The Doukhobors at Waterloo, British Columbia, 1911

Manitoba Free Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

How They Live

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

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

Industries

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

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

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

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

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

Transportation Facilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equipment for Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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