The Doukhobors at Waterloo, British Columbia, 1911

Manitoba Free Press

In 1908, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood purchased 3,000 acres in the district known as Waterloo (Dolina Utesheniya) at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers in British Columbia. There short years later, over 1,400 of its members had relocated there from Saskatchewan. They had cleared 800 acres and planted 600 acres into orchard, established 30 communal settlements, and established numerous commercial and industrial enterprises, including two sawmills, an irrigation reservoir, canning factory, ferry, blacksmith shops and much more. The following account by Winnipeg real estate and financial broker Adolph Vincent Maurer details the material prosperity and substantial progress of the Doukhobor Community in Waterloo. Published as “Doukhobors Have Been Progressive” in the Manitoba Free Press on April 25, 1911. Photos courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

A.V. Maurer, of Maurer & Wilde, formerly Willoughby & Maurer, who three years ago this month sold to Peter Verigin three thousand acres of the district known as Waterloo Lands, has just returned from a visit to the settlement which is now the headquarters of the Doukhobor colony in British Columbia. “Waterloo” is situated at the junction of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers, twenty-six miles from Nelson.

Mr. Maurer accompanied Verigin on a drive around the settlement and had every facility afforded him of witnessing the progress made in the three years and getting full information as to what has been accomplished and what is now projected. He says that the price paid for the three thousand acres was $140,000; he estimates the present value of the property as improved at fully half a million dollars. The Doukhobors, he says, have cleared about 800 acres and planted about 600 acres.

A view of the Brilliant orchards, Brilliant BC, 1920.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

They have set out between 30,000 and 40,000 trees, and they have now 40,000 more ordered, the great majority of which had already arrived when Mr. Maurer was there a week ago. These will all be planted this season. Some of the trees are of the Borebank variety, which are obtained from a nursery at Salem, Oregon, but most of them are bought at the Grand Forks Nursery, British Columbia, about 40 or 50 miles distant. In addition to the trees, the Doukhobors have large quantities of grape trees set out, besides small fruits, strawberries, raspberries and currents, and they grow tomatoes and all kinds of vegetables.

The settlement has a population of 1,400 at present.

How They Live

The Doukhobors have now some 30 houses, each 30 x 40 feet in size, with 10 feet studding, each provided with a verandah and all built of lumber sawn on the place. Every house has pipe connection with the source of water supply. They have one reservoir which is now nearly completed, built of solid concrete at an expense of $20,000. They have also begun work on another reservoir which will be in sue 250 x 500 feet and probably 15 feet deep which will cost in the neighborhood of $100,000.

Every two houses are provided with a hot bath; and the use of these bath houses is compulsory. Every Saturday all work throughout the settlement is stopped at noon, and the bathing is done during the rest of the day. Ordinary occupation is resumed on Monday morning. The people have abundance of food through no meat is eaten; and all are comfortably clothed. Mr. Maurer counted in one house 14 Singer sewing machines; it was occupied by women who spent their whole time in making clothes. In another house the work of making boots and shoes was carried on, the makers showing no lack of skill in making them to measure.

Industries

Waterloo has a saw mill with a capacity of 35,000 feet per day, also a portable saw mill for cutting railway ties for which they have at present two different contracts from the C.P.R. for 100,000 ties to be delivered at Trail and 100,000 to be delivered at Passmore’s Siding. One hundred thousand ties have recently been delivered for which the Doukhobors received 35 cents each.

CCUB enterprises at Brilliant BC, 1920.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

Another large saw mill will be erected on these lands on the Kootenay river which in all probability will be run by electric power. An engineer has been employed to inspect Pass Creek, on which there is a good water fall about six miles away. From this fall they expect to get their energy to operate this electric plant for running their saw mills, and supplying every house with electric lights.

It is intended to build between 35 and 40 more houses similar to the ones described, as 2,000 more people are to leave the Saskatchewan prairies almost immediately for the British Columbia settlement. It must not be supposed that the houses mentioned shelter the whole population; there are besides these larger ones of lumber also many smaller log houses.

There are about 1,500,000 logs at the sawmill ready for cutting and about the same quantity of logs cut in the bush and ready to be hauled.

Transportation Facilities

For crossing the rivers the Doukhobors have one ferry on the Columbia river and another on the Kootenay. They have already built a pie across the Kootenay river, and the cables are ordered for a cable bridge which it is understood they are themselves building without any government aid.

In addition to the 3,000 acres of Waterloo lands, Verigin has recently purchased a 1,000 acres block several miles south of the settlement, on the Columbia river. He has acquired, besides, another large block containing about 1,000 acres, at Grand Forks, which is in orchard bearing: and a further 1,000 acres known as the Pass Creek lands, which are situated about 12 miles north of Waterloo. The community also owns 1,400 acres at Passmore Creek, which is situated on the Kootenay river between Castlegar and Slocan Junction. Another recent purchase is one of 33 acres at Taghum, about five miles from Nelson, from Popoff for $15,000. Of this about four or five acres are orchard.

The canning factory in Nelson, known as the Kootenay Jam factory, has recently been purchased. The machinery for this has been ordered from England, also an expert has been engaged there to operate the industry.

A sobranie (meeting) at Brilliant BC, 1920.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

A few days ago a tract of 125 acres was purchased two miles from Nelson at a cost of $10,000, but of this only about 20 acres is land, the rest being all rock. About three or four acres is in orchard.

On the Waterloo lands which the Doukhobors purchased as stated for $140,000 three years ago, they have spent already, $300,000 in improvements. In illustration of the increases in value it is stated that they have been offered $500 an acre for some of the land, but have refused to sell. Verigin told Mr. Maurer during his visit, that they were going to make a paradise of the place.

Besides the improvements already enumerated, a large hospital has been erected, two stories in height and of 38 x 70 feet dimensions, a frame building on a surface foundation.

Equipment for Work

The have about 20 teams on the Waterloo lands, and the day Mr. Maurer was there 33 new wagons came in. They have splendid horses; some of their teams are considered worth $1,000. They have two large blacksmith shops on the place. They do the work of putting up boilers and machinery; besides erecting buildings all by themselves, without the help of outside experts. A year from this summer they propose to begin the erection of a big canning factory at headquarters.

Peter Verigin usually visits the British Columbia colony three or four times a year, remaining three or four weeks each time.

Goods are purchased wholesale, and brought in in car lots; four carloads of flour, oats, hay, machinery, etc., etc., arrived the day of Mr. Maurer’s visit. There are cars on the siding all the time, and men are employed whose whole time is spent in loading and unloading cars.

No school was mentioned among the institutions of Waterloo; but they were not lacking evidence of a good degree of intelligence. Some of the young men could speak English very well. A cemetery was noticed, in which forty-eight graves were counted.

sobranie in Brilliant BC, 1920.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

The rafting of railway ties down the Columbia river to Trail, seventeen miles distant, is found to be a profitable business; nothing is wasted. The wood which does not furnish ties is cut up into cordwood, rafted down and sold to the Trail smelter, and the slabs are sold to the C.P.R. for snow fences.

There is a post-office, named “Brilliant” with a mail service three times a week.

Next year a telephone service is to be established, connecting all the lands mentioned – Waterloo, Grand Forks, Pass Creek, Passmore, Taghum and Nelson. This, like the electrical light and power plant, will be the Doukhobors’ own system. Verigin says it will pay for itself in a few years, and then it will be their own property.

The Doukhobor Jam Factory in Nelson, British Columbia

by Greg Nesteroff

The Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works Jam Factory in Brilliant, British Columbia is perhaps one of the best known communal enterprises of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB). However, few are aware that the Doukhobor jam enterprise got its start in Nelson, and fewer realize that the original factory building – built in 1909 – is still standing there today. The following article by Kootenay resident Greg Nesteroff examines the origins and history of the building now known as the Front Street Emporium at 601 Front Street in Nelson. Originally published as “The Building With Jam” in The Nelson Daily News (June 29, 2009). Reproduced by permission.

It’s a year of centennials for Nelson heritage buildings: the courthouse and Central School recently celebrated their 100th birthdays in style, and the United Church will do so soon. Meanwhile, an open house last week marked another anniversary that almost went unnoticed. It’s no secret that the Front St. Emporium was built in 1909, but until recently, few remembered or realized the building’s original purpose.

601 Front Street, probably during the winter of 1911-12. At this time the building was home to the Kootenay Columbia Preserving Works, the Doukhobor-operated jam factory. Photo courtesy Pete & Dasha Hadikin and Marlene Anderson.

On June 23, 1909, Premier Richard McBride presided over the grand opening of the Kootenay Jam Company’s new factory in front of a large crowd. Before turning on the steam under the first boiling vat, he delivered a speech that “dealt with the progress of the fruit industry in the Kootenays and spoke of the astonishment with which the idea of the jam factory supplied by local growers would have been regarded a few years ago. No better fruit could be grown anywhere in the province and he felt sure that the undertaking would prove a success.”

The operation was founded the previous year by two English brothers, George and Howard Fox (nicknamed Red Fox and Black Fox on account of their hair), who established a modest cannery across from Harrop. Having outgrown their original premises, they incorporated a new company with $50,000 in capital, and announced plans to build a factory in Nelson.

Inside of the second floor of the jam factory. The long troughs were used to cool the jams in. On the extreme left background you can see the kettles that the jams were cooked in. Photo courtesy Pete & Dasha Hadikin and Marlene Anderson.

Around late October 1908, they bought Lots 1 and 2 of Block 71 from the CPR at 601 Front St., next to the warehouse of J.Y. Griffin & Co. (today’s Reo’s Videos). This spot required extensive excavation and levelling and was sometimes referred to as the foot of Josephine St., which was then a through-road to the waterfront.

Construction began in mid-April 1909, with contractor John Burns working briskly from the plans of local architect Alex Carrie, and within three weeks the unpretentious frame building was pronounced “practically completed” and ready for jammaking equipment. It measured 100 by 50 feet with a second story of 50 by 50, later expanded. (The actual cost of the building is unknown, but in 1910 it had an assessed value of $1,300 for the property and $3,000 for improvements.)

Doukhobor workers John Faminoff and Pete Katasonoff feed each other inside the Kootenay Columbia Preserving Works. Photo courtesy Pete & Dasha Hadikin and Marlene Anderson.

Following the premier’s optimistic prediction, the factory began accepting fruit shipments and cranking out thousands of pounds of jam and preserves per day. However, for all the chest-puffery, and despite a further endorsement from Governor-General Earl Gray (who admired the company’s exhibit at the Nelson fruit fair and ordered a case of their product, leading to an official decree on their labels: “By appointment to H.E. the Governor General.”), the operation was not a great success.

In the spring of 1911, the Kootenay Jam Co. moved to Mission, citing an insufficient local fruit supply. They sold 601 Front St. to the Doukhobors (CCUB), who renamed it the Kootenay Columbia Preserving Works, and kept on a few managers, but otherwise utilized their own workforce. Judging by the jump in the building’s tax assessment the following year, it received a major upgrade, presumably including the brick facade and arched windows it retains today. In the first year under new owners, factory output was 70 tons, which increased to 92 the following year, and 177 the next.

Doukhobor Jam factory crew, from left: John Sherbinin, John Faminoff, Babakaeff brothers.Photo courtesy Pete & Dasha Hadikin and Marlene Anderson.

In February 1913, the Doukhobors sold the building again to an unnamed local man and announced plans to move their operation to Brilliant, but evidently the deal fell through. Construction of a much larger factory at Brilliant would wait until 1915, after which 601 Front St. was leased (by the CCUB) to a series of wholesalers, including Nelson Jobbers, Western Grocers, and most notably the National Fruit Co., which operated there from at least 1935-62 and apparently owned it following foreclosure on the Doukhobor communal enterprise.

Louis Maglio, with his brother and another partner, then bought the building and in the 1960s rented it to McGavin Bakery, West Transfer, West Arm Trucks, and Maclean Sales Appliances. Ron Allen became the next owner in the 1970s and ran an electrical wholesaling and carpet business, while his mother-in-law had a second-hand shop.

Inside the jam factory, from left: John Faminoff, Mr. Cowen, Dan Kanigan. The wheel shown in the background was used to lower the preserves to the lower floor where they were kept prior to shipment. Photo courtesy Pete & Dasha Hadikin and Marlene Anderson.

When purchased in 1988 by Paula Snow, the building was vacant and derelict, but following major renovations the new Front St. Emporium became home to literally dozens of businesses, including Whitewater Ski Resort, Strutter’s, The Golf Doctor, Kutenai Art Therapy, and even the Holy Smoke Culture Shop.

New owners Gord and Dorothy Kaytor acquired the building this year, just in time for its centennial: “We spent a few months searching for a commercial investment in the area,” Gord says. “We were drawn to 601 Front St. because it is a well-kept heritage building with affordable office space for our long term tenants and for first time small business owners. We are excited about celebrating its 100th anniversary.”

1909 was obviously a banner year for Nelson, and thanks to the preservation of its heritage buildings, 2009 is turning out to be one as well.

The Front Street Emporium at 601 Front Street, Nelson, BC as it appears today. Photo courtesy Greg Nesteroff.

Occupants Of 601 Front St.

1909-11

Kootenay Jam Co.

1911-15

Kootenay Columbia  Preserving Works

 ca. 1917-21

Nelson Jobbers

1922-28

Western Grocers

ca. 1935-62

National Fruit Co.

1960s-70s

West Transfer

E.B. Horsman & Sons

West Arm Truck Lines

McGavin Toastmaster

Maclean Sales Appliances

1980s

Ronald Allen Interiors

Yesterday’s Treasurers

Salvation Army Thrift Shop

Nelson Community Services

Nelson Women’s Centre

Queen City Upholstery

1988 to 2000s

Country Fair Antiques

Front St. Butcher

Protech Sight & Sound

Joe’s Eats

Street Front Graphics

Whitewater Ski Resort

Celeste Comicbook Co.

Kootenay Business Journal

Kutenai Art Therapy

… and many others

For More Information

For more information on the Doukhobors’ Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works jam enterprise in Nelson and Brilliant, British Columbia, see the article, Brilliant Jam Factory was Thriving Industry by William M. Rozinkin.