Alex J. Bayoff
later years, Alex J. Bayoff (1906-1989) wrote down
his memories of growing up in the Doukhobor village of Petrofka near
Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan.
In clear, simple and sincere style, he depicts the
life and times of the village in the context of his family experience.
Originally written as a memoir for family and friends, it is now published
for a wider internet audience, by special permission of the family, in this
Doukhobor Genealogy Website exclusive. Readers will enjoy the rich details and vivid memories of the
early years of Doukhobor pioneer settlement on the Prairies. Edited by
Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.
After filling our stomachs with a sumptuous supper at the home of Nick and
Mary Trofimenkoff, we sat around at the card table for an evening of cards.
Conversation drifted from one subject to another. Somehow we started talking
about the early Doukhobor villages and I mentioned a few happenings in the
village of Petrofka. They seemed to have interested Nick, so he suggested
that I write an article about Petrofka. After carrying that idea in my mind,
it seemed that the Bayoff family had something to do about it in a small
way. Since that was the case, my good wife Daisy suggested that I write a
small history of the Bayoffs while Dad was still around, so he could relate
the events first hand. I agreed to that.
The facts related in my article are mostly from the memory of Dad, and what
I heard previously from Grandpa Dmitry, my Mother and later from my own
experience. The story is a true story to the best of my knowledge. Nothing
has been added or exaggerated. I have written as I have heard it told to me
or as I have experienced it. Also nothing has been taken away to make the
story more presentable. I therefore must say in advance that some passages of the story may be
looked upon as vulgar. I tried to relate things as it happened, nothing
taken away. Therefore if I have offended any of the readers, I humbly
apologize. I must thank Samuel Postnikoff and Peter P. Makaroff in relating
some of the happenings that I had overlooked.
Early in the spring of 1899 a convoy of wagons left Novo-Troitskoye (Kars province – ed.) in Trans-Caucasia to the nearest
railroad station. Seven families left the peaceful village, a home of some
50 families. The train would take them to Batum, a port city on the Black
Sea, and then to Canada. It was a sad occasion for the families that were
left behind, and a sadder occasion, yet full of hope for the 7 families, all
packed and going on a new unknown adventure, leaving their homes and most of
their belongings with those who stayed behind. The Bayoff family was one of
the seven. Dad was 11 years old. There was his Grandfather Grigory
Vasilyevich, who was quite old, yet not too old to be the boss of the
family, with full control of the money and how it was to be spent. Next in
control were Dad's Father and Mother, Dmitry and Lukeria. The rest of the
family, Uncle Gavril and Aunt Anna were younger than Dad. As I have
mentioned before, Dad was 11 years old, not old enough to remember
everything and could be too young and have missed some valuable information.
The wagons were loaded with the most necessary articles, such as bedding and
clothing, some dishes, etc., and a good supply of dried bread and homemade
cheese. They figured they could live on dried bread and cheese and water.
They left everything else behind, which was a heart-breaking farewell;
leaving a comfortable home, agricultural tools or implements, cattle, sheep,
horses, but mostly friends and relatives. There was singing of hymns and a
lot of praying, a lot of kisses and a lot of tears. So was the parting with
the village of Novo-Troitskoye and friends as the wagons began to move.
|Port of Batum,
embarkation point for Doukhobor immigrants. British Columbia Archives C-01560.
Dad’s Aunt and her husband, Petro Katasonov, acquired all of the Bayoff
property and belongings and drove the wagon with the Bayoffs and their trip
supplies to the railroad station. Since there were seven families leaving
the village, there must have been seven wagons. It took the best part of two
days on the road before they arrived at Erzurum, where they would board a
freight train. Sitting on their bundles of belongings, it was far from
comfortable, but with a lot of hymns and prayers, they arrived at Batum
where they met with the rest of the Doukhobors. There were about 2,000
gathered from most of the Doukhobor villages, meeting in Batum.
A British freighter unloaded a ship load of cattle, and was waiting to pick
up the 2,000 Doukhobors. You can only imagine the condition of the ship
after the cattle were unloaded. That was to be their home for the next 28
days. They saw a lot of work to be done before they could board the ship. No
time was to be wasted. They buckled down, cleaned up every part of the ship,
scrubbed everything until the ship looked and smelled as if it had never had
cattle on it. They then started the carpentry work. In about two weeks of
hard work, the ship was ready. Bunks, tables, benches, dining area, wash
rooms, etc. were ready. The crew of the ship Lake Huron was impressed by the
workmanship and cleanliness of the Doukhobors, and they were very
cooperative in every way they could be. The Doukhobors then wasted no time
in boarding the ship.
So with singing of hymns and a lot of praying the ship began to move. The
ship stopped in Constantinople for supplies. They were advised to take care
of some of their supplies, so the men went and bought as much of the fruit
and other items as they thought they may need. Certain items were provided:
bread, sugar and hot water. There were rumors that the bread and sugar were
provided by the Quakers. There were two Quakers on the boat, one of them was
Mr. Elkinton, the other Dad did not remember.
It was pleasant going on the Mediterranean Sea. Sailing was quite smooth as
most of the time the shore line could be seen, and the towns and cities as
they passed by. As soon as the ship passed Gibraltar, things began to
change. The land disappeared and the ship began to roll. The going was slow.
They could see smoke in the distance behind them; that smoke turned out to
be a ship which would catch up to them, then leave them behind with its
smoke disappearing in the distance ahead of them. There were many ships
passing them in a similar manner.
Some people began to get sea sick. A lot of the older people spent most of
their time in bed, getting up only to have a bite to eat and wash up.
Although the ship rolled violently, Dad says he enjoyed the ride. He said it
did not bother him, and he spent most of the day on deck with the young
people. However, things were not without trouble; one old man died and had
to be buried at sea. Dad well remembers that incident. They put the body in
a sack or perhaps wrapped it in a sheet, tied a stone to him and slid him
overboard, with their customary funeral by singing and prayer, Somehow the
stone worked loose from the body and the body came to the surface. The ship
did not stop, and with singing of hymns they watched the body disappear in
the distance. Most of the Atlantic was rough. When it wasn't rough it was
foggy, the fog horns blowing a deafening roar, signaling other vessels,
should there be any, so as not to collide.
View of Gibraltar from SS Lake Huron, bringing a group of Doukhobors to Canada,
1899. Library and Archive Canada
Eventually word was passed that land would be in sight soon. What a relief!
The rolling of the ship began to ease. The older people began to get out of
their bunks. What a joy, they were nearly there! They were nearing the Gulf
of St. Lawrence when as if by magic everyone perked up, some crying, some
laughing, and most everyone praying to God that they were arriving safely.
In due time they saw the outline of land, and the buildings began to take
shape. That was Halifax.
On arrival at Halifax, they prayed, thanking the Lord for their safe
arrival. After going through mountainous waves and fog, it must have been
with the help of some divine power that they arrived safe and in good
health. Later they learned that the same ship, the Lake Huron, after loading
a cargo of lumber destined for England, broke up in the Atlantic Ocean and
sank. They were convinced more than ever that the Lord had saved them for
From Halifax, they were taken to an island which they called Quarantine
(Grosse Ile, Quebec – ed.). After strict examination, they were pronounced
free from any contagious disease, and physically in very good shape. The
examining physicians admitted that they never had seen such a healthy group
of immigrants as the Doukhobors. After the word was passed ahead, about the
cleanliness of the people, the officials mingled quite freely with the
Doukhobors and tried to be as helpful as possible. They were then taken to
Quebec City by boat. After a rest period they were escorted to the train
which was a far cry from the freight cars of Russia. They arrived in Selkirk
(Manitoba – ed.) where the Government of the North West Territories equipped
the Military Barracks with food and lodging. Here they rested and went
shopping, buying whatever they could take without too much trouble. The
people were then given a choice as to where they wanted to go. The choices
were Prince Albert district or Yorkton. A large portion chose Prince Albert
and the events will be described about the Prince Albert group.
At Selkirk the Bayoffs and Popoffs (Makaroffs) bought two horses and a wagon
each. There were others, but Dad does not remember who they were. The train
stopped at Duck Lake and that was their destination as far as the train ride
was concerned. The wagons were loaded with freight and other belongings.
Only the very old and weak rode. The rest walked behind the wagons. Those
who had no wagons were not left behind. Tents must have been bought in
Selkirk, as they certainly were put to use. There were rains and bad weather
that spring. The (North Saskatchewan – ed.) river crossing was by Carlton
Ferry. Getting out of the river valley, there were hills to cross, and in
some cases they had to double up the teams to haul a load at a time.
The party had now reached a hill, called Crown Hill, about four or five
miles west of the present Village of Marcelin, which also is adjacent to
Windsor Lake School area. This is as far as they could go together, as this
was the place from which they spread out to locate their villages. Five
groups chose to be near the river: Spasovka (River Hill) was the most
northerly; going south Slavyanka, then Uspeniye, then Terpeniye and most southerly Petrofka (Petrovka
– ed.). The Haralowka (Gorelovka – ed.) group did not want to go too far, so
they located a few miles south of Crown Hill. Pozirayevka
and Troitskoye were some distance west of the river.
The Bayoffs and Popoffs (Makaroffs) chose Petrofka. Of course, as will be
seen, there were a lot of others in the group, but the story deals mostly
with the Bayoff family, with mention of others from the same village,
digging drainage for a new settlement in the West. British Columbia Archives
The elders, my great grandfather was one of them, chose a place about 5
miles south of present Petrofka (Golovinka – ed.). After scouting around,
they decided that the brooks were not good enough, so they retraced their
steps back north where the brooks seemed much better. In fact one of the
brooks (Petrofka Spring – ed.) later became the choice of the present
Petrofka picnic grounds, just north of the bridge. That same brook runs
through grandfather's land, just below the picnic grounds.
The location of the village had now been decided upon. Now the big task was
erecting buildings. As a temporary measure some people dug into the bank of
a hill, making a cave, where they had temporary shelter. Grandfather Dmitry
and the boys, my Dad and Uncle Gabriel were very young but helpful. They
built a shack and were reasonably comfortable.
My Great-Grandfather Grigory was not satisfied with Petrofka, so the three
of them, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather and Dad went south to the vicinity
of Borden. They scouted a bit and chose an area which could have been where
the present village of Langham is located. They acquired the proper papers
for homestead purposes. Grandfather and Dad spent one summer there and did a
good piece of breaking. They began to miss their friends they left behind in
Petrofka so they packed up and came back to Petrofka.
Now came the task of building. Not all had horses or wagons, so those who
had horses and wagons had to help haul logs for the buildings for others.
Grandfather worked hard. I do not know how long it took to build. I have
lived in that house, which was quite large with several rooms and it had
built-in bunks and benches all around the wall. It was a log house, but had
a large cellar, an attic and a shingle roof. Although they had only four
horses to start with, the barn had room for eight, then there were cows,
chickens and ducks. A good well was in the yard. As Dad and Uncle Gabriel
grew up and Aunt Anna was getting to be a big girl they had to build another
house on the same property, as privacy had to be respected. I also remember
a shop was built for blacksmithing. I have seen them shoe horses. Later that
shop was used by transient immigrants, Russians who were good smiths and
worked there, paying Grandfather a small percentage for the use of the shop
and tools. The Bayoff place was like a station, as a lot of Russian
newcomers made it their stopping place. Grandfather built two trestles on
top of which they would place a log, with one man on top and one on the
ground pulling a long saw for sawing planks, beams and joists. The newcomers
were happy to earn some money and then move on to look for a place to
settle. I have been told, and later witnessed myself, that the homes of
Nikolai and Mavra Postnikoff and Styopa Esakin were always open for
transients, and there were plenty of them passing through Petrofka. Petrofka
was their resting place.
Petrofka established itself fairly fast, after the officials showed them
where to start building. The houses sprang up fast. I would not be surprised
that some of the houses could have been built from the Bayoff man-powered
sawing of planks. The villagers were allowed to measure up their lots. They
got together and staked out every lot before the building of their homes.
Later came the surveyors who were surprised to see that all the houses were
properly placed on their respective lots.
There were a lot of problems. Most of the families acquired horses or oxen.
The nearest store was at Borden and that was far away, especially for oxen.
Besides they were too busy with field work. The animals were overworked and
needed rest. The next
town was Rosthern, 22 miles, but crossing the river created a problem. They
acquired a boat so they now could cross the river. Not too often, but it did
happen, that they walked to Rosthern, and brought their supplies on their
backs. Even sacks of flour were brought in that way. They say necessity is
the mother of invention. We had some very inventive and capable people in
Petrofka. Dad tells me one such man was one of the inventors, or a better
word, improviser. This man was John Strelioff. I knew him too as I often
played with his son, also called John,
|Going for flour in
the Rosthern district of Saskatchewan, 1899. British Columbia
This man wanted to improve the river crossing. Instead of oars he devised a
paddle wheel attached to the boat, and put a crank onto it. According to
Bad, by cranking the paddle wheel they could, cross the river in half the
time. That was very welcome and worked just fine, but he still had to walk
to Rosthern and carry supplies on his back. So he improvised the wheel
barrow by using a very large wheel. Dad does not remember where the wheel
came from, but the diameter of the wheel was about 4 feet. That made pushing
it with a load quite easy, as that size of a wheel rolled easily over small
obstructions. John Strelioff actually pushed that barrow to Rosthern and
brought a lot more supplies that way instead of carrying them on his back.
He also made a bicycle. He used 2 wheels from spinning wheels, made
sprockets from a spade and made a chain with links shaped from wire. The
bicycle actually worked, but as far as Bad remembers there was no talk of it
ever being used to go to Rosthern.
Soon the ferry (Petrofka Ferry – ed.) appeared. Everybody was happy. They
could drive to Rosthern by team and wagon. Then buggies appeared which
provided a little more speed and comfort. Conditions further improved when
Waldheim appeared. It was only 8 miles then. The railroad made it possible
to take trips to Saskatoon. Soon after, a grocery and confectionary store
opened up, owned by Mr. Eagleson, who also had the Post Office with the
title of Petrofka. Petrofka was a fast-growing village so the government, to
keep peace among our people, empowered one of the early English speaking
citizens as a judge; so we actually had a judge in our village. Dad does not
remember the name of the judge, however he did not stay long as there were
no disputes, no fights - in other words the judge had nothing to do so he
Events were moving rapidly. People became more settled. Russian and
Ukrainian immigrants came in larger numbers, stopping in Petrofka to rest
and consider their next move. The Bayoffs, Postnikoffs, Makaroffs and
Esakins housed a lot of these people. They were all good people. In exchange
for their keep they would work a few days sawing planks or work in a
blacksmith shop. The shop was kept busy by sharpening plowshares and other
iron work. Some of these nice people decided to stay on in our village and
became one of us. They married our Doukhobor girls and settled down with
them. Just to mention two of them, Peter Dobroluboff married a Kousnitsoff
girl, and Stanislav Lostowski married Elizabeth Mitin, a widow.
With the never ending task of survival, with very little money, the building
and seeing that there be enough money to feed and clothe the family, the
task seemed insurmountable; yet against odds, there was time for
socializing, such as it was. Most of them had not experienced the more
extravagant upper level of social living, so there was no complaint. They
would gather at the neighbor’s house for a talk or a singsong if they were
in the mood. That went on when the people moved on to their homesteads,
perhaps with a little more enthusiasm, because of the distance between them.
Grandpa bought the school house, and had lots of room for visitors; Grandma
(Lusha) Lukeria would always provide lunch. Quite often we would go to visit
Grandpa and Grandma.
On one occasion, when we arrived at Grandpa’s, we found that we were not the
only visitors. There were Salikins. Grandpa and Grandma were very close
friends with Tanya and Nicholas. Philip Gulioff was also there. Tanya was a
very likable woman, very sociable and usually the life of the party. Philip
had a chair by the cupboard. He reached out his hand and began tapping on a
tin dishpan. Pretty soon there developed a rhythm to his tapping. Tanya did
not waste any time, jumped up, and executed a few graceful steps, approached
Grandma, and said, ”come on Lusha, lets show them like we used to when we
were young.” Grandma was reluctant at first, but then Philip began tapping
with more lively music, at least to them and to me that was music. Philip
increased the volume and gusto. It must have been hard for Grandma to
resist. There was their chance to live again their young days in Russia.
They began to move, and what a performance, their aprons swinging, their
hands and arms gracefully swinging, their feet moving gracefully. They moved
in a semi circular motion. They were so smooth; they were actually floating,
using their arms and hands as in ballet. It did not mean too me much then,
but as I think about it, I still can picture that dance. I have seen some
ballet dancing, but I have not seen anything so smooth. If you have seen the
Russian skaters, then you will see what I mean. They danced apart, but their
movement of arms and hands were in perfect unison. You could almost say that
the Russian peasants were born with a certain amount of ballet in them.
|Grandpa Dmitry and
Grandma Lusha Bayoff, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan.
Lusha and Tanya were grandmothers, but really they at that time were young
women even if they were Grandmothers. That was the first time I had seen
Grandma Bayoff act this way. Everyone enjoyed themselves. It was a very
pleasant visit. The Salikins visited them often, but I have not heard of
Grandma and Tanya performing again. Perhaps Philip was not around.
Our young people grew up fast, and with the help of these Russian people
soon a football team was formed (soccer ball). Every Sunday there were
football games. I remember seeing them play. Dad was a goalkeeper. They even
took part in Rosthern Sports day and nearly won one game. They blame the
loss on the party the night before.
The first few years during the period of orientation life was hard,
especially when one had to carry flour from Rosthern on their backs. So the
elders of Petrofka and the other villages decided to build a flour mill. The
Petrofka elders, including my Great Grandfather Grigory, foresaw the
possibility of a water-driven wheel for supplying the power, and that was
one reason they retraced their steps back north and settled at the present
sight. It was closer to the creek. This creek (Radouga Creek – ed.) running
through Uncle Paul Makaroff’s farm was the ideal location for the mill. It
being centrally located between Petrofka and Terpeniye and Troitskoye,
although other villages co-operated. The mill was located near Timothy
Vereschagin’s home, not far from the present Brookhill School. To create a
large enough water head, they dug by hand roughly two miles, more or less, a
channel diverting the flow to create a high enough waterfall. They had done
a wonderful job, a civil engineering job. It is surprising what necessity
can do. The mill was built and put to work. The flow of water was enough to
make the mill operational. The capacity of the mill was large enough to
supply the need of the community. According to Dad, the mill produced very
good flour. Dad does not remember how many years the mill worked, but he
remembers that, supposedly, government men came along, removed the grinding
stone, and gave them orders not to build another mill, but to buy flour as
the other citizens did. If it was the government, I think it was very
inconsiderate of them. The mill was destroyed, but the evidence is still
there. I well remember, when I went to Makaroff’s to swim with Pete and Joe,
the channel was still evident, although in a very deteriorated condition.
There was another mill built, whether before the destruction of the Petrofka
mill or later, Dad does not remember. This other mill was built in the
village of Troitskoye. It was a steam powered mill. The engine was a
stationary one, but on wheels and had to be pulled by horses. Dad remembers
one incident during the construction of this mill. There was a Chernoff who
seemed to have been in charge of the job. A very capable and meticulous man,
whose motto was perfection, for which he took pride and credit. As the story
goes, on one occasion he observed that one worker had not been too accurate
with his work, so he called out to this worker "this does not look too good,
how did you level it". The worker replied "I have leveled it by eye".
Chernoff was not satisfied; he called, "s--- on your eye, use the level".
The order must have been carried out, as the mill was constructed, and
produced very good flour. This also did not last long. To the sorrow of the
people it was dismantled just like the Petrofka mill, supposedly by
government men. Who knows?
We had some very strong men in Petrofka. The river that brought in logs used
to flood at times, the large logs being two feet in diameter. To get them
out of the river and drag them to shore required a lot of strength. Dad
mentions one man, Pete Padowski. I remember him. He was a quiet man, yet a
big man. He would drag the log over the bank to where the wagon stood.
People asked him why he did not use the oxen. He answered that if he could
not drag it over the bank the oxen certainly could not. Besides he saved the
oxen to pull the wagon. Later on when the people began to buy cars, Padowski
bought a car, and this I saw myself, to change a tire he called his wife to
set the block under the axle, as he lifted the car by hand, without a jack.
Saskatchewan Colony, c. 1902. Glenbow Archives
Grandfather Dmitry, with the help of Dad and Uncle Gabriel (Gavril – ed.),
built the two houses, the necessary barns, dug a well and built a bath
house. According to Dad, it was the second bath house in the village. So it
was used by a lot of villagers. The custom was that the women go first to
take a bath. They came in a group, as many as the bath house could hold,
until all the women had their bath, so some were undressing as some were
bathing, as all of them could not get in at once. As the rumor goes Grandpa
was there bringing in water, etc., and seeing that the women had everything
for their bath. He even washed some of the ladies backs to hurry the
process. The first bathhouse was built on Reban’s lot, and was used as a
community bathhouse. Families took turns to heat and supply water. Each
family provided their own hazel nut brooms for steaming themselves and
supplied their own soap.
Well, going back to Grandfather, helping the ladies was not the only good
deed he did. He was some sort of a doctor. Usually Sundays, sometimes a
visitor would come from another village to have Grandfather let blood. That
I have witnessed myself. Grandma would roll up the person's sleeve, tie a
towel on the arm to have a vein stand out, while Grandpa opened up a little
black box and produced small gadget which he called a lancet. After setting
the gadget, he asked Grandma to hold a can. Pretty soon I heard a little
click and I saw blood running out while Grandma caught the blood with the
can. I don’t know whether it cured the person of the ailment, but all I know
is I got pretty sick watching it. I know that Grandpa never charged anyone
Another person worthy of mention was Mavra (Mavrunya) Postnikoff, wife of
the ferryman, Nikolai, nicknamed Starchik. This good woman performed
marvelously as a midwife, making deliveries in a large community. As far as
I know, her record was that all the babies she delivered have lived. I and
brother Pete are credited to her work.
As I have mentioned before, there were two Quakers on the boat. They must
have evaluated the Doukhobors from every possible angle. The conclusion must
have been in our favor as shortly after the villagers got themselves
established, or caught up with the necessary housing, the Quakers contacted
our elders and others of the village asking if Petrofka would like to have a
school. The majority of the people agreed that it would be desirable to do a
little learning at this time, being in a new country. That proved to the
Quakers that we were a progressive people and wanted to better ourselves.
The buildings were shipped from the U.S. pre-fabricated. The school had two
classrooms and the teacherage was a two-story house. Mr. and Mrs. Wood and
their daughter must have been the first teachers. Mr. Wood took the adults
and Miss Wood the children. Russian classes and singing were given by Herman
Fast, the father-in-law of our Mrs. Fast (Mavrunya), her husband being
Nicholas Fast. I started in that school before I was five years old. By then
there were two other teachers, Miss Martin and Miss Moore. They changed the
teachers every year or two. It is understandable that the teachers needed a
change, as a Doukhobor village with people who did not speak English does
not provide much social life for a teacher. This school was used until the
municipality was created, at which time the Government built a new Petrofka
school, No. 23, about a mile north of the village.
The Quaker school attracted people from other villages, hoping for some
learning. Dad mentions that at this time the housing situation became quite
critical, as most of the homes were built just for their own families. Dad
said he went as high as grade 3, but Mother said she used up one short
pencil. She liked school and advanced quite rapidly, but her girl friends
started to call her a "Professor", so she quit and got married.
As Mothers are, my Mother was a kind-hearted, capable woman. She visualized
that education was helpful in many ways, so she started my and Pete's
schooling at home. She instructed us in the Russian language. As I have
mentioned before, she attended Russian classes taught by Herman Fast. She
must have studied hard because she knew enough to give us a start in our
studies. By the time we were 5 years old, both Pete and I knew how to read
and write Russian.
gathering, Saskatchewan Colony, c. 1902.
This Quaker built and sponsored school is credited with giving Dr. Nicholas
Zbitnoff, presently of Ukiah, California, his start in schooling. With a lot
of courage and fortitude, a lot of hard work and hard times, Dr. Zbitnoff
became one of the most respected medical practitioners and surgeons. His
education began in Petrofka.
I started English School at the village with my teacher being Miss Moore or
Miss Martin. I was somewhere between four and five years old. I was given a
slate and a slate pencil. I took this slate with me to the new Petrofka
School north of the village. I think slates were used for the first year or
two. We had a bottle of water on our desks and a clean rag to wash and dry
our slates. We could not wash our slate until the teacher checked our work,
thus checking our mistakes if any. The transition to paper was quite rapid.
It was more convenient, and not so messy. Sometimes I feel that I should
have kept on with the slate. Perhaps I would have been a smarter person.
As human nature goes, our people at times were subjected to ridicule. One
such incident worthy of mention happened while a few of our boys were hired
during threshing to pitch bundles, or haul sheaves, as a few dollars earned
was quite helpful. This was across the river on one of the German families’
threshing outfits. The German people were hospitable. In spite of their good
nature and friendliness, there were one or two young boys who were picking
on one of our quietest boys. This chap was William L. Strelioff. They could
not get him riled up, as he would ignore their picking on him. He would just
move away from them. They must have made their minds up to see how much he
could take. They did the meanest thing that could happen. One of them
piddled into William’s cap. This made our boys very angry. Alyosha Rebin,
Paul and Pete Rebin's father shouted loudly, "We cannot take that, grab your
forks and follow me. We must stop that once and for all times". Alyosha was
not a very big man, perhaps 140 pounds, but what he lacked in size, he made
up in courage. There were only 3 or 4 of our boys, so with pitch forks in
hand they followed Alyosha. The local boys did not feel like giving ground
at first, but then changed their minds when Alyosha layed his fork across
the back of one of them. They turned and ran with our boys after them,
branding two or more of the local boys. The threshing was stopped for that
day. The owner of the machine called the police who took everyone to
Rosthern. Court was held. What a sight! The branded boys took their shirts
off to show the 3 beautiful marks on their backs made by three-pronged pitch
forks. The judge charged each one of our boys and the local boys $7.00, told
the local boys not to use our boys’ caps for that purpose and told our boys
not to use pitch forks for fighting. Dad was one of the pitch fork
gladiators. Threshing resumed the next morning. If there was hostility, they
did not show it. There was no bad language used and even more friendly
relationship prevailed. Threshing season ended without further incident.
As time marched on, changes began to take place. People of Petrofka began to
acquire land, mostly around the village. Since most of us had barns by now,
they would drive their horses to their farms to work for the day and come
back to the village for the night. I used to watch them come home in the
evenings about sundown, driving their teams of four horses. To me it was a
beautiful sight. Later on, one by one, they moved out of the village
completely and started all over on their farms. However, the village did not
diminish in size for awhile, as new arrivals had it nice to occupy the
vacated buildings. Sundays the farmers would come to the village, either to
visit, or just to see their friends and relatives and to play a game of
ball, (hilki) or football. As the second generation grew up, bicycles and
even cars began to appear. The children enjoyed going to the store to buy
candy. Then there was the Post Office. As the older generation became too
occupied with their farming, and building, football suffered. The younger
generation became interested in baseball. Young people of the other villages
began to visit Petrofka just to play and drink some cider at the store.
Blaine Lake came into existence, so there was another team to play against.
I believe it was in the early twenties that Petrofka had a sports day of
their own. There were teams from across the river as well as from Blaine
Lake. Big Pete Padowski was at the gate collecting admission to the grounds.
|Father John Bayoff
holding Alex, Dunya (John's wife), Gabriel Bayoff. Seated are Dmitry and Lusha
Bayoff with Anna Bayoff standing beside her.
The original store keeper, the Eaglesons, moved out because of schooling for
their children. The store was then moved to Nick Makaroff's house with Nick
Postnikoff running it. The Post Office remained in Petrofka until most of
the villagers moved out to their farms. Then the Post Office was moved 5 or
4 miles west of the village, but still keeping the name. Later when Nick
Makaroff went to his farm, he took his store with him. Nick Postnikoff went
with the store and stayed there until he died. They also had the Post Office
called Radouga. Alex (Lioxia) Strelioff then opened a store in Makaroff's
house for a while, and then moved his store to Robin's barn, running the
store until he died. After that Paul Voykin opened up the store on his farm,
3 miles west of the village.
Sports were not the only hobbies. We also had some very talented people as
well as strong and inventive people that I have mentioned before. Petrofka
was always famous for its singers. I do not remember too much of the older
people, but the younger generation really got the reputation. Under the
direction of Samuel Postnikoff, who also was a very good singer, being a
soloist at times, he produced a choir from our country boys and their wives
that was outstanding in performance. Another cousin of mine, Edward
Postnikoff was an outstanding member of the choir taking solo parts at
times. I believe they were the nicest group of young boys and ladies that I
have heard at that time. They entertained civic organizations in Saskatoon
as well as performing on C.F.Q.C. radio.
We also had very prominent people in their respective ways. Fred Lovroff
(Postnikoff) through hardship and perseverance became one of the famous
artists of that time. His exhibits were shown in most of the important art
displays in many countries. Later, Samuel's daughter, Jeannette, became very
prominent in her painting of live art. Our cousin Fred Post (Postnikoff) is
another Petrofka product whose paintings of scenery could rank with the
best. Another person was my Uncle Peter Makaroff, who became the first
lawyer from Petrofka. He was also the first school teacher of the country
Petrofka school which I attended. He must have played an important part in
the history of Saskatoon, as there was a street named after him. The family
of Mike and Grunya Postnikoff were instrumental in having a street named
after them. However, the next generation produced a lot of professional
people, not only from Petrofka but from most of the other villages as well.
There were teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, druggists, engineers,
In a lighter vein, Petrofka even had a pool room, only one table. I do not
know how long it was in business or how it faired, as I was too young to
realize what it was. It lasted only a few years.
We also had comedians. At this time I will relate one of the many
occurrences. It happened one evening when a load of supplies, etc., came in
from Rosthern. Naturally wine was one of the items brought in. Then a party
had to take place, which was in Nickolai Popoff’s place, a brother of
Grandfather Makaroff. As the party was in progress, the host, Nickolai
Popoff revealed some important conclusions. Evidently he witnessed one of
the bread and wine acts, a religious ceremony in a Mennonite church. There
was a plate of bread broken into small pieces and a small jigger of wine.
These were passed around the congregation and whoever wished to take part
took a piece of bread and wet their lips with the wine. He mentioned how the
people were misled, and that a sip of wine would entitle them to a place in
heaven. He went on to say that here we drink it by the gallon and even then
we are not sure if we be qualified for a place in heaven.
As the municipal school opened up, the school in the village closed up.
Grandpa Bayoff bought the school and moved it to his homestead, about a mile
north of the village. George Strelioff bought the teacherage and moved it
about half a mile north of the village. Besides the house and other
buildings in the village, Grandpa Makaroff built a two-story house on the
outskirts of the village. Rebins also built their house on the northern
outskirts of the village. All others had their farms, some close to and some
not so close to the village. Dad built our house about 2 miles north of the
village and Uncle Gabriel, still further north.
|Pete and Alex Bayoff
in the village of Petrofka, c. 1910.
Aunt Anna, who became Mrs. George Postnikoff, moved quite away south west of
Eventually every family moved out. Paul Voykin opened a store on his farm
about three miles west of the village. The Petrofka Post Office was also
moved to a farm west of the village. Sometime later Eli Gulioff opened a
store and a barber shop close to the ferry.
So now the Petrofka Bridge carries the name of the once hustling and very
active hamlet full of happiness, hard times and good times and some
sorrowful. This has been blown away as if by a gust of wind, leaving only
the spiritual members of Petrofka's graveyard to remind us of its existence.
Petrofka as well as other villages have done their duty and served their
purpose in providing a link between those who came ahead and the new
immigrants, keeping them together and helping one another to settle
themselves for a new life in a new and strange country. That purpose had
been accomplished. At this point it's worthy of mention, Dad's saying that
we should be grateful to the good Queen Victoria for accepting us, and to
our far-seeing elders who had enough courage to organize this move. Also we
shouldn't forget the help we received from Count Leo Tolstoy and the
Quakers, and last but not least, to honour our ancestors who, through
extreme hardship, brought us into this country where we so far have lived in
harmony with other peoples of various races and religions.
We were then settled on the farm, north of the village, building, working
the land, raising stock and poultry and gardening. Most of the Sundays we
went to the village to mingle with friends and relatives and to see if there
was any mail. In a few years of struggle, which included a lot of land
clearing, we suddenly found ourselves solvent. The buildings were up, the
implements paid for, the mares in foal and the cows heavy with calf. There
were a few dollars put away under the mattress. As Dad wanted to increase
the horsepower so that we could have two outfits of four animals, he thought
he had a bargain on mules. So he bought a team. That is when you have to
test your nerves.
They stopped working whenever they felt like it and would not move, no
matter what, until they decided to. Something like our present unions, only
the unions were justified in going on strike. Who knows, maybe the mules
were justified. Dad could not figure that out so he traded them in on a new
wagon and a nice new shiny buggy.
Life on the farm was a lot of hard work, as all of our people experienced.
We had to do without things that we would have liked. Pete and I were too
young to be of much help except to bring the cows from the pasture at
milking time. Mother would go out in the field with Dad, who was either
fencing or clearing land. One of the quarters had a lot of bush. I have seen
Mother drive a team (of horses – ed.) hooked to a tree or bush, while Dad
was swinging the axe to chop the roots. In the evening came milking time and
supper making, and at bed time Mother would help us wash our feet, as Pete
and I went bare footed a lot. Our poor Mothers, how they worked!
Then there were embarrassing times too. Mother tells of one incident when a
Mounted Policeman drove into the field where Mother was plowing. She was
wearing Dad's overalls over her dress. The Policeman asked if she was a man
or a woman and said "if you are a woman you better pull those overalls off".
Being scared, Mother complied. I do not remember her saying anything,
whether she put them on again when the Policeman left.
threshing the grain harvest. Library and Archives Canada PA-022242.
Our yard was about a mile and a half from the bush, approaching the river
and at that time it seemed as if it were full of coyotes. Some evenings they
become quite musical. It seemed as though they had a whole choir. There were
tenors, basses and sopranos. It was not uncommon to see a coyote come into
the yard in broad daylight and grab a chicken.
As I have mentioned before, we had acquired a new buggy. The best way to
train a horse is to do it when they are two years old. The only suitable
horse we had then was a nice two year old stallion. He was quite gentle and
well behaved. We used to hitch him up to the new buggy to go to the village
for the mail. So one Sunday we took him to the neighboring church. At that
time most of the driving was done by horse and buggy, so there were a lot of
horses tied to the fence posts. Dad tied our young stallion next to the
other horses and we all went into church. During the sermon we were
attracted by the shrieking of horses. Dad went out and saw our young horse
trying to be playful. Dad immediately moved him over away from the other
horses and made sure that he tied him securely. The church service continued
then without further interruption.
People as a whole were getting more affluent, so a change was forthcoming.
Our neighbors bought a car. Then, as there were a few dollars under the
mattress, brother Pete asked Dad to buy a car since the neighbors had one
and Pete wanted to be equal. Dad did not want to rush into such an expense
and so said, "No, we are not ready for it." Pete began to cry as he was only
4 years old. Wiping his eyes and whimpering, he said the neighbors had a car
so must we. Dad drew his attention to the fact he was small and could not do
the work like the neighbors did, and because they had a big family, could
earn a lot of money. At this point Pete, still crying, said, "What is
keeping you from having a big family?" Dad and Mom took notice of that
remark, especially coming from a four year old. After a little deliberation,
they took the easy way out and bought a brand new Gray-Dort car.
In 1914 came the war. Dad, as well as other young men was called up,
including Uncle Pete Makaroff who had just finished law school. I have heard
that while pleading the case of the Doukhobors, Uncle was handled pretty
rough by the police. A temporary release was obtained, due to the fact that
the crops would soon be ready to harvest. They decided that our boys would
be able to harvest the crops. Our people, seeing the seriousness of the
situation, organized a meeting on the day of St. Peter and St. Paul, for
prayer and to decide what to do. They agreed to send 5 or 4 men to Ottawa to
plead our case. This meeting was held on the farm of Uncle Nicholas Makaroff,
and was initiated as the first meeting in Saskatchewan in memory of the one
held in Russia when they gathered all the firearms and burned them. That was
on the day of St. Peter and St. Paul. In the District of Blaine Lake, as far
as I know, these prayer meetings were held every year after that. This at
times became a very large occasion, sometimes lasting two days. We had
visitors from California and other parts of the U.S.A. to help bring back
the memory of the first meeting in Russia for the burning of the firearms.
Molokans were frequent visitors. At least on one occasion we had visitors
from the Quakers.
As mentioned before, at the first historic meeting in Saskatchewan, they
agreed to send a delegation to Ottawa. I do not remember if the delegates
were elected or volunteered. They were Uncle Nick Makaroff, George Strelioff
and the others I do not remember, but could have been from the district of
Yorkton. These delegates did a good job convincing the government that we
were let into Canada for the development of the North-West Territories.
Documents showed that the good Queen Victoria exempted us from military
service for 99 years. We were not bothered any more until the Second World
War of 1939. At that time, our young men eligible for military service were
exempt from it again, provided they did manual work in work camps. One of
the camps was located just north of Prince Albert. They allowed one senior
person to be with the boys to see that the boys behaved and that they were
not abused. Pete was practicing dentistry in Meadow Lake. As he was the only
dentist for a large territory, reaching from Meadow Lake all the way to
Lenningrad, they decided to let him stay, but he had to pay a portion of his
earnings to the war effort.
|Group of Doukhobor
girls, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan, 1930. Library
and Archives Canada
Now going back to 1918, the First World War came to an end November 11,
1918. Then the Spanish influenza came along. There were only a few people
who did not get sick. I do not remember if Grandpa was sick or not. I
remember that I was the last one of our family to get it. While I was able
to move around, Grandpa would come and we would take the car to visit some
sick neighbors. I was 11 years old, just old enough to think I knew a lot.
However, I was lucky enough not to get caught by the police. They rode
through the country quite frequently.
The two quarter sections of land that we owned were not adjacent to one
another. This created inconvenience in moving machinery from one place to
another and being a whole day away from home we also had to carry food and
water for the midday feeding of the horses. My parents saw a chance to buy a
half-section together and so they made a deal with Eli Strelioff, who at
that time had an agreement of sale with a Mr. Smith of New York. Dad took
over that agreement of sale and so we moved to about three miles south of
Marcelin, and about 15 miles from our Petrofka home. The Petrofka property
was sold to William Postnikoff who acquired the home quarter; and the other
to Fred Dargin. It was in the spring of 1919.
To me at the time it seemed unfair; we had just settled properly at the
Petrofka farm and then we had to start from scratch again. Moving is bad
enough if you have some place to move to, but on the new farm there was a
small 10' X 12’ shack, one granary, no barn, and as the saying goes, "no
Dad and Mother must have had extra strong intestinal fortitude. I had just
turned 12 and pitched in with all my might. I missed three years school. It
was hard work. We had to put up an addition to the shack, dig a well, build
a barn, a chicken house and a workshop. There was more bush than we would
have liked, so every spare day we were in the bush. I was old enough to
handle a team, while Dad swung the axe.
The first crop, 1919, looked very good, but when we started cutting it, it
was so full of rust that you could hardly see the horses in front of you.
The yield was very poor. One of Dad's best friends and neighbors in the
village, Pete Reban, insisted that he would like to come all that way to
thresh. It was not for the money, but to see where we were. It was a happy
occasion in spite of the poor crop year. The two friends, Dad and "Uncle
Pete" (we called him Uncle, as Dad and he were so close) had a real pow-wow.
Paul was there too and we enjoyed his wit and humor.
There were bad and good years, plus hard work. It was very discouraging. It
was hard to hit the right time to sell grain, due to changing markets. On
top of that, we had to pay 20 cents exchange on American money. However, we
buckled down and in 1925 we had a very good crop. The prices for grain were
good. We paid up for the land, bought a new car, a Chrysler Sedan, built a
new house and barn, bought another half section of land and were back in
debt. Then the Depression began to spread. I started University and Pete,
after trying University, switched to Normal School. He taught our home
school, Gillies, for six years for $400.00 a year, for which he had to do
the janitor work also. That $400.00 he turned over to the family. It was
very welcome. Crop failure and quotas did not help any. Seeing no future in
teaching, Pete started University again, and in 1940 graduated from the
Northwestern University in Chicago and began his practice of Dentistry in
Meadow Lake in 1940. He is still there at the time of writing this article,
enjoying his retirement, after more than 40 years of practice. He still does
work, if you can catch him at home, and he enjoys it. He still attends
dental seminars and other dental meetings. He says once a dentist you want
to keep abreast of new developments for the sake of knowing.
|Group of young
Doukhobors, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan, 1930. Library
and Archives Canada
As for myself, I too got fed up with the Depression, and went to
Minneapolis, where I got my Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering; at the
same time did a year of research work for a Masters Degree in Hydraulics.
There were no jobs there either - very discouraging. I got a job in a
hardware wholesale at a salary of $18.00 per week. Then I fell in love and
got married to Mary Rogich. I moved into Mary's home. She lived with her
Mother and brother. Mary's Mother was a wonderful woman, kind-hearted and
very generous. After about a year I realized that I was not making any
headway and I did not feel like sponging on the good nature of Mary's
Mother. Jobs in engineering or other types were non-existent. You got some
sort of consideration if you joined the army. That was not for me. In the
fall, I persuaded Mary to come to the farm with me. We would not have to pay
rent, and at the same time have the best food that nature can give us.
Besides I had an interest in the farm. Then when times got better, I could
get an engineering job and we could try our luck at it. Mary was a city girl
and could not see her way to become a farmer's wife. It was my duty to
provide for my family, and I could not do it for the year we tried in the
city. So I decided to stay on the farm and at the same time keep my equity
in the farm; she decided to go back to her Mother. It was hard on both of
us. We loved one another, but as we have found out, people cannot live on
love alone. It was harder on Mary as her Mother was a widow, and. it was
Mary's duty to be with her, or near her. Mary was a wonderful wife, but
somehow the conditions were against us. The Thirties were rolling on, so was
the Depression, so it would be foolish for me to quit farming to look for
another job. I tried.
I concluded that the Depression and hard times was 90% responsible for the
breaking up of this my family. We were not the only victims of the
Depression. Banks went broke and people lost all their belongings. Many
committed suicide. The first job I got was in 1939 when I managed to get on
the crew for building a boiler for the Saskatchewan Power Commission. That
job paid 25 cents an hour. I lived in the Barry Hotel, ate out and managed
to bring some money home.
Then the war broke out and in 1940 I joined the M & C Aviation Co. to design
aircraft parts. After the war was over I could get ten jobs. I worked for
Underwood and McLellan for several years, then took time out to build four
houses in Saskatoon. Just prior to this time I received word that I was
divorced from Mary. Then in a few years I re-married Daisy Sawley, who
helped me build the four houses. I then went back to surveying, working for
Webb and Webster for a few years more. Mother died in 1962. That knocked the
energy out of me, so I retired from my engineering work.
Two good things resulted in my varied life. One is that Mary gave us a
wonderful Daughter whom we love very much. This is partly the cause of me
writing this article, as our Daughter knows very little of my background.
The other good thing that happened was when I met Daisy. It is surprising
how much can be accomplished when two people pull together. Diana, our
Daughter comes to visit us quite often. Daisy and Diana get along very well,
so well that I sometimes feel jealous, but I am happy that they get along so
well. We thank Mary, Diana’s Mother, from the bottom of our hearts for
giving us such a wonderful Daughter.
It would be inconsiderate of me not to mention the help and advice of my
loving wife. She gave me encouragement, help and support in writing this
article. . She is a true Christian and a Good Samaritan. When Mother was
sick, she took her into our home, and looked after her. Now we have Dad, who
is harder to look after, Daisy does not complain, and takes things as they
There are only three old Bayoff's left. There will be no more Bayoff's of
this dynasty to carry on. The branch of Uncle Gabriel's dynasty was
terminated when Fred died, leaving three ladies, Olga, Anne and Elsie. If
they do have children, they will not carry the name. Of Dad's, mine and
Pete's branch, most likely Diana will be stuck with writing the last chapter
of our dynasty. God Bless her and give her good health and strength, and I
hope she is happy being in the family.
We also thank Edward and Mary Postnikoff from the bottom of our hearts for
taking care of
Grandpa Dmitry in his last days, and taking care of his funeral in the best
of Doukhobor traditions. Thank you Edward and Mary.
Labor Day of 1983, we went to Manitou Beach (Watrous, Saskatchewan – ed.)
for a swim in the pool, as it was closing for the season. Dad enjoyed
himself very much. He stayed in the pool for three hours. When he got out he
said, "Goodbye pool, I will never see you again". The pool buildings burned
down early that fall and Dad died March 30, 1984.
I am now the official old man (starichok or “elder” – ed.) of my family,
even though I do not feel that old. It is just the honorary recognition I