The Doukhobor Brickyard at Yorkton, Saskatchewan
by Debra Pinkerton
Canora resident Fay Negraeff recently delved into the history of a brickyard operated by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood in Yorkton, Saskatchewan from 1905-1939. Reproduced from the pages of The Canora Courier newspaper (Canora, Saskatchewan: February 18, 2004), this article by Debra Pinkerton recounts the story of the Doukhobor brickyard and its impact on the Yorkton area.
Fay Negraeff of Canora had a personal interest in the yard as it was registered under the name of Anna Morosoff, her maternal great-aunt. Many residents of Doukhobor ancestry knew of her family connection to the brickyard. She was often asked about the business's location, but information about the actual location had been lost since the company ceased operations.
Fay Negraeff of Canora poses with brick from the Doukhobor Brickyard in Yorkton.
Negraeff had checked with Philip Perepelkin of the Veregin Doukhobor Heritage
Museum as to whether the museum knew the location of the brickyard. The museum
has several bricks from the yard on display, stamped with the name "Morosof(f)".
The location of the brickyard was unknown.
An article in the Yorkton Enterprise dated June 7, 1905 proclaimed the purchase of the land from J.J. Smith by Peter Verigin on behalf of the Doukhobor community. The site, identified as "part of Block 17, comprising a cement block works, sand pit and lands adjoining" was sold for $2,500.
"It is the intention of the Doukhobor colony, of which Peter Verigin is the head," the article said, "to install an up-to-date plant for the manufacture of cement blocks and clay bricks on this property. Work has already commenced and another thriving industry has been added to Yorkton."
The Doukhobor Brickyard was built on 10 acres of land bounded by 7th Avenue
North and Dracup Avenue, between Darlington and part-way to Henderson, with
Dunlop dead-ending in the yard.
The factory cost between $30,000 and $50,000, a huge sum of money in those days,
the records show.
Power was supplied by a 50-horsepower steam engine, operated by six men and two boys. The brickyard employed 28 men, 20 boys and three women, under the supervision of M.W. Cazakoff. In true Doukhobor tradition, proceeds from sales of bricks went to the treasury of the community, which supported the workers, and no wages were paid.
Family Connection. The Doukhobor Brickyard in Yorkton was registered in the name of Mrs. Anna Morosoff, great-aunt of Fay Negraeff of Canora. In the early 1940's, Morosoff, seated, visited her relatives, Negraeff's mother and sisters, on their farm west of Canora.
Bricks were made from a mixture of sand and clay. The yard was able to produce 50,000 bricks per day, but rarely ran at full capacity.
The city records state that a large number of Doukhobors immigrated to the
Yorkton area in 1899. The Government of Canada, hoping to encourage large groups
of settlers to thwart American settlement of the Canadian West, welcomed the
Doukhobors with 45 townships in Manitoba and the then Assinniboia Territory, in
what is now Saskatchewan. They were granted immunity from military service and
received land in blocks to settle communally.
Within five years, Veregin had resettled the largest portion of the community in British Columbia. The community became the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ in 1938.
In 1927, the new Doukhobor leader, Peter Petrovich Verigin, decided to either sell or develop the remaining property owned by the community in Yorkton. With building permits registered under the name of Anna Morosoff, construction started on six houses in 1932. Veregin brought in a contractor and 25 men from BC to join 50 Doukhobor men from the area on the project. The men worked 12 hour days, six days a week for 10 cents a day.
During the Depression, construction was unusual, and six houses going up on the
same block was unheard of. Using bricks from the Doukhobor Brickyard Society,
the houses were built on the east block of Myrtle Avenue between Smith Street
and the CPR line, which was owned by the society and had stood empty for many
The houses were built completely by hand. The holes for the foundations were dug
with a scraper pulled by horses. The walls were three bricks thick, and the
lumber was brought in from BC. The houses were surrounded by brick and wood
fences five feet high. Behind each house, a garage was built for the size of the
Model T automobile popular at the time.
The structure of the homes resembled the thatch-peaked homes the Doukhobors had
built in their communities.
Three of the original six houses still stand. As well, many other buildings in
Yorkton such as the City Limits Inn, C.J. Houston Junior High School, and houses at 85, 92 and 98 Fifth Avenue North are built of
bricks produced by the Doukhobor brickyard.
Many Doukhobors in the community have bricks stamped with the Morosof(f) name as souvenirs. Negraeff said she thought the last letter was left off the bricks for lack of room. Negraeff felt a great deal of personal satisfaction in unearthing the history of the Doukhobor brickyard in Yorkton. She hopes others who had family involved would appreciate knowing more about the brickyard and its impact on the area.
The CCUB ceased to operate the
brickyard in c. 1925. It remained inoperative for several years until 1930, when
brother-in-laws Nick N. Morosoff and Mike N. Maloff took over operation of the brickyard. As the brickyard property was in
Nick's mother (Mike's mother-in-law) Anna's name, they paid off the back taxes
and debts owing
against the property and assumed ownership. As part of the arrangement, the new
owners agreed to build the six houses on Myrtle Avenue referenced above. During
the partnership, the bricks were stamped "Yorkton". In 1934, Maloff left the partnership. Thereafter, Morosoff continued to operated the
brickyard until 1938. The bricks were stamped "Morosof(f)" during this period.
In 1938, the brickyard was leased to Mr. George Waters who operated it
for one year. It was then re-leased, with an option to purchase, to Mr. Paul Sawchenko. Sawchenko
operated it for one year and, losing money, closed down the plant
and demolished the buildings - JJK.