Between 1908 and 1912, about 8,000 Doukhobors migrated to British Columbia from Saskatchewan to maintain their communal lifestyle. But for several years prior, small groups of Doukhobors had been travelling to BC to seek employment — and coincidentally or not, to the very region where their brethren would one day move en masse.
During their early period of settlement on the Canadian Prairies, able-bodied Doukhobor men left their villages in Saskatchewan each spring to find work as farm labourers and railway navvies to earn much-needed money for the community, as most settlers were almost destitute.
Most journeyed by foot and obtained employment within a 100 to 150-mile radius of their villages. Less frequently, some small groups and individuals travelled even further afoot. For instance, 200 travelled to California to work on the Southern Pacific Railroad Coast line in 1900, and in 1901, a smaller group worked on the Ontario & Rainy River Railway line between Baudette, Minnesota and Fort Frances, Ontario. That same year, dozens made their way across the border to Pembina, North Dakota to assist with the fall harvest.
The first sign of a Doukhobor presence in BC was in the Midway Advance of May 7, 1900: “Mr. A.J. Flett has returned safely from Grand Forks where he has been gathering information about a party of Doukhobors that are said to have arrived in that district.”
There was considerable industrial activity in and around Grand Forks in 1900 and the Doukhobors may have been hired as labourers at the newly-operational Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting and Power Co. smelter, the 10-stamp mill construction for the Yankee Girl and Yankee Boy mines on Hardy Mountain, at the Franklin Camp mine, the Charles Simpson or Ed Spraggett sawmills on the North Fork of the Kettle River, or building the CPR Eholt-to-Phoenix extension.
But no other references to this group can be found (the Grand Forks newspapers for this period are missing), so it’s hard to know whether they were seasonal labourers or just passing through. Flett’s role, if anything more than just curious onlooker, is unclear; his name otherwise only showed up in local newspapers in relation to mining claims. Was he sizing up the Doukhobors as potential workers for those claims?
We know slightly more about the next group of Doukhobors in BC. In October 1901, 16 Doukhobor men in Calgary had a chance encounter with former Rossland police chief John Ingram, who had been recruited to find replacement workers for the Le Roi mine during a miners’ strike.
These men were likely the same Doukhobors employed as track maintenance on the CPR Calgary division who took part in a nationwide strike from June to late August 1901 and who would not have knowingly taken jobs as replacement workers out of solidarity with the striking miners.
According to the Nelson Tribune, “Ingram positively assured them that the labour troubles [in Rossland] were all settled; that 300 union men had returned to work and that 150 union men had applied to the Le Roi company for work but the company did not want them.” However, he apparently misrepresented the situation.
The 16 Doukhobors were among 67 men who left Calgary with Ingram. When they arrived at West Robson to switch trains for Rossland, they discovered the true state of affairs and 10 of them refused to continue. Another 23 men reached the boarding house of the War Eagle mine in Rossland — including the Doukhobors, who spoke little or no English. The cooks and waiters there refused to serve them and they were finally sent off to a cabin to do their own cooking. A union miner visited the party and left some literature explaining the dispute.
Few if any Doukhobor recruits would have had mining experience; the Evening World suggested it would take about two years for them to learn to be muckers, which seems to have been a thinly-veiled insult, as mucking involved shoveling broken rock into tram cars.
The rival Rossland Miner didn’t identify the men as Doukhobors, but it would not have been in their interest to do so as a pro-management paper.
Instead the Miner described them as “as fine a looking party of Canadians as ever came into the Golden City … The men who came into the city last night were a lot of sturdy Canadians who value free speech and action above the fetich of agitation. They will be first-class mine workers in a comparatively short period.”
However, there were no further mentions of the Doukhobor workers after that. They probably departed once they understood the dispute they were in the middle of.
A third early foray into BC by Doukhobors was reported in The Chronicles of Camille, a memoir by longtime Trail merchant Camille Lauriente, published in 1953.
Lauriente recalled working as a CPR section foreman at Murphy Creek, just north of Trail, in July or August 1902. A roadmaster assigned four Doukhobors to work with him, none of whom had any railway experience. (Therefore they probably weren’t the same men who arrived in Rossland from Calgary the previous year.)
One man was fired after Lauriente accused him of laziness; he then went to work at the Trail smelter. The other three were also fired once Lauriente found more experienced track men.
Another early mention of Doukhobors in BC was in the Grand Forks Sun of April 12, 1904: “Messrs. Harry Itter, Geo. H. Hull, Lee and Lawson went down to Cascade last Sunday to take snap shots of the Doukhobor colony at that place.” (None of those photos are known to survive.)
The report is so brief and casual that it seems to assume readers were familiar with the subject. Yet no other mention of Doukhobors in the area appeared in the Grand Forks Sun or Grand Forks Gazette that month.
The word “colony” is probably a misnomer, as it was very doubtful to have been a permanent settlement and more likely an encampment of seasonal labourers. But if this report is accurate, what were they doing at Cascade? Working at one of the mines or sawmills in the area? At the Cascade Water Power & Light dam on the Kettle River? Or for the CPR as railway labourers? And were these the same Doukhobors that A.J. Flett went to see at Grand Forks three years earlier?
Furthermore, was it just coincidence that in each case the men came to the region that would later be home to thousands of Doukhobors? Or did these early sojourns plant some small seed for that subsequent migration? Did any Doukhobors who came to BC prior to 1908 later return permanently?
We’ll probably never know the answers with any certainty. Unfortunately, we don’t know the names of any of the individuals either; no Doukhobors have been discovered in BC on the 1901 census.
With thanks to Ron Verzuh, who found the story of Doukhobors hired to work in the Rossland mines.
In 1973, after decades of hobby fruit-growing and breeding, Doukhobor farmer Wasil C. Fofonoff of Buchanan, Saskatchewan bred the hardy and delicious plum variety that bears his name and which today is a staple variety in orchards and gardens throughout the Prairies. Reproduced by permission from The Canora Courier, April 13, 1983.
Agriculturally speaking, prairie pride has traditionally centred around the rolling fields of wheat, barley and oats which have made this province internationally known as the Breadbasket of the World. But for Wasil C. Fofonoff of the Buchanan district, distinction arrived about 20 years after his lifelong hobby of fruit growing resulted in the origin and development of a prairie plum which bears his name.
Fofonoff literally reaped the fruits of his labours in the 1960’s, when after years of experimentation with many varieties of fruit, he noticed and nurtured a small, chance seedling in his orchard. “I noticed the differences right away – its qualities were special in comparison to the range of plums we have available for growth in Saskatchewan,” he said.
Traditionally, two strains of plums are grown successfully in this area; the Dandy and the Pembina, Fofonoff explained. Although the Dandy is fairly productive and hardy, if eaten off the tree, the flavour can best be described as “fair,” he said. And when processed, the flavour is “hardly that fair.” The Pembina, on the other hand, although of very high quality, is suitable for only the southerly zones of this province. Thus, for about 75 per cent of the growing area of Saskatchewan, it is unsuitable.
The Fofonoff plum has managed to overcome these problems. The fruit is very flavourful, Fofonoff said. “If a basket of the fruit is taken into a room and then removed later, an occupant of the room would continue to smell its perfumed fragrance. Also, the fruit is of very high quality eaten off the tree.”
He went on to describe the plum as very hardy for this area; an early ripener and of a fairly good quality when cooked.
Originated by Accident
As so often happens, the Fofonoff plum came about almost as an accident. Its originator compared it with the Macintosh apple, a strain of which has achieved world popularity and which also began as a chance seedling.
Chance seedlings, a freak of nature, cannot be duplicated, and thus it is vital that they be recognized very early in their development and nurtured. Even after the plum tree has grown, it took between five to seven years before it became commercially available, Fofonoff explained.
The plum had to undergo a series of intensive tests, which were supervised by the University of Saskatchewan, with whom Fofonoff has cooperated in many areas of experimentation of fruit growing. The plant was tested for its hardiness, its productivity, its ripening characteristics and most important, its quality. In determining its quality, researchers discovered that the plum was a good keeper, was of a firm flesh, a freestone and had very tender skin.
After testing, the plum was finally released to the Lakeshore Tree Farm Nurseries at Saskatoon, for propagation under the instruction of D.K. Robinson. Now available through the Brandon Nurseries, the plum is also propagated in several other nurseries in the west.
Appreciation for Fofonoff’s achievement, however, is purely in token form. Although he has been recognized with certificates and other honours, all his work with fruit growing has been purely on a volunteer basis. And even though the fruit he developed is now available for consumer use, Fofonoff will not see a penny of the profits.
“We tried to obtain a patent for royalties for the plum from Ottawa,” he said, “and were flatly refused. The release of a new plant is not subject to royalties for origination in this country, although in Europe, originators are reimbursed.”
But, he’s quick to point out, he is “not in it for the money. There is a certain pride one takes in this sort of achievement. All a plant breeder can hope for is the acclaim and recognition from his fellow growers and the research staff involved. To see the goodness of the fruit available to the public is reward enough.”
Fofonoff is one of a handful of independent plant breeders who work in conjunction with the University of Saskatchewan. Most experimentation is done within test orchards on the grounds of the university, but in a few cases, the college of agriculture recruits the assistance of a person such as Fofonoff, and works closely on research with them. The University of Saskatchewan has been recognized as the western centre for this type of research and Fofonoff was pleased to co-operate with it when the partnership began in the 1960’s.
Started Growing Fruit as Hobby in 1939
He began growing fruit as a hobby when he started farming in 1939. The small-scale orchard, as it began, now includes a large range of pears, several varieties of crab apples and standard apples, “quite a range” of plums, cherry hybrids and related red sour cherries and his latest project, apricots.
His colleagues at the university have included Dr. Nelson and the late D.R. Robinson. “It is all scientific work,” he said. “The university staff regularly visit my orchard, check it under strict controls and make sure that the work is well recorded. However, scientific knowledge on its own is not enough. You have to have the green thumb, or it just won’t work,” he acknowledged.
When asked if his current work with apricots will reach the same acclaim as did his plum, Fofonoff replied that the chances were “one in a million”. “It (the chance seedling) all depends on nature. There’s very little a person can do, as the superior qualities are born in nature. The trick is not to ignore it – to quickly spot it and develop it.”
Studies Dormancy of Apricot Seed
Fofonoff has been working on breaking the dormancy of the apricot seed – an intricate and painstaking procedure. Dormancy must be broken so that the plants will germinate in the spring and the process is accomplished in the medium of sand, which is placed in a can that has holes bored in its bottom in order to let out excess moisture. The container is placed in a cool place, such as a basement and then time, the vital factor, plays its part. Fofonoff estimates that while plums take 150 days to break their dormancy, the period for apricots is 45 days.
During the 45 days, the plant has to take its shell and send out roots. After the dormancy has broken, probably in early May, some seedlings will be ready for planting.
As well as growing plants from seed, Fofonoff is experienced with other forms of propagation, such as grafting.
Grafting is a process which involves changing of the plant material of the under stock to the top work material, he explained. The advantage of grafting or budding comes when one wants to change the same species of fruit to a different type of the same strain.
“The success of grafting evolves on the atmospheric condition of each spring, the hardiness of the under stock and the variety of the top work,” he said. “What you are looking for is successful vegetative alterations.”
Orchard Described as Compact
In describing his orchard, Fofonoff says it is as “compact as possible” and must be kept that way to ensure rabbits do not damage the plants. He says his soil is of average quality, but is built up with quantities of farmyard manure. In periods of drought, water is provided by means of a well on his farm.
Fofonoff said he will continue his research as long as he can and even though he may never again develop a strain of fruit to bear his name, he is satisfied with his work. “The reputation of the plum has grown,” he said. “In years of surplus, I sell the fruit and most of my customers say it is of higher or better quality than what is often available in stores.”
In July 1904, future Canadian historian, librarian and editor W. Stewart Wallace (then a University of Toronto student) accepted a journalism assignment by The Westminster, an illustrated monthly religious magazine for the home. His task: to secure an interview with Peter Vasil’evich Verigin of the village of Otradnoye, Saskatchewan. In the brief 18 months since his arrival in Canada from Siberian exile, the charismatic Doukhobor leader had (to the widespread amazement of many Canadians) united the independent, communalist and radical Doukhobors under his leadership, soothed the disquiet amongst them, resolved the immediate problem of homestead entries, convinced all but a tiny minority of his followers to accept a communal form of organization and to cooperate with the Canadian government, and raised the Doukhobors’ well-being from poverty towards self-sufficiency. Wallace’s illustrated interview offers a rare and intimate glimpse of Verigin between the early establishment of his Utopian community, and the land crisis and resulting schism that would erupt only 18 months later. Reproduced from The Westminster, New Series, Vol. V, No. 5, November 1904 (Toronto: The Westminster Co., Limited).All editorial comments in square brackets are by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
Agreeably to instructions from the Editor of The Westminster, I drove out from Yorkton to obtain an interview with Peter Verigin, the “leader of the Doukhobors.”
When my Doukhobor guide and I lit in at Otradnoe, Mr. Verigin’s village, we found Mr. Verigin away at Swan River, fifty miles farther north, endeavoring (as I afterward learnt) to dissuade the [radical] Thunder Hill Doukhobors from going off on the pilgrimage of July 12-15, 1904. He was at his familiar task of moderating the excesses of his own people.
Two days later Mr. Verigin drove into Otradnoe, and I saw him for the first time. I had expected to see a bearded, buirdly Russian peasant, with an inexplicable genius for organization – a kind of peasant king, like [Scotch poet] Robbie Burns, but what I saw was quite different. The man who met my eye that evening in Otradnoe was a well-groomed gentlemen of heroic proportions, who drove a luxurious democrat and splendid blacks [buggy and team], and was followed by an interpreter [almost certainly Semion F. Reibin] who carried his umbrella and shawl. He wore a Panama hat and white neglige shirt, and carried gloves and a lace handkerchief. In appearance, he was handsome and of a fine presence. His face was charming and sunny, but inscrutable as the deep, deep sea. There is no more charming or sunny or courteous man in two hemispheres than Mr. Verigin; his courtesy is so unfailing it is like a mask, and no man can see behind it.
It is not yet two years since Mr. Verigin came to Canada from the prisons of Siberia; but in that time he has wrought wonders among the Doukhobors. Two years ago the Doukhobors lived in low cabins of logs and mud; to-day (thanks to Mr. Verigin) they have a brickyard and are building houses of brick. Two years ago they hitched their women to the plows; now they are using 25-horse-power, double-cylinder Reeves engines that plow 25 acres a day. Two years ago they ground their flour by windmill; now they are running four grist-mills and four saw-mills. Three years ago they did not have one threshing machine outfit to bless themselves with; to-day they have four portable engines and three traction engines, all run by Doukhobor engineers. Two years ago they were a disorganized and fanatical rabble, dwellers in the Cave of Adullam [Biblical cave where David hid from Saul], restless and malcontent; now they are perhaps the most hopeful and ambitious people in America.
These are some of the things that must be laid at the door of Mr. Verigin. But perhaps the most notable and impressive of his achievements has been his organization of the Doukhobors on the communistic system, which works without a hitch. It is not too much to say that he has in two years evolved out of virtual anarchy a system of political economy that may be described as strictly ideal: behind every feature of it lies a living principle, a Biblical truth; for there are no men who are such faithful and relentless “doers of the word” as the Doukhobors.
Mr. Verigin welcomed me in the ceremonious Russian (for he cannot speak the English), and then there was a silence in the sunlight while the interpreter hurried up.
I explained my business with Mr. Verigin; and Mr. Verigin said, in reply, that it was very pleasing to him to have visitors from so far. At the same time he spoke very feelingly about the falsehoods that had been printed by the newspaper men of Canada regarding the Doukhobors.
I explained that, for my part, I was not a newspaper man, but was merely a humble student at the university; and that explanation proved the open sesame to Mr. Verigin’s heart. He said that since I was a student he would be very pleased to talk with me, and he hoped he would have something worth hearing.
We went into the garden, and Mr. Verigin was soon on his knees beside a magnificent cucumber bed. With genuine Doukhobor pride he pointed out its beauties and enquired if I had seen the like of that in my travels. He was in a happy mood, happy in being home once more, and soon the honest perspiration stood out on his forehead as he helped remove the frame of logs around the bed.
He asked about the [Russo-Japanese] war with great apparent interest. What was the latest news? Had Port Arthur fallen? S.W. – No, not yet; but its fall is daily expected. Do you take a great interest in the war? Mr. V. – Very great. S.W. – Would you like the Japanese beaten? Mr. V. (epigrammatically) – I should like to see both sides beaten. S.W. – I see you are a disciple of Leo Tolstoy’s. Mr. V. – Yes, Count Tolstoy is a very dear friend of mine. He also is a Doukhobor, and he has written to me that he intends to come out here to Canada before he dies.
The Interpreter – You see, Mr. Verigin stayed at Count Tolstoy’s house when he came out of Siberia. The Russian Government would not let him see his wife, but gave him two days to leave Russia, and he stayed over night at Count Tolstoy’s. He had been in Siberia for sixteen years, in three hundred prisons; and he has five brothers there now, two dead and three living. The Russian Government regarded them all as dangerous because they loved and obeyed Christos.
From the interpreter I learnt also a fact that shed considerable light on the social status of Mr. Verigin, namely, that Mr. Verigin’s father was a rich and notable man, and that his sons had all been educated by a family tutor. From this, I think, the deduction may safely be made that the Verigins are what we should call radical aristocrats, like Manlius Capitolinus [4th century BC Roman populistleader] or Lord Rosebery [19th centuryBritish liberalPrime Minister]. They are patricians who have gone over to the side of the plebs.
Mr. Verigin has a monumental wit, and it cropped out everywhere in his conversation. Speaking of Prince Oukhtomsky, editor of The Viedemosti of St. Petersburg, who was up at the settlements lately [in May 1904], he told how he had brought offers of help to the Doukhobors from the Russian Government (a fact that did not appear in the daily papers), and added that the Doukhobors, when they heard he was a newspaper man, had “nearly hanged him.” To anyone familiar with the Doukhobor horror of killing of any kind, the idea of Prince Oukhtomsky being hanged by Doukhobor hands from a Doukhobor roof-tree, was full of the wildest humor. Mr. Verigin made it quite clear that Prince Oukhtomsky was not welcome at the Doukhobor settlements with offers of help from Russia; but the last thing that could have happened to him was hanging.
When I spoke of the Doukhobor as Socialists Mr. Verigin objected on the score that [Russian radical] Socialists killed people, and the Doukhobors did not. “Here,” he said, “there are no kings and queens, there are only prairie chickens, and we cannot kill them.”
Asked where and when he was born, he smiled and said his memory did not extend back that far, adding severely that he did not see any good purpose to be pursuing such inquiries.
At breakfast we were Mr. Verigin’s guests, and Mr. Verigin went out of his way to apologize to us for the wooden spoons that were set beside our plates. He said (parodying the hopeful, ambitious language employed by himself and the rest of the Doukhobors) that he had intended to get gold spoons; but that, according to the old Russian proverb, gold spoons lead men to steal, and so he had stuck to the wooden spoons.
On the afternoon of the second day, I drove with Mr. Verigin to see the new steam plow start, and in charge of it we found an angry American engineer, who was “sick to death of this gol-darn country, and wanted to git out of it.” Mr. Verigin promised him that he would get back somehow; he said that the horses were all breaking [being broken, trained], but that, failing other things, the engineer could ride back to Yorkton (fifty miles) in his own steam plow. This in light of the fact that the engine was not very satisfactory) was a good example of Mr. Verigin’s colossal wit.
I asked Mr. Verigin when he first became a vegetarian and forswore meat.
Mr. V. – It was about twenty years ago. One day I was out shooting, and when I had shot a young bird, the mother bird came right to my feet and settled there. This made me stop and think, and I inquired of myself if it was a Christlike action to kill the animals; and after much thought I came to the conclusion that it was not. Since that day I have not touched meat.
S.W. – Do you not eat fish? Mr. V. – No. S.W. – Then what do you make of the fact that Christ, we are told, bade the fishermen to let their nets down on the other side of the ship, so that they caught more than the nets could hold? Mr. V. – Well, in those days some men ate each other; it would have been foolish for Christ to teach them not to eat fish. But now we have learnt to love one another; and we should learn to love the fish also. In those days men were not prepared for the extreme truth and Christ was satisfied to teach them a half-way doctrine, to break the truth down to them; but we, who are more enlightened, should live up to the spirit of Christ, beyond the letter.
S.W. (after a profound pause) – And do you not kill mosquitoes? Mr. V. (laughing) – Oh, no.
I asked Mr. Verigin how long he thought the community system would last, if he did not think the younger Doukhobors would break away; but could not get no satisfactory answer. Mr. Verigin did say the Doukhobors intend to break up their villages in five years; but that was only one of his monstrous jokes. He seemed to think the community system had kept the Doukhobors from becoming the dirt under the feet of the railway men, and had given them a start; but about the future he would not speak. “One cannot provide for to-morrow,” he said.
Speaking of the seven [radical Doukhobor] men at Swan River who were preaching a new pilgrimage, he said, “You should pay no attention to them.”
Asked if he were glad to see the younger Doukhobors learn English, he replied, “Oh, of course, very glad.”
With reference to schools, he said there were already two [Quaker] schools among the Doukhobors where English was taught, but that they were not Government schools. As soon as they had good homes, then the Doukhobors would see to the schools.
Asked when he first conceived the idea of getting a steam plow, he said he could not remember when the idea came to his head. He had long intended to try which was cheaper, horses or engines. He made it quite clear it was not solicitude for the horses that had prompted him.
Speaking of the Canadian Government, he said they had been all kindness to the Doukhobors. But when he was pressed for an answer to the question, Did the Doukhobors consider themselves Canadian? He confessed the Doukhobors were neither Russian nor Canadian, but were Christians, and acknowledged no king but King Jesus. This was his definition of the political position of the Doukhobors.
He said he was very glad to see English settlers come in among the Doukhobors.
In the evening Mr. Verigin did a very beautiful thing. He gathered about him the boys and girls of Otradnoe, and walked out with them two miles to a certain field. The boys and girls – the boys with their Dutch-like “carosses” and voluminous blue trousers, and the girls with their white “plattoks” (head-kerchiefs) – went before with locked arms, singing their quaint spring songs; and Mr. Verigin followed with some grown-ups, flicking the mosquitoes with his lace handkerchief. When they came to the objective field, the children stopped and formed in a half-circle, and Mr. Verigin briefly thanked them for weeding out that field. Then they turned and walked back, with locked arms, singing as before.
Now it is instructive to notice in what capacity Mr. Verigin performed this small and pleasing ceremony, for it is eloquent of his whole position among the Doukhobors. It was not as “leader of the Doukhobors” for that term, as applied to Mr. Verigin, is a misnomer. Among the Doukhobors all men are equal. It was merely as one of the four commissioners elected for the current year to transact the business of the Doukhobor Trading Co., for this is the only official position occupied by Mr. Verigin. If Mr. Verigin were not re-elected next year he would give up his lace handkerchief and go back to the plow. Only, there is small danger of his not being re-elected. Technically, he is only the equal of the stable-boy; actually he is looked up to by all as the man best fitted to manage affairs. It is Pericles [5th century BC Greek politician and general] and the Athenian Democracy all over again; extreme democracy culminating in one-man rule. A remarkable coincidence is the fact that Mr. Verigin always adheres in the assembly to Pericles’ policy of speaking last. In this, in his Olympian imperturbability, in his inscrutable mind, he is a second Pericles; and he rules the minds of the Doukhobors as Pericles ruled those of the Athenians.
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.
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/.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.