“The Best Railway Builders in this Country”: Doukhobors in Western Canada

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

The construction of transcontinental railways across Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries required an enormous labour force, most of whom were immigrants. Between 1899 and 1912, thousands of Doukhobor labourers were hired by railway companies to build many hundreds of miles of track through Manitoba, Saskatchewan and into Alberta. While much scholarly attention has been paid to the significant contribution made by other immigrant groups, particularly Chinese workers in the late 19th century, little is known about the Doukhobors’ contribution to railway construction in Western Canada.[1] This article is an opportunity to examine Doukhobor railway building, its importance as an early source of communal income, and its overall contribution to the settlement and development of the Prairie region.   


The Doukhobors were a religious movement founded in 18th century Russia. They rejected the rites and dogma of the Orthodox Church and denied the authority of the Tsarist State, refusing to acknowledge any law but God’s.[2] Their pacifist, egalitarian and anti-authoritarian teachings were based on the belief that the spirit of God resides in the soul of every person.[3] They were frequently persecuted for their faith and exiled to the frontiers of the Empire.[4] Following widespread arrests and exiles in 1895 for their refusal to serve in the Russian Imperial Army,[5] many sought refuge by immigrating en masse to Canada. 

In 1899, some 7,500 Doukhobors[6] arrived in the Saskatchewan and Assiniboine districts of the North-West Territories (after 1905, Saskatchewan), settling on 702,720 acres of homestead land reserved for them along the Whitesand, Assiniboine and Swan River watersheds and elsewhere where they established over seventy Old World villages.[7] At the time, the area was sparsely settled and mostly prairie parkland wilderness, save for a handful of isolated ranches and homesteads.[8] It was unsurveyed and there were no roads except for deeply-rutted wagon trails. The closest railways were 30 to 80 miles away.   

Upon arriving at their new home, the Doukhobors established a communal way of life, organized as the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (the ‘Community’).[9] All livestock, equipment and tools were held in common, all land was cleared and cultivated together, and all grain and agricultural products distributed equally amongst the settlers. Working collectively, they were able to achieve substantially more, over a much shorter time, than they could have as solitary homesteaders.

Doukhobors Building Railway Grade, circa 1904. Simon Fraser University, Doukhobor Collection, MSC121-DP-050-01.

Railroad Labourers

In the early years of settlement, most of the men left their families and villages each spring, walking up to several hundred miles into Manitoba to find work ‘na doroge’ (‘on the railroad’) to earn much-needed income for their villages.[10] Being agriculturalists, it was not their preferred form of labour;[11] however, it was vitally necessary as they were destitute.  With villages bereft of men during the growing season (particularly during the 1899-1902 period), it fell upon the women and elderly to clear and plow the fields and erect village structures; tasks traditionally done by the men.[12] The men were hired as navvies (railroad labourers) by contractors building the railways extending across the Prairies.    

The Doukhobors were no strangers to this type of work. In Russia, hundreds laboured on the construction of the Transcaucasus Railway, including the Borjomi–Bakuriani line where they loaded gravel for track ballast and built grade through heavy timber in 1897,[13] and the Kars-Aleksandropol line where they built grade through hilly terrain in 1897-1898.[14] The work was characterized by extremely long working days, very low wages and many casualties due to lack of safety measures.[15] They would now bring that experience to bear in the opening of the Canadian West.

The main job of navvies[16] on the Prairies was to clear and remove trees, foliage and rocks and drain swamps along the surveyed right-of-way, and to make cuttings through hills and slopes and fills over hollows and lowlands, using tons of excavated earth to build a raised embankment. They also hauled tons of ballast, ties and steel rails to lay down tracks over the grade for the trains. This was done manually, using picks, shovels, sledgehammers, wheelbarrows, scrapers, wagons and horses. Labouring from sunrise to sunset through the summer heat and humidity, amid swarms of blackflies and mosquitoes, away from their homes in isolated, lice-ridden camps with few amenities, it was lonely, extremely difficult work requiring both physical and emotional stamina. It was also very dangerous work.[17]      

During the summer of 1899, 350 Doukhobor men were hired to build the Winnipeg Great Northern Railway Cowan-Swan River line while 150 worked on the Manitoba and Northwestern Railway Hamiota-Miniota line and another 116 on the Manitoba and Southeastern Railway Marchand-Sprague line.[18] Some villages even sent women to the grade that year.[19] They were supplied tools and equipment and received board in the construction camps, although special arrangements had to be made to feed them as they were vegetarians. They worked wherever ordered by the railway engineers, which were often the heaviest, most difficult sections, while English Canadian workers were often assigned the easiest stretches.[20] At the same time, they were paid a dollar a day while English Canadians received up to four dollars a day for the same work.[21] These discrepancies, exacerbated by prejudice against foreigners,[22] language barriers and misunderstandings, initially led to labour disputes and work stoppages; however, once the Doukhobors were treated fairly, the railways found them to be “excellent workers”.[23] Upon returning to their villages that fall, they pooled their earnings to buy much-needed provisions – draft horses, wagons, plows, harness, clothing and especially flour.[24]       

The Doukhobor men on the railway grade from 1899 on challenged prevailing white Anglo assumptions concerning masculinity in several respects: that men should not consider their wives as equals; that they should not depend on their wives to carry out field work at home while they pursued lucrative employment elsewhere;[25] that men should not bring women into construction camps, an exclusively male domain, as domestics much less labourers; that they could not be vegetarians and expect to carry out the physically demanding work of navvies; that men should labour independently rather than cooperatively; and that they should not hand over their hard-earned wages to others to run their affairs.       

Over the next several years, hundreds of Doukhobors were hired to clear right-of-ways, build grade and lay track on the Canadian Northern Railway Swan River-Erwood line in 1900,[26] Carmen-Gladstone line in 1901,[27] Gladstone-Grandview line in 1902,[28] Regina-Stoughton line in 1903,[29] Erwood-Melfort line in 1904[30] and Saskatoon-Langham line in 1905; the Manitoba and Southeastern Railway Sprague-Rainy River line in 1900;[31] the Ontario and Rainy River Railway Baudette-Rainy River bridge in 1901;[32] and the Canadian Pacific Railway Pipestone-Antler line in 1900-1901[33] and Yorkton-Sheho line in 1903-1904[34]. Several hundred even worked on the Southern Pacific Railroad Coast Line in California in 1900.[35] Over a thousand laboured each year on the Canadian Northern Railway line from Gladstone to Kamsack in 1903,[36] from Kamsack to Canora in 1904,[37] and from Canora to Humboldt in 1905[38] as it passed their settlements.

As steel was laid along these lines, railway engineers surveyed townsites and built stations and sidings every 6-10 miles, around which scores of new communities formed. One of the many was Canora, named after the CAnadian NOrthern RAilway, in August 1904.[39] Situated between Doukhobor homestead reserves to the east and west, the hamlet expanded to become a shipping point and trading centre for the flood of settlers of various nationalities who arrived homesteaded within the area served by the line, being a 10 to 12 mile radius. Four years later, in October 1908, it was declared a village.[40] Canora would also figure prominently in later Doukhobor railway building.   

Doukhobors making a cut on the Canadian Northern Railway grade, Koozma J. Tarasoff Doukhobor History Photo Collection.

While many Doukhobors initially faced discrimination and mistreatment at the construction camps, they persisted and soon earned a solid reputation as railroad labourers. As early as 1902, Neil Keith, a well-known contractor in charge of Canadian Northern Railway construction, proclaimed them “excellent” workers – “reliable and industrious”, “well adapted to meet the exigencies of the work”, whose “economy and thrift were noteworthy”.[41] Their kindness towards their work horses was also noted. Four years later, J.J. Kenny, Director of the Winnipeg-based McDonald–McMillan Company, declared them “the most desirable laborers” for railway construction.[42] Such recognition challenged the dominant white Anglo view of foreign workers, particularly Slavs, as lazy, slow, irresponsible and careless on the job.[43]

By 1902, the Doukhobor navvies organized themselves in order to secure better pay and conditions. They refused as a body to work on railway projects unless they were allowed to furnish their own tools, board themselves and work by the piece (by the cubic yard rather than day) having learned from experience that when their supplies were provided by the contractors at exorbitant premiums, along with their board bill, doctor’s bill, etc., there was little left coming to them.[44] As Doukhobor Aleksei N. Jmieff recounted, “There was work on the railroad, a dollar twenty-five a day and your own food, ten hour days. Worked on the ‘extra gang’ at a dollar seventy-five, but with their food, so seventy-five cents went for food and you were paid one dollar.”[45] 

As well, Doukhobors were soon able to demand higher rates for rail construction than were offered, aided by the leader of the Community, Peter V. Verigin, widely regarded by many English-Canadians as “one of the shrewdest businessmen in the mighty west” and “a veritable captain of industry”.[46] According to one anecdote,[47] when a Winnipeg contractor offered him 25.5 cents a cubic yard for grading in late 1902, Verigin insisted on 27.5 cents. The contractor told him that was the price the railway paid him, so he couldn’t make a profit. “No company will profit by our work,” Verigin replied. “I have known all along that you were getting 27.5 cents from the railway. Now you can take it or leave it.” Good workers were hard to find. The contractor took it.

By 1903 to 1905, half the able-bodied Doukhobor males living north of Yorkton – over a thousand men – were working on railway building each summer,[48] while the remainder farmed at their villages. The money they received from this work was substantial. In 1903, they earned $100.00 per man and $111,679.00 in total from railroad construction;[49] a comparable sum in 1904;[50] and $114,136.60 in 1905.[51] Their earnings were carefully hoarded and brought back to their villages each fall, where they were deposited into a common treasury for the benefit of all Community members.[52] 

The pooling of outside earnings from railway construction not only lifted the Community out of poverty, but within several years, enabled it to become self-sufficient and even prosperous. By 1903, it accounted for 66.9% of Community income and covered 52.4% of its expenditures, and by 1905, it accounted for 60.1% of total income and covered all of its expenditures.[53] The Community was thus able to improve existing village dwellings and build new structures, expand its landholdings, draft horse herd and farm machinery, and to develop new enterprises including flour mills, linseed oil presses, sawmills, tanning mills, lime kilns, blacksmiths, grain elevators, brickyards, concrete block plants, trading stores and warehouses.   

By 1906, Doukhobors dominated the railway labour market in Western Canada, with each railway vying to secure them for its operations. Indeed, that July, the Canadian Pacific Railway complained of labour shortages and wage inflation largely due to the Canadian Northern Railway and Grand Trunk Pacific “having pretty well cleaned up” the Doukhobor labour supply, and expressed concern that it would have to suspend its prairie construction work by harvest.[54] The latter companies had over 1,600 Doukhobors working at the time.[55]

Undoubtedly, the strong social cohesion, cultural homogeneity and religious devotion within the Community, together with its centralized communal structure, exceptional leadership and adroit business management allowed the Doukhobors to excel at railway construction to a greater degree than other immigrant groups working as disparate collections of individuals.

Railway Subcontractor

After six years, the experience it gained from railway construction enabled the Doukhobor Community to assume the role of a subcontractor – one degree removed from the railway company – on large projects. Few if any other immigrant groups had achieved this level of autonomy while labouring on Canadian railways.[56] As a subcontractor, the Community could manage its own work, choose the sections of line it worked on and retain greater earnings than it could by hiring out men individually; however, it also assumed a greater degree of risk and responsibility for the work. Undaunted, the Community bid on difficult jobs that other railway builders would not accept or take hold of at any price.[57]

Doukhobor Track-Laying Crew, circa 1904. Simon Fraser University, Doukhobor Collection,  MSC121-DP-046-01.

The first subcontract the Community received was in September 1905 from the McDonald-McMillan Company,[58] with company president Malcolm McMillan announcing that “the Doukhobors had done most excellent work in the past in the matter of railway construction and that he anticipated that in the future their leaders might develop into construction men of exceptional ability. There was no doubt of their ability to carry out the contract.”[59] The work entailed moving a million cubic feet of earth to complete 17 miles of grade on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway St. Lazare-Spy Hill line through the Assiniboine and Qu’Appelle River valleys, over some of the roughest, most demanding terrain on the line, for which the Community would receive $200,000.00; twice the annual revenue received over the past three years.[60]

In March of the following spring, the Community mobilized a thousand men at St. Lazare, together with 300 teams of heavy working horses, large quantities of equipment purchased for the work, as well as food and clothing supplies.[61] They set up several camps along the line, each with a cookhouse, store, stable and blacksmith, accompanied by a group of women who washed and mended the workmen’s clothes and milked the cows.[62] The orderliness and cleanliness of the encampments was remarked upon by the press and government officials, as was the splendid condition of the horses, with The Winnipeg Tribune noting, “it is easy to see how well they are thought of by their owners.”[63]  

The Doukhobors carried out the grade work under the supervision of Community managers Vasily A. Potapoff and Nikolai S. Zeboroff.[64] Their workmanship was lauded by the press, with The Winnipeg Free Press writing, “to say that these uneducated Russians are good road-builders is putting it mild – they are simply experts. Large cuts and big grades are all built with the same accuracy, and are as level and straight as the sight. There is no carelessness or recklessness among these men, none whatsoever.”[65]At harvest, 500 of the men returned to their villages while the remainder completed the subcontract in October 1906.[66] The subcontract cemented the Doukhobors’ reputation, with Malcolm McMillan of the McDonald-McMillan Company proclaiming them “the best railway builders in this country”.[67]

This success did not go unnoticed by Grand Trunk Pacific Railway officials. While touring the new line in August 1906, company vice-president Frank W. Morse was struck by the efficiency of the Doukhobor workmen, declaring, “The service rendered by them is in every way satisfactory, and I only wish we had more Doukhobors available.”[68] By October, Morse and company president Charles Melville Hays relayed requests through the Russian Consul in Montreal, Nikolai Struve, to Peter V. Verigin to bring 10,000 more Doukhobors from Russia to help complete their transcontinental line over the next two years.[69] The importation of foreign labour for railway construction was controversial but not new; the Canadian Pacific Railway imported 17,000 Chinese workers to complete its British Columbia section in 1880-1885.[70] Verigin travelled to Russia from October 1906 to February 1907, ostensibly to make the necessary arrangements; however, the deal purportedly fell through when Tsarist authorities refused to cooperate and the railway declined to sign a contract on the terms Verigin proposed.[71]  

Over the next three years, the Community continued to secure small subcontracts using up to several hundred men, notably on the Canadian Pacific Railway Sheho-Lanigan line in 1907-1908,[72] the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Melville-Saskatoon line in 1907-1908[73] and Yonker-Butz line in 1909,[74] and the Canadian Northern Railway Melfort-Prince Albert line in 1906,[75] Swan River-Benito line in 1908, Benito-Pelly line in 1909,[76] Rossburn-Russell line in 1907-1908[77] and Russell-Canora line in 1909. Smaller groups worked on projects as distant as the Canadian Pacific Railway Buda Tunnel in Northern Ontario in 1907[78] and the Great Northern Railway Cloverdale-Huntington line in British Columbia in 1908.[79] The majority of the men, however, remained at their villages, devoting their efforts to improving their farmland.[80]

Subcontracts were signed by Peter V. Verigin on behalf of the Community, since the Community, being unincorporated at the time, did not have the capacity to enter into contracts on its own. Consequently, all subcontract payments were made directly to Verigin. From the Community perspective, this obviated the need to collect wages from individual workmen, as well as the risk that all or some of those wages might be arbitrarily withheld or errantly misspent. Payments received on subcontracts were deposited by Verigin in the Community central office at Veregin and used for various expenditures.        

Evidently, the Community was also paid in land and lots along the railway route.[81] Between 1906 and 1909, it acquired a section of land at Insinger, another section at Sheho and four lots in the Point Douglas industrial neighborhood of Winnipeg from the Canadian Pacific Railway for subcontract work.[82] In the same period, it received 11 lots in the town of Transcona from the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.[83] The properties were held in the name of Peter V. Verigin in trust for the Community until its federal incorporation in 1917.     

Railway General Contractor

Between 1905 and 1909, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway completed the Prairie section of its transcontinental railroad from Winnipeg to Edmonton. By January 1909, the company announced its plans to construct a network of branch lines throughout central Saskatchewan.[84] One such branch was a 30-mile line from Yorkton north to Canora, which it committed to extend to Hudson Bay at a later date.[85]     

The country through which the branch line would pass was predominantly low, nearly level, wet prairie grassland dotted with bluffs of small popular and clumps of willow, with numerous sloughs and marshes, much of which was alkaline, and broken land associated with the Whitesand River and its tributaries, the Little Whitesand River (Yorkton Creek) and Boggy Creek (Wallace Creek) over which it crossed. It was by then well-settled with English-Canadian, German, Polish and Ukrainian farmers cultivating adjacent lands.     

Doukhobors Building the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway grade between Yorkton and Canora, SK, 1910. British Columbia Archives, Doukhobor History Photo Collection, A-01223.

By December 23, 1909, Grand Trunk Pacific Railway surveyors located the right-of-way for the line,[86] and following its approval by the Board of Railway Commissioners on February 28, 1910,[87] the company issued calls for tenders for clearing, grading, track-laying, bridge-building, fencing and telegraph construction along the line route. Two weeks later, on March 17, 1910, a contract was awarded to Peter V. Verigin, on behalf of the Community, for clearing and grading the line.[88]  

                The Contract

The contract award made headlines across the country, marking the first time the Doukhobors – or indeed, any immigrant group – would achieve the status of a general contractor vis-à-vis a Canadian railway company on a grade construction project, culminating from eleven years of extensive experience. Indeed, the Community was well-positioned to execute the work, having a fully-equipped, skilled and experienced workforce of 1,500 men, 400 teams of draft horses, 500 yokes of oxen, and necessary logistical support situated within a day’s journey of the line.[89]

The contract value was substantial, with the Community to be paid $70,000.00. However, the contract had an aggressive deadline, with railway officials expecting it to be completed by the fall of 1910.[90] The Community had to carefully coordinate the work around its farming operations. In this regard, on March 8, 1910, Peter V. Verigin wrote his followers to advise, “the plan is made as follows: we must sow together at home, after sowing from May 15th or June 1st go to the railroad work, and definitely return home for grain harvesting.”[91]

Significantly, while prior railway work helped the Community establish itself in Saskatchewan, the income from this contract was earmarked at the outset for the purchase of new lands in British Columbia, with Verigin noting in his letter, “This railway work will be of great help to us in settling in ‘Kolumbia’.”[92] The resettlement of Community members to British Columbia had been underway since 1908,[93] and this news was no doubt met with support by members still in Saskatchewan. 

                The Camps

On May 18, 1910, after completing spring seeding, a thousand Doukhobor workmen left their villages in the Buchanan, Canora, Veregin, Kamsack and Pelly districts and converged on Yorkton to begin construction of the line.[94] Accompanied by a group of women, they brought all their own tools and equipment along with 400 teams of horses, milking cows, temporary shelters, food and feed.

Following the model used on past railway subcontracts,[95] the Doukhobors organized themselves into 4 camps of 250 or so men each, set up at roughly 7-8 mile intervals along the route. Each camp had up to 25 ten-man tents for the men to sleep in, several for the women, a store tent for supplies, another for the cook house and mess hall, one for a blacksmith along with makeshift stables for 100 or so teams of horses. Dr. T.A. Patrick of Yorkton and Dr. E.M. Vesey of Canora were retained to provide medical assistance as necessary.

Within each camp, duties were well-ordered and systematically carried out. In the cookhouse, the cook built two ovens using local clay and stone – one for baking bread, and another on which was laid a large, heavy sheet of iron for a stove top for cooking borsch (soup); the ovens were fired all day as he prepared food. One man cut, split and stacked cordwood for the ovens. Another built tables for the mess tent. In the smithy, the blacksmith built a forge by excavating a large hole in the ground and lining it with stone, in which poplar logs were burned to make charcoal; wrought iron was then put in the forge and shaped with a hammer and anvil into necessary pieces. The women washed and mended clothing for the men and milked cows. At the stable, which had no sides and only tent cloth for roof, one got an idea of the care given to the horses; all were in fine shape, the dapples showing plainly on their glossy hides. One man prepared feed for the horses by chopping and soaking bailed hay, then mixing it with oats. Several men traversed the country, buying up all available feed oats for 10 miles on either side of the line. Others hauled drinking water from nearby creeks and wells in horse-drawn tank carts to the camp and grade.                  

The Grade

At each section of grade, Doukhobors were organized into work gangs responsible for clearing, making cuttings and fills or building embankments. Tasks were carried out in an organized and disciplined manner so that the scene, according to one journalist, “closely resembled a hive of bees”.[96]  

Doukhobor Railway Camp on the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Yorkton-Canora branch near the outskirts of Canora, SK, 1910. British Columbia Archives, Doukhobor History Photo Collection,  C-06515.

Clearing was done almost entirely by hand.  Following the surveyed route, an advance crew cleared a 100-foot right-of-way. Clumps of bush and bluffs of trees, particularly heavy in the broken land of the Whitesand valley and ravines, were cut away and chopped down using hatchets, axes and saws, while the stumps were grubbed out with pick-axes and spades.  Logs suitable for cordwood were cut into lengths and stacked, while non-salvageable material, such as brush, roots and limbs, were piled and burned or buried. Rocks were grubbed out and moved by hand or with horses and chains into piles while larger, heavier ones were blasted with dynamite. Low alkaline wetlands, common throughout the route, were drained by digging trenches and then filled with rocks and soil.        

Making a cutting was heavy work. Where a hill or bluff blocked passage of the line, it was cut away. On the face of the hill through which the cutting was to pass, a gang of scraper outfits was assembled. Each scraper had a blade running along the bottom of a C-shaped bucket mounted on runners and was pulled by a team of horses. As the teamster drove the team up to the face of the hill, a second man lifted the handle allowing the blade to cut into the ground and fill the bucket, then pulled the handle down so it would stop digging and slide along the ground to a designated spot where the handle was lifted and the soil dumped. The soil was then moved in horse-drawn dump carts to low areas for fill or to build up the grade. After successive passes by the scrapers, the hill was laid open and a gullet excavated through it.                  

As there was not enough soil available from hill cuttings, the route being mostly level, the Doukhobors took earth from a side cutting to build up the grade. Gangs of scraper outfits and wheelbarrow men with spades excavated a cutting on either side of the grade, the soil from which was then used to bank up the earthwork in between. The cuts had to be kept level and straight, so that the end result consisted of a raised grade with a ditch running on either side.      

Building the embankment was particularly demanding. It had to be solid and permanent, requiring little maintenance or upgrading; straight and level, to allow the trains to run at full speed at all times; and raised to allow for adequate drainage. To this end, the Doukhobors built a four-foot grade along the level parts of the route, while through low areas and valleys it was as high as 15 or 20 feet. It was 8 feet broad at the top to carry a standard-gauge rail track (4 ft 8 ½ in) and three times that breadth at the base. A Doukhobor foreman continually patrolled the section to ensure that it precisely met these requirements.               

At the embankment, horse-drawn scrapers and dump carts loaded with earth were drawn along its top to ‘the dump’. At the dump, the man in charge directed the teamster as to where to dump the soil and in what amounts. The horses were then carefully made to stop and turn at exactly the right instant; the horses and teamster went aside but the scraper or dump cart went on and at the right place was checked and tipped with its tons of material. Gangs of wheelbarrow men laboured alongside, with one man shoveling soil from the side cutting into a wheelbarrow, then another man pulling the loaded wheelbarrow up the plank walks built up the side of the embankment to the dump; in this way, the wheelbarrows moved upward and back in a continuous stream.

                Completion of the Line

Labouring 15 hours a day, the Doukhobors built the grade up and forward, advancing steadily north. By late June, they reached the banks of the Whitesand. And by July 26, 1910, the grade was completed to Canora.[97] Upon reaching the terminus, most workmen returned to their villages for haying and harvest. Incredibly, the Doukhobors cleared and constructed 30 miles of grade, moving over five million cubic feet of earth, consuming 72,263 man-hours of labour,[98] over a 69-day period. This equated to 73,000 cubic feet of earth moved per day, or 5,000 cubic feet of earth moved per worker, all done manually.   

After the grade was built, an ‘extra’ gang of a hundred men laid the track. Doukhobor Aleksei I. Makortoff recounted how this was done. “The ties are laid down the width of the railroad. Then some sand is dumped and you walk along with shovels, one from that side, one from this side. In this way the sand is packed under the ties. And it will be tamped in full. And so you walk down the line. And coming behind they would be laying the rails down on these ties. All the way along. As soon as the rails are laid down, then on each tie two spikes are placed. Particularly, for young boys, this was an easy job. So you walk along, drop two spikes on this end and two on the other end. And then next they come with hammers and drive in these spikes beside the rails as they should be. There was that work. And then comes yet another group, jack. It would happen that a tie is too high or too low and so they line them up so they’d be even. You pump the jack and it lifts it, whatever amount. And the foreman, as if, follows and lays on the rail and looks with one eye to make sure they’re even. Or he’ll shout: ‘Raise it’, or lower it in some places.”[99] A steam engine with cars loaded with sand ballast, ties and rails followed behind.[100]

By August 1910, additional crews followed to install cattle and snow fencing and telegraph lines along the line, raise a trestle bridge across the Whitesand River, and construct a GTP station at Canora.[101] By October 1910, the first freight came over the line to Canora by steam engine, and by June 1911, twice-daily freight and passenger service was established on the Canora-Yorkton branch.[102]    

The arrival of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was a tremendous boon to Canora, transforming the village from a local rail point into a major regional rail junction. It now had direct rail access to southern points which, until then, were only accessible via Winnipeg on the Canadian Northern Railway.[103] A building and settlement boom followed, with Canora declared a town by August 1910.[104] 

New communities also came into existence, with railway engineers surveying townsites and sidings along the line. Thus Young’s Siding, Mehan, Pollock’s Spur, the village of Ebenezer, the hamlet of Gorlitz and Burgis became important new grain-handling points for local farmers.      

As part of the ensuing development, the Community erected a 30,000-bushel grain elevator at Ebenezer in 1910 to receive, store and ship local grain and also received 20 lots in the townsite from the railway.[105] At Canora, it built another 30,000-bushel grain elevator on the Canadian Northern Railway and a large commercial block and annex warehouse that summer.[106] 

As for the contract payment, Peter V. Verigin drew $70,000.00 from the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway in Winnipeg on September 20, 1910 and left with it to British Columbia,[107] where he completed the purchase of the 1,200-acre Vaughn Ranch[108] and 480-acre Macey Ranch[109] at Grand Forks, acquired earlier that spring for Community settlement and fruit-growing.

Map of Western Canadian Railways Built by Doukhobor Labourers, 1899-1912.  Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.  Note this map does not include the 105-mile Doukhobor-constructed Marchand, MB to Rainy River, ON line.

Railway Building after 1910

The Yorkton-Canora line in 1910 would be the pinnacle of Doukhobor railway construction on the Prairies. While several hundred Doukhobors worked on subsequent rail projects, notably the Canadian Northern Railway Prince Albert-Blaine Lake line in 1909-1910, Hudson Bay-The Pas line in 1911,[110] Pelly-Preeceville line in 1911,[111] and Canora-Sturgis line in 1912[112] and the Canadian Pacific Railway Coronation-Consort line in 1911,[113] the Community no longer bid on sectional contracts or subcontracts nor did substantial numbers of Doukhobors engage in railway work thereafter. There were several reasons for this decline. 

First, almost all of the railroad building undertaken by Doukhobors between 1899 and 1912 fell within a 200-250 mile radius of their settlements north of Yorkton. This represented the practical limit of the Community’s ability to deploy its manpower and resources to carry out railway work afield while still maintaining its farmland at home. By 1912, however, most of the lines were completed within this scope of reach. There was little left to build.       

Second, with the resettlement of over 5,700 Doukhobors from Saskatchewan to British Columbia by 1912, the Community no longer had the manpower on the Prairies to carry out extensive railway construction.[114] By this time, only 1,200 Community members remained in Saskatchewan,[115] of which no more than 250 were able-bodied men. The Community’s resources were further depleted by the defection of over 2,000 members who became Independent Doukhobors over the 1906-1912 period.[116]    

Third, when the Doukhobors first arrived on the Prairies in 1899, they sought railway work as a necessary means of survival, and later as a means of achieving communal self-sufficiency. Ultimately, however, they came to Canada to farm and not to build railways. Once they achieved a measure of prosperity through agricultural and related income, it was no longer essential for most to supplement it with such work.    

Track Maintenance Work

While most Doukhobor railway labourers were engaged in construction work, at least some carried out track maintenance. As early as 1901, a group of Doukhobors worked as trackmen on the Canadian Pacific Railway Calgary division, where they participated in a nationwide strike from June to August 1901.[117] Other groups laboured at the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway yard in Saskatoon in 1908[118] and at the Canadian Northern Railway yard in Saskatoon in 1911.[119] Still others worked on Canadian Northern Railway ballast crews at Langham in 1908[120] and between Portage la Prairie and Humboldt in 1912.[121] In 1913, a large contingent of Doukhobors ballasted the Great Northern Railway Fruitvale-Columbia Gardens line, repaired washouts on its Waneta-Columbia Gardens line, and built spurs and repaired washouts on its Salmo-Ymir lines.[122] As late as 1916, a group of Doukhobors repaired washouts on the Canadian Pacific Railway Kaslo-Nakusp line,[123] a crew worked on right-of-of way clearing for the Copper Mountain Railway at Princeton in 1918,[124] while another dismantled the Great Northern Railway Phoenix-Grand Forks line in 1919.[124]

Permanent Railroad Employment

For most Doukhobors immigrants who arrived in 1899, railway construction and maintenance constituted seasonal, secondary work while agriculture remained their primary vocation. However, for the over 900 Doukhobors[125] who arrived later, between 1909 and 1914, free homestead land was no longer readily available on the Prairies, forcing many to seek wage labour in towns and cities. A substantial number found permanent employment as railroad brakeman, section men and linemen, particularly on the Canadian Northern Railway which passed through the Doukhobor districts north of Yorkton.[126]  Many first, second and third-generation Canadian Doukhobors would also hold such employment.


Between 1899 and 1912, thousands of Doukhobor men left their families and villages each summer to seek employment clearing right-of-ways, building grade and laying track on the railways extending across Western Canada. This form of hired labour, however undesirable, was necessary in order to ensure their early survival, and thereafter, to lift themselves out of poverty to become agriculturally self-sufficient, even prosperous, as a Community. Indeed, the pooling of revenue from this work formed their primary income for much of their first decade in Canada.  

Defying prevailing stereotypes about foreign workers, the Doukhobors quickly earned an outstanding reputation for honesty, reliability and workmanship, making them highly sought after by railway companies for construction work. Owing to their work ethic, group cohesion and solid leadership, the Doukhobors not only found ways to organize and advocate for their economic needs, but to progress from a collection of navvies to subcontractors and finally to general contractor – a feat unmatched by other immigrant railway labourers.   

The centrality of Doukhobor labour to the building of the railway in Manitoba and Saskatchewan into Alberta made settlement and development, both rural and urban, possible. Within this region, railway construction crews comprised in part or in whole of Doukhobors built over 1,666 miles (2,681 kilometers) of line, serving an area of over 39,984 square miles (103,558 square kilometers), within which over 268 communities came into existence.  

The railway was essential to Canada’s growth and development as a country. The Doukhobor contribution to this province-building and nation-building process deserves to be recognized and acknowledged.

Appendix A – Prairie Railway Lines Built with Doukhobor Labour

RailwayLine TypeSectionRailway MileageTotal MileageStations and StopsTotal StopsYear
WGNR (CNR)Dauphin – Hudson BayCowan-Swan River, MB261.5 – 292.330.8Cowan-Renwer-Minitonas-Sevick-Thunderhill Junction-Swan River61899
M&NWR (CPR)Varcoe – MiniotaHamiota-Miniota, MB56.9 – 77.120.2Hamiota-Crandall-Arrow River-Miniota41899
M&SER (CNR)Rainy River – WinnipegMarchand-Sprague, MB342.5 – 390.848.3Marchand-Bedford-Sandilands-Woodridge-Carrick-Badger-Moodie-Vassar-South Junction-Sprague101899-1900
M&SER (CNR)Rainy River – WinnipegSprague, MB-Rainy River, ON284.9 – 342.557.6Sprague-Middlebro-Gravel Pit Spur-Longworth-International Boundary-Warroad-Swift-Roosevelt-Williams-Cedar Spur-Graceton-Pitt-Baudette-Rainy River141900
CNRDauphin – Hudson BaySwan River, MB-Erwood, SK292.3 – 385.893.5Swan River-Bowsman-Birch River-Novra-Bellsite-Mafeking-Whitmore-Baden-Powell-Barrows-National Mills-Westgate-Armit-Roscoe-Smoking Tent-Erwood131900
CPRWinnipeg – SinclairPipestone, MB-Antler, SK184.2 – 207.323.1Pipestone-Reston-Sinclair-Antler41900-1901
O&RRR (CNR)Rainy River – WinnipegBaudette, MN-Rainy River, ON284.9 – 286.51.6Baudette-Rainy River Bridge21901
CNRWinnipeg – Portage La Prairie; Portage La Prairie – MakaroffCarman-Gladstone, MB8.8 – 55.3; 55.3 – 91.983.1Carman Junction-St. Charles-Diamond-Calrin-White Plains-Dacotah-Gravel Pit-Elie-Benard-Willow Range-Oakville-Newton-Curtis-Portage La Prairie-Delta Junction-Hobson-Rignold-Youill-Beaver-Muir-Golden Stream-Gladstone191901
CNRPortage La Prairie – MakaroffGladstone-Grandview, MB91.9 – 206.7114.8Gladstone-Gladstone Junction-Ogilvie-Plumas-Colby-Tenby-Glenella-Glencairn-Reeve-Neepawa Junction-McCreary-Laurier-Makinak-Ochre River-Paulson-Dauphin-North Junction-Ashville-Gilbert Plains-Grandview201902
CNRReston – ReginaRegina-Stoughton279.6 – 368.188.5Regina-Richardson-Kronau-Lajord-Sedley-Francis-Tyvan-Osage-Fillmore-Creelman-Heward-Stoughton111903
CPRMarchwell-MacklinYorkton-Sheho, SK278.8 – 320.741.9Yorkton-Orcadia-Springside-Theodore-Insinger-Sheho61903-1904
CNRDauphin – Hudson Bay; Hudson Bay-DenholmErwood-Melfort, SK385.8 – 493.0107.2Erwood-Hudson Bay-Veillardville-Greenbush-Silas-Prairie River-Bannock-Mistatim-Lumber Spur-Peesane-Crooked River-Murphy’s-Eldersley-Tisdale-Valparaiso-Star City-Naisberry-Melfort171904
CNRWarman – LloydminsterWarman-Elbow, SK531.4 – 555.924.5Warman-Dalmeny-Langham-Elbow (Ceepee)41905
CNRPortage La Prairie – Makaroff; Makaroff – WarmanGrandview, MB-Kamsack, SK206.7 – 278.171.4Grandview-Meharry-Timberton-Shortdale-Bield-Shevlin-Roblin-Deepdale-Makaroff-Togo-Runnymede-Cote-Kamsack121903
CNRMakaroff-WarmanKamsack-Canora, SK278.1 – 302.124Kamsack-Veregin-Mikado-Ross Junction-Canora41904
CNRMakaroff-WarmanCanora-Invermay, SK302.1 – 335.233.1Canora-Tiny-Buchanan-Dernic-Rama-Invermay51905
GTPRTranscontinentalSt. Lazare, MB-Spy Hill, SK1556.2 – 1579.022.8Wattsview-St Lazare-Victor-Welby-Spy Hill41906
CNRHudson Bay – DenholmMelfort, SK-Prince Albert, SK493.0 – 555.462.4Melfort-Beatty-Kinistino-Weldon-Brancepeth-Birch Hills-Fenton-Senator-Davis-Cudworth Junction-Prince Albert101906
CPRMarchwell – MacklinSheho-Lanigan, SK320.7 – 404.383.6Sheho-Goudie-Tuffnell-Foam Lake-Leslie-Elfros-Mozart-Wynyard-Kandahar-Dafoe-Jansen-Esk-Lanigan121907-1908
GTPRTranscontinentalMelville-Saskatoon, SK1637.8 – 1833.0195.2Melville-Birmingham-Fenwood-Goodeve-Hubbard-Ituna-Jasmin-Kelliher-Leross-Lestock-Touchwood-Punichy-Quinton-Raymore-Semans-Tate-Nokomis-Undora-Venn-Watrous-Xena-Young-Zelma-Allan-Bradwell-Clavet-Duro-Saskatoon271907-1908
CNRSturgis – Swan River (Thunderhill)Swan River-Benito, MB221.2 – 241.920.7Swan River-Thunderhill Junction-Kenville-Durban-Benito51908
CNRSturgis – Swan River (Thunderhill)Benito, MB-Pelly, SK221.2 – 204.516.7Benito-Arran-Pelly21909
CNRRossburn Junction – MacnutRossburn-Russell, MB198.8 – 224.425.6Rossburn-Birdtail-Angusville-Silverton-Russell51907-1908
CNRRossburn Junction – Macnut; Macnut – Parkerview; Wroxton – CanoraRussell, MB-Canora, SK224.4 – 257.2; 257.3 – 272.9; 41.7 – 090.1Russell-Endcliffe-Shellmouth-Dropmore-Macnut-Calder-Wroxton-Stornoway-Rhein-Hamton-Donwell-Ross Junction-Canora101909
CNRHudson Bay – DenholmPrince Albert-Blaine Lake SK555.4 – 619.864.4Prince-Albert-Buckland-Crutwell-Holbein-Shellbrook-Parkside-Kilwinning-Leask-Marcelin-Blaine Lake91909-1910
GTPRTranscontinentalYonker-Butz, SK1977.1 – 1995.918.8Yonker-Zumbro-Artland-Butz41909
GTPRRegina – Hudson BayYorkton-Canora, SK122.5 – 152.530Yorkton-Young’s Siding-Mehan-Pollock’s Spur-Ebenezer-Gorlitz-Burgis-Canora61910
CNRHudson Bay – Flin FlonHudson Bay, SK-The Pas, MB0 – 88.188.1Hudson Bay-Wachee-Nepas-Ceba-Chemong-Otosquen-Cantyre-Turnberry-Whithorn-Westray-Freshford-The Pas111911
CNRSturgis – Swan River (Thunderhill)Pelly-Preeceville, SK204.5 – 174.829.7Pelly-Norquay-Hyas-Stenen-Sturgis41911
CPRKerrobert – LacombCoronation-Consort, AB84.4 – 116.532.1Coronation-Throne-Veteran-Loyalist-Consort51911
CNRRegina – Hudson BayCanora-Sturgis, SK152.5 – 174.822.3Canora-Amsterdam-Tadmore-Hassan-Sturgis31912

After Word

Special thanks to Robert Coutts (Editor, Prairie History) for his editorial advice, encouragement and patience. Also, my sincere thanks to Doukhobor writers and historians Dr. Ashleigh Androsoff (University of Saskatchewan), Jim (D.E.) Popoff and Koozma J. Tarasoff who reviewed this article in its draft form and who sought to improve its quality and sharpen its focus with their comments.

This article originally appeared in the following journals and periodicals:

  • Prairie History. The Journal of the West. No. 5, Summer 2021.
  • ISKRA (Grand Forks, Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ) Nos. 2167 & 2168 (2021).

End Notes

[1] Most studies of Doukhobor settlements on the Prairies largely pass over the annual migration to the railway grade, for which few primary sources exist, leaving only fragmentary newspaper accounts, local histories and personal memoirs from which to piece together the story.

[2] G. Woodcock & I. Avakumovic, The Doukhobors (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1977) at 17-34; K.J. Tarasoff, Plakun Trava: The Doukhobors (Mir Publication Society, 1982) at 1-3; S.A. Inikova, “Spiritual Origins and the Beginnings of Doukhobor History” in A. Donskov, J. Woodsworth & C. Gaffield (eds), The Doukhobor Centenary in Canada, A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective on their Unity and Diversity (Ottawa: Slavic Research Group and Institute of Canadian Studies at the University of Ottawa, 2000) at 1-21.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Woodcock & Avakumovic, supra, note 2 at 31-32, 58-61; Tarasoff, supra, note 2 at 3, 10-11; J.R. Staples, Cross-Cultural Encounters on the Ukrainian Steppe, Settling the Molochna Basin, 1783-1861 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press: 2003) at 37-38, 93-106; N.B. Breyfogle, Heretics and Colonizers: Religious Dissent and Russian Colonization of Transcaucasia, 1830 – 1890 (PhD dissertation in history) (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania, 1998) at 17-58.

[5] Woodcock & Avakumovic, supra, note 2 at 84-106; Tarasoff, supra, note 2 at 20-28.

[6] Sergei Tolstoy and the Doukhobors: A Journey to Canada, Diary and Correspondence (Ed. A. Donskov). (Ottawa: Ottawa University Press, 1998) at 1, 183, 237-270; L.A. Sulerzhitsky, To America with the Doukhobors (M. Kalmakoff, Trans.) (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1982) at 38; S. Lapshinoff & J.J. Kalmakoff, Doukhobor Ship Passenger Lists, 1898-1928 (Crescent Valley, 2001); J.J. Kalmakoff, Index to Doukhobor Ship Passenger Lists, September 27, 2000: https://www.doukhobor.org/Shiplists.html.

[7] Woodcock & Avakumovic, supra, note 2 at 136; Tarasoff, supra, note 2 at 35-36; C.J. Tracie, ‘Toil and Peaceful Life’ Doukhobor Village Settlement in Saskatchewan 1899-1918 (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, 1996) at 1-94; and K.R.M. Szalasznyj, The Doukhobor homestead crisis 1898–1907 (M.A. thesis) (University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan: 1977) at 65-71.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Note this organization had its beginning in Russia in 1893-1894: Woodcock & Avakumovic, supra, note 2 at 152-181; Tarasoff, supra, note 2 at 49-66.

[10] W. Blakemore, Report of Royal Commission on Matters Relating to the Sect of Doukhobors in the Province of British Columbia, 1912 (Victoria: Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, 1913) at 20; Woodcock & Avakumovic, supra, note 2 at 160-161; Tarasoff, supra, note 2 at 54, 56, 58-59.

[11] For generations in Russia, Doukhobors were religiously and culturally predisposed toward agricultural labour, which they viewed as ‘fulfilling the will of God’ while hired labour was considered ‘unfitting for proper Christians’: Sulerzhitsky, supra, note 6 at 170 and 193; Bonch-Bruevich, V., ed., V.O. Buyniak, trans. The Book of Life of the Doukhobors (Doukhobor Societies of Saskatchewan, 1978 at XL); Woodcock & Avakumovic, supra, note 2 at 160-161.

[12] A. Androsoff, “The Trouble with Teamwork: Doukhobor Women’s Plow Pulling in Western Canada, 1899” in Canadian Historical Review (Vol. 100, No. 4, December 2019) at 540-563; A. Androsoff, “…With A Stout Wife” Doukhobor Women’s Challenge to the Canadian (Agri)Cultural Ideal”, (Rural History Conference, Bern, Switzerland, August 2013).

[13] Simeon F. Reibin, “Toil and Peaceful Life, History of Doukhobor’s Unmasked (Sacramento, CA, 1955) at 34.

[14] S. Mirzoyan & C. Badem, The Construction of the Tiflis-Aleksandropol-Kars Railway (1895-1899) (Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation, 2013) at 27-28.

[15] Ibid at 64; Reibin, supra, note 13.

[16] See: C. Toews, The life of a navvy: a study of the relationship between ethnicity and status within railway work camps on the Kettle Valley line, 1910 to 1914 (M.A. Thesis) (University of British Columbia, 2019); F.A. Talbot, The Making of a Great Canadian Railway (Toronto: Musson Book Co., 1912); F. Leonard, A Thousand Blunders: The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Northern British Columbia. (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1996); J. Selby, “One Step Forward: Alberta Workers 1885-1914” in A. Finkel et al, Working People in Alberta, A History (Creative Commons, 2012).

[17] Several Doukhobors were killed on the railroad soon after arriving in Canada: J Elkinton, The Doukhobors: Their History in Russia, Their Migration to Canada (Ferris & Leach, 1903) at 64; Winnipeg Tribune, 1906-07-10.

[18] Sulerzhitsky, supra, note 6 at 164-204, V. O. Buyniak, “The 1899 Manitoba and Northern Railway Dispute with the Doukhobors” in Saskatchewan History (40, 1987, No. 1).

[19] Sulerzhitsky,ibid at 192.

[20] Buyniak, supra, note 18; Sulerzhitsky, ibid; Swan River Star, 1900-11-08; Leader Post, 1901-04-18.

[21] Ibid.

[22] E.W. Bradwin, The Bunkhouse Man: A Study of Work and Pay in the Camps of Canada, 1903-1914 (University of Toronto Press, 1972) at Chapter 6.

[23] Sulerzhitsky, supra, note 6 at 164-204; Buyniak, supra, note 18; Leader Post, 1901-04-18.

[24] Sulerzhitsky ibid, at 186, 191-192; Swan River Star, 1900-01-11.

[25] Androsoff, supra, note 12.

[26] Reibin, supra, note 13 at 42; Jack Twilley, Between the Hills: Life in the Swan River Valley, 1787-1958 (1958) at 68; Swan River Star, 1900-02-22.

[27] Manitoba Free Press, 1901-05-04; Swan River Star, 1901-06-21, 1901-07-5, 1901-10-11.

[28] Manitoba Free Press, 1902-05-02; Elkinton, supra, note 17 at 46; George Henry Hambley, The Golden Thread or The Last of the Pioneers: A Story of the Districts of Basswood and Minnedosa, Manitoba, From Community Beginning to Our Present Day, 1874 to 1970 (Altona, 1971) at 170; Kelwood Bridges the Years 1890-1967 (Kelwood Centennial Committee, 1967) at 273.

[29] M. C. Kinney, Tyvan: As it Was in the Beginning (Regina, 1987) at 36.

[30] Manitoba Free Press, 1904-08-12; Star City: Pioneer Days to Jubilee Year (Jubilee Editorial Committee, 1955) at 170.

[31] Swan River Star, 1900-01-11; Leader Post, 1901-04-18; Manitoba Free Press, 1901-04-13; Birtle Eyewitness, 1901-09-03.

[32] The Hands of Time, Village of Buchanan 1907-1987, R.M. of Buchanan 1913-1988 and District (Buchanan History Book Committee, 1988) at 572; Medicine Hat News, 1901-09-05.

[33] Sanderson, R. M. and W. J. Sanderson. The Souris Story (Souris: Sanderson Printing, 1979) at 113-114.

[34] Hands of Time, supra, note 32at 390.

[35] R. J. Orsi, Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850-1930 (University of California Press, 2007) at 114; Hands of Time, supra, note 32 at 390 and 793-794; San Francisco Examiner, 1900-03-10; Oakland Tribune, 1900-01-15; San Francisco Chronicle, 1900-01-11; San Francisco Call, 1900-05-26; Sacramento Bee, 1900-01-15.

[36] Manitoba Free Press, 1903-04-11; Swan River Star, 1903-04-29; Manitoba Free Press, 1904-05-18; Windsor Star, 1904-06-30.

[37] Manitoba Free Press, 1903-10-03, 1903-05-18,1904-07-29; Swan River Star, 1904-06-22; Calgary Herald, 1904-06-11.

[38] Hands of Time, supra, note 32 at 768; Parkland Trails: Histories of R.M. of Invermay and villages of Invermay and Rama (Invermay, Rama History Book Committee, 1986) at 282, 649 and 658. 

[39] J.F.P. Barschel, A History of Canora and District (Canora Golden Jubilee Committee, 1960) at 36.

[40] Ibid, at 38.

[41] Elkinton, supra, note 17at 232; Winnipeg Tribune, 1906-06-16; Vancouver Daily World, 1910-04-08.

[42] Winnipeg Tribune, 1906-06-16.

[43] Bradwin, supra, note 22.

[44] Manitoba Free Press, 1902-05-22.

[45] M. Malloff and P. Ogloff, Toil and Peaceful Life, Portraits of Doukhobors. Sound Heritage, Volume VI, Number 4 (Provincial Archives of British Columbia, 1977) at 25.

[46] Vancouver Daily World, 1906-05-10; Ottawa Citizen, 1910-04-01.

[47] J. P. Zubek and P.A. Solbert, Doukhobors at War (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1952) at 70; Pierre Berton, The Promised Land: Settling the West 1896-1914 (Doubleday Canada, 2011).

[48] Manitoba Free Press, 1903-04-11, 1903-10-03, 1904-05-18.

[49] Manitoba Free Press, 1903-04-11; Yorkton Enterprise, 1904-04.21; Vancouver Daily World, 1904-05-30.

[50] Manitoba Free Press, 1903-10-03, 1904-05-18.

[51] Manitoba Free Press, 1906-04-25.

[52] Blakemore, supra, note 10; Manitoba Free Press, 1904-05-18; Calgary Herald, 1906-11-03.

[53] Ibid.

[54] The Gazette, 1906-07-05.  

[55] Windsor Star, 1906-08-25; The Province, 1906-10-13.

[56] P.E. Roy, A White Man’s Province: British Columbia Politicians and Chinese and Japanese Immigrants, 1858-1914 (UBC Press, 1990) at 50-61; A.J.W. James, Class, race and ethnicity: Chinese Canadian entrepreneurs in Vancouver (M.A. Thesis) (University of Manitoba, 1996; P. Wegars, “Who’s Been Workin’ on the Railroad?” in Historical Archaeology, Vol. 25, No. 1, 1991 at 37-65; V. Kukushkin, From Peasants to Labourers: Ukrainian and Belarusian Immigration from the Russian Empire to Canada (McGill-Queen’s Press, 2007) at 98-102.

[57] J. Hawkes, The Story of Saskatchewan and its People, (Volume 2), (Chicago, S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1924) at 682.

[58] Manitoba Free Press, 1905-09-28, 1906-06-30; Winnipeg Tribune, 1905-09-28,1906-06-16, 1907-03-27; Calgary Herald, 1905-09-20, 1906-11-3; The Gazette, 1905-09-29; Ottawa Journal, 1906-03-12; Edmonton Bulletin, 1906-08-08; “Report of T.F. Chamberlain, M.D., Edmonton, July 25, 1906” in Report of the Minister of Agriculture, 1906-7 (7-8 Edward VII, Sessional Paper No. 15, 1908) at 31, 34; Wandering in Wattsview: Wattsview History, 1879-1967 (Wattsview Centennial Club, 1967) at 94; Ellice, 1883-1983 (RM of Ellice Centennial Book Committee, 1983) at 144, 234, 289, 298.

[59] Winnipeg Free Press, 1906-03-12.

[60] Winnipeg Free Press, 1906-08-23.

[61] The Labour Gazette: The Journal of the Department of Labour (Ottawa, Queen’s Printer) Volume 6 (July 1905-June 1906) at 1112; Supra, note 51; Winnipeg Free Press, 1906-03-12, 1906-04-24, 1906-06-30; Ottawa Journal, 1906-03-12; Richmond Hill Liberal, 1906-03-15; Russel Banner, 1906-03-29, 1906-04-26; Winnipeg Tribune, 1906-04-24; Swan River Star, 1906-05-09; Reibin, supra, note 13 at 57.

[62] Winnipeg Free Press, 1906-06-30.

[63] Ibid; “Report of T.F. Chamberlain, M.D., Edmonton, July 25, 1906” in Report of the Minister of Agriculture, 1906-7 (7-8 Edward VII, Sessional Paper No. 15, 1908) at 31, 34; Winnipeg Tribune, 1906-04-24.

[64] Winnipeg Free Press, 1906-11-17; The Province, 1906-11-17.

[65] Winnipeg Free Press, 1906-06-30.

[66] Manitoba Free Press, 1906-09-29; The Gazette, 1906-12-05.

[67] Winnipeg Tribune, 1906-06-16; Ottawa Journal, 1906-06-18; Windsor Star, 1906-08-25.

[68] Ottawa Journal, 1906-08-14; Hawkes, supra, note 57; The Gazette, 1911-08-22.

[69] The GTPR authorized Verigin to offer free transportation to Canada and repatriation after two years to 10,000 Doukhobor workmen, who would be lodged by the railway and paid forty rubles monthly: The Gazette, 1906-10-22, 1907-02-21; Ottawa Citizen, 1906-12-10; Winnipeg Tribune, 1906-12-08, 1906-12-10, 1907-03-26; Ottawa Journal, 1906-10-23, 1907-03-08; Agassiz Record, 1906-12-10; Reibin, supra, note 13 at 55-77; J. Woodsworth, Russian Archival Documents on Canada, The Doukhobors: 1895-1943 (Catalogue No. 2) (Carleton University, August 1996), Document Nos. 1906-11-10b-d, 1906-12-09a-g; D. Davies, “The Pre-1917 Roots of Canada-Soviet Relations” in Canadian Historical Review 70, 2 (June 1989): 191-92.

[70] Railway companies continued to lobby the Canadian government to relax labour immigration requirements for years thereafter: Roy, supra, note 56.

[71] Supra, note 69.

[72] Manitoba Free Press, 1907-09-28; Leader-Post, 1908-01-13.

[73] Star-Phoenix, 1908-09-05.

[74] Hills of Hope (Spruce Grove: Hills of Hope Historical Committee, 1976) at 366.

[75] Hawkes, supra, note 57; The Gazette, 1911-08-22.

[76] Manitoba Free Press, 1907-07-18, Winnipeg Tribune, 1907-09-14; The Gazette, 1907-02-12.

[77] Oakburn Extension, Engineer’s notebook, 1907-11-23, Grigory Soukorukoff private collection.

[78] Manitoba Free Press, 1907-05-25.

[79] Hamiota Echo, 1908-02-27; Grandview Exponent, 1908-02-28.

[80] Winnipeg Tribune, 1907-03-27; Daily Phoenix, 1907-01-31.

[81] Canadian railways sometimes paid contractors and lobbyists in land for their service: R. Haycock, Sam Hughes: The Public Career of a Controversial Canadian, 1885-1916 (Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 1986) at 108; “Laidlaw, George” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 11, (University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003).

[82] Sections 7-29-8-W2, W ½ 9 & W ½ 3-30-9-W2: 1920 Cummins Rural Map of Saskatchewan, Map 150; Lots 10, 11, 12 and part of 17, Plan 109, Winnipeg, MB: V.A. Snesarev,  The Doukhobors in British Columbia (M.A. Thesis (UBC, 1931) Appendix 1.

[83] Lots 13, 14, 15 and 16, Block 15; Lots 7, 8, 21, 22 and 23, Block 20; Lots 13 and 14, Block 30; all in Plan 1505, Transcona, MB: Snesarev, ibid.

[84] Leader-Post, 1909-01-19; J. A. Lower, The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and British Columbia (M.A. Thesis) (University of British Columbia, April 1939) at 80 and 83. 

[85] The Gazette, 1910-03-17; Winnipeg Tribune, 1910-03-26.

[86] Canora Advertiser, 1909-12-23; Winnipeg Tribune, 1910-01-06.

[87] The Railway and Marine World, April 1910, at 277.

[88] The Gazette, 1910-03-17; Winnipeg Tribune, 1910-03-25, 1910-03-26; Ottawa Citizen, 1910-04-01; National Post, 1910-04-02; Vancouver Daily World, 1910-04-08; Edmonton Journal, 1910-04-11; The Province, 1910-04-16; Lethbridge Daily Herald, 1910-04-18; The Hosmer Times, 1910-04-28; Canadian Engineer (Monetary Times Print Company, 1910) Volume 18 at 284; The Railway and Engineering Review (April 23, 1910), Volume 50 at 407; Report of the Minister of Agriculture for Canada, 1911 (Queen’s Printer, 1911) at 105; The Railway and Marine World, April 1910 at 289 and May 1910 at 379; Yorkton Enterprise, 1910-03-31; Hawkes, supra, note 57; Barschel, supra, note 39 at 48.

[89] Manitoba Free Press, 1910-03-01.

[90] The Gazette, April 15, 1910; The Railway and Marine World, May 1910, at 391 and June 1910 at 487.

[91] Letter from Peter V. Verigin to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Verigin Station, March 8, 1910, Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DC-021-005.

[92] Ibid.

[93] From 1908 to 1912, over 5,700 Community Doukhobors resettled to British Columbia to develop lands for fruit-growing: Blakemore, supra, note 10 at 36; Woodcock & Avakumovic, supra, note 2 at 225-250; Tarasoff, supra, note 2 at 99-116. While the Community did not build railway grade in British Columbia per se, it did become a major supplier of railway ties from its land-clearing and logging operations, see: Nelson Daily News, 1910-09-21; Victoria Daily Times, 1910-09-28; The Province, 1911-03-17; Winnipeg Free Press, 1911-04-25.  

[94] Kamsack Times, 1910-05-20; Nelson Daily News, 1910-05-18; The Province, 1910-05-18; The Gazette, 1910-05-18; The Victoria Daily Times, 1910-05-18, 1910-05-25; Winnipeg Tribune, 1910-05-19; The Watchman-Warder, 1910-05-19; The Argus, 1910-05-25.

[95] ”Appendix No. 15, Report of A.E. Clendenan, M.D., Edmonton, Alberta, March 31, 1911” in Report of the Minister of Agriculture for the Dominion of Canada For the year Ended March 31, 1911 (2 George V, Sessional Paper No. 15, 1912) at 105; Manitoba Free Press, 1906-06-30.

[96] Manitoba Free Press, ibid.

[97] Manitoba Free Press, 1910-07-26; Yorkton Enterprise, 1910-07-28; The Leader Post, 1910-08-16, 1910-11-19; The Gazette, 1910-11-19; Star Phoenix, 1910-11-19; Vancouver Daily World, 1910-11-19; The Railway and Marine World, September 1910 at 741.

[98] Report of Road Work Between Yorkton and Canora with the Designation of Days and the Amount of Earnings in 1910,  October 6, 1910, Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DC-074-005.

[99] Malloff & Ogloff, supra, note 45 at 64.

[100] Sulerzhitsky, supra, note 6at 198.

[101] Barschel, supra, note 39at 48; The Gazette, 1910-11-22; The Windsor Star, 1910-11-30; The Railway and Marine World, December 1910 at 1011.

[102] Barschel, ibid at 50-51; Canora Advertiser, 1911-06-22.

[103] The Leader Post, 1910-08-16.

[104] The Leader Post, 1910-08-16; Barschel, supra, note 39 at 46.

[105] J.J. Kalmakoff, “Doukhobor Development in the Ebenezer District” in Ebenezer Book of Memories, Centennial 1905-2005 (Ebenezer Centennial Committee, 2005).

[106] J.J. Kalmakoff, “The Doukhobor Trading Company in Canora” in The Canora Courier, 2018-02-25, 2018-03-14, 2018-03-21, 2018-03-28.

[107] Vancouver Daily World, 1910-09-20; The Victoria Daily Times, 1910-09-21.

[108] The Province, 1910-03-22; Edmonton Journal, 1910-05-02.

[109] The Province, 1910-04-29; The Victoria Daily Times, 1910-05-02.

[110] 1911 Canada Census, Dist. 212, Sub. 31 (Prince Albert), p 21.

[111] Ottawa Citizen, 1911-06-26; Contract Record, Volume 25 (H.C. MacLean, 1911) at 56; The Railway and Marine World (1911) at 1147.

[112] Engineering and Contracting, Volume 37 (Myron C. Clark Publishing Company, 1912) at 40; Pan American Magazine, Volume 16 (1913) at 170.

[113] Where the Prairie Meets the Hills: Veteran, Loyalist and Hemaruka districts (Veteran, 1977) at 423.

[114] Supra, note 93.

[115] Calgary Herald, 1914-03-28.

[116] Tracie, supra, note 7 at 160.

[117] The Leader Post, 1901-08-08.

[118] Star-Phoenix, 1908-09-05.

[119] 1911 Canada Census, Dist., Sub. 33 (Saskatoon), pp 34-36.

[120] Winnipeg Free Press, 1908-09-30.

[121] Letter from Peter V. Verigin to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Verigin Station, June 18, 1912, Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection, Item No. MSC121-DC-086-003.

[122] Nelson Daily News, 5 May 1913, 2 Jun3 1913, 5 June 1913, 16, June 1913.

[123] Vancouver Daily World, 1916-06-20; Kelowna Record, 1916-07-20.

[124]Vernon News, 9 May 1918.

[125] Grand Forks Sun, 1919.11.07, 1919.11.07, 1919.12.26; Greenwood Ledge, 1920.01.08; Creston Review, 1920.01.16.

[126] Kalmakoff, supra, note 6.

[127] 1911 Canada Census, Dist. 15, Sub. 49 (Brandon), p 16; Dist. 16, Sub. 66 (Benito) p 10; Dist. 210, Sub. 14 (Kamsack) pp 9-11; Dist. 210, Sub. 29 (Yorkton), pp 45-46. 1916 Census of Prairie Provinces, Dist. 21, Sub. 10 (Kamsack), pp 18, 21, 24; Dist. 21, Sub.19 (Verigin), pp 15, 17; Dist. 21, Sub. 25 (Canora) pp 6, 8, 13, 16; Dist. 21, Sub. 29 (Buchanan), pp 2-3; Dist. 29, Sub. 14 (Langham), p 21.