Nicholas J. Verigin lived at the property with his family for another 4 years. By September 1931, Nicholas, now widowed, sold the property by agreement for sale and moved to Pincher Creek with son-in-law Alex M. Salekin and family, where they farmed as Independent Doukhobors.
Thus ended the brief but unique and eventful Doukhobor communal tenure in Blairmore.
Epilogue: Subsequent Owners
Between September 1931 and March 1936, the premises was an auto-wrecking business owned by Silva Sicotte. From December 1937 to August 1953, it operated as ‘East End Service Garage’ run by J.L. ‘Pat’ McLeod. On or around August 1953, the buildings, now in rough condition, were demolished, leaving only the warehouse concrete foundation remaining until at least 1973.
 For general information about Doukhobor settlement in Alberta, see: John W. Friesen and Michael M. Verigin, The Community Doukhobors: A People in Transition (Ottawa: Borealis Press, 1996) at 47-48, 106-109; Barry Potyondi, Where the Rivers Meet, A History of the Upper Oldman River Basin to 1939 (Lethbridge: Robins Southern Printing, 1990) at 163-166, 208-209; Margaret Salekin, “Doukhobor History of the Lundbreck-Cowley Area of Alberta” in ISKRA Nos. 2034-2036 (2010) and Doukhobor Heritage: https://tinyurl.com/yc6226an; Koozma J. Tarasoff, Plakun Trava: The Doukhobors (Mir Publication Society, 1982) at 113.
List of licensed elevators and warehouses in the Western Grain Inspection Division (Ottawa: Dept. of Trade and Commerce, 1915/1916); F.W. Godsal, ‘The Mail Bag’, The Grain Growers’ Guide, May 17, 1916.
List of licensed elevators and warehouses in the Western Grain Inspection Division (Ottawa: Dept. of Trade and Commerce, 1916/1917); Grain and Farm Service Centers. c. 1, v. 37, Jul-Dec 1916; Blairmore Enterprise, September 29, 1916; Bellevue Times, September 29, 1916; Calgary Herald, October 2, 1916.
Lethbridge Herald, April 22, 1922 and May 11, 1922; Blairmore Enterprise, September 13, 1923, October 25, 1923 and May 22, 1924; Irma Times, May 4, 1923; Redcliff Review, May 10, 1923; American Miller and Processor, Volume 28, 1923.
 For CCUB Alberta livestock statistics, see: Blairmore Enterprise, April 28, 1921; Lethbridge Herald, March 23 and 27, 1922, November 5, 1926 and September 4, 1928; Snesarev, V.N., The Doukhobors in British Columbia (University of British Columbia, Department of Agriculture, 1931), Appendix 1; Liuba Verigin, “The Alberta Doukhobors”, an unpublished paper prepared for the Institute of Doukhobor Studies, Castlegar, B.C., April 21, 1976.
Lethbridge Telegram, March 1, 1917; Calgary Herald, February 10, 1920; Lethbridge Herald, November 5, 1926 and May 12, 1932; Blairmore Enterprise, May 5, 1927; Potyondi, supra, note 1 at 165.
Blairmore Enterprise, February 7, 1924; Transfer of Title dated February 3, 1926 from Chrystostom J. Tompkins and James Johnston Murray to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood of Alberta Limited re: Lots 10 and 11 in Block 2 and the most southerly 62 feet of Lot A in Block 2, Plan 2897R Blairmore, and registered as No. 4860 DI on February 13, 1926, with new Certificate of Title No. 34E dated February 13, 1926 issued in the name of the latter party.
Ibid. According to the newspaper account, the Community leased the property from Tomkins and Murray in February 1924. However, the transfer documents show that when the Community obtained title in February 1926, it paid $1,500.00 against the property, then valued at $4,000.00. This indicates an ‘agreement for sale’ arrangement, whereby the purchaser takes immediate possession of a property, which is paid for by installments, while the seller retains title as security until payment in full is received. Agreements for sale were a very common means of purchasing property in Western Canada in the Teens and Twenties.
Blairmore, Alberta Fire Insurance Map (Winnipeg: Western Canadian Fire Underwriter’s Association; October 1925, Revised September 1931). Note the 1931 version of the map has a patch glued over Lots 10-11 of Block 2; however, an analysis of the map sheet under light confirmed that all buildings shown on the 1931 patch appeared in the original 1925 sheet; the only difference being that the words “Auto Wrecking” superimposed on the buildings in 1931 originally read “Flour and Feed” in 1925: Peter Peller, Spatial and Numeric Data Services, University of Calgary Archives, correspondence with the writer, October 27, 2020.
 In 1906, Italian immigrants Antonio and Angelina Poggiali and family resettled from New York City to Blairmore, Alberta. In September 1909, they purchased Lots 8-11 of Block 2 at the east end of town: C. of T. No. KM-218, September 7, 1909. By mid-1911, they built two near-identical rectangular two-storey wood-frame structures: the family residence (main floor) and 9-room rooming house (upper floor) on Lot 8; and a grocery store (main floor) with residential space (upper floor) on Lot 10: 1911 Canada Census, District 3, Dub-District 5, p. 32; Henderson’s Alberta Gazetteer and Directory for 1911, p. 89. In October 1913, Antonio expanded the A. Poggiali & Co. retail grocery business, hiring contractor H.J. Pozzi to build 2 new brick stores at Bellevue and Coleman: Blairmore Enterprise, October 17, 1913. However, the expansion soon led to financial difficulty. By April 1914, he held a big cash sale at all three stores, evidently to pay off creditors: Bellevue Times, April 17, 1914. In May 1914, the Canadian Credit Men’s Trust Association seized $6,700 of stock at the 3 stores and sold it by tender: Bellevue Times, May 1, 8, 15, 1914. The same month, Antonio made an assignment of the rest of his estate to creditors: Bellevue Times, May 15 and October 16, 1914. Evidently, Antonio lost the Coleman and Bellevue stores; however, the store in Blairmore (in Angelina’s name) continued to operate: Henderson’s Alberta Gazetteer and Directory for 1914, p. 197: 1916 Census of Prairie Provinces, District 39, Sub-District 10, p. 8. In fall 1915, the Lot 8 residence was stripped and remodeled, removing the rooming quarters and façade: Blairmore Enterprise, July 2, October 1, November 5, 1915. Antonio was operating the Lot 10 store and living at the Lot 8 residence in June 1921: 1921 Canada Census, District 8, Sub-District 28, p. 15. In May 1922, the Poggialis sold the property to Tompkins and Murray and moved to New York: C. of T. No. 27-O-157, May 4, 1922.
Blairmore, Alberta Fire insurance Map, supra, note 9.
 Margaret Salekin, correspondence with the writer, May 16, 2022.
 In Transfer of Title dated January 9, 1930 from the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood of Alberta Ltd to Nicholas J. Verigin re: Lots 10 and 11 in Block 2 and the most southerly 62 feet of Lot A in Block 2, Plan 2897R Blairmore, and registered as No. 3097EE on January 15, 1920, February 13, 1926, Veregin attested to building the warehouse. As the warehouse appears in the October 1925 version of the Blairmore, Alberta Fire insurance Map, supra, note 9 superimposed with the words “Flour and Feed” over it, it was most likely constructed in 1924 during the operation of the trading store.
 A common complaint by English Canadian merchants in Western Canadian towns were Doukhobors sold retail goods was that the Doukhobors’ large pool of unpaid labour enabled them to undercut the local market by selling goods for less than local merchants could afford to; however, research by the writer indicates that the Doukhobors routinely sold goods at prevailing rates, relying instead upon their greater profit margins for the same prices.
Blairmore Enterprise, May 27, 1926; see also the March 6, 13 and 20, April 17, June 26, July 10, December 4, 1924 and January 1, February 19, 1925 editions.
 See for example Blairmore Enterprise, January 1, 1925.
 Doukhobors belonging to the Community had long been hesitant of public education, fearing it would lead their children away from communal life and their pacifist religious ideals. In the two years prior to Peter V. Verigin’s death, fanatics within the Community burned 8 schools to the ground in British Columbia: The Province, June 1 and 4, 1923; Vancouver Sun, August 12, 1923, April 1, 1924; Vancouver Daily World, June 30, 1923; Grand Forks Gazette, November 23, 1923. Upon his death, Community members withdrew their children from public schools altogether, ostensibly for a period of mourning, until May 1925: Grand Forks Gazette, March 6, 1925; The Province, April 8, 1925; Regina Leader-Post, June 23, 1927. For a comprehensive treatment of Doukhobor schooling see: William Janzen, Limits on Liberty, The Experience of Mennonite, Hutterite and Doukhobor Communities in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990).
Winnipeg Tribune, December 4, 1924; Nelson Daily News, December 8, 1924, March 4, 14 and 19, 1925; Winnipeg Free Press, December 11, 1924; Victoria Daily Times, December 17, 1924; Lethbridge Herald, January 8, 1925; The Province, March 18, 1925; Blairmore Enterprise, April 2, 1925; Times Colonist, March 28, 1925.
 On January 3, 1925, the appeal of the Doukhobor workers of the Cowley branch of the Community was met by the placing of one of their members, John P. Bojey, on the board of directors: Lethbridge Herald, January 8, 1925.
Lethbridge Herald, February 18, 1927. Nicholas J. Verigin’s sacking from the Community was by no means an isolated case. In the same period, other Community managers belonging to the ‘Leader’ group were relieved of their positions, including Nicholas’s brother Peter J. Verigin in Veregin, Saskatchewan, his cousin Larion W. Verigin (another nephew of the late leader) in Brilliant, and Wasyl W. Lazareff in Trail, British Columbia: The Province, March 14, 1925; The Leader-Post, June 23, 1927.
Blairmore Enterprise, February 19, 1925; Lethbridge Herald, February 14, 1925.
Lethbridge Herald, January 25, 1927; Blairmore Enterprise, January 27, 1927.
Supra, note 6. There is no evidence that the Blairmore store continued to sell CCUB products after February 1925.
 John Drummond Anderson was no stranger to the Doukhobor Community. In 1909, he was hired by the government to survey the road built by the Doukhobors connecting Pass Creek to Brilliant; between 1909-1911, he hired several community members to clear land on his ranch, 7 miles north of Trail on the Columbia River at Sullivan and Murphy Creek; and during the same period he sold the Doukhobor Community fruit from his orchard ranch for their jam factory: Royal Commission Into All Matters Pertaining to the Doukhobor Sect in British Columbia, Transcription of Proceedings, Trail, B.C. Sept 3, 1912 at 148-150; BC Archives GR-0793. In 1915, Anderson sold the Doukhobor Society 525 acres of land south of Castlegar: Nelson Daily News, 1915.02.15. And in 1925, he surveyed the Veregin Subdivision in West Trail for the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood: ‘Plan of Subdivision of Part of Sawmill Block, Reserve, Part of Block 16, Map 465 & Map 465A. With respect to the Blairmore property, it was transferred to Anderson by Transfer of Title dated March 31, 1926 from the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood of Alberta, Limited to John Drummond Anderson re: Lots 10 and 11 in Block 2 and the most southerly 62 feet of Lot A in Block 2, Plan 2897R Blairmore, and registered as No. 4781 on April 13, 1926, with new Certificate of Title No. 34D dated April 13, 1926 issued in the name of the latter party.
1926 Census of Prairie Provinces, Alberta, Division 49, Sub-Division 11, p. 17.
Lethbridge Herald, January 25 and April 19, 1927; Blairmore Enterprise, January 27, 1927.
 Transfer of Title dated October 1, 1926 from John Drummond Anderson to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood of Alberta, Limited re: Lots 10 and 11 in Block 2 and the most southerly 62 feet of Lot A in Block 2, Plan 2897R Blairmore, and registered as No. 6757 on December 27, 1926, with new Certificate of Title No. 35F dated December 27, 1926 issued in the name of the latter party.
Calgary Herald, January 25, 1927; Calgary Albertan, January 25, 1927; Winnipeg Tribune, January 26, 1927; Lethbridge Herald, January 25 and 27, February 18 and April 19, 1927; Blairmore Enterprise, January 27, February 3 and 17 and April 21, 1927.
The Province, June 22 and 23, 1927; Regina Leader-Post, June 22, 23 and 27, 1927; Montreal Gazette, June 22 and 23, 1927; Edmonton Journal, June 22, 23 and 24, 1927; The Montreal Daily Star, June 22, 1927; Calgary Albertan, June 23, 1927; Blairmore Enterprise, June 23, 1927.
Edmonton Journal, September 14, 1927; Calgary Herald, September 14, 1927; Regina Leader-Post, September 14, 1927; Montreal Gazette, September 14, 1927; Grand Forks Gazette, September 14, 1927.
 Upon arriving in Calgary from Moscow, Peter P. Verigin met with a number of Doukhobor delegates from the Community as well as ex-community members, his first cousins Peter J. Verigin and Larion W. Verigin: Calgary Herald, October 6 and 12, 1927; Calgary Alberta, October 7, 1927; Edmonton Journal, October 7 and 10, 1927;
Calgary Herald, October 13, 1927; Blairmore Enterprise, October 20, 1927. Although Nicholas J. Verigin’s appeal was settled in October 1927 and he continued to reside at the Blairmore store in the interim, it was two years before the property was legally transferred into his name: Transfer of Title dated January 9, 1930 from the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood of Alberta Limited to Nicholas J. Verigin re: Lots 10 and 11 in Block 2 and the most southerly 62 feet of Lot A in Block 2, Plan 2897R Blairmore, and registered as No. 3097 on January 15, 1930, with new Certificate of Title No. 42C dated January 15, 1930 issued in the name of the latter party.
 Nicholas J. Verigin’s wife Mabel (Anastasia) died in Blairmore in October 1930 after a short illness: Blairmore Enterprise, October 16, 1930.
 Legal title to the property passed from Nicholas J. Verigin to Silva Sicotte by Transfer dated November 23, 1932 and registered as No. 2969 on November 29, 1932, with new Certificate of Title No. 47E dated November 29, 1932 issued to the latter. Evidently, the purchase was made under a prior agreement for sale as the words “Auto Wrecking” were already superimposed on the buildings in the September 1931 Blairmore, Alberta Fire insurance Map: supra, note 9. As only $1,000.00 of the property value of $3,300.00 was paid on transfer, the agreement for sale presumably commenced around September 1931.
 From December 1937 to August 1953, the property was held by a succession of legal owners: Certificate of Title No. 52H dated December 13, 1937 issued to Charles Robert Luchia; Certificate of Title No. 61A dated April 2, 1943 issued to Arctic Oil Sales Limited; Certificate of Title No. 68H dated October 2, 1945 issued to Gas & Oil Products Limited; and Certificate of Title 94Z dated August 29, 1953 issued to Anglo American Exploration Ltd. However, the premises was continuously operated during this period as ‘East End Services’ by proprietor J.L. ‘Pat’ McLeod, presumably under lease: Blairmore Enterprise, December 19, 1941, December 18, 1942, June1 and 15, 1945; Lethbridge Herald, August 22, 1938, June 15, 1940, August 9, 1950 and February 22, 1952.
 According to Keith Sprlak, a lifetime resident of Blairmore who assumed ownership of the property in June 1973, there were no structures on the property (other than a concrete pad where the warehouse once stood) since the mid-1950s. Given that the last newspaper reference to East End Services dates to February 1952, it is reasonable to presume that the buildings were demolished either immediately prior or after the property changed hands in August 1953: Keith Sprlak, Blairmore, AB, interview with the writer, April 21, 2022.
In 1973, after decades of hobby fruit-growing and breeding, Doukhobor farmer Wasil C. Fofonoff of Buchanan, Saskatchewan bred the hardy and delicious plum variety that bears his name and which today is a staple variety in orchards and gardens throughout the Prairies. Reproduced by permission from The Canora Courier, April 13, 1983.
Agriculturally speaking, prairie pride has traditionally centred around the rolling fields of wheat, barley and oats which have made this province internationally known as the Breadbasket of the World. But for Wasil C. Fofonoff of the Buchanan district, distinction arrived about 20 years after his lifelong hobby of fruit growing resulted in the origin and development of a prairie plum which bears his name.
Fofonoff literally reaped the fruits of his labours in the 1960’s, when after years of experimentation with many varieties of fruit, he noticed and nurtured a small, chance seedling in his orchard. “I noticed the differences right away – its qualities were special in comparison to the range of plums we have available for growth in Saskatchewan,” he said.
Traditionally, two strains of plums are grown successfully in this area; the Dandy and the Pembina, Fofonoff explained. Although the Dandy is fairly productive and hardy, if eaten off the tree, the flavour can best be described as “fair,” he said. And when processed, the flavour is “hardly that fair.” The Pembina, on the other hand, although of very high quality, is suitable for only the southerly zones of this province. Thus, for about 75 per cent of the growing area of Saskatchewan, it is unsuitable.
The Fofonoff plum has managed to overcome these problems. The fruit is very flavourful, Fofonoff said. “If a basket of the fruit is taken into a room and then removed later, an occupant of the room would continue to smell its perfumed fragrance. Also, the fruit is of very high quality eaten off the tree.”
He went on to describe the plum as very hardy for this area; an early ripener and of a fairly good quality when cooked.
Originated by Accident
As so often happens, the Fofonoff plum came about almost as an accident. Its originator compared it with the Macintosh apple, a strain of which has achieved world popularity and which also began as a chance seedling.
Chance seedlings, a freak of nature, cannot be duplicated, and thus it is vital that they be recognized very early in their development and nurtured. Even after the plum tree has grown, it took between five to seven years before it became commercially available, Fofonoff explained.
The plum had to undergo a series of intensive tests, which were supervised by the University of Saskatchewan, with whom Fofonoff has cooperated in many areas of experimentation of fruit growing. The plant was tested for its hardiness, its productivity, its ripening characteristics and most important, its quality. In determining its quality, researchers discovered that the plum was a good keeper, was of a firm flesh, a freestone and had very tender skin.
After testing, the plum was finally released to the Lakeshore Tree Farm Nurseries at Saskatoon, for propagation under the instruction of D.K. Robinson. Now available through the Brandon Nurseries, the plum is also propagated in several other nurseries in the west.
Appreciation for Fofonoff’s achievement, however, is purely in token form. Although he has been recognized with certificates and other honours, all his work with fruit growing has been purely on a volunteer basis. And even though the fruit he developed is now available for consumer use, Fofonoff will not see a penny of the profits.
“We tried to obtain a patent for royalties for the plum from Ottawa,” he said, “and were flatly refused. The release of a new plant is not subject to royalties for origination in this country, although in Europe, originators are reimbursed.”
But, he’s quick to point out, he is “not in it for the money. There is a certain pride one takes in this sort of achievement. All a plant breeder can hope for is the acclaim and recognition from his fellow growers and the research staff involved. To see the goodness of the fruit available to the public is reward enough.”
Fofonoff is one of a handful of independent plant breeders who work in conjunction with the University of Saskatchewan. Most experimentation is done within test orchards on the grounds of the university, but in a few cases, the college of agriculture recruits the assistance of a person such as Fofonoff, and works closely on research with them. The University of Saskatchewan has been recognized as the western centre for this type of research and Fofonoff was pleased to co-operate with it when the partnership began in the 1960’s.
Started Growing Fruit as Hobby in 1939
He began growing fruit as a hobby when he started farming in 1939. The small-scale orchard, as it began, now includes a large range of pears, several varieties of crab apples and standard apples, “quite a range” of plums, cherry hybrids and related red sour cherries and his latest project, apricots.
His colleagues at the university have included Dr. Nelson and the late D.R. Robinson. “It is all scientific work,” he said. “The university staff regularly visit my orchard, check it under strict controls and make sure that the work is well recorded. However, scientific knowledge on its own is not enough. You have to have the green thumb, or it just won’t work,” he acknowledged.
When asked if his current work with apricots will reach the same acclaim as did his plum, Fofonoff replied that the chances were “one in a million”. “It (the chance seedling) all depends on nature. There’s very little a person can do, as the superior qualities are born in nature. The trick is not to ignore it – to quickly spot it and develop it.”
Studies Dormancy of Apricot Seed
Fofonoff has been working on breaking the dormancy of the apricot seed – an intricate and painstaking procedure. Dormancy must be broken so that the plants will germinate in the spring and the process is accomplished in the medium of sand, which is placed in a can that has holes bored in its bottom in order to let out excess moisture. The container is placed in a cool place, such as a basement and then time, the vital factor, plays its part. Fofonoff estimates that while plums take 150 days to break their dormancy, the period for apricots is 45 days.
During the 45 days, the plant has to take its shell and send out roots. After the dormancy has broken, probably in early May, some seedlings will be ready for planting.
As well as growing plants from seed, Fofonoff is experienced with other forms of propagation, such as grafting.
Grafting is a process which involves changing of the plant material of the under stock to the top work material, he explained. The advantage of grafting or budding comes when one wants to change the same species of fruit to a different type of the same strain.
“The success of grafting evolves on the atmospheric condition of each spring, the hardiness of the under stock and the variety of the top work,” he said. “What you are looking for is successful vegetative alterations.”
Orchard Described as Compact
In describing his orchard, Fofonoff says it is as “compact as possible” and must be kept that way to ensure rabbits do not damage the plants. He says his soil is of average quality, but is built up with quantities of farmyard manure. In periods of drought, water is provided by means of a well on his farm.
Fofonoff said he will continue his research as long as he can and even though he may never again develop a strain of fruit to bear his name, he is satisfied with his work. “The reputation of the plum has grown,” he said. “In years of surplus, I sell the fruit and most of my customers say it is of higher or better quality than what is often available in stores.”