Yorkton and Area Doukhobor Historical Tour

For Immediate Release – June 30, 2010

On Sunday, June 27, 2008, the National Heritage Doukhobor Village hosted its fifth annual guided motor coach tour of Doukhobor historical sites and points of interest – this year in Yorkton, Saskatchewan and surrounding areas. Approximately sixty people took part in the excursion, which travelled through the Canora, Hamton, Ebenezer, Yorkton, Insinger and Sheho areas, visiting a number of heritage buildings and structures built by the Doukhobor Community as part of its trading, industrial and commercial activities in the areas in the early twentieth century.

Group photo of tour participants at Insinger, SK.  Photo courtesy Keith & Sonya Tarasoff.

“While the Doukhobor Community is largely remembered as an agricultural organization, few people today are aware of its achievements as a commercial enterprise, and the impact it had on the development of the surrounding area”, said Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, Doukhobor historian and tour co-organizer.

In the Teens and Twenties, the Doukhobor communal organization known as the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) was at the height of material achievement as a trading, industrial, agricultural and forestry enterprise in Saskatchewan. It had landholdings totaling over 30,000 acres in the province on which were built numerous communal villages, sawmills, flour mills, grain elevators, brickworks, trading stores, warehouses, roads, ferries and bridges, as well as cultivated crops and market gardens. The Community also hired itself out to perform large construction contracts. Underpinning the success of the organization was a membership of over fifteen hundred Doukhobor men who provided a large, readily-mobilized labour force guided by the slogan “Toil and Peaceful Life”.

The Fort Pelly Trail circa 1907.  The ox-cart trail ran in a south-westerly direction from Fort Pelly, through the Doukhobor village settlements and the Ebenezer district, to Yorkton.

The Yorkton & Area Doukhobor Historical Tour commenced at the Doukhobor Prayer Home in Canora at 9:00 a.m. with greetings and introductory remarks by Keith Tarasoff, chairman of the National Heritage Doukhobor Village and tour co-organizer.

The tour visited the site of the Doukhobor Block, a complex of buildings on 2nd Avenue East in Canora built, owned and operated by the Doukhobor Community. These included a large trading store (1910); annex (1912); storage warehouse (1916); workers residence (1913); and livery barn (1913). The trading store (known today as the Lunn Hotel) still stands and is the oldest and largest Doukhobor-built building still in use in Canada. The tour then stopped on Railway Avenue at the site of a 60,000-bushel grain elevator built for hire by the Doukhobor Community in 1912.

The Doukhobor Trading Store (now the Lunn Hotel) on 2nd Avenue East in Canora, SK.  Built by the CCUB in 1910, it is the oldest and largest Doukhobor building in Canada still in use. Photo courtesy Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The tour proceeded to Hamton and visited the site of the communal farm settlement known as Burtsevo, which from 1907 to 1918 served as a stopping point for Doukhobor wagon teams travelling between Veregin and Yorkton on the Fort Pelly Trail. Because it was a day trip each way by horse and wagon, the Doukhobor Community purchased this section farm along the trail so that they would have a place to stop and rest their horses. The original house, trading store and Doukhobor-made brick-lined wells on the property are still there to see.

The Burtsevo farmhouse, Hamton, SK.  Built by the CCUB in 1907, it was a stopping place for Doukhobor wagon teams travelling between Veregin and Yorkton on the Fort Pelly Trail. Photo courtesy Al and Bernice Makowsky.

Continuing south, the tour followed the route of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway line, built for hire by the Doukhobor Community in 1910. The 30-mile branch line – still in use today – connected the towns of Canora and Yorkton and resulted in the creation of several new centres along the way, including the hamlets of Burgis, Gorlitz, Hamton and Ebenezer.

The tour stopped at Ebenezer, where the Doukhobor Community was hired to construct a 25,000-bushel grain elevator (1910); a two-story brick general store, adjoining brick business building and residence known as the ‘Border Block’ (1911); a two-story brick home and cinderblock barn (1911); and a two-story brick hotel, adjoining brick business building and residence known as the ‘Janzen Block’ (1920). The latter three buildings are still standing. The Doukhobor Community itself owned 20 lots in the hamlet (1910) and built a large barn on the outskirts of Ebenezer (1914) for use as a stopping point for Doukhobor wagon teams travelling on the Fort Pelly Trail.

The Janzen Block in Ebenezer, SK, built by the CCUB in 1920. Photo courtesy Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The tour proceeded to Yorkton and visited the site of the large brick factory on Dracup Avenue owned and operated by the Doukhobor Community from 1905-1925. The factory, which produced up to 50,000 bricks a day, supplied millions of bricks for building projects across Western Canada. The factory was dismantled in 1940; however, three original structures – dwelling houses for the factory workers – are still standing. The tour then passed a number of Yorkton buildings constructed of Doukhobor brick including: three two-story homes on Fifth Avenue North; the Blackstone Hotel (today known as the City Limits Inn), a large two-story brick structure on Betts Avenue built and owned by the Doukhobor Community (1935); and six dwelling houses on Myrtle Avenue – three of which are still standing – built and owned by the Doukhobor Community (1932). In 1990, one of these homes was purchased by the City of Yorkton for preservation as a heritage site to commemorate the history of the Doukhobors in Yorkton.

The Blackstone Hotel (now the City Limits Inn) on Betts Avenue in Yorkton, SK, built by the CCUB in 1935. 

Photo courtesy Jonthan J. Kalmakoff.

The tour stopped at Jaycee Beach Park where, following the Lord’s Prayer recited in Russian, the tour participants enjoyed a picnic lunch and rest stop.

One of six dwelling houses built by the CCUB on Myrtle Avenue in Yorkton, SK in 1932. Three remain today. Photo courtesy Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The tour then resumed and continued to Sheho, where it visited the site of the communal farm settlement known as Blagodatnoye. From 1907 to 1926, the farm supplied the Doukhobor Community with wood to fire the kilns at the Yorkton brick factory. As the heavily treed farm was cleared by Doukhobor work crews, the trees were cut into cordwood and shipped by rail to Yorkton and the cleared land was farmed. At Blagodatnoye, the Doukhobor Community built a large two-story brick dwelling house along with a large wooden barn and numerous outbuildings, none of which remain today. A small Doukhobor cemetery still exists at the site.

The large two-story brick communal home built by the CCUB in Sheho in 1907.  It was demolished in 1982. Photo courtesy Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The tour then proceeded to Insinger, where it visited the site of another communal farm settlement. From 1907 to 1928, this heavily treed farm also supplied the Doukhobor Community with firewood for its Yorkton brickworks. As the land was cleared, the trees were cut into cordwood and transported to Yorkton by rail, and the cleared land was farmed. Here also, the Doukhobor Community built a large two-story brick dwelling house which is still standing and is in the process of being renovated. It is the last structure of its kind left in Saskatchewan.

The large two-story brick communal home built by the CCUB in Insinger in 1907.  Currently under renovation, it is the last remaining structure of its kind in Saskatchewan.  Photo courtesy Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

On the return leg, the tour stopped in Theodore at the residence of Pauline Lapitsky. There, tour participants enjoyed Doukhobor song singing by the combined Saskatchewan choir members along with tour participants from Alberta and Manitoba, followed by lunch and refreshments. The tour concluded in Canora at 5:00 p.m.

Throughout the eight-hour excursion, Jonathan J. Kalmakoff served as tour guide, sharing his wealth of knowledge about the history of the places and people. Tour participants also shared a number of interesting stories and anecdotes.

“Many of the tour participants were amazed at what we were able to show them,” said Keith Tarasoff. “Few were aware of the scope of Doukhobor commercial activity in the area, and fewer yet knew about the legacy of buildings and structures they left”.

For additional information or inquiries about Doukhobor historic sites in Yorkton and the surrounding area, visit the Doukhobor Genealogy Website at www.doukhobor.org and the National Heritage Doukhobor Village website at www.ndhv.ca.

Doukhobor Historical Series Wins Premier Award

For Immediate Release – October 2, 2009

Years of hard work and a sincere dedication to the task at hand paid off in a big way for Doukhobor writer and historian Jonathan J. Kalmakoff. Recently, Kalmakoff received provincial recognition for his work through the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspaper Association’s (SWNA) Better Newspaper Competition Premier Awards for 2009.

Kalmakoff alongside Anne Sanderson of the Wadena News received a first place award for Best Saskatchewan Cultural Story of the Year for their documentary series Their Story, chronicling the history of the Doukhobor settlement at Kylemore, Saskatchewan.

Published from July 9 to August 20, 2008 in the Wadena News, the five-part series examined the Kylemore colony from its early settlement and development, communal life and organization, to the eventual demise of the Doukhobor Community and break-up of the colony. The series has drawn a host of comments from both Doukhobor descendants as well as members of the general public who were pleased to see this little-known piece of history recorded.

(r-l) Jonathan J. Kalmakoff and Anne Sanderson accept SWNA Premier Award for Best Saskatchewan Cultural Story of the Year.

It is the first time Kalmakoff has received such recognition for his work, which is done entirely voluntarily out of true passion for the history of his ancestors and he said it is a moment he will never forget.

“I felt it was vital to document the Kylemore and surrounding area’s strong Doukhobor heritage and chronicle their important contribution to its historic development”, said Kalmakoff. “It was a wonderful opportunity to work with Anne Sanderson and share their story through the Wadena News. It is gratifying indeed to have our efforts recognized and appreciated.”

For Sanderson, recording the area’s history is her true passion and she could not be happier that the history in the Wadena News readership area is receiving provincial recognition.

“Anytime we can record area history it is a benefit for future generations, but this series was an extra special journey for Wadena News. Working alongside an historian like Jonathan Kalmakoff was an honour for me – he inspired me to dig beyond the surface and get the whole story for our readers,” she said.

“This series provides the reader with a fascinating unsolved mystery, a powerful highlight of a prominent Saskatchewan cultural group, as well as insight into the importance of heritage preservation to cultural groups in the province,” noted the Alberta guest judge who evaluated the series. “The writers have engaged in extensive research of both the past and present, drawing significant connections between the two.”

Wadena News July 9, 2009 cover featuring Their Story series.

The award was presented at the annual SWNA convention held September 18-19, 2009 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

The SWNA is an association that represents weekly newspapers across Saskatchewan. Its 87 member newspapers connect with over 500,000 readers across Saskatchewan and not only reflect life in the communities they serve, they are a central part of Saskatchewan’s unique lifestyle.

The SWNA encourages excellence by sponsoring an annual provincial competition, the Better Newspaper Competition Awards, to celebrate the achievements of its member newspapers. Newspapers compete against other newspapers for Premier Awards in such categories as editorial, photography, advertising and special promotion. In addition, newspapers compete in the General Excellence Competition, which recognizes newspapers for the best Editorial Page, Best Front Page and Best All-round Newspaper.

For general inquiries about the SWNA or the Better Newspaper Competition Awards, visit the SWNA website at: http://www.swna.com/.

New Parks Canada Plaque Acknowledges National Significance of Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan

For Immediate Release – August 8, 2009

On July 18, 2009, the Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada (HSMBC) unveiled a commemorative plaque at the National Doukhobor Heritage Village (NDHV) in Veregin, Saskatchewan, acknowledging the national significance of the Doukhobors at Veregin and proclaiming its affiliation with the family of national historic sites.

Opening address by Irene LeGatt of Parks Canada at the unveiling ceremony. Photo courtesy Patti Negrave.

The unveiling ceremony was presided over by Irene LeGatt of Parks Canada. It opened with the Lord’s Prayer recited by John Cazakoff of Kamsack and the singing of O Canada by Sonia Tarasoff of Canora. Official greetings from the Government of Canada and the NDHV followed. The official party was then introduced, which consisted of Constable Brett Hillier of the Kamsack RCMP detachment; Garry Breitkreuz, Yorkton-Melville MP on behalf of Jim Prentice, Minister of Environment and Minister Responsible for Parks Canada; Keith Tarasoff of Canora, Chairman of the NDHV; Eileen Konkin of Pelly, an 18-year member of the NDHV Board; and Laura Veregin of Benito, a 20-year NDHV Board member.

The official party unveiled the 2’ x 3’ bronze plaque, which has inscriptions in English, French and Russian. The inscription reads as follows:

“Established in 1904 by followers of the communal ideals of Peter V. Verigin, this settlement served as the administrative, distribution and spiritual centre for Canada’s Doukhobor communities. The original Prayer Home, machine shed, grain elevator and foundations of the old store remain to bear witness to this community’s first period of settlement, as well as to their collective toil and utopian ideals. The striking design and scale of the Prayer Home reflect the authority and vision of Peter Verigin as well as the spiritual and cultural significance of this place for Doukhobors.”

Unveiling of the historic plaque. (l-r) Irene LeGatt, Parks Canada; Garry Breitkreuz, MP; Keith Tarasoff, NDHV Chairman; Brett Hillier, Kamsack RCMP Detachment. Photo courtesy Patti Negrave.

After the plaque was unveiled, Irene LeGatt read its inscription in English and French, and Laura Veregin read its Russian version.

“The Canadian Government is proud to welcome the Doukhobors at Veregin to the family of national historic sites,” stated Garry Breitkreuz, MP. “Today’s commemoration will help Canadians appreciate the impact of early immigration policies on the development of the Canadian West. As with other immigrants, the Doukhobors embarked on their journey to Canada with dreams of freedom and prospects of peace. The story of the Doukhobors is an inspirational one of hardship and perseverance, determination and faith, and is an important chapter of our history,” Breitkreuz said.

Eileen Konkin then provided a brief overview of the 300+ year history of the Doukhobors, and their historic significance in Veregin.

Garry Breitkreuz, MP discusses the national significance of the Doukhobors at Veregin. Photo courtesy Patti

Negrave.

The program concluded, as it had began, with hymns sung by the Heritage Choir, which had many of its members dressed in traditional Russian costumes. Lunch was then served and the dignitaries and attendees were escorted on a tour of the village.

“Today’s event is a milestone for the National Doukhobor Heritage Village,” Keith Tarasoff noted. “Its not often that we have an honour of this statute to celebrate.”

Fleeing religious persecution in Russia, approximately 7,400 Doukhobors immigrated to Canada in 1899. With the aid of Leo Tolstoy and sympathetic groups like the Quakers, 750,000 acres were secured in Western Canada for the Doukhobors. In exchange, the Canadian Government gained skilled agriculturalists to help populate and develop its western frontier. In addition to their agricultural background, the Doukhobors brought with them strong beliefs in communalism, pacifism, and rejection of institutional religion. “Toil and Peaceful Life” was the central tenant of the Doukhobor philosophy.

Eileen Konkin, NDHV Board member from Pelly, SK provides an overview of the 300+ year history of the

Doukhobors in Russia and Canada. Photo courtesy Patti Negrave.

As with other immigrant groups, the Doukhobors encountered hardships, but persevered and established many industrious villages and enterprises. Central among these communities was the village of Veregin. Established in 1904, the original Veregin settlement – of which the Prayer Home, machine shed, grain elevator and foundations of the old store survive – was the administrative, distribution and spiritual centre for the region during the first period of Doukhobor settlement in Canada. An industrial hub as well, at its height Veregin boasted a brick yard, brick store, store house, four grain elevators, machine shed and a flourmill. Veregin retained its important role in Doukhobor society until 1931 when spiritual and administrative headquarters were relocated to British Columbia. Its subsequent decline marked the end of the first phase of Doukhobor settlement.

The spectacular Prayer Home reflects the settlement’s importance to the Doukhobors as a religious and cultural centre, as well as the authority and the vision of the leader of the Doukhobors, Peter V. Verigin. Restored in 1980, the Prayer home was declared a Provincial Heritage Property in 1982. Doukhobors at Veregin was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2006.

Laura Verigin, NDHV Board member from Benito, MB reads the Russian inscription of the Parks Canada historic

plaque. Photo courtesy Patti Negrave.

Since its creation in 1919, the HSMBC has played a leading role in identifying and commemorating nationally significant places, persons and events – such as the Doukhobors at Veregin – that make up the rich tapestry of our country’s cultural heritage. Together these places, persons and events comprise the System of National Historic Sites in Canada. The HSMBC is an expert advisory body on historical matters. On the basis of its recommendation, the Government of Canada has designated more than 900 national historic sites, almost 600 national historic persons and over 350 national historic events. The HSMBC considers whether a proposed subject has had a nationally significant impact on Canadian history, or illustrates a nationally important aspect of Canadian history.

The placement of a HSMBC commemorative plaque – such as the one unveiled in Veregin – represents the official recognition of historic value. It is one means of educating the public about the richness of our culture and heritage, which must be preserved for future generations.

NDHV Board and members gather in front of Parks Canada historical plaque. Photo courtesy Patti Negrave.

For additional information or inquiries about the Doukhobors at Veregin or other national historic sites, visit the Parks Canada – National Historic Sites of Canada website.

Mikhailovka Doukhobors Commemorated by Spring Naming

For Immediate Release – November 29, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The official name comes after a year of consultations by Kalmakoff to gather input and support for the name from local stakeholders. The response was firmly in favour of the name. The landowners, Robert and Daren Staples of Benito, Manitoba, provided a letter of support. The Benito Doukhobor Society also endorsed the naming project. As well, the Rural Municipality of Livingston No. 331 passed a resolution in favour of the name.

The consultations were followed by a formal detailed proposal by Kalmakoff to the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board, the Provincial body responsible for place names. The Board reviewed and investigated the name proposal in consultation with government departments and agencies. In determining the suitability of the name, the Board was guided by the Geographic Naming Policies, a stringent set of principles governing the naming of geographic features. Its decision – which supported the name Mikhailovka Spring – was then recommended to the Minister Responsible for the Board, the Honourable Ken Cheveldayoff, who approved the decision.

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

“The naming of Mikhailovka Spring reflects the area’s strong Doukhobor heritage and their important contribution to its historic development,” said Kalmakoff. “The name is a culturally important connection between past generations, present and future.”

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

Heritage Architecture Excellence Award Bestowed to Doukhobor Prayer Home at Veregin, Saskatchewan

For Immediate Release – October 28, 2008

The Doukhobor Prayer Home at Veregin, Saskatchewan has been bestowed with the prestigious Heritage Architecture Award of Excellence. The Honourable Dr. Gordon Barnhart, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, presented the award to the building owner, the National Doukhobor Heritage Village, at a special public ceremony at Government House in Regina today.

The unique building known as the Prayer Home was constructed in Veregin, Saskatchewan in 1917 by the Doukhobor Community. The second floor was the private residence of Doukhobor leader Peter “Lordly” Verigin, while a communal prayer area was located on the main level. The vast open site surrounding the house accommodated large gatherings drawn from Doukhobor colonies throughout Saskatchewan, who assembled to hear the words of their leader as he addressed them from the second floor balcony.

Award presentation ceremony at Government House, Regina, Saskatchewan. [l-r] Dr. Gordon L. Barnhart, Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan; Charles Samuels, building contractor; Keith Tarasoff, Chairman, National Heritage Doukhobor Village; and Al Gill, President, Architectural Heritage Saskatchewan.

Serving for over ninety years as the social, cultural and spiritual centre of Doukhobor life in Saskatchewan, this building remains highly significant as one of the most architecturally significant structures in Saskatchewan. Its two-storey wrap around verandah is a unique design feature in this province, and the hand-cut metal fretwork arches display exceptional artistic talent and design.

Over the past quarter century, the Prayer Home has undergone several major restoration initiatives, including re-shingling with cedar shingles, repainting, foundation repairs, and most recently repair and restoration of the wrap-around verandah, following the original design. In addition, a fire suppression system was installed to protect both the interior and the exterior of this highly flammable wooden structure.

These preservation efforts are an excellent example of the devotion to authentic restoration that the owner, the National Doukhobor Heritage Village, has contributed to this National Historic Site. For this reason, the Doukhobor Prayer Home received the Heritage Architecture Award of Excellence for the category of ‘Exterior Restoration’.

Cover of Autumn 2008 issue of Heritage Quarterly Saskatchewan featuring the Doukhobor Prayer Home at Veregin, Saskatchewan.

The Heritage Architecture Awards of Excellence are the most prestigious honour bestowed by the Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society. The Lieutenant Governor is the Patron of the juried awards that have recognized 94 projects throughout the province since the Society launched the program in 1996.

Dedicated to promotion, protection and preservation of Saskatchewan’s built heritage for residents and visitors to our province, the Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society has a province-wide membership of almost 400 individuals and is a federally-registered charity.

There are now seven categories in the Heritage Architecture Excellence awards: Exterior Restoration; Interior Conservation; Rehabilitation; Adaptive Re-Use; Sympathetic New Construction; Landscape, Engineering and Agricultural Works; and Education, signage, Monuments & Interpretation.

“We are very pleased that the Doukhobor Prayer Home has been recognized in the Exterior Restoration category of the Heritage Architecture Excellence awards”, said Keith Tarasoff, chairman of the National Heritage Doukhobor Village. “We sincerely appreciate this acknowledgement of our ongoing efforts to preserve and promote our Doukhobor heritage.”

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

Pond Name Celebrates Buchanan’s History and Development, Doukhobor Heritage

For Immediate Release – September 1, 2008

A wetland near Buchanan, Saskatchewan has been officially named to commemorate the history and development of the village and its Doukhobor heritage. The name “Buchanan Mill Pond”, proposed by writer and historian Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, was recently approved by the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board.

The Buchanan Mill Pond is located along the south parameter road in Buchanan, just east of Highway No. 229. It is approximately 100 feet long, 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep and covers approximately half an acre in area. Today, it is a typical-looking prairie wetland; however its historical association with the village dates back almost a century.

Our local heritage is reflected in our place names,” said Kalmakoff. “In this regard, the name “Buchanan Mill Pond” commemorates the historic flour mill in Buchanan and the contribution of its original Doukhobor builders and subsequent owners to the development of the village. It highlights the pond’s essential role in the milling operation and its subsequent role as a popular recreation spot for Buchanan residents.”

Buchanan Mill Pond from the east facing west, 2008. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The origins of the mill and mill pond can be traced to the Independent Doukhobor Elevator Company. In 1915, the company was formed by a group of Buchanan-area Doukhobor farmers and businessmen, Peter. A. Shukin, Alex M. Demosky, Nikolai N. Dergousoff, John P. Sookocheff, Joseph W. Sookocheff, Michael J. Verigin, Nikolai P. Vanjoff, John Novokshonoff and John C. and Alex C. Plaxin, for the purpose of carrying on an elevator and milling business. It was a boom time for agriculture on the Prairies, and the war years brought high prices for grain and farm products. There was also a great need for local milling facilities, as the closest mill was 14 miles away in Canora.

With an initial investment of eight thousand dollars, the Doukhobors built a 60,000-bushel grain elevator along the CNR right-of-way in Buchanan in 1915. In 1916, they built a first-class roller flour mill (50 feet long, 36 feet wide and 40 feet high) to the east of it at a capital value of one hundred thousand dollars. A large warehouse was built near the mill to receive and store the milled flour. The Doukhobors also brought in a steam shovel and excavated the dugout pond to store and provide water for the steam-engine which ran the mill.

Mill pond from the west facing east, c. 1940. The mill warehouse (gambrel roof) is at far end. Behind is the mill (elevator-shaped roof). The mill elevator is to the north (left), second from the front. Photo by Lorne J. Plaxin.

Over the next decade, the Independent Doukhobor Elevator Company operated in Buchanan, buying, selling, storing, handling, shipping and milling grain from the local area. However, a post-war recession hit the prairies; prices for grain and farm products hit record lows; credit could not be had; and many rural businesses could no longer operate profitably. In 1925, the company ceased operations and the mill and elevator were sold.

The elevator was purchased by the National Elevator Company, which continued to operate it for several decades.

Ownership of the mill changed repeatedly over the years. In 1925, it was sold to the West Milling Company Ltd. The next year, it was run by the Buchanan Farmers Milling Company (Dave Dockas, manager). In 1929, it was bought by the Buchanan Milling Company (A.W. Slipchenko, manager). Then in 1932, the Farmers Milling Company (Paul Blonski, owner) purchased the mill and overhauled it, furnishing it with new, first-class machinery and changing it over from steam to combustion engine power. In 1941, it was taken over by the Buchanan Milling Company, which operated it under several owners (Joseph Ortinsky, Walter Mysak and T. Evaniuk until 1945, followed by Morris Naruzny) until 1947, when it ceased operations and was dismantled. The mill was Buchanan’s largest industry for over 30 years.

Buchanan railway station and elevators from the west facing east, c. 1940. The mill elevator is second  from front. The mill (elevator-shaped roof) is to the south (right) of it. Photo by Lorne J. Plaxin.

After 1932, the pond ceased to be used in the milling operation, as water was no longer required for the steam engines. However, for decades thereafter, it was a popular recreation spot for Buchanan residents. In summer, the pond was used as a family picnic spot and a swimming hole. One 1948 newspaper referred to it as Buchanan’s “Beauty Spot”. In winter, it was used by schoolchildren as a skating rink. At one end, a steep hill provided an excellent toboggan run. It continued to be used by local residents until the late Sixties.  Today, the pond is a wetland and wildlife habitat.

“The mill pond was our childhood hangout,” said Lorne J. Plaxin, former Buchanan resident and son of one of the original mill owners. “It is where many of us learned to dog-paddle in summer, and skate and play hockey in winter. I lived in Buchanan during this era and am sure most would agree that the pond should be formally recognized for its historic significance.”

An old pulley wheel lies beside concrete foundations, the last remnants of the Buchanan flour mill, 2008. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The official name comes after a year of consultations by Kalmakoff to gather input and support for the name from local stakeholders. The response was collectively in favour of the name. The landowner, George Dwernychuk of Sports Grove, Alberta, provided a letter of support. The Village of Buchanan No. 331 also passed a resolution in favour of the name. As well, Lorne J. Plaxin provided an enthusiastic written endorsement.

The consultations were followed by a formal proposal by Kalmakoff to the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board, the Provincial body responsible for place names. The Board reviewed and investigated the name proposal in consultation with government departments and agencies. In determining the suitability of the name, the Board was guided by the Geographic Naming Policies, a stringent set of principles governing the naming of geographic features. Its decision – which supported the name Buchanan Mill Pond – was then recommended to the Minister Responsible for the Board, the Honourable Ken Cheveldayoff, who approved the decision.

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

“The naming of the Buchanan Mill Pond signifies its important historic significance to the village,” said Kalmakoff. It commemorates the resourcefulness, industry and community spirit of its early residents.”

For additional information or inquiries about Buchanan Mill Pond, email Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

Library and Archives Canada and the Doukhobor Genealogy Website Announce Strategic Partnership

For Immediate Release – July 10, 2008

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, creator of the Doukhobor Genealogy Website, the largest Doukhobor family history website, announced today a strategic partnership to make more resources accessible to Canadians interested in online Doukhobor family research.

Initially, Kalmakoff and LAC will focus on identifying the significant amount of Doukhobor archival material held at LAC. The material, covering 1899 to the present, includes thousands of government records, private manuscript collections, books, reports, periodicals, newspapers, photographs, and sound and video recordings. The result will be a thematic guide to help locate the material and assist in general research. The thematic guide will be available free of charge at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy as well as at www.doukhobor.org.

In addition to the thematic guide to Doukhobor records, LAC and Kalmakoff will develop a specialized web page for Doukhobor genealogy at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy. The specialized web page will be designed for those who wish to undertake genealogical research on their Doukhobor ancestors. It will provide an overview of select sources and tips for doing effective Doukhobor genealogical research while avoiding numerous pitfalls.

Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, creator of the Doukhobor Genealogy Website and Sylvie Tremblay, head of the Canadian Genealogy Centre, Library and Archives Canada, discuss the strategic partnership in Ottawa.

The Doukhobors are a Christian group that originated in Russia in the 17th century. They were persecuted in Tsarist Russia for their religious beliefs, which included pacifism, egalitarianism and communal ownership. In 1899, over 7,500 Doukhobors immigrated to Western Canada. There, they formed large communal farming enterprises. Today an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Doukhobors live in Canada with a similar number living in Russia and the Former Soviet Republics.

“I am pleased to be partnering with LAC to provide guidance and direction to Doukhobor family researchers,” said Kalmakoff. “There is a wealth of records that can help those researching their Doukhobor roots understand their past. Being able to find, locate and use them is absolutely essential.”

About the Doukhobor Genealogy Website

The Doukhobor Genealogy Website is the leading online site for Doukhobor family history. It contains research guides and indices of Doukhobor archival materials in Canada and elsewhere and offers comprehensive glossaries of Doukhobor names and naming practices, geography, maps and place names, in addition to a wealth of historical texts and English translations of Russian sources. The creator, researcher and writer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff is a leading authority on Doukhobor genealogy and history. His publications are essential works for the study of Doukhobor family history. For more information, visit www.doukhobor.org.

About Library and Archives Canada

Library and Archives Canada collects and preserves Canada’s documentary heritage, and makes it accessible to all Canadians. This heritage includes publications, archival records, sound and audio-visual materials, photographs, artworks, and electronic documents such as websites. The Canadian Genealogy Centre (www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy) includes all physical and online genealogical services of Library and Archives Canada. It offers genealogical content, services, advice, research tools and opportunities to work on joint projects, all in both official languages.

Media contacts:

Sylvie Tremblay
Library and Archives Canada
613-992-1638
Sylvie.Tremblay@lac-bac.gc.ca

Jonathan J. Kalmakoff
Doukhobor Genealogy Website
306-569-0074
Contact Jonathan

Kylemore Historic Doukhobor Tour

For Immediate Release – July 2, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highway map of Kylemore and Fishing Lake, Saskatchewan.

Doukhobors Featured in 100 Saskatchewan Stories Documentary Series

by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor Available Online

For Immediate Release – June 15, 2008

The Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor, a vast compilation of over 785 documents from the early twentieth century relating to the arrival and settlement of the Doukhobors in Canada, has been added online to the Multicultural Canada website.

James Mavor

James Mavor (1854-1925). LAC PA-126982.

James Mavor (1854-1925) was a preeminent Canadian political economist, University of Toronto professor, writer, social activist and art collector. In 1898, at the request of Petr Kropotkin, Mavor was instrumental in facilitating the Doukhobor migration from Russia to Canada. He continued throughout his life to be a staunch supporter of the Doukhobors following their settlement in Canada.

His collected works consist largely of correspondence, from the initial inquiry by Petr Kropotkin to Mavor in July 1898 to the arrival of the Doukhobors in 1899, and the first years of their settlement in Saskatchewan. Important correspondents include government officials such as Clifford Sifton and James A. Smart of the federal Department of the Interior and W.F. McCreary, Commissioner of Immigration in Winnipeg, and Doukhobor spokesmen and leaders such as Leo Tolstoy, Aylmer Maude, Vladimir Chertkov, D. Khilkov, and Petr Verigin. Subsequent correspondence is mainly concerned with the period 1906-1907 and 1919 when Doukhobor communities were under threat of expropriation of their lands. The collection also contains printed material, including pamphlets and other articles gathered by Mavor on the Doukhobors; Mavor’s own notes and reports, including a daybook kept during his trip to Western Canada in 1899; and photographs of Doukhobor settlements in Canada. Some of the material is in Russian.

Telegraph from Peter Verigin to James Mavor, 1912.

Record from the Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor.

Originally housed for decades in the University of Toronto Library, the Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor was digitized and made available online in May of 2008 through the Multicultural Canada website. It is accessible through search and browse pages that link to an online database. Every record in the database contains the title, name of author, date, subject, summary description, and a link to the associated set of document images. The digitized images reflect the original physical condition of the records. Some of the records are aged and discoloured or have extremely faded ink. Others may have tears, folds, or other markings.

The collection host, Multicultural Canada, is a coalition of Canadian libraries, universities, educational and cultural institutions dedicated to collecting and preserving the historic records of Canada’s diverse cultural groups and providing free and greater access to them online.  The Multicultural Canada website includes digitized collections, learning modules and the Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples. 

The online digitized Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor is a tremendous new research source for historians, writers, students, genealogists and anyone interested in the early Canadian history of the Doukhobors.

To access and search the Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor, visit the Multicultural Canada website at: http://multiculturalcanada.ca/node/1523.