For Immediate Release – June 30, 2010
On Sunday, June 27, 2008, the National Heritage Doukhobor Village hosted its fifth annual guided motor coach tour of Doukhobor historical sites and points of interest – this year in Yorkton, Saskatchewan and surrounding areas. Approximately sixty people took part in the excursion, which travelled through the Canora, Hamton, Ebenezer, Yorkton, Insinger and Sheho areas, visiting a number of heritage buildings and structures built by the Doukhobor Community as part of its trading, industrial and commercial activities in the areas in the early twentieth century.
Group photo of tour participants at Insinger, SK. Photo courtesy Keith & Sonya Tarasoff.
“While the Doukhobor Community is largely remembered as an agricultural organization, few people today are aware of its achievements as a commercial enterprise, and the impact it had on the development of the surrounding area”, said Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, Doukhobor historian and tour co-organizer.
In the Teens and Twenties, the Doukhobor communal organization known as the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) was at the height of material achievement as a trading, industrial, agricultural and forestry enterprise in Saskatchewan. It had landholdings totaling over 30,000 acres in the province on which were built numerous communal villages, sawmills, flour mills, grain elevators, brickworks, trading stores, warehouses, roads, ferries and bridges, as well as cultivated crops and market gardens. The Community also hired itself out to perform large construction contracts. Underpinning the success of the organization was a membership of over fifteen hundred Doukhobor men who provided a large, readily-mobilized labour force guided by the slogan “Toil and Peaceful Life”.
The Fort Pelly Trail circa 1907. The ox-cart trail ran in a south-westerly direction from Fort Pelly, through the Doukhobor village settlements and the Ebenezer district, to Yorkton.
The Yorkton & Area Doukhobor Historical Tour commenced at the Doukhobor Prayer Home in Canora at 9:00 a.m. with greetings and introductory remarks by Keith Tarasoff, chairman of the National Heritage Doukhobor Village and tour co-organizer.
The tour visited the site of the Doukhobor Block, a complex of buildings on 2nd Avenue East in Canora built, owned and operated by the Doukhobor Community. These included a large trading store (1910); annex (1912); storage warehouse (1916); workers residence (1913); and livery barn (1913). The trading store (known today as the Lunn Hotel) still stands and is the oldest and largest Doukhobor-built building still in use in Canada. The tour then stopped on Railway Avenue at the site of a 60,000-bushel grain elevator built for hire by the Doukhobor Community in 1912.
The Doukhobor Trading Store (now the Lunn Hotel) on 2nd Avenue East in Canora, SK. Built by the CCUB in 1910, it is the oldest and largest Doukhobor building in Canada still in use. Photo courtesy Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
The tour proceeded to Hamton and visited the site of the communal farm settlement known as Burtsevo, which from 1907 to 1918 served as a stopping point for Doukhobor wagon teams travelling between Veregin and Yorkton on the Fort Pelly Trail. Because it was a day trip each way by horse and wagon, the Doukhobor Community purchased this section farm along the trail so that they would have a place to stop and rest their horses. The original house, trading store and Doukhobor-made brick-lined wells on the property are still there to see.
The Burtsevo farmhouse, Hamton, SK. Built by the CCUB in 1907, it was a stopping place for Doukhobor wagon teams travelling between Veregin and Yorkton on the Fort Pelly Trail. Photo courtesy Al and Bernice Makowsky.
Continuing south, the tour followed the route of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway line, built for hire by the Doukhobor Community in 1910. The 30-mile branch line – still in use today – connected the towns of Canora and Yorkton and resulted in the creation of several new centres along the way, including the hamlets of Burgis, Gorlitz, Hamton and Ebenezer.
The tour stopped at Ebenezer, where the Doukhobor Community was hired to construct a 25,000-bushel grain elevator (1910); a two-story brick general store, adjoining brick business building and residence known as the ‘Border Block’ (1911); a two-story brick home and cinderblock barn (1911); and a two-story brick hotel, adjoining brick business building and residence known as the ‘Janzen Block’ (1920). The latter three buildings are still standing. The Doukhobor Community itself owned 20 lots in the hamlet (1910) and built a large barn on the outskirts of Ebenezer (1914) for use as a stopping point for Doukhobor wagon teams travelling on the Fort Pelly Trail.
The Janzen Block in Ebenezer, SK, built by the CCUB in 1920. Photo courtesy Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
The tour proceeded to Yorkton and visited the site of the large brick factory on Dracup Avenue owned and operated by the Doukhobor Community from 1905-1925. The factory, which produced up to 50,000 bricks a day, supplied millions of bricks for building projects across Western Canada. The factory was dismantled in 1940; however, three original structures – dwelling houses for the factory workers – are still standing. The tour then passed a number of Yorkton buildings constructed of Doukhobor brick including: three two-story homes on Fifth Avenue North; the Blackstone Hotel (today known as the City Limits Inn), a large two-story brick structure on Betts Avenue built and owned by the Doukhobor Community (1935); and six dwelling houses on Myrtle Avenue – three of which are still standing – built and owned by the Doukhobor Community (1932). In 1990, one of these homes was purchased by the City of Yorkton for preservation as a heritage site to commemorate the history of the Doukhobors in Yorkton.
The Blackstone Hotel (now the City Limits Inn) on Betts Avenue in Yorkton, SK, built by the CCUB in 1935.
Photo courtesy Jonthan J. Kalmakoff.
The tour stopped at Jaycee Beach Park where, following the Lord’s Prayer recited in Russian, the tour participants enjoyed a picnic lunch and rest stop.
One of six dwelling houses built by the CCUB on Myrtle Avenue in Yorkton, SK in 1932. Three remain today. Photo courtesy Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
The tour then resumed and continued to Sheho, where it visited the site of the communal farm settlement known as Blagodatnoye. From 1907 to 1926, the farm supplied the Doukhobor Community with wood to fire the kilns at the Yorkton brick factory. As the heavily treed farm was cleared by Doukhobor work crews, the trees were cut into cordwood and shipped by rail to Yorkton and the cleared land was farmed. At Blagodatnoye, the Doukhobor Community built a large two-story brick dwelling house along with a large wooden barn and numerous outbuildings, none of which remain today. A small Doukhobor cemetery still exists at the site.
The large two-story brick communal home built by the CCUB in Sheho in 1907. It was demolished in 1982. Photo courtesy Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
The tour then proceeded to Insinger, where it visited the site of another communal farm settlement. From 1907 to 1928, this heavily treed farm also supplied the Doukhobor Community with firewood for its Yorkton brickworks. As the land was cleared, the trees were cut into cordwood and transported to Yorkton by rail, and the cleared land was farmed. Here also, the Doukhobor Community built a large two-story brick dwelling house which is still standing and is in the process of being renovated. It is the last structure of its kind left in Saskatchewan.
The large two-story brick communal home built by the CCUB in Insinger in 1907. Currently under renovation, it is the last remaining structure of its kind in Saskatchewan. Photo courtesy Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
On the return leg, the tour stopped in Theodore at the residence of Pauline Lapitsky. There, tour participants enjoyed Doukhobor song singing by the combined Saskatchewan choir members along with tour participants from Alberta and Manitoba, followed by lunch and refreshments. The tour concluded in Canora at 5:00 p.m.
Throughout the eight-hour excursion, Jonathan J. Kalmakoff served as tour guide, sharing his wealth of knowledge about the history of the places and people. Tour participants also shared a number of interesting stories and anecdotes.
“Many of the tour participants were amazed at what we were able to show them,” said Keith Tarasoff. “Few were aware of the scope of Doukhobor commercial activity in the area, and fewer yet knew about the legacy of buildings and structures they left”.
For additional information or inquiries about Doukhobor historic sites in Yorkton and the surrounding area, visit the Doukhobor Genealogy Website at www.doukhobor.org and the National Heritage Doukhobor Village website at www.ndhv.ca.