The Kylemore Doukhobor Colony
by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff
The Kylemore Colony was a Doukhobor communal
settlement established by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood in
the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan between 1918 and 1938. Numbering 300
people at its peak, the self-sufficient agricultural colony was organized on the
principles of common ownership and the Doukhobor faith. While its existence is
generally known, remarkably little has been documented about its history. The
following article, compiled from a wealth of published and unpublished sources, examines the Kylemore Colony in
rich, descriptive detail from its settlement and early development, communal life and organization, to the eventual
demise of the Community and break-up of the colony.
In the early 1900’s, the main body of Doukhobors in Canada, under the
charismatic leadership of Peter Vasil’evich Verigin (1859-1924), known as
Gospodnyi (the “Lordly”), formed themselves into the spiritual, social
and economic organization known as the Christian Community of Universal
Brotherhood (CCUB). It was organized on a communal basis, according to the
precepts of the Doukhobor faith, under the close supervision and direction
By 1918, the CCUB was at the height of material achievement as an
industrial, agricultural, forestry and trading enterprise in Western Canada.
It was incorporated under a Dominion charter with a capitalized value of
over $1,000,000.00, although its total assets were estimated at several
times that figure. It had landholdings in British Columbia, Alberta and
Saskatchewan totaling over 50,000 acres on which were built numerous
communal villages, sawmills, brickworks, jam factories, canning and
fruit-packing plants, trading stores, flour mills, grain elevators,
irrigation systems, reservoirs, roads and bridges, along with extensive
cultivated crops, orchards and gardens. Underpinning the success of the
organization was a membership of 6,000 adult Doukhobors (5,000 in British
Columbia and 1,000 in Alberta and Saskatchewan) who provided a large,
readily-mobilized pool of free, willing labour, guided by the slogan “Toil
and Peaceful Life”.
|Group of CCUB
Doukhobors at Veregin, SK, c.1918. At the time, the CCUB was at the height of material achievement as an
industrial, agricultural, forestry and trading enterprise. Photo courtesy
National Doukhobor Heritage Village.
Verigin’s overall strategy at this time was to ensure that the CCUB became
self-sufficient in agricultural production, while at the same time
developing a variety of means to earn cash to fund its operations. Under
this plan, grain grown by Doukhobors on the Prairies would be exchanged for
fruit and timber produced by Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia. The
surplus would be sold to the outside world, where wartime shortages and high
prices provided profitable markets for the wheat, lumber, bricks, fruit and
other outputs of the communal enterprise. In order to carry out this
strategy, however, it was necessary for the CCUB to acquire additional
wheat-growing land on the Prairies.
The Kylemore Purchase
To this end, the CCUB acquired a block of eighteen square miles of land, or
the equivalent of half a township, in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan
in 1918. The land was acquired in three transactions. First, the CCUB leased
640 acres of Hudson’s Bay Company land (Section 8 in Township 33, Range 12,
West of the Second Meridian) on April 1, 1918. The CCUB then leased an
additional 109 acres of land (Legal Subdivision 8 of SE ¼ of Section 9 and
Legal Subdivision 5 and 12 of the W ½ of Section 10 in Township 33, Range
12, West of the Second Meridian) from the Department of the Interior.
Finally, on May 7, 1918, the CCUB purchased 10,613 acres of land (Sections
1-5, 7, 9-12, N ½ of Section 6 and S ½ of Sections 13-18 in Township 33, and
Sections 32-36 in Township 34, Range 12, West of the Second Meridian) from
the Chicago-based Fishing Lake Land and Farm Co. Ltd. under an agreement for
sale for $265,343.00.
Taken together, these acquisitions provided the CCUB with a total
landholding of 11,362 acres in the Kylemore district. Only 607 acres of the
land was broken at the time – the rest was covered in dense trees and scrub.
For this reason, the CCUB acquired the land for substantially less than
developed agricultural land in other areas.
work crew clearing land at Kylemore, SK, 1920. At the time of purchase, the
colony was covered in dense trees and scrub. Photo courtesy Koozma J. Tarasoff.
At the same time, the land lay adjacent to the Canadian National Railway,
which provided essential transportation access. This was a key component of
Verigin’s strategy to ship agricultural and industrial goods between
Doukhobor settlements and to market.
Perhaps most importantly, the ‘Kylemore Colony’ formed a large, contiguous
block of land that was semi-isolated and largely self-contained, where the
Doukhobors could speak their own language, practice their religion and
culture, and follow their distinctive form of communal organization,
separate and apart from the larger Canadian society.
Early Development and Settlement
From the outset, the colony at Kylemore was established according to the
carefully laid out plans of the CCUB leadership. On June 14, 1918, just
weeks after the land acquisition, CCUB General Manager Michael W. Cazakoff
outlined these plans in an interview with the Manitoba Free Press while in
Winnipeg, Manitoba to purchase equipment for the new colony. He declared
that the majority of the lands would be dedicated to grain growing, being
ideally suited for that purpose, while the lighter, south-easterly lands
adjacent to Fishing Lake would be reserved for livestock-raising. There
would be a settlement of families on each section. There would also be a
store, in which fruit shipped from the Doukhobor settlements in British
Columbia would be distributed within the colony and sold publicly. Finally,
an elevator would be built through which the Doukhobors in Kylemore would
ship wheat to the British Columbia settlements and market their surplus and
that of their neighbours.
|A group of Doukhobor
workers enjoys a break near Kylemore, SK, 1920. Photo No. 208 courtesy ISKRA.
The development of the colony occurred over a period of several years.
Beginning in 1918, and for each summer thereafter until 1924, work crews of
65 or more Doukhobor men from British Columbia and elsewhere in Saskatchewan
arrived in Kylemore to clear the land and erect buildings. Temporary tent
camps were set up on Section 10 for their accommodation. To carry out this
work, the main CCUB settlement at Veregin, 70 miles to the east, supplied
them with six steam engines and sixty teams of horses.
Land-clearing and breaking began at the northern end of the colony along the
Canadian National Railway and slowly advanced to the southern end. This
backbreaking work began at sunup and ended after sundown. First, the trees
were cut, then the workers used pick axes to grub the stumps. After, workers
came with teams of horses and steam engines to pull out the roots and break
the land with the plough. The broken land was then sown into crop the
following spring. Over 1,600 acres of land were developed in this manner in
1918 alone. Thereafter, Doukhobor work crews cleared and broke an additional
five hundred acres of land each year.
The first permanent village in the colony was established in 1918 on Section
9 at the former residence of W.H. McKinnon, one of the prior landowners.
This ornate, eight-room, two-story wood frame structure with lumber siding
was the only dwelling on the land when the CCUB purchased it. There, between
1918 and 1921, the CCUB also constructed a large central meeting house for
colony members and a gornitsa (special guest quarters) where Peter V.
Verigin could stay when he visited the area.
|The McKinnon home
west of Kylemore, SK. Built in c.1910, the large, ornate home was the only
structure on the land when the CCUB purchased it in 1918. It formed part of the
Chernoff Village, the first village in the colony. It was destroyed by fire in
1924. Remembering Times.
Doukhobor work crews constructed eight additional villages on Sections 6, 7,
9, 10, 31 and 33, approximately two per year, from 1919 to 1924. These were
a variation of the village design used by the Doukhobors in British Columbia
and consisted of a single 26’ x 26’ two-story dwelling of wood frame
construction on a concrete foundation. The exceptions were two villages on
Sections 9 and 31 that had twin structures. These multi-family communal
doms (dwellings) were constructed using timber shipped from the CCUB
sawmills in the Kootenays. Six were clad in brick supplied from the CCUB
brickworks at Veregin. The remainder had cedar shake siding shipped from the
Kootenay settlements. Each had a hip roof and verandah clad with cedar
shakes. All had large cellars for the storage of foodstuffs.
Each village had a large barn for housing draft horses and milking cows
along with numerous outbuildings including stables, sheds, granaries,
chicken coops, a kuznitsa (blacksmith shop), banya
(bath-house) and peche (clay oven). At least two villages had large
ledniks (ice cellars) dug for cold storage. Each had a large garden
plot for growing vegetables and fruit.
village constructed by the CCUB adjacent to the Canadian National Railway at
Kylemore, SK in c.1919. Photo courtesy John J. Trofimenkoff.
As work crews completed each village, CCUB families began arriving in
Kylemore to take up permanent residence in them. The first families to
arrive were those of Peter S. Chernoff from Veregin, Saskatchewan and Vasily
V. Solovaeff from Prekrasnoye, British Columbia in 1918. They were followed
by a number of families from the Kootenays each year between 1919 and 1924.
These included the families of Ivan and Michael S. Arishenkoff, Ignat A.
Arishenkoff, Nikolai D. Bedinoff, Ivan V. Chernoff, Ivan I. Fofonoff, Ivan
P. Hoolaeff, Ivan F. Hoodikoff, Ivan V. and Vasily I. Kazakoff, Vasily V.
and Nikolai N. Konkin, Grigory N. Kanigan, Peter and Ivan S. Malikoff, Kuzma
V. Kolesnikoff, Alex I. and Vasily V. Makortoff, Dmitry I., Nikolai N. and
Ivan A. Malakoff, Andrew P. and Trofim W. Markin, Vasily A. Morozoff,
Nikolai N. Ogloff, Peter A. Osachoff, Kuzma S. and Alex I. Pereverseff, Ivan
V. and Peter, Semyon and Grigory S. Popoff, Ivan A. Postnikoff, Fyodor K.
and Ivan I. Samsonoff, Ivan F. Sysoev, Ivan and Nikolai P. Sheloff, Pavel
V. Planidin and Evdokim A. Sherbinin. According to oral tradition, each family
was hand-picked by Peter V. Verigin to help develop the colony.
As the colony took shape, the CCUB undertook the task of constructing a
large grain elevator on Section 9 along the Canadian National Railway.
Beginning in 1918, work crews constructed a 120,000 bushel capacity elevator
of wood crib construction on a concrete foundation. It was approximately 45’
x 60’ wide and 75’ high with a pyramidal roof and a centrally located
pyramidal-roofed cupola. At the time it was completed in 1920, it was the
largest elevator in Saskatchewan. Thereafter, the Kylemore Colony began
receiving, storing and shipping grain in bulk quantities to the Doukhobor
settlements in British Columbia and to markets elsewhere.
work crew constructing grain elevator at Kylemore, 1919. Photo courtesy Peter
and Agnes Malekoff.
The CCUB also began construction of a large trading store and warehouse on
Section 9 along the rail line in 1918. The three-story structure was built
of wood frame construction with a full concrete basement. It had cedar shake
siding. It was 60’ x 36’ with a gambrel roof and two 20’ lean-tos. It was
completed in 1922. The storefront was located at the north end of the main
floor, where fruit, produce and other merchandise from the Doukhobor
settlements in British Columbia were distributed to the colony families as
required and the surplus sold to the public, while the south end of the main
floor and the basement were utilized as a warehouse. It is known that Pavel
V. Planidin managed the store from 1922 to 1925 and Nikolai N. Ogloff from
1928 to 1935.
By 1924, the Kylemore Colony was thriving and prosperous, with approximately
250 Doukhobor men, women and children. It had a herd of 500 cattle, 1000
sheep and 30 horses. Over 4,000 acres of land was now under cultivation,
producing substantial quantities of grain. A sizeable acreage was also
devoted to pasture. The community elevator and store were now in full
operation. Peter V. Verigin’s plans for the colony had begun to bear fruit.
structures adjacent to the Canadian National Railway at Kylemore, SK, c.1924.
(l-r) CCUB grain elevator, CCUB trading store, and unnamed twin-dom
village. Photo courtesy Koozma J. Tarasoff.
The Kelvington Annex
Even as the development of the Kylemore Colony was underway, Peter V.
Verigin had planned its expansion in the outlying area. In August of 1921,
the CCUB purchased an additional 8,000 acres of land (Sections 3, 7, 9, 15,
17-19, 21, 27, 31 and 33, W ½ and SE ¼ of Section 5, E ½ of Section 25, all
in Township 27, Range 12, West of the Second Meridian) in the Kelvington
district, twenty miles to the north. It was acquired from the Winnipeg-based
Canada West Security Corporation under an agreement for sale.
The ‘Kelvington Annex’ was unbroken at the time of purchase and was covered
in trees and scrub, making it cheaper and more affordable than developed
land in other districts. Unlike the Kylemore Colony, it did not form a
contiguous block, but was segregated into separate section parcels
interspersed among non-Doukhobor landholdings. However, it lay adjacent to
the Canadian National Railway’s proposed Thunderhill Branch Line extension
from Kelvington to Prince Albert, which, once built, would enhance its
property value and provide strategic rail access.
|Doukhobor work crew
clearing land by hand near Kylemore, SK, c. 1924. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
The Kelvington Annex was administered as an offshoot of the Kylemore Colony.
It was primarily used for summer pasturage for the colony’s horse herd,
although some land-clearing and grain-growing did occur. No villages were
constructed there; however, single-family dwellings were built on Sections
18 and 27 to house four families permanently stationed there. Other families
were rotated from Kylemore to Kelvington on a temporary basis over summer to
tend the communal horse herd, during which time they lived in tents.
Community Life and Organization under Peter V.
During the era of Peter V. Verigin, the Kylemore Colony was comprised of
nine (unnamed) villages containing family groupings of four to six extended families
per village. All the villages in the colony were organized as one commune.
at Kylemore, SK, 1920. (l-r) Mabel, Tanya, Peter, John, Peter A., Helen G., and
Mike Chernoff in their chore cloths. Seems Like Only Yesterday.
The CCUB central office coordinated the agricultural and commercial
operations of the colony, carried out all transactions on its behalf,
managed its finances through a common treasury and provided for the daily
needs of its members. This was managed out of the CCUB headquarters in
Veregin, Saskatchewan. A manager elected by the members administered the
day-to-day affairs of the colony and acted as an intermediary authority
between the central office and colony members. It is known that in 1925, the
Manager of the Kylemore Colony was Dmitry I. Malakoff and from 1926 to 1928,
Nikolai I. Cazakoff. Major decisions affecting the colony were introduced at
a sobraniye (general meeting) of all members where everyone could
have a voice.
The CCUB owned all of the colony’s land, buildings, machinery, tools and
livestock. These were distributed among the villages of the colony, so that
each village possessed its own teams of horses, wagons, implements and other
resources necessary to farm the acreage allocated to it. All the grain was
delivered to the CCUB elevator and traded under its name, as was all stock
and merchandise shipped to the CCUB store. Indeed, all proceeds from the
output of the colony went to the central office.
|CCUB General Manager
Michael W. Cazakoff (right) inspects communal draft horses with Vasily V.
Soloveoff (left) near Kylemore, SK, c.1924. Photo No. 273 courtesy ISKRA.
Individual members were expected to contribute their labour to the operation
of the colony and pay an annual levy to the central office, which was mainly
paid in-kind through labour rather than cash. They received no income for
communal work, and when they found it necessary to work outside the colony,
their earnings were deposited directly with the central office or collected
by the Manager of the colony. Hence, few members of the colony actually
handled money. Within this moneyless system, the colony provided for all the
essential needs of its members, such as food, shelter, clothing and other
Daily life in the Kylemore Colony revolved around the cycles of the farming
year. In spring, the women and men worked together in the fields sowing
crops. Afterwards, in summer, they laboured to clear and break additional
land. The women also dug seneca root, the sale of which was an important
source of revenue for the colony. Later in summer, haying and stooking was
performed by both men and women. At harvest time, the men threshed while the
women prepared meals and did chores. In late fall, the men got up before
sunrise, took packed lunches and traveled south toward Fishing Lake to cut
wood. They would cut enough to last the colony for the whole winter and the
surplus was sold locally. The days that followed were spent sawing and
splitting the wood into “stove-sized” pieces. During winter, the men worked
in the villages or sought outside employment. The women, elderly and
children maintained the household and performed yard chores.
Kanigan Village near Kylemore, SK winnow grain to remove chaff. Photo courtesy
William W. Kanigan.
The colony was almost entirely self-sufficient in food production. Colony
members grew potatoes, cabbages, tomatoes and other vegetables in their
large gardens. This was supplemented by fruit, jams and preserves supplied
from the Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia. Wild berries, nuts and
mushrooms were also picked locally. Milk, cream, cheese and butter were
obtained from the community cattle herd. As they kept chickens they also had
a fresh supply of eggs. Meat was unnecessary as colony members were strict
vegetarians. Flour was produced from the wheat they grew, which was hauled
by horse and wagon 18 miles south to Foam Lake to be ground and milled. Only
sugar, salt, raisins, rice and a few other staples were purchased outside
the colony by the men.
The colonists also manufactured most of their own cloths, tools and
furniture. The women sheared wool from the communal sheep herd which they
then washed, carded, spun and wove to make cloth and yarn. They were expert
in sewing, knitting, crocheting, weaving, quilt and mattress making and
other handicrafts. The men produced furniture, tools and equipment and
performed shoe repair, harness-making, blacksmithing, horse-shoeing and
other skilled tasks.
|Peter Chernoff and
John Soloveoff mounted on horseback on the prairie near Kylemore, SK, c.1920. Photo
No. 207 courtesy ISKRA.
While there were few opportunities for leisure, colony members still found
time to enjoy the natural beauty and recreation opportunities at Fishing
Lake during the hot summer months. There, at a scenic lug (meadow) on the
north shore of the lake, Doukhobors throughout the colony gathered to
celebrate Petrov Den’ (Peters Day), hold outdoor meetings and enjoy
picnics, swimming and rafting.
A mainstay of spiritual life in the colony was the moleniye (prayer
meeting) held each Sunday. According to oral tradition, each village
initially conducted its own moleniye; however, over time, a number of
villages joined together for this occasion. This was a time when the members
of the colony abandoned their work and gathered for hours to pray, discuss
spiritual matters and sing psalms. There were reputedly many exceptional
singers in the colony, and the psalm singing inspired the people and
reinforced their religious faith and values for the ensuing week.
|A gathering of Doukhobor
children at Kanigan Village near Kylemore, SK, c. 1924. Photo courtesy William
A special highlight was when Peter V. Verigin visited the Kylemore Colony to
meet with the members, hear their concerns and inspect their progress. This
was a joyous occasion accompanied by special celebrations, meetings and
meals. It is known that Verigin made at least two such trips to Kylemore in
the summer of 1921 and the fall of 1924, and probably several more.
On the whole, life in the colony at this time was characterized, not only by
hard work and sacrifice, but by simple, peaceful living in an atmosphere of
happiness, comfort and harmony. This way of life is poignantly described in
the historical novel Tanya, by Doukhobor writer Eli A. Popoff, which is
based on the remarkable true story of Tanya Arishenkoff, the central
character, who lived in the colony from 1919 until its demise.
shepherds tend communal sheep flock at Kylemore, SK, c.1924. Photo courtesy
National Doukhobor Heritage Village.
Death of Peter V. Verigin and Aftermath
Disaster struck the Kylemore Colony in May of 1924 when one of the villages
on Section 9 was destroyed in an accidental fire. This included the village
dom, central meeting house, the gornitsa where Peter V. Verigin
stayed and other outbuildings. During this same period, the dom at
another village on Section 9 also burned to the ground.
However, these events paled in comparison to the sudden death of Verigin in
October of 1924 in a mysterious train explosion at Farron, British Columbia.
His passing was a devastating blow to the membership of the CCUB, who
revered him as their guide, counselor and protector. The entire Doukhobor
Community was thrown into shock and mourning, and the Kylemore Colony was no
Leaderless and directionless, the Doukhobors at Kylemore carried on
essential tasks, such as grain growing and store and elevator operations,
but postponed decisions on most important issues until a replacement leader
could be appointed who would help them decide. For example, the construction
of village buildings to replace those which had burnt on Section 9 was
suspended. The CCUB organization went into a period of slow stagnation and
mounted on horseback in front of Malakoff Village dom near Kylemore, SK,
c.1924. Photo courtesy Fred J. Chernoff.
With financial difficulties mounting, the Directors of the CCUB decided to
consolidate their debts with one creditor. The Community negotiated a loan
for $350,000.00 with the National Trust Company, representing the Canadian
Bank of Commerce, in December of 1925. To secure this loan, the National
Trust Company obtained a blanket mortgage on all of the land and buildings
on which no other creditors held liens. This meant that everything owned by
the CCUB would now be encumbered with debt, including the lands of the
Arrival of Peter P. Verigin and Reorganization
It was several years before Verigin’s son, Peter Petrovich Verigin, known as
Chistiakov (the “Cleanser” or “Purger”), was able to come to Canada
and assume the leadership of the CCUB. His arrival in September of 1927 was
greeted by his followers with tremendous enthusiasm, who hoped for a
rejuvenation of the ailing CCUB communal structure.
On his first of many visits to the Kylemore colony, Peter P. Verigin
impressed his followers as a forceful, eloquent orator and a persuasive,
dynamic and brilliant organizer. He declared his immediate goals to be to
free the CCUB from it burden of debt and to unite the various factions of
Doukhobors in Canada. Seeing and hearing him speak, the Kylemore Doukhobors
firmly believed that his objectives would be achieved.
|The family of Peter
P. Verigin seen here at the Chernoff Village near Kylemore, SK in 1928 (l-r) John J. Verigin (his grandson), Anna F.
Verigin (his wife) and Evdokia G. Verigin (his mother). Photo No. 303 courtesy
Almost immediately, Peter P. Verigin reorganized the CCUB on a new basis to
encourage greater self-reliance, industry and diligence among its members
and to foster a renewed interest in the soil and in the welfare of the
commune. To this end, he decentralized the CCUB, made life less rigidly
communal, and reduced the size of each commune to a new unit known as the
‘Family’, which in Saskatchewan was comprised of 25 persons.
The Kylemore Colony land, buildings, machinery, tools and livestock were
redistributed to each Family to farm communally. Each Family was granted
broad autonomy over its agricultural operations and business transactions.
An annual assessment was still paid to the CCUB central office. However, any
excess revenue from the land or from outside earnings, over and above the
annual assessment, was retained by the Family. A Starshina (Elder),
elected by its members, managed the day-to-day affairs of each Family. It is known that in 1928, these were: Ivan N. Konkin, Nikolai P. Popoff, Ivan I. Samsonoff, Vasily V. Solovaeff, Ivan V. Chernenkoff, Alexei I. Pereverseff, Ivan V. Popoff, Vasily A. Morozoff, Semyon S. Popoff, Ivan A. Posnikoff, Peter S. Chernoff, Grigory N. Kanigan and Ivan P. Sheloff.
|John V. Soloveoff
stands beside a white stallion that had belonged to Doukhobor leader Peter V.
Verigin at the newly-formed Arishenkoff Village near Kylemore, SK, c. 1928.
Photo No. 229 courtesy ISKRA.
The system of buying and selling was introduced into all aspects of
relations between the CCUB central office and the Families or branch
communes, as well as between individual members. Individual Doukhobors were
now permitted to handle money. Thus, money transactions replaced the
unwieldy barter system of earlier years.
In total, 13 Families of 25 persons (comprising one to two extended
families) were set up in the Kylemore Colony in 1928. Each Family was
allocated a section of land in the colony on which to live and farm. Where a
village already existed on a section, it was given to the Family assigned to
that section; where there was none, a new village was built for the Family
placed on that section.
Accordingly, six existing villages on Sections 7, 9, 4 and 10 (thereafter
known as Popoff
Village, Malakoff Village, Chernoff Village, Sheloff Village, Kazakoff
Village and Kanigan Village) were reassigned to Families. Three existing
(unnamed) villages on Sections 6, 9 and 31 were either moved to new
locations or dismantled and the materials used to build new villages
elsewhere. Seven new villages (thereafter known as Chernenkoff Village, Pereverseff Village,
Hoodekoff Village, Konkin Village, Makortoff Village, Samsonoff Village and
Arishenkoff Village) were built for Families on Sections 2, 3, 5, 32-35.
These new villages differed from the earlier villages in that they were
comprised of small, single-family residences built of wood frame
construction with cedar shake siding.
|Vasily V. Soloveoff
stands beside a Belgian draft horse at the newly-formed Arishenkoff Village near
Kylemore, SK, c. 1928. Note the communal barn under construction in
foreground. Photo No. 228 courtesy ISKRA.
This reorganization resulted in changes to nearly every household in the
Kylemore Colony. Consequently, throughout the summer of 1928, there was much
moving to and fro, and wagons piled high with goods and chattels were
continually driving in one direction or another as families relocated to
their new villages. It was at this time also that the CCUB families
stationed at the Kelvington Annex relocated to the Kylemore Colony, where
they were incorporated into Family branch communes.
In addition to the Families, which maintained a direct connection with the
CCUB central office, a provincial branch of the CCUB was set up in
Saskatchewan to operate business enterprises in the various areas, including
the grain elevator and trading store at Kylemore. These were now run on a
wholly cash basis. The CCUB trading store now purchased the fruit it
received from British Columbia and sold it to colony members, although it no
longer enjoyed a trade monopoly among them. The CCUB elevator maintained a
buying monopoly over all the surplus grain grown in the colony, however, it
was now purchased from each Family and sold to British Columbia.
outfit owned by the CCUB at Kylemore, SK, c. 1928. Photo courtesy William W.
Community Life Under Peter P. Verigin: 1927-1931
The reorganization of the Kylemore Colony was accompanied by three main
developments during the early years of Peter P. Verigin’s leadership. First,
there was an expansion and consolidation of the capital assets of the colony
to increase earning potential and reduce the CCUB’s massive debt. Second,
colonists joined a new umbrella organization, the Society of Named
Doukhobors, aimed at the unification of the main Doukhobor factions in
Canada. Third, new emphasis was placed on education as the Doukhobor youth
of the colony were enrolled in local schools. These developments are
discussed below in greater detail.
Capital Expansion and Consolidation
The years 1928 to 1931 saw a noteworthy expansion, improvement and
consolidation of CCUB capital assets in the Kylemore Colony. Buildings were
erected for new villages to the value of $13,000.00. As well, leased lands
(640 acres from the Hudson’s Bay Company and 109 acres from the Department
of Indian Affairs) were purchased outright for $16,264.60. Also, the balance
owing on the 10,613 acres purchased from the Fishing Lake Land and Farm Co.
Ltd. was paid in full. Finally, land-clearing activity was redoubled in
order to increase agricultural production and earnings.
|New Chernoff Village
dom completed in 1928 to replace the original destroyed by fire in 1924.
Note the collection of machinery of that era. Seems Like Only Yesterday.
At the same time, the CCUB raised money by allowing some of its Prairie
members to opt out of the communal system and buy or lease its land. To this
end, 3,000 acres of hitherto-undeveloped land in the Kelvington Annex was
leased or sold under agreements for sale to CCUB members. These included the
families of Peter J. Goolaeff, Peter A. Morozoff, John J. and Peter J.
Kanigan, Simeon A. Horkoff, Harry N. and Trofim N. Kanigan, Fred W.
Antifaeff, Mike W. and Wasyl W. Bloodoff, George F. and John F. Kazakoff,
Nick W. Pepin, Wasyl L. Shukin and Wasyl A. Juravloff.
Statistical data from 1931 illustrates the extent of CCUB property in the
Kylemore Colony at this time. The landholdings totalled 11,774.60 acres,
valued at $316,724.85. Another 4,945.23 acres of land was held in the
Kelvington Annex, assessed at $87,174.62. The investment in buildings on the
farm land, including houses, barns and other structures, was valued at
$47,900.00. The store and warehouse along with the grain elevator were
appraised at an additional $29,000.00. The investment in livestock – which
included 240 working horses and 130 milking cows – was valued at $42,500.00.
Finally, the investment in farm machinery was assessed at $18,500.00. Thus,
the total valuation of the Kylemore Colony’s capital assets in 1931 was
$541,799.47 – over half a million dollars – two years into the Great
|Communal barn and
horse stable at the Arishenkoff Village, one of the new villages formed in 1928
near Kylemore, SK following the reorganization of the CCUB by Peter P. Verigin.
Photo No. 274 courtesy ISKRA.
Upon his arrival in Canada, all of the main Doukhobor factions – the CCUB,
the Independents and the Sons of Freedom – acknowledged Peter P. Verigin as
their spiritual leader. He made it his avowed purpose to heal the divisions
between the groups and reestablish unity among all Doukhobors living in
To this end, in June of 1928, Verigin formed a new, all-embracing
organization, the Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada, for the purpose of
uniting his followers. Through a series of conferences attended by delegates
from the CCUB and Independent Doukhobor settlements, the Society, under
Verigin’s leadership and direction, promoted a policy of non-violence, the
teachings of Christ, marriage based on love, acceptance of public education,
the accurate registration of births, deaths and marriages, the peaceful
resolution of disputes among members by the Society’s executive, the
automatic expulsion of members who committed crimes, and more.
|Doukhobor maidens at
Kylemore, SK, 1927 (l-r) Milly W. Konkin, Polly W. Konkin and Mary Makortoff.
Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
For their part, the Kylemore colonists readily participated in the new
organization, joining en masse, paying regular membership dues, sending
delegates (Alexei I. Hoodekoff in 1934 and Havrila N. Kanigan in 1937) to
its conferences and implementing its resolutions. By December of 1930, there
were 150 male and 148 female members of the Society of Named Doukhobors of
Canada from Kylemore.
From the outset of his leadership, Peter P. Verigin emphasized the
importance of public education among his followers. The education of their
children in English schools, and the establishment of their own Russian
schools and libraries, he declared, would begin a new era for Doukhobors in
Canada. His views towards education were actively promoted through the
Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada.
|Group of Doukhobor
schoolchildren in front of North Kylemore
School, 1941. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.
As members of the Society, the Kylemore colonists were now committed to
accept education, and from 1928 onward, began enrolling their children in
Kylemore School in the hamlet of Kylemore. In 1929, the school was destroyed
in a suspicious fire when a group of Sons of Freedom visited the area and
classes were held in the CCUB trading store until a new school was built the
same year. By 1936, Doukhobor student enrollment increased to such an extent
that a second school was opened at the south end of the colony. The older
school became known as the ‘North Kylemore School’ and the newer one the
‘South Kylemore School’. Colony youth also attended Russian language classes
in the evenings.
School, c. 1936. Back row (l-r): Fred Hoolaeff, Nick Ogloff, George Arishenkoff,
John Hoolaeff, Helen Morozoff, Helen Makortoff, Lucy Makortoff. Middle row: Mike
Arishenkoff, Peter Arishenkoff, Bill Samsonoff, Peter Konkin, Peter Pereverzoff,
Mary Hoodekoff, Donalda Mawhinney (teacher), John Cazakoff. Front row: Alex
Pereverzoff Bill Morozoff, Larry Hoodekoff, Alex Hoolaeff, Mac Pereverzoff,
Doris Hoodekoff, Bill Konkin, Annette Hoodekoff, Mary Konkin, Mary Pereverzoff,
Nellie Makortoff. Front: Beverly Broley (teacher's niece). Remembering Times.
Demise of the CCUB
The twelve years of Peter P. Verigin’s leadership from 1927 to 1939 saw a
number of remarkable accomplishments. However, despite his concerted
efforts, the Doukhobor leader was unable to eliminate the massive CCUB debt (although he did
reduce this debt by over half), nor bring about a lasting unity with other Doukhobor groups (the Society of Named Doukhobors collapsed
in 1937). At the same time, his irregular character and actions eroded the
enthusiasm and confidence of the CCUB membership, whose zeal for utopian communal living was already in decline.
When the Great Depression struck in the Thirties, the financial situation of
the CCUB deteriorated rapidly because all the communal property was
mortgaged and no further loans could be negotiated due to lack of
collateral. With no credit, and with membership and cash income falling
rapidly, Verigin attempted to sell off CCUB assets to raise the necessary
capital to enable the corporation to continue to operate, and at the same
time, to stave off the ever-increasing demands of its creditors.
|Front page of the
Winnipeg Free Press, October 18, 1934 announcing the sale of CCUB holdings in
To this end, in October of 1934, Peter P. Verigin publicly announced that
the CCUB would be selling its entire holdings – land, stock, equipment and
elevators – in the districts of Kylemore, Kelvington and Veregin,
Saskatchewan. This represented the wholesale liquidation of all CCUB capital
assets in the province. A similar announcement was made in April of 1935.
Later that month, some Saskatchewan members of the CCUB were served with
notices to vacate their villages and lands. These events were met with shock
and disbelief by the Saskatchewan members, who had not been consulted.
Reputedly, several offers to purchase the Kylemore lands were made to the
CCUB central office in Brilliant, British Columbia; however, no sale ever
materialized. Nevertheless, in April of 1936, the Saskatchewan branch of the
CCUB sold the elevator at Kylemore to James Richardson. The CCUB trading
store in Kylemore was closed later that year. In light of these events, all
the Kylemore colonists could do was wait in anticipation of a better
tomorrow. But for the CCUB, prosperity never returned.
|CCUB elevator in
Kylemore. When completed in 1920, it was the largest in Saskatchewan. It was
sold in 1936 to J. Richardson and resold to the Pioneer Grain Company,
which operated it until 1990. Wadena News.
By 1937, a combination of complex factors, including the Great Depression,
financial mismanagement, diminishing revenues, a declining membership base, mounting debts, depredations against communal property, and government assimilation efforts, all unhelped by Verigin’s increasingly erratic
leadership style, led to the eventual (and arguably, inevitable) bankruptcy of the CCUB. The following year, in
1938, the National Trust Company foreclosed on its mortgage over the CCUB
lands and chattels in Kylemore, Kelvington and elsewhere. Thereafter, the
CCUB ceased to exist as a corporate entity.
Break-Up of the Colony
Following the bankruptcy and foreclosure of the CCUB, the Doukhobors living
in Kylemore were faced with a difficult dilemma: either join the majority of
their brethren in British Columbia or else remain in Saskatchewan as
independent farmers. Many of them were already middle-aged, and to begin a
new life with nothing, dependent only on themselves, with no Community to
fall back on, must have been daunting prospect.
|William W. Kanigan
and his mother doing chores on their farm near Kylemore, SK, c.1940. Photo
courtesy William W. Kanigan.
About a third of the Kylemore Doukhobors immediately moved to British
Columbia in 1938 to be part of the larger group living there. Numerous
others followed the move to British Columbia during the War Years
(1939-1945) to avoid the military call-up. Still others decided to abandon
their old way of life altogether, take their few possessions and depart into
the world unknown.
Approximately a third of the Kylemore Doukhobors chose to repurchase their
lands from the National Trust Company in 1938 under agreements for sale.
Payment was made on a one-third crop share basis, as the Doukhobors had
little or no cash. They took possession of their land, moved in village
structures (dwellings, barns, stables, etc.) or utilized existing ones
on the land, and purchased on credit the necessary horses, implements and
equipment to set up their own farming practices.
Fortunately, there were prosperous years in the Forties, and within ten
years of independent farming, all the Doukhobors obtained clear
title to their land and many acquired additional land, modern vehicles and
machinery for their farms.
|Social gathering of
Kylemore Doukhobors, c. 1947. Photo courtesy Peter and Agnes Malekoff.
While most Doukhobors stayed on as farmers, several established stores and
business in Kylemore. In the Thirties, William M. Fudikuf owned a general
store in Kylemore, selling everything from groceries and furniture, to cream
separators and machinery. In the late Forties, Peter G. Kanigan ran a
blacksmith shop, general store and gas pumps. Finally, in the Fifties, Louis
L. Osachoff operated a general store in the hamlet.
Those families who remained in Kylemore continued to uphold their Doukhobor
faith and culture. In the Forties, they formed the Kylemore Doukhobor
Society, which became their main religious and social organization.
Moleniye (prayer meetings) and children’s Sunday school classes were
held weekly at the Sunderland School. Petrov Den’ (Peters Day) was
commemorated annually with picnics at Fishing Lake. A local choir was
organized, and visiting choirs from British Columbia and elsewhere in
Saskatchewan were always welcomed. In 1954, the Society purchased the former
South Kylemore School and moved it into Kylemore for use as a ‘prayer home’
or meeting house. The Society remained active until the Nineties, when, due
to an aging and dwindling congregation, it was dissolved. About six
Doukhobor families remain in the Kylemore district today.
holding moleniye prayer service, 1959. Photo courtesy William W.
Today, there are few physical reminders of the CCUB colony at Kylemore. An
abandoned two-story village dom stands on the north side of the No. 5
Highway, a silent sentinel of the communal past, while at least two smaller
village dwellings can be found nearby. The concrete foundations of other
village doms, barns and reservoirs dot the surrounding countryside.
Many of the original Doukhobor colonists lay at rest in God’s Blessing
Cemetery, still in active use. Recently, a stream running through the former
colony was christened Blahoslovenie (Blessing) Creek in their memory.
A more enduring legacy of the Kylemore Colony is its living one. For today,
the descendants of the original 300 colonists, who surely number in the
hundreds if not thousands, can be found throughout Saskatchewan, British
Columbia and the rest of Canada. They continue to preserve the memory of
these pioneering Spirit Wrestlers.
|The Chernoff Village
dom (originally two stories) still stands west of Kylemore, SK. Photo by
Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
|A dwelling from the
Arishenkoff Village, shrouded in vines south of Kylemore, SK. Photo by Jonathan
- British Columbia.
Report of Royal Commission on matters relating to the sect of
Doukhobors in the province of British Columbia, 1912 (Victoria,
King’s Printer: 1913, p. 58).
- Dawson, Carl A.,
Group Settlement: Ethnic Communities in Western Canada (The
Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1936).
- Friesen, John W. and
Michael M. Verigin, The Community Doukhobors: A People in
Transition (Ottawa: Borealis Press, 1996).
- Gooliaff, Cecil,
Lawrence Kalmakoff, Randy Konkin, Jennifer Osachoff, Wally Vanin,
Doukhobors of Saskatchewan: Past, Present and Future (November
- Hawthorn, Harry
(ed.), The Doukhobors of British Columbia (Vancouver:
University of British Columbia, 1955).
- Hudson’s Bay
Archives, File No. RG1/21/7.
- Kalmakoff, Jonathan
J. Field research notes for Kylemore district; July 2003; June 2008.
- Kalmakoff, Jonathan
J., Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada, 1930 Saskatchewan
Membership List (Regina: 2002).
Historical Society, Tears Toil and Triumph, Story of Kelvington and
District (Kelvington: 1980).
- Kuroki History Book
Committee, Seems Like Only Yesterday, 1892-1980: The History of
Kuroki and District (Kuroki: 1980).
- Lapshinoff, Steve,
Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada, 1937 Membership List
(Crescent Valley: self published, 2001).
- Lethbridge Herald,
“Doukhobors Reorganize Community Life” (April 4, 1928).
- Library and Archives
Canada, RG10, Indian Affairs, Volume 6707, Reel C-8077.
- Library and Archives
Canada, RG95, Corporations Branch, Series 1, Volume 1297, The
Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Limited.
P. Personal interviews with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, July 31, 2003 and
June 21, 2008.
Press, “Doukhobor Head Here: Tells of Work New Community Hopes to
Enter Into” (June 14, 1918).
Press, “Land for New Doukhobor Settlement” (June 1, 1918).
Press, “Views of Wadena, Saskatchewan” (May 24, 1926).
Popoff, Eli A.
Tanya (Grand Forks: Mir Publication Society, 1975).
Kelvington No. 366, Tax Rolls (1921-1939).
Archives Board, Cummins Rural Directory Map for Saskatchewan;
Map Nos. 172 & 193 (1920, 1922, 1926, 1930).
Vladimir N. (Harry W. Trevor), The Doukhobors in
(University of British Columbia Publication, Department of
I. Correspondence with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, November 8, 2008.
J., Plakun Trava (Grand Forks: Mir Publication Society, 1982).
Personal interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, August 1, 2008.
“Doukhobors to Stay: Veregin Closes Deal for 10,000 Acres of Prairie
Land” (June 27, 1918).
Book Committee, Remembering Times: Wadena and Area Dating Back to
1882 (2 vols.) (Wadena: 1992).
Press, “Doukhobor Group Will Resist Any Attempt to Evict Them from
Farms” (April 27, 1935).
Press, “Doukhobors Are Leaving Sask.” (October 18, 1934).
Press, “Doukhobors Will Sell Property in Saskatchewan” (April 8,
& Ivan Avakumovic, The Doukhobors (Toronto: McClelland and
Stewart Limited, 1977).
View Kylemore, Saskatchewan Doukhobor Villages, 1918-1938 in a larger map
An earlier version of this article was published in a compilation by
Jonathan J. Kalmakoff and Anne Sanderson entitled Their Story in the
Wadena News from July 9 to August 20, 2008. That compilation received a
first place award for Best Saskatchewan Cultural Story of the Year at the
Saskatchewan Weekly Newspaper Association's
2009 Better Newspaper
Competition Premier Awards.
This article was subsequently reproduced by permission in:
ISKRA Nos.2038-2041 (Castlegar: Union of Spritual Communities of Christ,
The Dove Nos. 91-93 (Saskatoon: Doukhobor Cultural Society of Saskatchewan, 2011).
Saskatchewan History (Spring/Summer 2011, Volume 63, Number 1). Click here
to read article in journal format.