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The historic 1899 mass migration of 7500 Doukhobors from the Russian Caucasus to Canada, across the vast Atlantic Ocean to the mid-continent of North America, was no small accomplishment, and would have been a challenge even in modern times. At that time the shortest and most desirable summer route to the Canadian interior was through the St. Lawrence River ports of Quebec City or Montreal, but the Doukhobor emigration was considered urgent and the first two of four transatlantic voyages took place in the middle of winter, through the ice-free ocean ports of Halifax and St. John. And as it turned out, the cold winter of 1898-99 was a near record-breaker for eastern Canada and the prairie interior.

This web page is about the Canadian inland journey of the first contingent of 2140 Doukhobor immigrants that arrived at Halifax, Nova Scotia on January 23, 1899, on the Beaver Line Steamship Lake Huron, and then steamed onward to St. John, New Brunswick, the follwing morning to board their waiting trains.

Map Doukhobor Colonist Trains St. John to Winnipeg

Doukhobor immigrants disembark from their steamship at the quarantine inspection station at Lawlor's Island near Halifax. The lower group photograph was taken by James Smart, a Canadian government official who had traveled there from Ottawa with others to greet the Doukhobors. He then immediately returned to St. John by rail where he assisted with their landing at that city harbour and their further travel arrangenents to Winnipeg. Photograph from Jos. Elkinton, 1903 View enlargement.

First Doukhobor Immigrants at Halifax 1899


The first portion of this web page will briefly examine the physical geography of the eastern Canadian maritime provinces relevant to the Doukhobor inland route, and the preexisting seaport and railroad infrastructure that was available to them for their landing and their inland journey. This content will especially focus on their railroad route west of St. John to the prairies through the "Short Line", a relatively unknown CPR railroad connecting the seacoast to Montreal over a shortcut through the United States, built only recently before their arrival.

That journey would not have been possible without the extraordinary support of the human resources and logistics of the Canadian federal government and the Canadian Pacific Railway. A good part of the documentation associated with the Doukhobor immigration has fortunately been preserved on microfilm, and a few of the memos, telegrams and internal reports of a few key individuals involved in this journey will be used on this web page to tell their part of this story.

The photograph of the train depicted in this web page header is also an integral part of the story. Available for view in the BC public archives, this photograph has been possibly the best, if not only, known depiction of a Doukhobor colonist train on its way to the Canadian west. The identity of the photographer however is unknown and what the photo actually depicts has also remained a bit of a mystery. This web page will look at the diary of Leopold Sulerzhitsky, a Russian friend of Leo Tolstoy, who traveled with the Doukhobors and assisted them with their emigration, as well as a number of other existing archival records, for a possible interpretation of the photograph.



The Doukhobor Immigration Route to the Canadian West

The prairie homesteads selected for the Doukhobors were some two thousand miles distant from the Atlantic seacoast. St. John, New Brunswick, was of special interest in their journey, being the point at which ocean water first met railroad steel, and where five special CPR colonist trains were awaiting them at the Sand Point wharf. Their departure west from the harbour began almost immediately throughout the first night of their arrival, each of the trainloads carrying approximately 400 immigrants, staggered at two hour intervals, until all trains and 2140 passengers had left the harbour by daybreak the following morning. The first leg of the journey to Montreal, was to follow a shortcut through the State of Maine on the "Megantic Route" or Short Line completed by the CPR in 1889. A small town at the Quebec border, Megantic received world-wide attention in 2013 for the runaway train derailment and tragic fiery explosion in its downtown core that killed 47 local residents. Lesser know is the 1899 Doukhobor colonist train derailment which occurred not far away, about mid-way through the state of Maine. Only a relatively minor inconvenience compared to the tragedy of 2013, the train derailment was briefly covered in local newspapers, but has otherwise remained unknown. This and other aspects of the journey will be described in first hand reports by immigration agents in later web page segments.

The following map illustrates the full extent of the chosen immigration route from the Atlantic Ocean to Winnipeg, and their first settlements at Swan River in the north west.

Map Doukhobor Colonist Trains St. John to Winnipeg

This route was not entirely "smooth railing". The colonist trains were challenged by extreme winter temperatures - the coaches and baggage cars were difficult to heat, and the locomotives were occasionally forced to stop and build up sufficient steam just to keep running. There were snow slide blockages, and surprisingly, even a derailment at Brownville, where the CPR Short Line crossed the State of Maine. View enlargement.

Lac Megantic Train Explosion 2014

At left - the devastation at Megantic in 2013. At right - the Irving oil refinery in East St. John, which is the largest refinery in all of Canada at this time. Oil was being brought here from the Bakken Oil Fields in North Dakota, just south of Saskatchewan.

The building of the CPR "Transcontinental"

It has been stated that the early development and shaping of the Canadian west as we know it today, was singularly set in motion by the completion of the Canadian Pacific transcontinental railroad in 1885 between eastern Canada and the Pacific Ocean. That was an arguably bold assertion, but the CPR itself must have also appreciated the long term historical significance of its accomplishment, mustering a photographer to preserve a visual record of the driving of its last spike. One of the three supposed photos taken at the scene is depicted below, and it has assumed even greater national significance over time as the most iconic visual symbol of the history and unity of Canada itself as a nation at large. The event and moment was also celebrated in words by a memorable poem on that subject by Canadian poet E. J. Pratt in 1952. And it was that poem, that was said to have inspired Pierre Berten to do the research for his own two volume book, the "National Dream" and "The Last Spike", published in his reader-friendly style in 1970. It was also produced as an eight part mini-series on television in 1974. Berten's narrative has been the most widely read and viewed account of the early history of the CPR, and it continues to inspire Canadians to maintain a common national dream to this day.

Last Spike at Craigellachie

Most Canadians will recognize this carefully staged photograph of the "driving of the last spike" at Craigellachie near Revelstoke, British Columbia. This was a ceremonial event to recognize the long awaited fulfillment of a promise by the federal government in 1871 to build a new railroad to the west as an enticement for the British colony to join the newly formed Canadian Federation. In the photo, the hammering is attempted by Donald Smith, a CPR financier, later Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, and behind him is the watchful eye of CPR president William Van Horne. The stovepipe hat and white beard beside him belong to Sanford Fleming, a company director and a celebrated engineer and surveyor, recognized for the survey of yet another historic railroad in the Maritimes in the early 1870s. This railroad will be briefly examined further along on this web page. - Photo taken by Alexander J. Ross - National Library and Archives Canada.

The Canadian Pacific was chartered as a private enterprise, although Canadian taxpayers subsidized its construction with a 25 million dollar grant, 25 million acres of free land, and tax free status for a period of time.

Various historical narratives of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, including the "National Dream", refer to it as the first Canadian "transcontinental". While that may appear to be so in a broad general sense, the term itself is somewhat misleading, as the eastern terminus of the railway at Montreal fell far short of the eastern edge of the continent. The missing link to the Atlantic was to be completed four years later by another virtually unknown four hundred mile stretch of CPR railroad steel, called the Short Line. And it is this railroad and its route, that is to be of greater interest to this web page.

The Intercolonial Railroad

Having expended its financial resources for the construction of its new railroad west, the CPR was seemingly "cash-starved" by 1885, and that "last spike" at Craigellachie may well have been the last one in its bucket, so to speak. It was nonetheless content for the time being, to leave the Atlantic problem beyond Montreal to the easterners themselves. From an eastern perspective, it was not especially an immediate concern either, as the St. Lawrence River had already been taking care of business, offering the colonies an open route to the Atlantic Ocean ... at least when it was not frozen in the summer months. But winter ocean access had also been conveniently available to the Atlantic colonies as early as 1853, when another private railroad, the Grand Trunk, connected them to the Atlantic through the United States, via Portland, Maine.

The British colonial office eventually recognized that this reliance on American seaports may have been strategically problematic during the American Civil War of the 1860s. Mindful of previous altercations with the Americans ever since the War of 1812, the proximity of the Union army to the British colonies was worrisome, and Britain encouraged its four eastern provinces (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) to confederate into one union, the Dominion of Canada. The two maritime provinces, much like British Columbia in 1871, were enticed into the Federation, with the promise of a subsidized railroad, mandated by the British North American Act of 1867. Sanford Fleming, of later CPR significance and seen above at Craigellachie in 1885, was engaged to select and survey a "military route" for the new Intercolonial Railroad (ICR), far removed from the American border through Nova Scotia and along the coast of New Brunswick. Completed only in 1872, the Intercolonial gave Quebec City direct rail access to its own winter port at Halifax, and a link was further extended to St. John to discourage American mischief northward along the St. John River.

The map below, adapted from an 1892 CPR map of the region, illustrates the route of the Intercolonial, and the much later route of the CPR Short Line, which was to be completed later in 1889. It also reveals the relationship between the two river ports, with their winter counterparts on the seacoast. Both routes and their related seaports received public subsidies, not surprisingly with various degrees of support from alternate federal governments, the former favoured by the Conservatives, the latter essentially by the Liberals.

Map CPR Short Line & Intercolonial


The St. Lawrence River ports, Quebec and Montreal

The relationship between the Quebec and Montreal river ports has been historically competitive, each seeking advantage over the other in terms of their harbour infrastructure and function; upgrading their wharves, graving docks, warehouses, and of course competing for railroad terminals. Both ports however had to contend with river ice in winter, and riverbed erosion and silting in summer. Despite the constant dredging of troublesome river channels between Quebec and Montreal, there were routine steamship groundings on the sand bars, even though the ships were guided by river pilots through shallow waters. There were several groundings by the iconic Beaver Line SS Lake Huron and SS Lake Superior, later to be chartered in 1899 by the Doukhobors. The Lake Huron, a victim of the shifting sand bars and shallow rocky riverbed in 1886, (Link) is depicted in a national archive photo below, under repair in a government graving (dry) dock at Levi, just across the river from Quebec city in 1887. River dredging continues to this day, although the river ports are no longer held captive by winter ice, thanks to the vigilance of Coast Guard ice breakers operating along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

SS Lake Huron at Graving Dock 1887

The SS Lake Huron is depicted here at the recently built Dominion government graving dock in 1887, at St. Joseph de Levis, one of the first large vessels to have undergone repairs at the dry dock. An adjacent preexisting shipyard owned by Mr. Geo. T. Davie, possibly depicted here at left, included an iron works and foundry capable of forming steel plates and other fittings for ship repairs. A modern dry dock facility, the Lorne Dock, is now operational at Levis serving the shipping industry on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The Lorne Shipping Drydock at Levi, Quebec


The Canadian winter ports, Halifax and St. John

Not unlike the St. Lawrence summer river ports, Canada's ocean ports were also competing for dominance of the Atlantic winter trade, between themselves and also Portland Maine, which had been a winter seaport of choice for many steamship lines including the Montreal Beaver Line. While the Intercolonial route offered Canadian provinces a winter connection to Halifax, it was considerably longer and more costly than the pre-existing Grand Trunk railway route to Portland, which had been the beneficiary of Canadian winter trade since the 1850s. That attitude would gradually change over the years. In 1884, Wilfred Laurier's federal government finally enacted legislation to restrict coastal and international trade within Canadian borders, by limiting federal subsidies to Canadian railroads and city ports only. And with the potential of such a $250,000 federal subsidy in sight, the CPR at Montreal, finally directed its attention further eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. A possible route lay straight ahead some 400 miles away to St. John. But the route would require extra mileage for wiggling through the Appalachians, and it would also need to cut a shortcut across the state of Maine.

St. John was older than Halifax. It was incorporated in 1785, and was indeed the oldest incorporated city in Canada. It was also initially larger and it prospered sooner than Halifax as an industrial city, being involved in ship-building in the sailing era and the fabrication of wood furniture and other products from local forest resources. But it faced a number of natural geographical challenges. The St. John harbour was somewhat sheltered in the Bay of Fundy, but it was on the other hand, frequently subjected to ocean fog. And there was the matter of coordinating its daily activities with the famously dramatic Bay of Fundy ocean tides that were caused by the gradual inland narrowing of the bay. Sea levels at the port dropped by around 26 feet (8 meters) between daily high and low tides, a regular cycle that kept the seaport free of winter ice. Low tides as such were not much of a problem, as harbour planners configured their wharves and jetties to reach further out into deeper water. But the low tides also unfortunately exposed muddy and odorous wetlands along the moving shorelines, which may have been ideal for marine biodiversity, but which were thought by critics to be unhealthy for human occupation. And furthermore, the St. John River, like the St. Lawrence, also generated riverbed silting of the harbour with every springtime freshet.

Nevertheless, even with all that in mind, city and provincial officials mounted an aggressive promotional campaign, and the CPR was ultimately enticed to begin building to St. John in 1884, just as British Columbians were awaiting the driving of their last railroad spike at Craigellachie.

Building the Canadian Pacific Short Line

With a closer look at the map of the Maritimes, the following paragraphs will briefly attempt to summarize the origin and the consolidation of the CPR Short Line route between Montreal and St. John.

Map Building the CPR Short Line
The CPR first began acquiring existing railroads in Quebec province east of Montreal through Sherbrooke and Megantic. In 1886, it purchased the International Railway, a short local railroad between Megantic and the Maine border. But the greater part of the shortcut eastward through the State of Maine remained a missing link in the planned route, and it required serious new railroad construction. The CPR acquired an American charter for this segment, now calling it the "International of Maine", and it commenced building over 100 miles of trackage over the remote northern Appalachian highlands between Megantic and Mattawamkeag in 1886-1887. Looking further east, the CPR also acquired charters and running rights from existing railroads between Mattawamkeag and St. John, New Brunswick, ultimately connecting Montreal to the Atlantic Ocean in 1889. Only then, was the CPR perhaps more justifiably, been able to claim its status as a true "transcontinental".

There were no ceremonial spikes, but there was a week-long celebration of pyrotechnics, and other frivolities, and of course a host of dignitaries taking credit. But credit was due, as the mileage between Montreal and St. John had been reduced from 740 via the Intercolonial route, to 481 miles by the Canadian Pacific route. Of further note, the short segment between Mattawamkeag and Vanceboro at the border actually remained out of CPR hands for an additional 85 years beyond 1889, and the trackage was rented, so to speak. It was finally purchased only in 1974, at which time the CPR was able to claim full ownership of the complete transcontinental railway line across Canada, from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

Short Line Junctions & Stations

This photo composite depicts early Short Line junctions and stations: the photo at left - the McAdam station and junction in the 1880s, and at center - a postcard view of its replacement, the new luxurious CPR station and hotel, just after its construction in 1900. The McAdam Junction was an important interchange with a short railway leading south to St. Andrews on the seacoast, a popular summer seaside destination for Quebecers. The hotel accommodated these travelers, and even CPR president, William Van Horne who purportedly built a "cottage" near St. Andrews on Ministers Island. The photo at right - depicts the Greenville Jct. station in the State of Maine as it exists today.

The Seaport and Harbour of St. John

Prior to the appearance of the CPR Short Line, there had already been significant railroad and seaport activity in St. John, involving the Intercolonial Railroad from Halifax in the east, and the "Western Extension" of the European & North American Railroad or E&NA (later the New Brunswick, then the Maine Central) from the west. Built between 1865-1869 from Boston and Portland, Maine, the E&NA trackage terminated at Fairville (Lancaster) about 3.5 miles west of the main harbour itself, and a short local railroad, the Carleton Branch, built by the city in the 1870s, was leased to the E&NA to bring trains closer to tidal water at West Saint John. Freight from there was then ferried across the harbour to the east side.

A railroad bridge was eventually constructed across the St. John River at the Reversing Falls in 1885, with assisted funding from the Dominion government, to close the gap between the West End and the East End. The CPR then purchased both the E&NA and the Carleton Branch Railroad, and with its trackage at St. John in 1889, it initiated negotiations with the city for the development of other essential harbour infrastructure.

Map St. John Harbour 1898

Map from the booklet, "Saint John as a Canadian Winter Port, City Corporation and Board of Trade, Saint John, New Brunswick, 1898" - annotated here for this web page.

Historic photographs of the St. John Sand Point Wharves

The following photographs from the Museum of New Brunswick collection depict the Sand Point slip looking outward toward the Bay of Fundy, much as the Doukhobor immigrants may have witnessed it with their own eyes in 1899.

St. John Sand Point Postcards  1900

Colourized Postcards (1900) - St. John, N.B., Sand Point in Winter (Link)

Photo St. John Sand Point Slip and Wharf

This photo print titled, "Canadian Pacific Railway Elevator and the vessel, CHARLES, at Sand Point, Saint John, New Brunswick" is a close up view from a sea level perspective also likely taken in approximately 1900. The warehouses depicted here on the pier may have been the actual warehouses through which the Doukhobors disembarked from the SS Lake Huron in 1899, to board the five colonist trains that awaited them on the other side. The CPR trackage is better seen in the later photo below.

Photo St. John Sand Point 1930

This photograph (dated ca. 1930), is a wider aerial view of the Sand Point slip and wharves from the Bay of Fundy side. Depicted here, we can see the CPR railroad trackage, warehouses, and the massive CPR grain elevator, for the storage and transshipment of western Canadian prairie grain. An elaborate overhead system of conveyors was installed along the wharf perimeter for delivering wheat from the elevator directly to steamships parked at berth alongside. Little did the Doukhobors know that they would be following exactly the same shipping route as did the prairie grain to St. John, albeit westward inland in reverse. The SS Lake Huron with the immigrants may have moored in the Sand Point slip, just where a steamship is seen here awaiting elevator grain. Not long after the departure of the Doukhobors, one of the two story warehouses, possibly seen here at the foot of the slip, was to become an immigration hall in 1904. Photo source - New Brunswick Museum online.

The Beaver Line adopts St. John as a winter port

Despite the arrival of the CPR in 1889, steamship companies were not immediately eager to abandon their existing shipping arrangements, and embrace St. John as a winter port. And Portland continued to prosper as usual from its winter traffic. That changed in 1895 when the federal government began offering Canadian transatlantic steamship lines annual subsidies as an incentive. According to information in a local Board of Trade booklet at that time, the first such line to test the waters at St. John, was the Montreal based Beaver Line. Unable to negotiate a winter contract with Portland for that winter, the Beaver Line looked at St. John as a potential alternative. Its directors approached municipal and business leaders and a group travelled to Ottawa to solicit a grant as insurance against loss, should its business at St. John not materialize. A subsidy of $25,000 was granted for the coming winter of 1895 and this in turn encouraged St. John to further improve the Sand Point wharf infrastructure, dredging the Sand Point slip for additional berths and building additional warehouses to facilitate the new Beaver Line service.

The first steamship to arrive at Sand Point under these subsidy arrangements, as described in the aforementioned booklet, was the Beaver Line SS Lake Superior (Link), commanded by Captain Stewart, a veteran in the Atlantic service. The ship sailed up the harbour amid a general salute of tug boat whistles and moored at the Sand Point wharf on December 3, 1895. The holds of the Lake Superior were soon emptied of its general cargo for distribution throughout Canada, and then the loading of Canadian commodities commenced. The Lake Superior then sailed away on the 13th of December, having been in port 10 days. The Beaver Line also maintained the transatlantic Royal Mail contract between St. John and Liverpool until 1898-99, when the Elder Dempster company took control of the line and its services. Its steamships themselves were later purchased by the CPR in 1902.

By the end of 1898, the seaport of St. John and the CPR railroad were both more than ready for the arrival of the first batch of Doukhobor immigrants on January 24, 1899. And the Beaver Line boats knew the harbour well and were available for charter across the Atlantic to Canada. St. John of course welcomed other steamship lines in the next decades and it continued functioning as one of Canada's main winter ports until the 1950s when the St. Lawrence Seaway assumed that role.



With permission granted by the Czarist government for the emigration of some 7500 Doukhobors in the summer of 1898, it soon became apparent that an emigration of that magnitude was far beyond their capability to accomplish it on their own. But they did have sympathisers, Leo Tolstoy and his supporters, a group of Russian anarchist emigres at Purleigh, England, and the Society of British Friends, a group of influential Quakers. Concerned about the urgency of the deteriorating welfare of the persecuted Doukhobors in the Caucasus, they funded what turned out to be a failed settlement attempt on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean, and a search for a better alternative soon focused everyone's attention on Canada.

Doukhobor Sympathisers and Representatives from both sides of the Atlantic

A number of additional individuals played an important more direct role in the exploration of the Canadian option, keeping in mind that such a large group of settlers, persecuted or not, would be of mutual benefit to both the settlers and the Canadian government. James Mavor and Peter Kropotkin, portrayed in the following composite, were of greatest consequence in the initial preliminary arrangements on the Canadian side of the Atlantic. The others came shortly afterwards, as representatives of the Doukhobors in the Caucasus, sent to Canada on a mission to explore and finalize settlement arrangements, with support from their sympathisers in England as intermediaries.

Doukhobor Sympathisers and Emissaries

A motley Group of Emissaries

On September 10, 1898, the steamship passenger liner SS Vancouver docked at the Quebec harbour in eastern Canada, having crossed the Atlantic Ocean in ten days from Liverpool without incident. And amid the usual hustle and bustle of activities at the busy river port, a somewhat unusual group of passengers, six adults and six children quietly stepped ashore. One passenger was British merchandiser Aylmer Maude (Link), a distinguished-looking gentleman in business attire and a trimmed white beard and moustache. And another was Prince Dmitry Aleksandrovich Khilkoff, of Russian heritage and noble wealth, with a long gnarly beard, which in itself would have been somewhat unusual given his princely status. The other ten individuals, the males dressed in immigrant "sheepskin-fashioned" clothing, and the ladies in colourful ethnic costume, were members of two Russian Doukhobor families, the Makhortoffs and the Ivins (Link). They were entrusted as emissaries by their brothers and sisters in the Caucasus, to come to Canada to further the progress of their emigration. The task of the group at large was essentially twofold. To confirm the more practical aspects of a recently negotiated immigration agreement made by a Canadian Professor, James Mavor, on behalf of the Doukhobors, and to search out suitable prairie homestead lands that were being granted them as immigrants by the government. Maude was to meet James Mavor in Ottawa, while Khilkoff, Makhortoff and Ivin would go on to the north-west interior.

James Mavor and Peter Kropotkin

James Mavor (Link), was a respected Toronto University professor who had a keen interest in Canadian industrial and agricultural economic development, and who also understood the value of immigrants for that purpose. His Russian friend, Peter Kropotkin (Link), who was a friend to Leo Tolstoy, had previously been to Canada in 1897 and stayed with Mavor. Being also a respected scientist with expertise in geography, he toured Canada by train and was favourably impressed with the North-West, as a suitable potential destination for the Doukhobors. On behalf of their sympathisers in England, he requested Mavor to approach Clifford Sifton, then the Canadian Liberal Minister of the Interior, regarding that possibility, considering the well known reputation of the immigrants as capable agriculturists. Mavor was able to negotiate a tentative agreement with the government, subject of course to the approval of the Doukhobors. As pacifists, they would be given exemption from military service, and they were permitted to settle in village groups on homesteads reserved for them in large blocks on the prairies, not unlike an earlier agreement reached with the pacifist Mennonites two decades earlier. The matter of swearing oaths to claim these homesteads was unfortunately not clarified to the Doukhobors, and this issue would prove to haunt them in subsequent years.

Aylmer Maude

Aylmer Maude, of British origin (Link), was a translator of Leo Tolstoy's writing, and had himself written a biography of the famous novelist, and for a good part of his life after retirement, he became a committed supporter of Tolstoyanism, surprisingly later rejecting certain aspects of its principles. He was asked by Tolstoy to go along with the emissaries to continue resolving outstanding immigration issues with the Canadian government, and to negotiate arrangements for transporting the 7500 immigrants from the Atlantic seaboard to the Canadian interior by train. Aylmer Maude had initially acquired his experience as a merchandiser employed as a business manager in the largest department store in Russia in the 1880s. Having business associates in Canada, he was introduced in Montreal to Vice President, Thomas Shaughnessy of the CPR, who had only recently succeeded retired William Van Horne, to discuss railroad matters. (Link)

In his own words, "It was ultimately arranged that the C.P.R. should carry the Doukhobors from the coast, i.e. from St. John, New Brunswick (or from Quebec, should that Port not be frozen up), to whatever station west of Winnipeg might be nearest to their future settlement at the rate of six dollars, ($1 in 1899 is equivalent to $36.64 in 2023) per adult. This was exceedingly cheap ($220 per person in 2023) for a journey of considerably over two thousand miles."

The actual inland journey, its route and means of travel, were left to be determined by immigration officials and the CPR. The Short Line was unknown to the emissaries and the Doukhobors, although its existence was to be a significant cost-saving factor for the railway.

Prince Khilkoff (Hilkoff, Khilkov)

The complex story of Prince Khilkoff is most effectively told online in well researched and detailed articles by Graham Camfield, and they can easily be searched online. In a few word summary, Prince Khilkoff was from a wealthy noble family and educated in the military, serving the Russian army in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, and the siege of Kars in Turkey, primarily as a reconnaissance officer. During and after the war, he became disillusioned with the Czarist military leadership for its self-interest rather than the welfare of its troops, and later abandoned his personal military duty. He first met the Doukhobors in 1895 after the historic Burning of Arms protest, when he was quartered for a time in the village of Troitskoe in the Akhalkalaki Wet Mountain region. Moved by the inhumanity of the retribution enforced upon them for their spiritual beliefs, he alerted Leo Tolstoy about their plight, and encouraged him to publicize it in the international press. Concluding that the Doukhobors and other Spiritual Christians were far "closer to the Gospel than the Orthodox", he subsequently abandoned his wealth, released his own peasants from servitude, and welcomed Tolstoyans and other sectarians to his Pavlovka estate. Criticized by the government for embracing Tolstoyanism, he was ultimately banned from the country, taking residence with the Russian anarchist emigres at Purleigh, in Essex, England. Khilkoff spoke English well and was of great assistance to the Doukhobor emissaries in Canada as an interpreter and as a capable reconnaissance scout in choosing suitable homestead lands for their later settlement on the prairies.

The Makhortoffs and the Ivins

The portraits of the final two individuals depicted in the photo composite, Ivan Makhortoff and Dunyia Ivin, were chosen for the quality and clarity of their portrait rather than the substance of their contribution to the group effort. Dunyia Ivin had likely been designated a chaperone of the six children, rather than a negotiator, but her excellent portrait is included here, because it hasn't as yet been displayed as such elsewhere. The identity of the attractive young lady had been elusive, even thought possibly to be the Doukhobor leader, Lukeria Vasilievna Kalmykova. But a close comparison with other photographs of the two families elsewhere on this website, reveals a close match of the unique decorative embellishments on Dunyia's vest. (Link) The role of their presence was quite likely simply one of public relations, to look their best as wholesome, healthy looking families, up to the task before them as pioneers of the Canadian West.


The St. John Globe newspaper account of the Doukhobor arrival

The arrival of the first group of Doukhobor immigrants in Halifax and St. John appears to have generated considerable newspaper interest across Canada and the United States. A web page on this website looks at the reportage of R.G. Mathews for Montreal and Toronto newspapers, which included the following line drawings of their arrival in St. John. (Link) One of the most comprehensive accounts of events at St. John was however, not surprisingly covered in a local newspaper, the St. John Globe. Selections from the January 24th edition are used below to describe significant moments at the St. John harbour at the Sand Point Union Wharf, which was often also simply called the Sand Point Wharf.

Doukhobor Immigration St. John Newspaper Ccverage Doukhobor Arrival at St. John Newspaper Coverage
The Arrival of the Steamship Lake Huron on January 23rd, 1899

The long awaited Lake Huron steamer with the Doukhobor immigrants had been sighted from Partridge Island near St. John after one o’clock on Monday, the 23rd of January (1899), and signals of this intelligence were immediately flashed to the city. On receipt of this news, the tug Neptune was quickly dispatched to the I.S.S. Co. wharf where she was boarded by Dr. Montizambert (quarantine supervisor), Mr. James Smart, the Deputy Minister of the Interior, and three newspaper men. Dr. March was also picked up at Partridge Island, and then the tug proceeded out the bay. The approaching steamer was however over six miles away, a mere black spot with a pall of overhanging smoke on the horizon, and the quarantine officials realized that they had been almost needlessly prompt. They would now need to wait at least an hour or more, as the ship was evidently taking its time, adjusting its arrival at the mouth of the St. John harbour to coincide with the timing of the rising tide. But the little tug lay to and rolled about in the bay, as the outline of the steamer emerged and gradually grew larger and larger, until in the glimmering­ pathway of the bright sun, it finally revealed its true size. The Lake Huron was flying an official yellow flag awaiting inspection, and it greeted the tug with a toot of its whistle, stopping its engines as the Neptune ran up close.

The decks were thronged from stem to stern with the curious immigrant passengers, as they gazed in wonder at the little tug below that had put a brief stop to their voyage. The tug ran up close and the occupants boarded the steamer by ladder and were welcomed by the captain and officers. The doctors then went off immediately on a tour of inspection, and the others took advantage of the opportunity to meet the immigrants. The doctors were soon convinced that the vessel was fit to enter port, for soon her engines commenced to work and in a short time she arrived at her berth at Sand Point.  Captain Evans speedily got his ship to the wharf, the gangways were quickly lowered. The Mayor of St. John, in a polished beaver and one broadcloth, with some friends, got on board quickly. Everybody who did, ran speedily through the ship and expressed himself or herself, pleased with the appearance of the people and with the cleanliness of the ship after her long voyage. And the passengers then commenced to come ashore.

Also from - The Halifax Morning Chronicle - Monday January 24th

Although it was dead low (tidal) water, the steamer came right up to her wharf. When the steamship approached the CPR pier, the site was one that will never be forgotten by the thousands of sightseers who were at Sand Point. The city pier next to the CPR pier was crowded with citizens and the roof of the warehouse was also thronged. The after portion of the Dominion liner Scotsman was full, as was a portion of the CPR pier near Protection Street. Besides all these places of view, a few hundred people were down on the harbor bar among the seaweed and mud, all anxious to see what was to be seen. The upper deck of the steamship was alive with the Doukhobors, who in their sheep skin costumes, presented a site never seen in this city. When the large steamship was slowly moving towards the pier, about two dozen citizens, each armed with a camera were, busily engaged in taking snapshots of the vessel and her passengers and some very fine pictures were secured.

The disembarkment of the Doukhobors from the SS Lake Huron

It had been stated that spectators were to be kept back (during the disembarkment) and that only a few persons to whom permits were issued would be allowed in the sheds. But the human tide which rolled in upon the police swept them away and there was no restraining the eager curiosity of men, women and children who thronged the sheds and greatly impeded the work going on there. As for the Doukhobors, they evinced no idle curiosity. A gang of the stoutest of them at once went to work to get out the luggage and get it into the baggage cars, and the way they hauled and pulled and carried their burden was a sight for lazy people. In their great coats of sheepskin, with the fleecy side in, they worked as easily as though they were in their shirt sleeves.

Boxes and packages of all kinds, there were, many of them covered with coarse straw, many more were simply bedding, there were curious looking wooden troughs in which the family meal is served, there were tubs and pails, there were axes and saws and many other things. How all of these can be claimed by their rightful owners when the people get to their destination, no man can tell. It may have been the duty of the ship's crew to discharge the luggage, it may have been someone else's duty to load it on the rail cars, but the Doukhobors took no thought of this. They did it themselves. They evinced no idle curiosity in the crowds around them. Even the women took no stock of the richly dressed and befurred ladies, or the sprightly looking girls, who were about them, all anxious to show them some evidence of regard.  They wanted to get away as fast as possible, and they worked with a will to this end. But they were polite and respectful to any who addressed them;  and even the gentleman-usher-of-the-black-rod of Canada would have envied the bowing capacity of the little ones as Mrs. Thomson or Miss Murray, or Mrs. Burpee, or some of the other ladies filled their hands with bags of good things. For a time there was much hubbub and confusion owing to the crowds, but a line was formed, through which the Doukhobors got to their cars. Even this did not work satisfactorily, and the police were ordered to clear the building of al! intruders.

This done, the work proceeded much more expeditiously. Mr. Smart, the Deputy Minister of the Interior, Mr. White, Mr. McGovern and other members of the official staff were present and busy as bees; as were Mr. Timmerman, Mr. Notman and other members of the C. P. R. service. Prince Hilkoff was in constant request by his own people and by the authorities, but he was ever courteous. To the Globe he said he much appreciated the kindness shown his fellow countrymen and women. It was no easy task to get the right people into the right train, to keep families together, but once they were in their cars the immigrants were quite at home, and there cannot be a doubt but that the government and the railway people did all that they could to start the Doukhobors off comfortably. And when one took it all in it was a big undertaking to get off so many people in this way. Those who had to remain on the ship until the last were patient, orderly and well behaved to a notable degree.

The departure of the colonist trains on the morning of Jan. 24, 1899

The Doukhobors have gone. By means of careful organization the officials in charge handled the different batches, put them on board their proper trains and despatched them on their long journey without any unnecessary delay or confusion. By 8.25 standard (time) last evening the first train load was ready to leave and steamed out of Carleton amid the cheering of the crowd, who one and all seemed to have formed a most favorable impression of the new inhabitants. From that time until 7 o’clock this morning train after train was loaded and sent away. The second train got off at 12.05 this morning; the third at 2.33, the fourth at 4.57; the fifth at 7.03; and the baggage train at 8.50. As soon as the last of the baggage was out of the shed, a gang of men took possession and soon had the warehouses cleared up.

The Lake Huron is still lying at her berth at the head of the wharf, but will leave for Portland as soon she can be coaled. The police at limes had much difficulty in keeping the thronging crowds outside their limits, and at times their task was too great for them. By sheer good nature and persistency rather than by their numbers, their work was performed and the work of loading passengers and baggage on the trains was kept free from hindrance.


About CPR immigrant colonist cars

The following photos depict the interior of a typical colonist car as used by the Doukhobors. The composite depicts a CPR advertisement at left with a brief description of the immigrant cars, and a line drawing of numerous seated passengers, with two others resting overhead in open berths. The drawing was clearly adapted from an early CPR photograph shown to its right, now found on the Canadian Museum of Immigration website, although curiously, one passenger in the front seat was reworked as a female. The brief description reads as follows ... "Colonist cars are really “Sleeping Cars,” modelled after the style of the first-class “Pullman,” with upper and lower berths, closets, lavatories, etc., the only difference being that the seats and berths are not upholstered. Occupants may supply their own bedding, or can purchase of the Company's Agents, a mattress, pillow and blanket for $2.50 (10 shillings), which they can retain at the end of their journey. The accompanying cut shows the interior of a Colonist Car, with a portion of the berths made up for sleeping purposes."

About CPR Colonist Trains
The following excellent 1891 Wm. Notman photograph (from the McCord collection, now in public domain), reveals the same, or a similar car interior, although in this view we can better see a wooden partition and a passageway leading beyond it. Colonist cars typically had a ladies' washroom at one end of the car, and smoking rooms with more compact bathrooms for men at the other, and the passageway in the photo may lead to these facilities. Early coaches such as these were also known to be segregated into third-class accommodations or sections for 56 passengers, and second-class accommodations for 16, the former with wooden benches and simple pull-down berths, the latter with upholstered leather benches and overhead berths with curtains. Like other CPR coaches at that time, these colonist cars were steam heated by locomotive steam and lighted with naphtha gas piped from storage tanks. A typical train of 8 or 9 cars might also include one or two "Tourist cars" which had a small kitchenette and a cooking range near the ladies' lavatory.

W. Notman photo of early colonist car


Identifying Short Line Colonist Coaches

Exterior views of early generation colonist cars are not commonly found online, although the newer post-1900 CPR coaches are more so, as there are numerous posted photos of their ongoing restorations for museums. But an interesting article and photo in the 1969 issue of the Canadian Rail magazine offers readers insight into the specific history and unique identity of early coaches on the CPR Short Line. The article illustrates a first-class CPR coach built by the Ontario Crossen Car Company in July 1890, specifically made for the Montreal-Saint John Short Line service. The photo composite below looks at the fascia trim of the coach end vestibules (entry doorways) and a unique feature of their design. The trim board is narrowed somewhat for extra headroom clearance at the entrance, and it has radiused (rounded) rather than squared inner corners. A small minor detail perhaps, but this unique detail does not appear on other brand coaches, including later CPR-built coaches, elsewhere online.

A Crossen Built Coach Vestibule Detail

A narrow-vestibule first-class coach built by the Cobourg, Ontario Crossen Car Company in July 1890, for the Montreal-Saint John "Short Line" service. A close up of its vestibule fascia trim is shown at left. - Crossen photo credited to James A. Shields, Canadian Rail Magazine, No. 211.

An interpretation of the Doukhobor Colonist Train photograph

The photograph depicted in this web page header, and now in its full format below, was found in the BC Archive Tarasoff Doukhobor Collection (C-01512), dated 1899, and claimed to depict a Doukhobor immigrant train on its route to the Canadian west. The photograph also depicts a clear exterior side view of its coaches, in which we also find evidence of this same Crossen design feature on their fascia trim. And it would be reasonable to asssume that at least some of the Doukhobor coaches on the Short Line would have also been manufactured by the Crossen car works. Laying that notion aside, this web page segment will however further examine this photo to determine what it may reveal about the use of these colonist cars by the Doukhobors.

Doukhobor Colonist Train Encounters Snow Slide
The origin of the photo print in the Tarasoff collection is unknown, and its stated description is not particularly helpful either, as it does not reveal the train's actual location. Looking for clues in the photo itself, the train obviously appears to have come to a stop, its movement seemingly overcome by drifting snow or a snow slide, and that incident in itself would not appear to be particularly noteworthy, yet someone felt motivated to step out into the winter cold to photograph it. A few young Doukhobors have joined the photographer to pose in the foreground, while a group of workmen appear to be tending to a problem with the next coach in line behind them. This photograph has been of personal interest to this writer for some time, as a matter of simple curiosity. But with the incidental discovery of a written account of precisely such a snowy winter train episode in a well known old diary by Leopold Antonovich Sulerzhitsky, "To America with the Doukhobors", that casual interest abruptly morphed into an all-consuming quest to determine whether there may have been be a possible connection between the two.

A Crossen Built Coach Vestibule Detail

About "Suler and Satz": A likeable energetic young man, Leopold Antonovich was involved in Russian theatre and visual arts, and not unlike many young Doukhobors, he was imprisoned for refusing to take the miltary oath when faced with conscription for service in the Russian army. He befriended Leo Tolstoy and at his request, assisted the Doukhobors with their emigration to Canada. A young Russian nurse, M. A. Satz, accompanied him and was of invaluable medical assistance to the Doukhobors during their Atlantic and later colonist train journey to the Canadian west. They are both depicted here in their befurred winter outfits. In 1905, after "Suler's" return from Canada, he published a Russian language diary of his involvement in the first and later third transatlantic Doukhobor voyages, An informative three part article about him appeared in the ISKRA magazine issue #1992, in both languages. (Link) Sulerzhitsky's diary has also been extensively referenced in the story of the Doukhobor departure from Batoum, at the Black Sea, on another web page here. (Link)

An archival record (LAC No. C-7338-678) places Sulerzhitsky and Satz, on Colonist Train No.2 which was in charge of Immigration agent, L. Rankin, and on the road from St. John since January 24th. A severe snow storm on the north shore of Lake Superior along this route was reported two days into their journey in a telegram transmitted by the CPR. There does not appear to be any direct evidence linking this particular train to the snowstorm, but as will be seen below, another telegram reveals that the snowstorm affected at least four colonist trains, including Train No.2.

CPR Colonist Train St. John Departure Table

This table was created to depict the colonist train departure sequence from St. John. As noted, the first Anderson Train was derailed at Brownville, Maine, and various reports indicated that it was delayed for 3-6 hours before it could resume its journey. In the course of that time, the Akerlindh and Rankin Trains bypassed the Anderson derailed train, which then resumed a place in line after the Rankin (Sulerzhitsky) Train. The Winnipeg arrival sequence was then as follows:

Train No.1 Akerlindh, Train No.2 Rankin, Train No.3 Anderson, Train No. 4 Regimbol, Train No.5 Heidinger.

It should also be noted that these immigration agents were requested to file post-journey reports to the Ministry, but only the Akerlindh and Anderson reports were found in the archives. The report for Train No.2 (Sulerzhitsky's train) was unfortunately missing, while Anderson's account of his train derailment appears in his report found further along on this web page.

Excerpts from the diary of L. Sulerzhitsky en route to Winnipeg

From the diary entry titled "On the Train, January 17, 1899." - selections from pages 90 through 93

"The heavy train filled with Doukhobors rushed on, roaring past cities, towns, whistle stops, pausing only two or three times a day to take on water, coal and provisions. It hurried past the hills of Quebec covered with heavy thick forests, past the noisy factory city of Montreal, recognized from a distance by its black high-rising factory stacks from which dark smoke flowed lazily; it passed the beautiful city of Ottawa, the capital of Canada, and tearing out into the open, moved along the shore of the huge sea-like Lake Superior. Ships moved on the silvery surface of the lake and on the shore sail boats rested on their sides with masts unstopped and sails folded."

"In fact the whole area through which we were now travelling, was covered with rocks, almost without interruption. The rocks were huge square plates piled one on another in chaotic disorder. It looked as if, a long time ago, the land here had all been covered with an even layer of granite which broke up during an earthquake and the pieces fell permanently into these fantastic positions. From the spaces between the rocks a stunted shrubbery stretched up to the light. It was a deserted, depressing sight."

"We travelled five days to Winnipeg, moving with express train speed. About half way there, the first train derailed, but the people were only frightened. Our train stuck in the snow in a rocky cut for several hours. A strong wind was blowing that day and it became very frosty. I think it was colder than -30 degrees R. (Reaumer = -37.5 Celsius).  I tried to go out, but it caught my breath. Several Englishmen in leather mitts pounded off the snow iced up under the wheels. The locomotive went ahead to clear the track. Upon returning, it hit the train so hard that it seemed the coaches would fly into pieces. Several times it gathered speed and struck the immovable train, then finally pulled forward. Slowly the wheels squeaked and howled and the train started. Soon we left the defile and again were moving, screeching and rattling, the coaches rocking from side to side."

Telegrams - Library and Archives Canada C-7338

Soulerzhitsky's account is interesting indeed and speaks for itself, but there are a number of other coincidental supportive records that may reinforce the possibility that it was actually his train in the photograph. And if it were not to be, it would undoubtedly depict one of the other trains on this same journey.

As the colonist trains steadily moved westward over 5 days between St. John and Winnipeg, they maintained frequent telegraphic communication, primarily between immigration agents on the trains and their supervisors in Ottawa or Winnipeg, as well as the CPR. Trains typically telegraphed arrival times at certain stations, reports of medical emergencies, the status of water and food provisions, and most often, passenger head-count statistics, looking ahead for the placement of the Doukhobor immigrants in various reserved locations around Winnipeg.

One such communication is depicted below. Prince Khilkoff who was in Ottawa on January 25th, transmitted a telegraph to Commissioner McCreary in Winnipeg, listing the passenger head count, the agent in charge, and the intended destination for all trains that passed through the capitol at that time. C-7338-487

Prince Khilkoff telegram

The White River snow storm

There were other telegrams reporting unbearably cold winter temperatures along the route, but much more worrisome were the unexpected cautionary telegrams received by the immigration officials on January 26th. They were from Winnipeg and Montreal with forewarnings of an ominous severe snowstorm developing along the north shore of Lake Superior, and the brunt of the storm was centering on the small village of White River. (Map Link)

Telegram below:
From Winnipeg, Manitoba -
Signed W.J.R.P. Unidentified agent to James A. Smart, Ottawa
"Excessively heavy snowstorm sure to block railway. Trains should be advised take on extra provisions. Fear being delayed between stations somewhere. Will await arrival here."

Colonist Train Snowstorm Warning Telegram

In his report below, Anderson also references a snowstorm blockage of his train (then No. 3) at White River ... "Arriving at Ottawa 8,30 a.m. Jany. 25th, as you are aware, I took a further supply of provisions sufficient to do our party to Winnipeg, and though we were delayed some hours at White River owing to the road being blocked with snow which added considerably to the time taken on this journey, we had not only provisions enough for the journey but some to spare."

Telegram: from Montreal, Jan. 26, 1899 -
Thos. Tait (Canadian Pacific Rlwy.) to James A. Smart
"Very severe snow and wind storm on North shore Lake Superior and turning colder. Running plows and hope to get them through all right. Will keep you advised."

Telegram train No.3 - from White River, Ontario, Jan. 26, 1899
W. Anderson (Immig. agent) to Frank Pedley Supt. of Immigration.
"Arrived here one pm. Unable to go forward on account of snow storm. All well."

Telegram train No. 5 - from White River, Ontario, Jan. 26, 1899
J. McGovern (Immig. agent) to supervisor Frank Pedley
"First train making good time. Should reach Winnipeg 8 am Friday. Other four trains delayed by snow storm but doing fairly well now. Last one should arrive Winnipeg Saturday morning. Everything else satisfactory. People thoroughly contented."

And according to the McCreary report further below, McGovern's Train No.5 did arrive in Winnipeg, although at 5:30 rather the 8 am.

But this telegram reveals something else. It shows that Train No.1 successfully maneuvered through the snow storm and arrived at Winnipeg without mishap, but the following train, which was Sulerzhitsky's train (then No.2) may not have. Being the next train in line it would have encountered the brunt of the White River storm before the others, and the photograph in question possibly reveals the train just at that moment, stuck in the snow. Sulerzhitsky's account describes the struggle of its locomotive to free this train, and its effort to move ahead and clear the track to enable it and the others to resume their journey. McGovern's general annual report as a traveling agent on these trains, appears among others below, but it surprisingly has little to say about this incident, and he may in fact have not been aware of it. And indeed, although Anderson claims his train (No.3) was also held up, the remaining trains were not necessarily bunched up immediately in line behind these two, and could have passed through White River without specific incident.

The "final analysis" of the BC Archive Doukhobor train photograph

With Sulerzhitsky's detailed account of his train incident, and the aforementioned archival records in mind, it would appear that the train depicted in the photo was more likely than not, Sulerzhitsky's own train, Colonist Train No.2. The photographer remains unknown, and Sulerzhitsky by his own admission was not too enthusiastic about stepping outside into the winter cold to take one, so it could have been one of the other fearless occupants of the train, possibly agent Rankin, interpreter Klaas Peters, or perhaps Ms. Satz, the very capable Russian nurse. And it is also quite possible that Sulerzhitsky may not have even been aware of the very existence of this photograph. This may be substantiated to some extent in the original Russian version of his diary.

Readers that follow the story of Leopold Sulerzhitsky will know that his diary was first published in the Russian language in 1905, prior to its English translation in 1982. The Russian edition was illustrated with numerous interesting rare photographs collected from contemporaneous sources, but the BC Archive photograph was not among them. There was however another rarely seen photograph of a moving train featured as a title page image for a segment of this Russian book titled, "Первые дни в Канаде" (First Days in Canada). And the photo appears to have been associated with his January 17th (old calendar) diary entry, two to three days from St. John into the western journey. And assuming this was his train west, it would have been well beyond the Short Line, on the CPR mainline in the Ontario Laurentians. And sure enough, this particular photograph does depict a surrounding snowy winter terrain with Canadian Shield-like geological features, northern latitude spruce-like conifers and a mountain stream ... possibly near White River.

To conclude the focus on this subject, it may be that both of these photographs, from very different sources, depict the same Doukhobor colonist train, in motion and stopped dead in its tracks, in a similar location on the CPR railroad mainline. The Russian language edition of Sulerzhitsky's book itself including the photographs, can be found online here: (Link)

Colonist Train Snowstorm Warning Telegram

The Brownville train derailment

There was one telegram, and a later full report, regarding a derailment at Brownville Junction. Briefly also noted in Sulerzhitsky's diary, it was reported in local newspapers, and later more fully addressed in government agent Anderson's report, from which a short excerpt appears below.

Brownville derailment photo composite

"I regret to have to report that on entering Brownville on the border of the State of Maine, and just after crossing a bridge, an accident occurred, causing the total derailment of my train, every car leaving the track. I at once ran through the cars to ascertain what damage if any had been done, and can assure you it was with a glad heart that I discovered that excepting a general shaking up, the whole party had escaped unharmed. After securing quietness again among the people and assuring them that all was right, I started out to inspect the damage done to cars, etc., and found that notwithstanding our rough shaking, nothing more serious than a few steps gone and doors twisted. The steps were roughly repaired, the doors fixed as well as possible, which of course was but poorly, the cars again placed on the rails and after a delay of eleven hours, during which time two of the other specials came up and passed us, we again started on our journey West, but now (as) the third special (train) instead of the first. I might say that I notified Mr. Smart at St. John at once by wire as to the accident and results."

Of further note:
Other estimates of the number of displaced cars vary, but typically suggest less than 6 cars. But this report in fact claims it was the full train. And accounts of the resulting delay also vary between 3 and 6 hours, but this report refers to it as an 11 hour delay, which is somewhat surprising. Also of note, other reports indicate that this was not a snow-related mishap, but a rail switching matter, which would not have been surprising given the complexity of the trackage depicted in the Brownville postcard. The Brownville Junction was a significant intersection, and the CPR would have likely maintained heavy equipment there on site which could have been engaged to get the coaches back on track.


Canadian Immigration officials and accessing historical online records

After Canadian Confederation in 1867, immigration was generally handled jointly by both federal and provincial Departments of Agriculture. In 1893 its federal jurisdiction was assigned to the Department (Ministry) of the Interior and later in the early 1900s to the newly-created Department of Immigration and Colonization. In 1899 during the Doukhobor immigration, the Liberal Party was in charge of the Federal Government.

  • Wilfred Laurier was the Canadian Prime Minister
  • Clifford Sifton was his Minister of the Interior
  • James A. Smart was Deputy Minister of the Interior
  • Frank Pedley - the Superintendent of Immigration
  • and W. F. McCreary - the Commissioner of Immigration, Manitoba

Canadian Immigration Officials and Doukhobors
While the first two figures in this photo-composite were essentially politically in charge, the other three were the "boots on the ground" helping to implement the complex immigration arrangements made available to the Doukhobors. A detailed record of the Doukhobor journey to the prairies has been preserved on several microfilm reels by the federal government and they are now accessible online in the Canadiana Heritage repository. Much of Microfilm Reel No. C-7338, which includes 1646 records, deals with preparations for the initial arrival of the Doukhobors in 1899, and even a casual browsing of these records will reveal the extraordinary challenges and the often mundane but essential tasks left in the hands of these dedicated civil servants.

Leopold Sulerzhitsky particularly praises James Smart for his kindness and concern for the immigrants as he supervised their disembarkment from the SS Huron at Sand Point harbour .

"Now he stood among the sedately moving crowd of Doukhobors and glanced at them with proud satisfaction. He was so well-satisfied with the Doukhobors and the reception given them by the local population that he did not leave the warehouse all night while the disembarkation was in progress. He entered each departing train, smiled pleasantly and bowed to the departing people, or he went onto the ship and watched how some of the Doukhobors quickly took down the bunks and brought the lumber out of the decks and dropped it on the dock, or he looked into the deep hold where the Doukhobors were piling their baggage onto platforms which were unloaded by cranes onto the dock".

A small part of the enormous contribution of the immigration officials and their agents is revealed here in their own words in a selection of memos and reports transcribed from these records. The source files themselves can also be viewed online directly via link below.

The Heritage Canadiana website

Reel C-7338 - 1646 original online public source records


A selection of Doukhobor-related memos and immigration reports

  • Memo Frank Pedley to the Department of the Interior on equipping colonist trains
    C-7338-323 (Link)
  • Memo Frank Pedley to Smart - Duties of Government Agents in charge of trains
    C-7338-326 (Link)
  • Memo CPR Timmerman, Superintendent Atlantic Division - on equipping the colonist trains
    C-7338-463 (Link)
  • McCreary to Smart - Regarding Choice of Doukhobor Interpreters
    C-7338-334 (Link)
  • Report from McCreary to Smart - on Arrival of trains in Winnipeg
    C-7338-678 (Link)
  • Report from Agent Anderson to Pedley (Departure Train No.1) including derailment
    C-7338-741 (Link)
  • Report from Agent Akerlindh to Pedley (Departure Train No.2)
    C-7338-670 (Link)
  • Report from agent McGovern to Smart (Departure Train No. 5)
    Sessional Papers 1899 (Link)


CPR in the recent aftermath ... now a "Super" Transcontinental

Writers may well be running short of superlatives to describe the ever evolving giant CPR corporate enterprise. And any serious attempt to fully understand its long history, the complexity of its corporate structure, the tangled web of subsidiaries, sub-subsidiaries, partnerships, and its other business interrelationships, would undoubtedly be a head-spinning undertaking. Many writers suggest that its existence as such however, began to unravel in the mid-1990s when it began to divest itself of its assets piece by piece, including its ownership of the former Short Line "Megantic route". This route was handed off to the Canadian-American Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MM&A), which operated the line until the tragic explosion of 2013.

After that time and the bankruptcy of the MM&A, it appears that the CPR began reconstituting itself rather quietly until 2021, when it announced in dramatic fashion, its interest in a strategic business alliance with an American railway, the Kansas City Southern. The proposal then languished through the courts for a period of time until April 14, 2023, when the CPR 31 billion (US) dollar purchase of the southern line was formally announced, and the CPKC became a true "super" transcontinental. The announcement was worded in superlative fashion, as "the first and only single-line railway connecting Canada, the U.S. and Mexico" and it was celebrated, true to form, with the driving of a "final spike" in Kansas City, Missouri. (Link) The complete railway route was to span all of Canada west to east, from Vancouver to St. John, reach southward through the mid-western United States to the Gulf of Mexico, and then track further south to Mexico City. The potential economic effects associated with the extended North American supply chain arising from this merger are yet to be determined. The following map of the route is from a CPKC web page.

Map of CP-KCS rairoad


The ill-fated Short Line

On April 15, 2023, just a day after the aforementioned announcement, another derailment and fire occurred near Rockwood, Maine, on the former Short Line about 90 miles east of Megantic and 60 miles west of Brownville. This time it was a CPR freight train in its new incarnation as the CPKC railway, and three of its locomotive engines and six train cars went off the track. Three workmen were injured, but there were no deaths, and its cargo was fortunately less volatile, mostly lumber and wiring. There were drums of pentamethylheptane and ethanol reportedly on the train, but that hazardous cargo was miraculously not affected by the fire. The earlier Megantic explosion which did involve volatile petroleum cargo, contributed to an ongoing debate over public safety and the use of oil pipelines vs. rail tankers for the transport of petroleum, and that debate remains an uncomfortable conversation for Canadians and Americans to this day. The few derailments on the Short Line have unfortunately however, left a lasting unwelcome impression of it as an ill-fated railroad, which has otherwise served New Brunswick, all of eastern Canada and the State of Maine very well, for over 120 years.

CP-KCS rairoad derailment Jackman Maine 2023

A view of a train following derailment and fire near Rockwood, Maine, April 15, 2023. Photos by the Jack man - Moose River Fire & Rescue Department


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