by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff
The Kylemore Colony was a Doukhobor communal settlement established by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan between 1918 and 1938. Numbering 300 people at its peak, the self-sufficient agricultural colony was organized on the principles of common ownership and the Doukhobor faith. While its existence is generally known, remarkably little has been documented about its history. The following article, compiled from a wealth of published and unpublished sources, examines the Kylemore Colony in rich, descriptive detail from its settlement and early development, communal life and organization, to the eventual demise of the Community and break-up of the colony.
In the early 1900’s, the main body of Doukhobors in Canada, under the charismatic leadership of Peter Vasil’evich Verigin (1859-1924), known as Gospodnyi (the “Lordly”), formed themselves into the spiritual, social and economic organization known as the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB). It was organized on a communal basis, according to the precepts of the Doukhobor faith, under the close supervision and direction of Verigin.
By 1918, the CCUB was at the height of material achievement as an industrial, agricultural, forestry and trading enterprise in Western Canada. It was incorporated under a Dominion charter with a capitalized value of over $1,000,000.00, although its total assets were estimated at several times that figure. It had landholdings in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan totaling over 50,000 acres on which were built numerous communal villages, sawmills, brickworks, jam factories, canning and fruit-packing plants, trading stores, flour mills, grain elevators, irrigation systems, reservoirs, roads and bridges, along with extensive cultivated crops, orchards and gardens. Underpinning the success of the organization was a membership of 6,000 adult Doukhobors (5,000 in British Columbia and 1,000 in Alberta and Saskatchewan) who provided a large, readily-mobilized pool of free, willing labour, guided by the slogan “Toil and Peaceful Life”.
Group of CCUB Doukhobors at Veregin, SK, c.1918. At the time, the CCUB was at the height of material achievement as an industrial, agricultural, forestry and trading enterprise. Photo courtesy National Doukhobor Heritage Village.
Verigin’s overall strategy at this time was to ensure that the CCUB became self-sufficient in agricultural production, while at the same time developing a variety of means to earn cash to fund its operations. Under this plan, grain grown by Doukhobors on the Prairies would be exchanged for fruit and timber produced by Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia. The surplus would be sold to the outside world, where wartime shortages and high prices provided profitable markets for the wheat, lumber, bricks, fruit and other outputs of the communal enterprise. In order to carry out this strategy, however, it was necessary for the CCUB to acquire additional wheat-growing land on the Prairies.
The Kylemore Purchase
To this end, the CCUB acquired a block of eighteen square miles of land, or the equivalent of half a township, in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan in 1918. The land was acquired in three transactions. First, the CCUB leased 640 acres of Hudson’s Bay Company land (Section 8 in Township 33, Range 12, West of the Second Meridian) on April 1, 1918. The CCUB then leased an additional 109 acres of land (Legal Subdivision 8 of SE ¼ of Section 9 and Legal Subdivision 5 and 12 of the W ½ of Section 10 in Township 33, Range 12, West of the Second Meridian) from the Department of the Interior. Finally, on May 7, 1918, the CCUB purchased 10,613 acres of land (Sections 1-5, 7, 9-12, N ½ of Section 6 and S ½ of Sections 13-18 in Township 33, and Sections 32-36 in Township 34, Range 12, West of the Second Meridian) from the Chicago-based Fishing Lake Land and Farm Co. Ltd. under an agreement for sale for $265,343.00.
Taken together, these acquisitions provided the CCUB with a total landholding of 11,362 acres in the Kylemore district. Only 607 acres of the land was broken at the time – the rest was covered in dense trees and scrub. For this reason, the CCUB acquired the land for substantially less than developed agricultural land in other areas.
Doukhobor work crew clearing land at Kylemore, SK, 1920. At the time of purchase, the colony was covered in dense trees and scrub. Photo courtesy Koozma J. Tarasoff.
At the same time, the land lay adjacent to the Canadian National Railway, which provided essential transportation access. This was a key component of Verigin’s strategy to ship agricultural and industrial goods between Doukhobor settlements and to market.
Perhaps most importantly, the ‘Kylemore Colony’ formed a large, contiguous block of land that was semi-isolated and largely self-contained, where the Doukhobors could speak their own language, practice their religion and culture, and follow their distinctive form of communal organization, separate and apart from the larger Canadian society.
Early Development and Settlement
From the outset, the colony at Kylemore was established according to the carefully laid out plans of the CCUB leadership. On June 14, 1918, just weeks after the land acquisition, CCUB General Manager Michael W. Cazakoff outlined these plans in an interview with the Manitoba Free Press while in Winnipeg, Manitoba to purchase equipment for the new colony. He declared that the majority of the lands would be dedicated to grain growing, being ideally suited for that purpose, while the lighter, south-easterly lands adjacent to Fishing Lake would be reserved for livestock-raising. There would be a settlement of families on each section. There would also be a store, in which fruit shipped from the Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia would be distributed within the colony and sold publicly. Finally, an elevator would be built through which the Doukhobors in Kylemore would ship wheat to the British Columbia settlements and market their surplus and that of their neighbours.
A group of Doukhobor workers enjoys a break near Kylemore, SK, 1920. Photo No. 208 courtesy ISKRA.
The development of the colony occurred over a period of several years. Beginning in 1918, and for each summer thereafter until 1924, work crews of 65 or more Doukhobor men from British Columbia and elsewhere in Saskatchewan arrived in Kylemore to clear the land and erect buildings. Temporary tent camps were set up on Section 10 for their accommodation. To carry out this work, the main CCUB settlement at Veregin, 70 miles to the east, supplied them with six steam engines and sixty teams of horses.
Land-clearing and breaking began at the northern end of the colony along the Canadian National Railway and slowly advanced to the southern end. This backbreaking work began at sunup and ended after sundown. First, the trees were cut, then the workers used pick axes to grub the stumps. After, workers came with teams of horses and steam engines to pull out the roots and break the land with the plough. The broken land was then sown into crop the following spring. Over 1,600 acres of land were developed in this manner in 1918 alone. Thereafter, Doukhobor work crews cleared and broke an additional five hundred acres of land each year.
The first permanent village in the colony was established in 1918 on Section 9 at the former residence of W.H. McKinnon, one of the prior landowners. This ornate, eight-room, two-story wood frame structure with lumber siding was the only dwelling on the land when the CCUB purchased it. There, between 1918 and 1921, the CCUB also constructed a large central meeting house for colony members and a gornitsa (special guest quarters) where Peter V. Verigin could stay when he visited the area.
The McKinnon home west of Kylemore, SK. Built in c.1910, the large, ornate home was the only structure on the land when the CCUB purchased it in 1918. It formed part of the Chernoff Village, the first village in the colony. It was destroyed by fire in 1924. Remembering Times.
Doukhobor work crews constructed eight additional villages on Sections 6, 7, 9, 10, 31 and 33, approximately two per year, from 1919 to 1924. These were a variation of the village design used by the Doukhobors in British Columbia and consisted of a single 26’ x 26’ two-story dwelling of wood frame construction on a concrete foundation. The exceptions were two villages on Sections 9 and 31 that had twin structures. These multi-family communal doms (dwellings) were constructed using timber shipped from the CCUB sawmills in the Kootenays. Six were clad in brick supplied from the CCUB brickworks at Veregin. The remainder had cedar shake siding shipped from the Kootenay settlements. Each had a hip roof and verandah clad with cedar shakes. All had large cellars for the storage of foodstuffs.
Each village had a large barn for housing draft horses and milking cows along with numerous outbuildings including stables, sheds, granaries, chicken coops, a kuznitsa (blacksmith shop), banya (bath-house) and peche (clay oven). At least two villages had large ledniks (ice cellars) dug for cold storage. Each had a large garden plot for growing vegetables and fruit.
Unnamed twin-dom village constructed by the CCUB adjacent to the Canadian National Railway at Kylemore, SK in c.1919. Photo courtesy John J. Trofimenkoff.
As work crews completed each village, CCUB families began arriving in Kylemore to take up permanent residence in them. The first families to arrive were those of Peter S. Chernoff from Veregin, Saskatchewan and Vasily V. Solovaeff from Prekrasnoye, British Columbia in 1918. They were followed by a number of families from the Kootenays each year between 1919 and 1924. These included the families of Ivan and Michael S. Arishenkoff, Ignat A. Arishenkoff, Nikolai D. Bedinoff, Ivan V. Chernoff, Ivan I. Fofonoff, Ivan P. Hoolaeff, Ivan F. Hoodikoff, Ivan V. and Vasily I. Kazakoff, Vasily V. and Nikolai N. Konkin, Grigory N. Kanigan, Peter and Ivan S. Malikoff, Kuzma V. Kolesnikoff, Alex I. and Vasily V. Makortoff, Dmitry I., Nikolai N. and Ivan A. Malakoff, Andrew P. and Trofim W. Markin, Vasily A. Morozoff, Nikolai N. Ogloff, Peter A. Osachoff, Kuzma S. and Alex I. Pereverseff, Ivan V. and Peter, Semyon and Grigory S. Popoff, Ivan A. Postnikoff, Fyodor K. and Ivan I. Samsonoff, Ivan F. Sysoev, Ivan and Nikolai P. Sheloff, Pavel V. Planidin and Evdokim A. Sherbinin. According to oral tradition, each family was hand-picked by Peter V. Verigin to help develop the colony.
As the colony took shape, the CCUB undertook the task of constructing a large grain elevator on Section 9 along the Canadian National Railway. Beginning in 1918, work crews constructed a 120,000 bushel capacity elevator of wood crib construction on a concrete foundation. It was approximately 45’ x 60’ wide and 75’ high with a pyramidal roof and a centrally located pyramidal-roofed cupola. At the time it was completed in 1920, it was the largest elevator in Saskatchewan. Thereafter, the Kylemore Colony began receiving, storing and shipping grain in bulk quantities to the Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia and to markets elsewhere.
Doukhobor work crew constructing grain elevator at Kylemore, 1919. Photo courtesy Peter and Agnes Malekoff.
The CCUB also began construction of a large trading store and warehouse on Section 9 along the rail line in 1918. The three-story structure was built of wood frame construction with a full concrete basement. It had cedar shake siding. It was 60’ x 36’ with a gambrel roof and two 20’ lean-tos. It was completed in 1922. The storefront was located at the north end of the main floor, where fruit, produce and other merchandise from the Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia were distributed to the colony families as required and the surplus sold to the public, while the south end of the main floor and the basement were utilized as a warehouse. It is known that Pavel V. Planidin managed the store from 1922 to 1925 and Nikolai N. Ogloff from 1928 to 1935.
By 1924, the Kylemore Colony was thriving and prosperous, with approximately 250 Doukhobor men, women and children. It had a herd of 500 cattle, 1000 sheep and 30 horses. Over 4,000 acres of land was now under cultivation, producing substantial quantities of grain. A sizeable acreage was also devoted to pasture. The community elevator and store were now in full operation. Peter V. Verigin’s plans for the colony had begun to bear fruit.
CCUB communal structures adjacent to the Canadian National Railway at Kylemore, SK, c.1924. (l-r) CCUB grain elevator, CCUB trading store, and unnamed twin-dom village. Photo courtesy Koozma J. Tarasoff.
The Kelvington Annex
Even as the development of the Kylemore Colony was underway, Peter V. Verigin had planned its expansion in the outlying area. In August of 1921, the CCUB purchased an additional 8,000 acres of land (Sections 3, 7, 9, 15, 17-19, 21, 27, 31 and 33, W ½ and SE ¼ of Section 5, E ½ of Section 25, all in Township 27, Range 12, West of the Second Meridian) in the Kelvington district, twenty miles to the north. It was acquired from the Winnipeg-based Canada West Security Corporation under an agreement for sale.
The ‘Kelvington Annex’ was unbroken at the time of purchase and was covered in trees and scrub, making it cheaper and more affordable than developed land in other districts. Unlike the Kylemore Colony, it did not form a contiguous block, but was segregated into separate section parcels interspersed among non-Doukhobor landholdings. However, it lay adjacent to the Canadian National Railway’s proposed Thunderhill Branch Line extension from Kelvington to Prince Albert, which, once built, would enhance its property value and provide strategic rail access.
Doukhobor work crew clearing land by hand near Kylemore, SK, c. 1924. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
The Kelvington Annex was administered as an offshoot of the Kylemore Colony. It was primarily used for summer pasturage for the colony’s horse herd, although some land-clearing and grain-growing did occur. No villages were constructed there; however, single-family dwellings were built on Sections 18 and 27 to house four families permanently stationed there. Other families were rotated from Kylemore to Kelvington on a temporary basis over summer to tend the communal horse herd, during which time they lived in tents.
Community Life and Organization under Peter V. Verigin: 1918-1924
During the era of Peter V. Verigin, the Kylemore Colony was comprised of nine (unnamed) villages containing family groupings of four to six extended families per village. All the villages in the colony were organized as one commune.
Doukhobor family at Kylemore, SK, 1920. (l-r) Mabel, Tanya, Peter, John, Peter A., Helen G., and Mike Chernoff in their chore cloths. Seems Like Only Yesterday.
The CCUB central office coordinated the agricultural and commercial operations of the colony, carried out all transactions on its behalf, managed its finances through a common treasury and provided for the daily needs of its members. This was managed out of the CCUB headquarters in Veregin, Saskatchewan. A manager elected by the members administered the day-to-day affairs of the colony and acted as an intermediary authority between the central office and colony members. It is known that in 1925, the Manager of the Kylemore Colony was Dmitry I. Malakoff and from 1926 to 1928, Nikolai I. Cazakoff. Major decisions affecting the colony were introduced at a sobraniye (general meeting) of all members where everyone could have a voice.
The CCUB owned all of the colony’s land, buildings, machinery, tools and livestock. These were distributed among the villages of the colony, so that each village possessed its own teams of horses, wagons, implements and other resources necessary to farm the acreage allocated to it. All the grain was delivered to the CCUB elevator and traded under its name, as was all stock and merchandise shipped to the CCUB store. Indeed, all proceeds from the output of the colony went to the central office.
CCUB General Manager Michael W. Cazakoff (right) inspects communal draft horses with Vasily V. Soloveoff (left) near Kylemore, SK, c.1924. Photo No. 273 courtesy ISKRA.
Individual members were expected to contribute their labour to the operation of the colony and pay an annual levy to the central office, which was mainly paid in-kind through labour rather than cash. They received no income for communal work, and when they found it necessary to work outside the colony, their earnings were deposited directly with the central office or collected by the Manager of the colony. Hence, few members of the colony actually handled money. Within this moneyless system, the colony provided for all the essential needs of its members, such as food, shelter, clothing and other supplies.
Daily life in the Kylemore Colony revolved around the cycles of the farming year. In spring, the women and men worked together in the fields sowing crops. Afterwards, in summer, they laboured to clear and break additional land. The women also dug seneca root, the sale of which was an important source of revenue for the colony. Later in summer, haying and stooking was performed by both men and women. At harvest time, the men threshed while the women prepared meals and did chores. In late fall, the men got up before sunrise, took packed lunches and traveled south toward Fishing Lake to cut wood. They would cut enough to last the colony for the whole winter and the surplus was sold locally. The days that followed were spent sawing and splitting the wood into “stove-sized” pieces. During winter, the men worked in the villages or sought outside employment. The women, elderly and children maintained the household and performed yard chores.
Doukhobors at Kanigan Village near Kylemore, SK winnow grain to remove chaff. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
The colony was almost entirely self-sufficient in food production. Colony members grew potatoes, cabbages, tomatoes and other vegetables in their large gardens. This was supplemented by fruit, jams and preserves supplied from the Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia. Wild berries, nuts and mushrooms were also picked locally. Milk, cream, cheese and butter were obtained from the community cattle herd. As they kept chickens they also had a fresh supply of eggs. Meat was unnecessary as colony members were strict vegetarians. Flour was produced from the wheat they grew, which was hauled by horse and wagon 18 miles south to Foam Lake to be ground and milled. Only sugar, salt, raisins, rice and a few other staples were purchased outside the colony by the men.
The colonists also manufactured most of their own cloths, tools and furniture. The women sheared wool from the communal sheep herd which they then washed, carded, spun and wove to make cloth and yarn. They were expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, weaving, quilt and mattress making and other handicrafts. The men produced furniture, tools and equipment and performed shoe repair, harness-making, blacksmithing, horse-shoeing and other skilled tasks.
Peter Chernoff and John Soloveoff mounted on horseback on the prairie near Kylemore, SK, c.1920. Photo No. 207 courtesy ISKRA.
While there were few opportunities for leisure, colony members still found time to enjoy the natural beauty and recreation opportunities at Fishing Lake during the hot summer months. There, at a scenic lug (meadow) on the north shore of the lake, Doukhobors throughout the colony gathered to celebrate Petrov Den’ (Peters Day), hold outdoor meetings and enjoy picnics, swimming and rafting.
A mainstay of spiritual life in the colony was the moleniye (prayer meeting) held each Sunday. According to oral tradition, each village initially conducted its own moleniye; however, over time, a number of villages joined together for this occasion. This was a time when the members of the colony abandoned their work and gathered for hours to pray, discuss spiritual matters and sing psalms. There were reputedly many exceptional singers in the colony, and the psalm singing inspired the people and reinforced their religious faith and values for the ensuing week.
A gathering of Doukhobor children at Kanigan Village near Kylemore, SK, c. 1924. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
A special highlight was when Peter V. Verigin visited the Kylemore Colony to meet with the members, hear their concerns and inspect their progress. This was a joyous occasion accompanied by special celebrations, meetings and meals. It is known that Verigin made at least two such trips to Kylemore in the summer of 1921 and the fall of 1924, and probably several more.
On the whole, life in the colony at this time was characterized, not only by hard work and sacrifice, but by simple, peaceful living in an atmosphere of happiness, comfort and harmony. This way of life is poignantly described in the historical novel Tanya, by Doukhobor writer Eli A. Popoff, which is based on the remarkable true story of Tanya Arishenkoff, the central character, who lived in the colony from 1919 until its demise.
Doukhobor shepherds tend communal sheep flock at Kylemore, SK, c.1924. Photo courtesy National Doukhobor Heritage Village.
Death of Peter V. Verigin and Aftermath
Disaster struck the Kylemore Colony in May of 1924 when one of the villages on Section 9 was destroyed in an accidental fire. This included the village dom, central meeting house, the gornitsa where Peter V. Verigin stayed and other outbuildings. During this same period, the dom at another village on Section 9 also burned to the ground.
However, these events paled in comparison to the sudden death of Verigin in October of 1924 in a mysterious train explosion at Farron, British Columbia. His passing was a devastating blow to the membership of the CCUB, who revered him as their guide, counselor and protector. The entire Doukhobor Community was thrown into shock and mourning, and the Kylemore Colony was no exception.
Leaderless and directionless, the Doukhobors at Kylemore carried on essential tasks, such as grain growing and store and elevator operations, but postponed decisions on most important issues until a replacement leader could be appointed who would help them decide. For example, the construction of village buildings to replace those which had burnt on Section 9 was suspended. The CCUB organization went into a period of slow stagnation and decline.
Larion Malakoff mounted on horseback in front of Malakoff Village dom near Kylemore, SK, c.1924. Photo courtesy Fred J. Chernoff.
With financial difficulties mounting, the Directors of the CCUB decided to consolidate their debts with one creditor. The Community negotiated a loan for $350,000.00 with the National Trust Company, representing the Canadian Bank of Commerce, in December of 1925. To secure this loan, the National Trust Company obtained a blanket mortgage on all of the land and buildings on which no other creditors held liens. This meant that everything owned by the CCUB would now be encumbered with debt, including the lands of the Kylemore Colony.
Arrival of Peter P. Verigin and Reorganization
It was several years before Verigin’s son, Peter Petrovich Verigin, known as Chistiakov (the “Cleanser” or “Purger”), was able to come to Canada and assume the leadership of the CCUB. His arrival in September of 1927 was greeted by his followers with tremendous enthusiasm, who hoped for a rejuvenation of the ailing CCUB communal structure.
On his first of many visits to the Kylemore colony, Peter P. Verigin impressed his followers as a forceful, eloquent orator and a persuasive, dynamic and brilliant organizer. He declared his immediate goals to be to free the CCUB from it burden of debt and to unite the various factions of Doukhobors in Canada. Seeing and hearing him speak, the Kylemore Doukhobors firmly believed that his objectives would be achieved.
The family of Peter P. Verigin seen here at the Chernoff Village near Kylemore, SK in 1928 (l-r) John J. Verigin (his grandson), Anna F. Verigin (his wife) and Evdokia G. Verigin (his mother). Photo No. 303 courtesy ISKRA.
Almost immediately, Peter P. Verigin reorganized the CCUB on a new basis to encourage greater self-reliance, industry and diligence among its members and to foster a renewed interest in the soil and in the welfare of the commune. To this end, he decentralized the CCUB, made life less rigidly communal, and reduced the size of each commune to a new unit known as the ‘Family’, which in Saskatchewan was comprised of 25 persons.
The Kylemore Colony land, buildings, machinery, tools and livestock were redistributed to each Family to farm communally. Each Family was granted broad autonomy over its agricultural operations and business transactions. An annual assessment was still paid to the CCUB central office. However, any excess revenue from the land or from outside earnings, over and above the annual assessment, was retained by the Family. A Starshina (Elder), elected by its members, managed the day-to-day affairs of each Family. It is known that in 1928, these were: Ivan N. Konkin, Nikolai P. Popoff, Ivan I. Samsonoff, Vasily V. Solovaeff, Ivan V. Chernenkoff, Alexei I. Pereverseff, Ivan V. Popoff, Vasily A. Morozoff, Semyon S. Popoff, Ivan A. Posnikoff, Peter S. Chernoff, Grigory N. Kanigan and Ivan P. Sheloff.
John V. Soloveoff stands beside a white stallion that had belonged to Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin at the newly-formed Arishenkoff Village near Kylemore, SK, c. 1928. Photo No. 229 courtesy ISKRA.
The system of buying and selling was introduced into all aspects of relations between the CCUB central office and the Families or branch communes, as well as between individual members. Individual Doukhobors were now permitted to handle money. Thus, money transactions replaced the unwieldy barter system of earlier years.
In total, 13 Families of 25 persons (comprising one to two extended families) were set up in the Kylemore Colony in 1928. Each Family was allocated a section of land in the colony on which to live and farm. Where a village already existed on a section, it was given to the Family assigned to that section; where there was none, a new village was built for the Family placed on that section.
Accordingly, six existing villages on Sections 7, 9, 4 and 10 (thereafter known as Popoff Village, Malakoff Village, Chernoff Village, Sheloff Village, Kazakoff Village and Kanigan Village) were reassigned to Families. Three existing (unnamed) villages on Sections 6, 9 and 31 were either moved to new locations or dismantled and the materials used to build new villages elsewhere. Seven new villages (thereafter known as Chernenkoff Village, Pereverseff Village, Hoodekoff Village, Konkin Village, Makortoff Village, Samsonoff Village and Arishenkoff Village) were built for Families on Sections 2, 3, 5, 32-35. These new villages differed from the earlier villages in that they were comprised of small, single-family residences built of wood frame construction with cedar shake siding.
Vasily V. Soloveoff stands beside a Belgian draft horse at the newly-formed Arishenkoff Village near Kylemore, SK, c. 1928. Note the communal barn under construction in foreground. Photo No. 228 courtesy ISKRA.
This reorganization resulted in changes to nearly every household in the Kylemore Colony. Consequently, throughout the summer of 1928, there was much moving to and fro, and wagons piled high with goods and chattels were continually driving in one direction or another as families relocated to their new villages. It was at this time also that the CCUB families stationed at the Kelvington Annex relocated to the Kylemore Colony, where they were incorporated into Family branch communes.
In addition to the Families, which maintained a direct connection with the CCUB central office, a provincial branch of the CCUB was set up in Saskatchewan to operate business enterprises in the various areas, including the grain elevator and trading store at Kylemore. These were now run on a wholly cash basis. The CCUB trading store now purchased the fruit it received from British Columbia and sold it to colony members, although it no longer enjoyed a trade monopoly among them. The CCUB elevator maintained a buying monopoly over all the surplus grain grown in the colony, however, it was now purchased from each Family and sold to British Columbia.
Early threshing outfit owned by the CCUB at Kylemore, SK, c. 1928. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
Community Life Under Peter P. Verigin: 1927-1931
The reorganization of the Kylemore Colony was accompanied by three main developments during the early years of Peter P. Verigin’s leadership. First, there was an expansion and consolidation of the capital assets of the colony to increase earning potential and reduce the CCUB’s massive debt. Second, colonists joined a new umbrella organization, the Society of Named Doukhobors, aimed at the unification of the main Doukhobor factions in Canada. Third, new emphasis was placed on education as the Doukhobor youth of the colony were enrolled in local schools. These developments are discussed below in greater detail.
Capital Expansion and Consolidation
The years 1928 to 1931 saw a noteworthy expansion, improvement and consolidation of CCUB capital assets in the Kylemore Colony. Buildings were erected for new villages to the value of $13,000.00. As well, leased lands (640 acres from the Hudson’s Bay Company and 109 acres from the Department of Indian Affairs) were purchased outright for $16,264.60. Also, the balance owing on the 10,613 acres purchased from the Fishing Lake Land and Farm Co. Ltd. was paid in full. Finally, land-clearing activity was redoubled in order to increase agricultural production and earnings.
New Chernoff Village dom completed in 1928 to replace the original destroyed by fire in 1924. Note the collection of machinery of that era. Seems Like Only Yesterday.
At the same time, the CCUB raised money by allowing some of its Prairie members to opt out of the communal system and buy or lease its land. To this end, 3,000 acres of hitherto-undeveloped land in the Kelvington Annex was leased or sold under agreements for sale to CCUB members. These included the families of Peter J. Goolaeff, Peter A. Morozoff, John J. and Peter J. Kanigan, Simeon A. Horkoff, Harry N. and Trofim N. Kanigan, Fred W. Antifaeff, Mike W. and Wasyl W. Bloodoff, George F. and John F. Kazakoff, Nick W. Pepin, Wasyl L. Shukin and Wasyl A. Juravloff.
Statistical data from 1931 illustrates the extent of CCUB property in the Kylemore Colony at this time. The landholdings totalled 11,774.60 acres, valued at $316,724.85. Another 4,945.23 acres of land was held in the Kelvington Annex, assessed at $87,174.62. The investment in buildings on the farm land, including houses, barns and other structures, was valued at $47,900.00. The store and warehouse along with the grain elevator were appraised at an additional $29,000.00. The investment in livestock – which included 240 working horses and 130 milking cows – was valued at $42,500.00. Finally, the investment in farm machinery was assessed at $18,500.00. Thus, the total valuation of the Kylemore Colony’s capital assets in 1931 was $541,799.47 – over half a million dollars – two years into the Great Depression.
Communal barn and horse stable at the Arishenkoff Village, one of the new villages formed in 1928 near Kylemore, SK following the reorganization of the CCUB by Peter P. Verigin. Photo No. 274 courtesy ISKRA.
Upon his arrival in Canada, all of the main Doukhobor factions – the CCUB, the Independents and the Sons of Freedom – acknowledged Peter P. Verigin as their spiritual leader. He made it his avowed purpose to heal the divisions between the groups and reestablish unity among all Doukhobors living in Canada.
To this end, in June of 1928, Verigin formed a new, all-embracing organization, the Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada, for the purpose of uniting his followers. Through a series of conferences attended by delegates from the CCUB and Independent Doukhobor settlements, the Society, under Verigin’s leadership and direction, promoted a policy of non-violence, the teachings of Christ, marriage based on love, acceptance of public education, the accurate registration of births, deaths and marriages, the peaceful resolution of disputes among members by the Society’s executive, the automatic expulsion of members who committed crimes, and more.
Doukhobor maidens at Kylemore, SK, 1927 (l-r) Milly W. Konkin, Polly W. Konkin and Mary Makortoff. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
For their part, the Kylemore colonists readily participated in the new organization, joining en masse, paying regular membership dues, sending delegates (Alexei I. Hoodekoff in 1934 and Havrila N. Kanigan in 1937) to its conferences and implementing its resolutions. By December of 1930, there were 150 male and 148 female members of the Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada from Kylemore.
From the outset of his leadership, Peter P. Verigin emphasized the importance of public education among his followers. The education of their children in English schools, and the establishment of their own Russian schools and libraries, he declared, would begin a new era for Doukhobors in Canada. His views towards education were actively promoted through the Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada.
Group of Doukhobor schoolchildren in front of North Kylemore School, 1941. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
As members of the Society, the Kylemore colonists were now committed to accept education, and from 1928 onward, began enrolling their children in Kylemore School in the hamlet of Kylemore. In 1929, the school was destroyed in a suspicious fire when a group of Sons of Freedom visited the area and classes were held in the CCUB trading store until a new school was built the same year. By 1936, Doukhobor student enrollment increased to such an extent that a second school was opened at the south end of the colony. The older school became known as the ‘North Kylemore School’ and the newer one the ‘South Kylemore School’. Colony youth also attended Russian language classes in the evenings.
South Kylemore School, c. 1936. Back row (l-r): Fred Hoolaeff, Nick Ogloff, George Arishenkoff, John Hoolaeff, Helen Morozoff, Helen Makortoff, Lucy Makortoff. Middle row: Mike Arishenkoff, Peter Arishenkoff, Bill Samsonoff, Peter Konkin, Peter Pereverzoff, Mary Hoodekoff, Donalda Mawhinney (teacher), John Cazakoff. Front row: Alex Pereverzoff Bill Morozoff, Larry Hoodekoff, Alex Hoolaeff, Mac Pereverzoff, Doris Hoodekoff, Bill Konkin, Annette Hoodekoff, Mary Konkin, Mary Pereverzoff, Nellie Makortoff. Front: Beverly Broley (teacher’s niece). Remembering Times.
Demise of the CCUB
The twelve years of Peter P. Verigin’s leadership from 1927 to 1939 saw a number of remarkable accomplishments. However, despite his concerted efforts, the Doukhobor leader was unable to eliminate the massive CCUB debt (although he did reduce this debt by over half), nor bring about a lasting unity with other Doukhobor groups (the Society of Named Doukhobors collapsed in 1937). At the same time, his irregular character and actions eroded the enthusiasm and confidence of the CCUB membership, whose zeal for utopian communal living was already in decline.
When the Great Depression struck in the Thirties, the financial situation of the CCUB deteriorated rapidly because all the communal property was mortgaged and no further loans could be negotiated due to lack of collateral. With no credit, and with membership and cash income falling rapidly, Verigin attempted to sell off CCUB assets to raise the necessary capital to enable the corporation to continue to operate, and at the same time, to stave off the ever-increasing demands of its creditors.
Front page of the Winnipeg Free Press, October 18, 1934 announcing the sale of CCUB holdings in Saskatchewan.
To this end, in October of 1934, Peter P. Verigin publicly announced that the CCUB would be selling its entire holdings – land, stock, equipment and elevators – in the districts of Kylemore, Kelvington and Veregin, Saskatchewan. This represented the wholesale liquidation of all CCUB capital assets in the province. A similar announcement was made in April of 1935. Later that month, some Saskatchewan members of the CCUB were served with notices to vacate their villages and lands. These events were met with shock and disbelief by the Saskatchewan members, who had not been consulted.
Reputedly, several offers to purchase the Kylemore lands were made to the CCUB central office in Brilliant, British Columbia; however, no sale ever materialized. Nevertheless, in April of 1936, the Saskatchewan branch of the CCUB sold the elevator at Kylemore to James Richardson. The CCUB trading store in Kylemore was closed later that year. In light of these events, all the Kylemore colonists could do was wait in anticipation of a better tomorrow. But for the CCUB, prosperity never returned.
CCUB elevator in Kylemore. When completed in 1920, it was the largest in Saskatchewan. It was sold in 1936 to J. Richardson and resold to the Pioneer Grain Company, which operated it until 1990. Wadena News.
By 1937, a combination of complex factors, including the Great Depression, financial mismanagement, diminishing revenues, a declining membership base, mounting debts, depredations against communal property, and government assimilation efforts, all unhelped by Verigin’s increasingly erratic leadership style, led to the eventual (and arguably, inevitable) bankruptcy of the CCUB. The following year, in 1938, the National Trust Company foreclosed on its mortgage over the CCUB lands and chattels in Kylemore, Kelvington and elsewhere. Thereafter, the CCUB ceased to exist as a corporate entity.
Break-Up of the Colony
Following the bankruptcy and foreclosure of the CCUB, the Doukhobors living in Kylemore were faced with a difficult dilemma: either join the majority of their brethren in British Columbia or else remain in Saskatchewan as independent farmers. Many of them were already middle-aged, and to begin a new life with nothing, dependent only on themselves, with no Community to fall back on, must have been daunting prospect.
William W. Kanigan and his mother doing chores on their farm near Kylemore, SK, c.1940. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
About a third of the Kylemore Doukhobors immediately moved to British Columbia in 1938 to be part of the larger group living there. Numerous others followed the move to British Columbia during the War Years (1939-1945) to avoid the military call-up. Still others decided to abandon their old way of life altogether, take their few possessions and depart into the world unknown.
Approximately a third of the Kylemore Doukhobors chose to repurchase their lands from the National Trust Company in 1938 under agreements for sale. Payment was made on a one-third crop share basis, as the Doukhobors had little or no cash. They took possession of their land, moved in village structures (dwellings, barns, stables, etc.) or utilized existing ones on the land, and purchased on credit the necessary horses, implements and equipment to set up their own farming practices. Fortunately, there were prosperous years in the Forties, and within ten years of independent farming, all the Doukhobors obtained clear title to their land and many acquired additional land, modern vehicles and machinery for their farms.
Social gathering of Kylemore Doukhobors, c. 1947. Photo courtesy Peter and Agnes Malekoff.
While most Doukhobors stayed on as farmers, several established stores and business in Kylemore. In the Thirties, William M. Fudikuf owned a general store in Kylemore, selling everything from groceries and furniture, to cream separators and machinery. In the late Forties, Peter G. Kanigan ran a blacksmith shop, general store and gas pumps. Finally, in the Fifties, Louis L. Osachoff operated a general store in the hamlet.
Those families who remained in Kylemore continued to uphold their Doukhobor faith and culture. In the Forties, they formed the Kylemore Doukhobor Society, which became their main religious and social organization. Moleniye (prayer meetings) and children’s Sunday school classes were held weekly at the Sunderland School. Petrov Den’ (Peters Day) was commemorated annually with picnics at Fishing Lake. A local choir was organized, and visiting choirs from British Columbia and elsewhere in Saskatchewan were always welcomed. In 1954, the Society purchased the former South Kylemore School and moved it into Kylemore for use as a ‘prayer home’ or meeting house. The Society remained active until the Nineties, when, due to an aging and dwindling congregation, it was dissolved. About six Doukhobor families remain in the Kylemore district today.
Kylemore Doukhobors holding moleniye prayer service, 1959. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
Today, there are few physical reminders of the CCUB colony at Kylemore. An abandoned two-story village dom stands on the north side of the No. 5 Highway, a silent sentinel of the communal past, while at least two smaller village dwellings can be found nearby. The concrete foundations of other village doms, barns and reservoirs dot the surrounding countryside. Many of the original Doukhobor colonists lay at rest in God’s Blessing Cemetery, still in active use. Recently, a stream running through the former colony was christened Blahoslovenie (Blessing) Creek in their memory.
A more enduring legacy of the Kylemore Colony is its living one. For today, the descendants of the original 300 colonists, who surely number in the hundreds if not thousands, can be found throughout Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the rest of Canada. They continue to preserve the memory of these pioneering Spirit Wrestlers.
The Chernoff Village dom (originally two stories) still stands west of Kylemore, SK. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
A dwelling from the Arishenkoff Village, shrouded in vines south of Kylemore, SK. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
- British Columbia. Report of Royal Commission on matters relating to the sect of Doukhobors in the province of British Columbia, 1912 (Victoria, King’s Printer: 1913, p. 58).
- Dawson, Carl A., Group Settlement: Ethnic Communities in Western Canada (The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1936).
- Friesen, John W. and Michael M. Verigin, The Community Doukhobors: A People in Transition (Ottawa: Borealis Press, 1996).
- Gooliaff, Cecil, Lawrence Kalmakoff, Randy Konkin, Jennifer Osachoff, Wally Vanin, Doukhobors of Saskatchewan: Past, Present and Future (November 1972).
- Hawthorn, Harry (ed.), The Doukhobors of British Columbia (Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1955).
- Hudson’s Bay Archives, File No. RG1/21/7.
- Kalmakoff, Jonathan J. Field research notes for Kylemore district; July 2003; June 2008.
- Kalmakoff, Jonathan J., Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada, 1930 Saskatchewan Membership List (Regina: 2002).
- Kelvington Historical Society, Tears Toil and Triumph, Story of Kelvington and District (Kelvington: 1980).
- Kuroki History Book Committee, Seems Like Only Yesterday, 1892-1980: The History of Kuroki and District (Kuroki: 1980).
- Lapshinoff, Steve, Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada, 1937 Membership List (Crescent Valley: self published, 2001).
- Lethbridge Herald, “Doukhobors Reorganize Community Life” (April 4, 1928).
- Library and Archives Canada, RG10, Indian Affairs, Volume 6707, Reel C-8077.
- Library and Archives Canada, RG95, Corporations Branch, Series 1, Volume 1297, The Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Limited.
- Malekoff, Peter P. Personal interviews with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, July 31, 2003 and June 21, 2008.
- Manitoba Free Press, “Doukhobor Head Here: Tells of Work New Community Hopes to Enter Into” (June 14, 1918).
- Manitoba Free Press, “Land for New Doukhobor Settlement” (June 1, 1918).
- Manitoba Free Press, “Views of Wadena, Saskatchewan” (May 24, 1926).
- Popoff, Eli A. Tanya (Grand Forks: Mir Publication Society, 1975).
- R.M. of Kelvington No. 366, Tax Rolls (1921-1939).
- Saskatchewan Archives Board, Cummins Rural Directory Map for Saskatchewan; Map Nos. 172 & 193 (1920, 1922, 1926, 1930).
- Snesarev, Vladimir N. (Harry W. Trevor), The Doukhobors in British Columbia (University of British Columbia Publication, Department of Agriculture, 1931).
- Sysoev, Theodore I. Correspondence with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, November 8, 2008.
- Tarasoff, Koozma, J., Plakun Trava (Grand Forks: Mir Publication Society, 1982).
- Veregin, Nora. Personal interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, August 1, 2008.
- Wadena Herald, “Doukhobors to Stay: Veregin Closes Deal for 10,000 Acres of Prairie Land” (June 27, 1918).
- Wadena History Book Committee, Remembering Times: Wadena and Area Dating Back to 1882 (2 vols.) (Wadena: 1992).
- Winnipeg Free Press, “Doukhobor Group Will Resist Any Attempt to Evict Them from Farms” (April 27, 1935).
- Winnipeg Free Press, “Doukhobors Are Leaving Sask.” (October 18, 1934).
- Winnipeg Free Press, “Doukhobors Will Sell Property in Saskatchewan” (April 8, 1935).
- Woodcock, George & Ivan Avakumovic, The Doukhobors (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1977).
View Kylemore, Saskatchewan Doukhobor Villages, 1918-1938 in a larger map
An earlier version of this article was published in a compilation by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff and Anne Sanderson entitled Their Story in the Wadena News from July 9 to August 20, 2008. That compilation received a first place award for Best Saskatchewan Cultural Story of the Year at the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspaper Association’s 2009 Better Newspaper Competition Premier Awards.
This article was subsequently reproduced by permission in:
- ISKRA Nos.2038-2041 (Castlegar: Union of Spritual Communities of Christ, 2011).
- The Dove Nos. 91-93 (Saskatoon: Doukhobor Cultural Society of Saskatchewan, 2011).
- Saskatchewan History (Spring/Summer 2011, Volume 63, Number 1).