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Doukhobor leader, Peter V. Verigin, was on his way from Canada to Oregon state when he died in a powerful CPR train explosion on October 29th, 1924, near Farron, a remote mountaintop railway station in southern British Columbia. This web page examines this ill-fated journey, its intended purpose and its sequential progress as it began at the Brilliant train station near Castlegar, B.C. on the night of October 28th, continued westward to the Farron Summit where he died early the next morning, and ended with his burial on a Brilliant hillside on November 2nd, 1924. A number of existing historical photographs, as well as maps and diagrams created for this web page, are used to illustrate this journey and Peter Verigin's Brilliant funeral.

Two additional web pages examine other aspects of the CPR Farron Explosion ... the CPR Kootenay Express train and Farron station (Link), and a collection of CPR records at the Penticton Museum dealing with its aftermath. (Link) These web pages do not attempt to resolve the century-old mystery of Peter Verigin's death, but they may contribute additional context surrounding the tragic event, and perhaps even raise additional questions.

Readers unfamiliar with Doukhobor history may be somewhat confused by numerous references to the "CCUB" acronym on these web pages. The term refers to the "Community" Doukhobors, largest of the three main sub-groups of Doukhobors in Canada, the others being the Independent Doukhobors and the Sons of Freedom. "Community" Doukhobor properties and assets in the three western provinces were incorporated as the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. (CCUB) in 1917, with shareholders, an elected Board of Directors and a Company President, Peter V. Verigin. In British Columbia, Verigin had initially purchased many parcels of land under his own title for the benefit of the wider community, but on becoming the first president, he transferred these titles to the CCUB after its incorporation.

Preliminary Oregon travelling arrangements and itinerary

The general destination of Peter V. Verigin's October 28/29 journey appears to have been south of the international border to Washington and Oregon state. The plan was to first travel west from Brilliant to Grand Forks by train on October 28/29th, then south to Spokane, Washington, also by train on November 6th, and then presumably beyond that point by motor car to the Doukhobor settlements at Eugene, and possibly the city of Portland, Oregon. The only rail route south across the border from Grand Forks to Spokane would have been on James Hill's old Great Northern VV&E rails to Cascade, then Marcus, Washington, and then south to the GN depot at Hillyard in Spokane.

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Top left and bottom: Peter V. Verigin's last outdoor Community meeting just a few weeks before his death, at the Kootenay River oxbow, near its confluence with the Columbia River, Sept. 24, 1924. This was a spacious site in Ootischenia where numerous gatherings often took place on special occasions. The moments and panoramic vistas here were captured by professional photographers, the Trail Hughes Bros. and the Nelson Campbell Studio. At right: Peter V. Verigin with his personal assistant, Mary Strelaeff. This photograph was taken not long before their departure to Spokane on October 28th, 1924, and their untimely death.

On October 23rd, 1924, Peter Verigin made arrangements with two other men to meet with him in Spokane on November 6th. A Nelson resident, Mr. Baskin, who was in the lumber business, and also Verigin's good friend, was to travel south by his own means on a vehicle or train. The other gentleman was Bill Lazareff, a Doukhobor from Trail, BC, where he was a manager of CCUB operations from the community office there. He had only recently returned from Portland, Oregon, where his automobile had required mechanical repairs and was left behind. He was instructed to return, in advance of their appointment, to retrieve his vehicle and wait for the other two, Verigin and Baskin, at Spokane on November 6th. They were to co-ordinate and update this arrangement by telephone if need be.

All that of course was rendered irrelevant after October 29th, 1924.

The Doukhobor Oregon Connection ...

Doukhobor journeys south of the border to Oregon in the early decades of the 1900s were not uncommon, for both collective groups and individuals, including Peter V. Verigin. The following paragraphs will briefly examine the historical significance of Oregon in Doukhobor affairs at that time, with a look at two failed attempts at group settlement, and a number of CCUB financial connections.

Current map of Washington and Oregon State, showing the location of two historic Doukhobor settlement experiments, in Peoria and Eugene, Oregon. - adapted from Ron Verzuh's article on Doukhobors in Oregon.

Oregon Doukhobor Settlement initiatives

The most comprehensive online source of information on this topic is a 2013/14 BC STUDIES paper, "Oregon’s Doukhobors: The Hidden History of a Russian Religious Sect’s Attempts to Found Colonies in the Beaver State", by a Simon Fraser University academic, and former Kootenay-Boundary resident and historian, Ron Verzuh. It happens to be available online and can be viewed here: (Link)

The following paragraphs look briefly at the two "Beaver State Colonies" discussed, with a particular interest in the 1924 Oregon settlement.

1913 - The first effort to create an actual full time settlement in Oregon state occurred in 1913 when a group of Saskatchewan independent-minded Doukhobors chose the fertile Willamette River Valley south of Portland as a potentially suitable location for their agricultural pursuits in a more favourable climate, and away from the oversight of Peter Verigin's leadership. Land was purchased by the Doukhobors in Peoria and settlement of a dozen or so families continued there for a number of years. They named their settlement "Koloniya Svobodi" or the "Freedom Colony" to demonstrate its independence. Native Oregonians were initially curious, but cautious, about their strange new neighbours, but their reserved curiosity gradually turned into skepticism, then outright resistance by certain members of the local community. The settlers did little to obscure their ethnicity and their "common" village settlement pattern. But for many Oregonians at that time, during the First World War, the very word "common" was too easily conflated with "communism", and this did not bode well for the new settlement. Families were forced to forfeit and vacate their newly purchased properties on a legal technicality and the Peoria settlement collapsed after only five or so years.

1924 - The second attempt at Oregon settlement was made near the city of Eugene, in 1923-24, initiated by Peter V. Verigin himself, in his role as CCUB President. His long-term intentions in Oregon were seemingly not well publicly articulated, and the purchase of property was initially only vaguely reported in the newspapers as either a simple investment, or a place for experimental agricultural pursuits by only a few families, "growing almonds, filberts and walnuts".

Some writers have however speculated that Verigin may have looked to Oregon as a means of escape or a refuge from the turmoil facing the CCUB at home in British Columbia. And there were indeed ongoing issues between the Doukhobors and the BC Government on the schools question, particularly when Sons of Freedom protestors began burning school houses and other CCUB properties in 1922, while government officials ignored Verigin's appeals for law enforcement.

There were also possible economic considerations. By the early 1920s, the rapid growth of the CCUB communal enterprise in British Columbia, had in a sense outpaced itself, and it became apparent that acquiring land and investing in capital infrastructure, would not in itself put sufficient food on membership tables in the short term. Seeking a means of financial relief, the CCUB approached the BC government to recover a portion of the cost of its investment in its infrastructure, most notably the building of roads and bridges, seeking compensation for their shared general public use. With little interest in Victoria for this notion, there is good reason to believe that Peter Verigin invisioned a CCUB expansion into Oregon, as at least a partial solution to some of these looming problems.

However, various interests in Oregon (as reported in Oregon newspapers at the time), viewed these circumstances from a very different perspective. They saw them as a dire indication that a southern exodus of the entire Doukhobor community may have been imminent, something that these influential interest groups vehemently opposed.

Locating the "Druzhelyubnaya Dolina" or "Friendly Valley".

Peter Verigin found 875 acres of suitable settlement land available in Lane County, 40 miles south of Peoria, and 8 miles southwest of Eugene. In the following photograph, a small rural highway near that point leads diagonally south from State Hwy 126, and a narrow paved road, "Dukhobar" Road, branches right and skirts a forested slope westward through a portion of what were the Doukhobor settlement lands. It then returns to the highway about a mile further south.

(Link to Google Street View)

The Oregon Friendly Farm

Multiple Oregon newspapers in 1924 referred to the Verigin property purchase as the former "old Friendly farm of 800 acres, on Crow road". Other references further reveal that the owner of the Friendly farm was a Mr. Samson H. Friendly. Mr. Friendly was a prominent Eugene town citizen and businessman, and did not appear to be a farmer, although he is reported to have leased his farmland property to others for "tilling the soil". A sawmill was also operational on this property for the purpose of milling railroad ties for the Southern Pacific Railroad. In the downtown district of Eugene, Mr. Friendly was a well known and respected owner of an established retail merchandising business, in partnership with a brother-in-law. Also a city council member and later the Mayor of Eugene between 1893-1895, he promoted and assisted with the development of the University of Oregon for the city, serving as a Regent on its Board of Directors for years afterward. He was also briefly an Oregon State Republican Senator. A current Eugene street and a "Friendly Neighbourhood", as seen on a map below, are named in Mr. Friendly's honor. (More on S.H. Friendly)

Samuel Friendly died in 1915, after which time his farmland could have become available for sale, and was possibly purchased directly from his estate by Edward and Susanna Graf, then residents of Monroe, Oregon (more on this couple to follow). And it was this property, that was ultimately resold to Peter V. Verigin on January 19, 1924.

The "Friendly" farm name is of further interest as it may well have later influenced the naming of the 1924 Doukhobor Oregon settlement as the "Druzhelyubnaya Dolina" or "Friendly Valley". Another explanation of the name however, can also be found in the Ron Verzuh paper (footnote 131) which cites a gazetteer reference on Jonathan Kalmakoff's Doukhobor Genealogy website, in which the name was said to have been conceived by Peter Verigin, as a gesture of good will on his part towards a group of Molokans living nearby, who he'd invited to join in forming a unified "friendly" colony with the new Doukhobor settlers.

The Friendly Valley Colony Township and Section co-ordinates

The same gazetteer entry also included geographical co-ordinates for this "Friendly Valley", putting it approximately 3 miles north of the Eugene city-centre, at 44° 1' N - 123° 13' W. This location is seemingly not quite accurate, and more research would certainly be necessary to determine the actual location and size of individual parcels that constituted the 875 acres. But there may already be available evidence for a bit of speculation, a common practise on several of these web pages.

An Oregon court case document involving the purchase of these settlement properties, reveals a specific legal description of the parcel(s), or at least partially, as "township 18 * * *". The asterisks in the paper appear to be redactions, but the "Township 18" term is a significant legal description for the north-south location of the properties. Combining this information with the known reference to "Crow Road" as the location of the original S.H. Friendly farmland, and the location of the current "Dukhobar" Road, we can arrive at a reasonably close estimation of their location.

The "Druzhelyubnaya Dolina" or "Friendly Valley" settlement would most likely have been in Township 18 South, Range 4 West, of the Willamette Principal Meridian, primarily within Section 6. The above contemporary map reveals 36 numbered sections in Township 18 South, and not unlike those of the Western Canadian DLS prairie surveys, each section is a square mile enclosing 640 acres. Doing the math, we can immediately see that the 875 acre property in its totality would necessarily have had to spill over into adjacent sections. The property would also have likely been subdivided into smaller parcels to some extent, before the Verigin purchase.

The Friendly Valley mortgage

Footnote 111 of the Verzuh paper identifies a number of useful details about these property purchases.

"A warranty deed filed with Lane County clerk R.S. Bryson on 6 February 1924 shows that the
Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. bought about 520 acres (210 hectares)
of land from Edward and Susanna Graf on the periphery of Eugene on 19 January 1924. The
warranty deed was notarized by Charles A. Hardy and deposited with the Lane County Deeds
and Records Office at Eugene, Oregon. It is possible that Verigin bought other parcels of
land totalling 875 acres (350 hectares), but no additional deeds have been uncovered thus far".

We now further know that this purchase involved a mortgage agreement between Mr. Verigin, on behalf of the CCUB, and Mr. Graf, the agreement specifying a series of six payments to Edward Graf between the years 1924 and 1929. But unfortunately, there appears to have been an irregularity with the final payment, which was to haunt the CCUB in later years after the death of Peter Verigin. The mortgage details and the circumstances will be discussed further on this web page.

The Oregon KKK (Klu Klux Klan) and the Doukhobors

The timing of Peter Verigin's interest in Oregon in 1923-24, as it turned out, was quite unfortunate, as the state had just then, two or three years earlier, experienced a resurgence of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. This movement initially emerged in the southern United States in the 1860s after the American Civil War, when its white-robed and hooded Klansmen performed secretive cross-burnings and lynchings, and stirred up hatred and violence directed at African Americans. The activities of the KKK were eventually suppressed by federal legislation in 1871, and it was largely dormant as a movement in the decades afterwards. But in 1921 a new variant resurfaced in a few northern states that offered fertile ground for its revival. Oregon was such a state, largely populated by native-born, white conservative, mostly Protestant and proudly American nationalist citizens. There was also a small minority of African Americans, but they were not the intended targets.

This version 2.0 KKK variant directed its ill intentions and wrath on Roman Catholics, Jews, Eastern European immigrants and Asians, who were thought to harbour un-American attitudes. It was however strategically less violent than its post civil war predecessor, exerting its influence institutionally and culturally rather than by obvious vigilantism, quietly promoting its ultraconservative and religious right values and using every available opportunity to influence state or municipal government laws or policies in its favour. During its height, there were reported to be 30,000 Klan members in 50 chapters or klaverns across the state, including Eugene's Chapter 3. This klavern had only 158 members but it was well organized, actively and openly soliciting membership from sympathetic or vulnerable prominent white Eugene local businessmen, municipal government officials, service clubs and school boards. Promotional hooded parades on Eugene streets and fiery crosses on Skinner Butte overlooking town, were not uncommon between 1921 and 1924, while normal citizens either overlooked or even indulged these activities. The following photograph of such a parade in Ashland, Oregon, in a more southerly county, reminds us of the unnerving spectacle.

Klu Klux Klan parade in Ashland, further south in Jackson County, Oregon. Ben Bruce, in his article, "The Rise and Fall of The Ku Klux Klan in Oregon in the 1920s", describes the occasional kidnapping and "Necktie Party" in this klavern in the 1920s, although there were no reported victim deaths. - photo Oregon Historical Society Research Library bb002067

Eugene in 1920 was the third largest city in Oregon, after Portland and Salem, with a population of 10,000. A prosperous and vibrant city, its population was relatively middle-class, very literate, culturally sophisticated and well informed, with the University of Oregon housed near its city centre. The city's prosperity was also fueled by a highly developed lumbering and agricultural processing industry, with several saw and planer mills, box factories, canneries, creameries and flour mills located in the near vicinity. Local land agents praised the favourable climate and farmland surrounding Eugene as a virtual agricultural paradise, where "the soil produced four-pound potatoes, thirty-pound cabbages, and cornstalks fourteen feet high".

Eugene downtown Willamette Blvd. in 1921, looking northward toward Skinner Butte, named after Eugene Skinner, an early 1840s pioneer in the time of Lewis and Clark. Skinner Butte was chosen as an ideal location for a symbolic KKK cross, to be fire-lit on special occasions in the 1920s. The letters KKK, outlined in white stone, are faintly visible in the distance at the top of the Butte. - photo dailyemerald.com archives

Oregon newspapers closely monitored Peter Verigin's recent 875 acre property purchase near Eugene, as did a powerful Eugene constituency of KKK Klansmen, Lions Club members and American Legionnaires, who arguably shared similar sentiments, suspicious of the motives and plans of this Doukhobor intrusion into their local society. Certain more outspoken agitators exaggerated the supposed threat expressed in local rumours that Lane County would soon be overpopulated with thousands of these decidedly un-American Russian speaking pacifists. The heightened awareness of this perceived imminent threat to the stability of their society, caused a shift in public opinion against the Doukhobors, made clear in speeches at public meetings and newspaper editorials, despite assurances from Peter Verigin and other Doukhobor spokesmen, that there was nothing to fear.

The Peter Verigin land purchase was however undisputed and five or more B.C. families began their settlement there in March 1924, assuming it was to be a "Friendly Valley", undoubtedly underestimating the local resistance to it. Peter Verigin however maintained contact and friendly business relations with Edward Graf that year, and returned to Oregon on business or financial matters as needed. But the persistent opposition to his planned Doukhobor settlement in Oregon, was considered by subsequent inquiries, along with several other possibilities, as a motivation for his death in Canada a few months later in 1924.

In the later 1920s, the Klan headquarters in Portland was struggling with its own internal dysfunction, and the influence of the KKK was beginning to wane statewide. Nonetheless, the damage was done.

Facing the reality of their circumstances, the Eugene colonists gradually began moving away after 1925 and the Oregon CCUB property was unoccupied for a number of years. In 1933 the CCUB Board of Directors authorized members Alex Kholodinin and Joseph Shukin to visit Oregon to investigate a possible lease or sale of the Eugene lands, but they were not actually sold until 1939, when Mr. Wasily Gleboff, an independent Doukhobor from Brilliant, B.C., purchased them for later resale.

Edward Graf - Peter Verigin's Oregon business associate

We will not likely ever know the full details of Edward Graf's business relationship with Peter Verigin in Oregon. But there seems to be no doubt, that as a non-Doukhobor, he has played an unusually influential role, assisting the Doukhobor leader with his aspirations and the formulation of strategies for their fulfillment. This web page will focus on another important business arrangement between Mr. Graf and Mr. Verigin that has perhaps received the least public attention, but which had the most to do with Peter Verigin's actual purpose in visiting Oregon, when he died at Farron on October 29, 1924.

The following paragraphs will first review a few known details about Edward Graf personally, and contribute a few possibly unknown details about the Graf family that may be of interest.

Edward and Susanna are referenced multiple times in the Ron Verzuh Oregon paper, and Footnote 110 reveals the following details about Edward:

"Born in 1875, Graf was an ethnic German from Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to Canada via the port of New York in 1891, according to information on border crossing cards acquired by Jonathan Kalmakoff. He farmed in Swalwell, Alberta, until 1921, when he moved to Monroe, Oregon. He likely spoke Russian, which would undoubtedly have assisted him as Verigin’s business manager. Elsewhere, Graf is referred to as Verigin’s “business representative.”

At left: Edward Graf (1875-1943) and Susanna Graf (1877- 1946), married in Russia, Oct 10, 1895.
At centre:
Susanna Graf (Krause).   At right: Edward's father, Friedrich Ernst Louis Graf (1843-1919).

A working business relationship between Peter Verigin and Edward Graf continued in the following months beyond the January 19th land acquisition, suggesting that it was also one of mutual trust and respect. Their relationship may have also been strengthened by common historical experiences and values. They shared a common fluency in the Russian language, and possibly similar experiences as immigrants to the Canadian prairies, formerly displaced from their Russian homelands, albeit in different ways. The Grafs settled in Swalwell Alberta, which was home to various groups of Evangelical Mennonite Brethren (now in Linden), including over a dozen families from Russia. And although there is no actual evidence to support it, there is a possibility that the Grafs may have been part of that community, or at least may have sympathized with aspects of their faith. And Mennonites are well known to have shared similar pacifist values with the Doukhobors.

Before coming to America, Edward and Susanna Graf lived in the Village of Karpov, as did their parents, in the Kherson Govt. district of Russia (now Ukraine), about 30 miles inland, north-west of Odessa. Family records reveal that they were of German ethnicity, and this region along the north coast of the Black Sea, was a common destination and refuge for German colonists, who were first invited to these sparsely populated steppe lands over two hundred years ago, after they were taken from the Ottoman Empire by Catherine the Great, who was herself of German ethnicity. Not unlike the later Mennonites and Doukhobors in the Molochnaya Crimea (Milky Waters), the resourceful German colonists soon adapted to the land and the climate, by breeding Merino sheep and herding them for their quality wool as a livelihood, later bringing their acquired skills with them across the Atlantic to the dry-land American prairies, including those of southern Alberta.

An excellent 1976 university thesis by Gary Dean Fry, available online, contains the following references to Molochnaya Mennonites, Doukhobors and Merino sheep (pg.335): (Link)

Merino sheep were introduced into the area at the state’s request in the early nineteenth century by a Frenchman named Reuvere, and St. Petersburg continued to encourage sheep breeding throughout the first half of the century. The Mennonites maintained large flocks of Merinos and moreover, possessed a "large cloth manufactory" which was profitably managed by an Englishman. And in all probability, Doukhobor flocks also contained valuable Merinos purchased from the Mennonites, with an island in the Molochnaia River of 1,000 desiatinas serving as winter pasture.

This information about sheep may appear to be somewhat irrelevant, but it will be of later Oregon significance in a following segment of this web page.

A 1906 Canadian Census reveals that Edward, Susanna and three young children, George, William and young Edward, immigrated to Canada in 1902, and Edward's younger brother, Frederick, also joined them in Canada three years later in 1905. The aforementioned Footnote 110, claims it was 1891, but that could have been the year of their entry to the United States. Like many other south European immigrants, the Grafs could have first attempted settlement in the United States in the Dakotas, prior to coming to Canada. The Canadian 1906 census found the family farming at Rawdonville Alberta (later to be renamed Swalwell), not far north-west of Calgary, with 8 horses, 4 milk cows and 54 head of cattle. The Grafs were seemingly serious farmers, here in Alberta.

According to family records, the Graf family and Frederick, Edward's younger brother, returned to Russia in 1911 to presumably visit their parents and their homeland. Frederick however remained in Russia and was said to have been shot by the Bolsheviks in 1919. The later 1916 Canadian census found the Graf family, now with additional children, still living near Calgary, possibly Swalwell. It's interesting to note that the CCUB Doukhobors also maintained communities in southern Alberta at that exact time, and if the Grafs read newspapers, they would have most certainly been aware of them, and of Peter Verigin's leadership.

The Grafs then later also acquired a residence in Monroe, Oregon in 1921 for a period of time, where they purchased additional lands nearby and made one or more of their properties available for purchase, including the aforementioned acreage to Peter Verigin and the CCUB. Edward and Susanna both died in Alberta in the 1940s, while many of their descendants still live in Western Canada.

The purpose of Peter Verigin's final ill-fated October journey

Peter Verigin, the CCUB Company president, was known to be a pragmatic leader, financially savvy and a creative visionary, well enough informed to personally research potential opportunities for the benefit of the larger Doukhobor community. Once a particular opportunity looked promising, CCUB directors  and clerical employees would then take charge of its implementation, in consultation with non-doukhobor participants when necessary, and his presence would not necessarily be required until the final paperwork.

In the 1980s, the Doukhobor EKCIR Inquiry (Link) examined one such 1924 Oregon business arrangement, that involved Edward Graf, and did require Peter Verigin's ultimate presence and signature, which entailed a personal visit from Canada. And it was this particular visit that turned out to be his last "earthly journey".

The William E. Jmaiff papers, the Mennonites and the Oregon textile factory

The details of this curious Oregon initiative were presented to the EKCIR in the form of a three page handwritten statement in the Russian language, dated April 13, 1985, by a Mr. William E. Jmaiff, whose father, Eli W. Jmaiff, a respected CCUB manager in the forestry industry, was sent to Eugene in the earlier stages of the Eugene Oregon settlement by Peter Verigin himself in March 1924. His statement was translated by Mr. J. McIntosh and presented by the USCC representatives during an EKCIR session in Castlegar on June 18, 1985. Digital copies of the translated document and relevant portions of the transcripts, were contributed for use on this web page, by former EKCIR member, D.E. (Jim) Popoff, and a copy of the original Russian handwritten statement was provided by Wm. E. Jmaiff's son, Larry W. Jmaiff, of Grand Forks, B.C.

The following paragraphs paraphrase their content ...

Mr. William Jmaiff's statements described a visit by Peter V. Verigin to his father's home near Eugene in March 1924, accompanied by Edward Graf, who by then had become a business associate. They discussed in Mr. Eli Jmaiff's presence, a potential and somewhat unusual four party financial arrangement involving the loan of a million dollars, to be negotiated with the First National Bank in Portland. The bank had appraised the holdings of the CCUB at $8,000,000 and was seemingly satisfied with available CCUB assets as collateral, and the loan was to be repaid with proceeds from the sale of certain Doukhobor properties in Alberta worth that equivalent amount. The Alberta lands were formerly acquired for CCUB Doukhobor settlement and development in 1915, to diversify its greater communal needs, but it is unclear just which of these properties were to be sold. The Oregon bank funds were then, in the meantime, to be invested in capital infrastructure to sustain the possible settlement and development of these new Oregon farmlands. Mr. Graf proposed a means by which this could be accomplished.

Previously living in Alberta, he was aware that thousands of Mennonites were desperate to leave the Soviet Union after the Bolshevik Revolution, many seeking refuge in western Canada. He could make arrangements with them to purchase Alberta CCUB Doukhobor lands on term payments, which could then be redirected toward the repayment of the bank loan, to be arranged by Verigin and Graf, on behalf of the CCUB. Peter Verigin was exploring the use of these funds to build an experimental wool and linen textile weaving factory on the newly purchased Oregon lands, taking advantage of historic Doukhobor sheep breeding and management skills, which were first acquired from possibly many of these same Crimean Mennonites in their mutually adjacent "Milky Water" settlements prior to the 1840s, and later honed in their Transcaucasian sojourns. Mr. Graf felt this would be an excellent business opportunity, with a probable degree of success, potentially equal to that of the Brilliant jam factory, with its nation-wide Canadian acclaim. And he would be prepared to take care of the financial details and payment arrangements, as an intermediary between the Mennonites and the Oregon Bank on behalf of the Doukhobors, on a commission basis. An advance portion of the commission was offered on the spot by Mr. Verigin, but it was declined by Mr. Graf, until this verbal agreement could be concluded and finalized on paper in a "brotherly manner".

This writer is not aware of any other public records or internal CCUB documents detailing this specific agreement. But the general notion of Peter Verigin's plan to migrate at least a part of his CCUB members to Oregon as a satellite community (beginning with the Alberta settlements), is quite well known in Doukhobor oral history, and is briefly referred to by various published sources.

In any case, it can be assumed that the preliminary research, consultation and paperwork by Mr. Graf, who was entrusted with this task as described by Mr. Jmaiff, would have undoubtedly required at least several months. It would not be unreasonable to expect that these arrangements could have been completed by mid-October, when the final paperwork would have been ready and waiting for Peter Verigin's signature.

And this was, according to Mr. William E. Jmaiff, the actual intended purpose of his visit from Canada, when he died en route near Farron on October 29th, 1924.

Edward Graf at Peter Verigin's funeral, and the Oregon court case ...

Edward Graf is identified here at Peter V. Verigin's funeral in Brilliant, B.C., on November 2, 1924. He is thought to be the goateed, taller man seen at left, in the black overcoat with white shirt and black tie. The full version of this Hughes Bros. photograph, including a link to the identities of all front-row service attendees, appears later on this page here. (Link) Edward is also seen later on this web page in another Hughes photograph of a traditional memorial service taken six weeks afterwards .

Edward Graf came from Oregon to Peter Verigin's Brilliant funeral on November 2nd, and according to the Nelson Daily News, spoke publicly in his honor. But the CCUB directors, in private discussions with Mr. Graf, informed him that more research would be required before they could embrace Peter Verigin's Oregon vision and sign any papers. After six weeks, CCUB Vice President M. W. Kazakoff travelled to Eugene, as did Edward Graf, to investigate the CCUB properties and discuss the final arrangements. It appears that the discussions did not end well, as the bank loan and Oregon-Alberta arrangements were effectively cancelled. Edward Graf's duly earned commission was also not granted, but he certainly had no cause to fault the late Doukhobor leader, as a former business associate. But according to Mr. Jmaiff, he (Mr. Graf) did initiate legal charges against the CCUB about six weeks prior to Christmas in 1928, to try "collect (commission) payment for his efforts".

In reality, it does indeed appear that Mr. Graf was not about to abandon his unrealized commission, as he later made an attempt to acquire compensation for it. And there was to be legal action ... albeit not quite as described by Mr. Jmaiff.

Christian Brotherhood v. Graf

While researching this segment of the web page, a previously unknown document was uncovered that describes how this may have come about. To better understand its contents, we need to temporarily set aside the "Jmaiff" Alberta-Oregon agreement, and return to the initial Peter Verigin Eugene property purchase and its mortgage. The document reveals additional details about this mortgage, and refers to a number of legal proceedings surrounding its troubled fulfillment. And "following the money" in this document is admittedly not an easy task, as the account of the proceedings is presented in a "legalese" foreign language. The next few paragraphs are a brief personal interpretation of the contents, while the full document itself can be found here for legal minds and other researchers to interpret. (Link)

The document reveals that the mortgage agreement between Mr. Verigin, and Mr. Graf, constituted a series of six negotiable promissory notes that were payable by the CCUB Doukhobors (as payers), to Mr. Graf, (as a payee). It should be noted that Mrs. Graf was also an equal partner with Edward in these arrangements. The payments were to be made consecutively on the first day of December of each year beginning with the year 1924 and ending with the year 1929. The promissory notes seem to have been "negotiable", allowing Mr. Graf to transfer them to a third or fourth party, without necessarily having to forewarn or even notify Mr. Verigin (or the CCUB). And this may understandably, have opened the door to a great deal of complexity and confusion regarding the mortgage payments.

In this instance, Mr. Graf negotiated or transferred the first five notes to an unnamed Oregon bank (likely the Eugene First National). He may have however, retained a certain interest in these notes, if only as a means of collecting payments from the CCUB as an intermediary. Matters were additionally complicated during the course of these events, when a Mr. S. Mogensen, an astute bank employee, also purchased, or had the final note transferred from the bank to himself personally, whereby he would then own the indebtedness of the CCUB.

After Peter Verigin's funeral, the CCUB directors maintained their outstanding mortgage obligations on the properties in good faith (through Edward Graf) and in this manner, all went reasonably well until the final of six payments became due on November 23, 1928 (approx. same date as claimed by Mr. Jmaiff). According to the court document, this final payment could also have been considered well paid, "if it were only paid to the right person", raising the question ... in which "person's" hands did this final payment ultimately reside?

Mr. Graf had typically in the past, been sent to Brilliant, B.C. to collect these mortgage payments in person, as was the case for collecting the last payment. Although the funds were paid to him there by the CCUB, it appears that his receipt had been crafted in such a way to appear as though the funds were paid to himself personally, rather than to the actual intended recipient. And there are indications that on his return to Oregon, Mr. Graf may have mis-directed or misappropriated these funds for his own financial benefit, although admittedly, the characterization of this maneuver in legalese, is not perfectly clear.

Assuming that they had now fully satisfied their payment obligations (via Graf's payment) to finally cancel their mortgage, CCUB financial officers were surprised to find that their final payment was not actually received, and the mortgage could thereby not be cancelled. They suspected malfeasance and initiated legal proceedings against Mr. Graf, who was oddly by that time, back in Canada, and was not called as a witness, nor was his deposition requested. On his part, Mr. Mogensen, who was also frustrated that his expected payment was not forthcoming from the CCUB, also filed his own cross-complaint. According to the court document, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in his favour, obligating the CCUB Doukhobors to repay their mortgage indebtedness for a second time, on October 20, 1931. In this way, the mortgage may have entailed seven rather than six payments, one of which was presumably misappropriated along the way.

In the end, if Mr. Graf did in fact benefit from these legal maneuvers, he may have felt rightfully entitled to these funds as compensation for his involvement in the Oregon-Alberta affair, even if it was resolved in such a roundabout "un-brotherly manner".  

The identity of the Oregon bank in question became apparent on a year-end CCUB Financial Statement listing of Company liabilities on December 31, 1928. It revealed a sum of $5,317.00 owed to the Eugene First National Bank of Oregon.

Peter Verigin and other CCUB financial interests in Oregon

As with the initial 875 acre mortgage in Eugene, not all financial negotiations or agreements in Oregon went smoothly or achieved fruition, including two other such loans referenced in Steve Lapshinoff's book, Documentary Report on Doukhobor Lands in British Columbia. There is no evidence to suggest that these loans had any possible connection with the previous Edward Graf & Eugene bank mortgage.

The Oregon Guaranty Trust Loan and the Ralph Schneeloch Loan

CCUB negotiations began in the spring of 1924 with a Mr. G.R. Parks, of the Guaranty Trust Company in Portland Oregon, for a loan of 1.5 million dollars. The bond company understood that the intended purpose of the loan was to consolidate various other smaller scattered CCUB loans and overdue tax obligations into a single larger loan. These talks continued over the summer, when an Oregon newspaper, the Oregon Daily Journal, found Peter V. Verigin in Portland on August 15, 1924, with Edward Graf, as his Russian interpreter and now his business representative, in conference with Guaranty Trust company officials. But despite the assurance of the premier of British Columbia himself, that the Doukhobors were trustworthy, these arrangements did not appear to have been productive, as negotiations were soon underway with a second Portland firm, the Ralph Schneeloch Loan Company. And these negotiations were unfortunately interrupted when Peter Verigin died on October 29th.

An interesting transcription of a related telegram from a Nelson B.C. MLA, Kenneth Campbell (Link) to his Liberal Premier, John Oliver, on this matter, appears in Steve Lapshinoff's book. Mr. Campbell is also discussed in a later segment of this web page as a partner in a Nelson Monument Works. (Link)

Other than the above comments regarding the expected arrival of a representative from an unspecified Portland bond house to Nelson on November 8th, little else is known about these particular financial negotiations. We do know however, that Mr. Schneeloch wired his condolences to Brilliant after the death and funeral of Peter Verigin, and that loan discussions with his firm and the CCUB continued only weeks afterwards. CCUB shareholders enacted a by-law at their annual meeting on the 17th day of December, 1924, to authorize a loan agreement with the Company for the sum of $1,250,000.

But by the summer of 1925, it became clear that neither of these two initiatives were of any consequence as the CCUB Directors once again turned to the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada for necessary funding - a fateful process that would eventually lead to the CCUB bankruptcy in 1938.

As it turned out, the "Oregon Episode" in the CCUB story did not fulfill any of the visionary plans that may have been conceived by Peter V. Verigin. Speculation is still quite open, however, as to what role the Oregon initiative may have played in Peter Verigin's death.


A sequential look at the ill-fated journey on the Kootenay Express ...

Note: A wider view of the map below, as well as an actual Kootenay Express Train 11 timetable can also be viewed on a subsequent web page (Link) to better track this journey from Brilliant to Grand Forks. Also on that page - a detailed map of the Farron Station and yards (Link).

Kootenay Express Train 11, with steam locomotive D9c No.582 and 4 coaches ... a mail car, baggage car, day coach, and sleeper, began its journey westward from Nelson to Midway at 9:05 pm on October 28th, 1924. In charge of the train were William Harkness (Engineer), and his fireman (Munroe), J. Turner (Conductor), J. Brennan (Baggage man), and W. Marquis (Trainman), although also on board as a passenger, was pusher Engineer, A. J. Blaney, on his way only as far as Farron, to relieve another engineer taken ill at the station.

Peter Verigin and his female personal assistant, Mary Strelaeff, boarded First Class Day Coach No.1586 at the Brilliant Station at approximately 10:00 pm.

Brilliant CPR Station, at left.  Castlegar CPR Station at its earliest location, at right.

Their journey then crossed the Columbia River bridge to Castlegar at approximately 10:20 pm, where Peter Verigin's luggage was brought on board, and the train then continued westward toward West Robson along the south-western bank of the Lower Arrow Lake to Labarth. The next leg of the journey to Farron would involve a high altitude ascent on a 2.2 % grade, and longer passenger trains and heavier freight trains would normally require the assistance of a second helper engine or pusher. Pushers were kept year round at Farron to assist these heavier trains up the grade in either direction, and return trip turnarounds or wyes were available at Labarth, Farron and Grand Forks. This short Kootenay Express passenger Train 11, would not however, require a pusher. The train then began the gradual climb upwards to the Farron (Paulson) Summit, stopping momentarily at a flag stop near the Bulldog Tunnel to pick up three Doukhobor section workers. It then reached the Farron Station at an elevation of 3976 feet at approximately 12:45 am on October 29th.  At Farron, the trainmen connected a waiting cafe parlor car (diner) to the Kootenay Express train with the aid of A. J. Blaney's pusher, then helped to take on water, check brakes and connections, to prepare the train for the next leg of the journey downward to Cascade. The Kootenay Express then left Farron toward Grand Forks, now with 5 coaches, at approximately 1:00 am, with 22 people in the passenger coach and others in the sleeper car behind.

CPR Day Coach No.1586 exploded just minutes later approximately one mile west of the Farron station.

The rapid response of the engineers, trainmen and station workers at Farron, in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, was a demonstration of their acquired expertise and professionalism. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, they did their best to tend to the injured, then wired Nelson and Grand Forks to inform them of the disastrous explosion. But nothing else was touched until the early morning and the arrival of a coroner, and Provincial Police personnel. The burning car was then separated from the train and pulled back to a short spur near the station, and the undamaged coaches were quickly rearranged in order to dispatch the casualties. Four bodies, including that of Peter Verigin, as well as a number of injured passengers were unceremoniously placed in the baggage car, while the uninjured passengers from the day coach and sleeper, were placed in the diner which was connected to the baggage car. As the damaged track was repaired, this short train was then allowed to proceed to Grand Forks. Other severely injured passengers were then directed to the Nelson hospital by an onsite pusher engine (operated by the same engineer A. J. Blaney), and the reassigned sleeper, some passengers unfortunately dying en route. These maneuvers were accomplished even as additional relief trains and official forensic inspection tours began arriving on the scene, while a passing track was made available to accommodate regular through freight traffic.

At Castlegar, the sleeper with the injured passengers was met and reattached to another Special Train to Nelson, on which were Drs. Eaton and Bennett and two nurses from the Kootenay Lake General hospital, Miss Cromdice and Miss N. Smith.

Kootenay Express Train 11 configuration before and after the explosion ...

The following drawing was prepared to illustrate the arrangement of affected railway cars. Click the drawing to view an enlargement.

First Official CPR Accident Report ...

From the Nelson CPR Divisional Superintendent, Walter O. Miller, dated 13K, OCT 29, 1924

About the Superintendent ... Walter Oscar Miller was first employed with the CPR in 1884 at the age of 22, initially as a dispatcher at Yale on the Trans-Canada CPR mainline. He was later an Agent in Kamloops and then a Superintendent in Vancouver, after which time he was transferred to Nelson, B.C. in 1910 and placed in charge of the CPR Western Division. The Farron Explosion occurred under his watch and he played a central role in the management of associated train traffic and the relief of injured passengers, while also facilitating the subsequent investigations into the circumstances of the tragic Farron disaster, coordinating with CPR and Provincial Police, and reporting to local newspapers. He personally visited the site of the explosion only a few hours after the explosion on the morning of October 29th, where a group of Doukhobors also arrived shortly later on their own charter, desperate for information about the death of their leader.  More about Walter Miller ... (Link)

His Report ... The following image is a close up of a full letter-sized telegraph accident report from Walter O. Miller to J. E. McMullen, a Vancouver CPR solicitor. It reflects conditions as he saw them in the early afternoon of that fateful day. Casualty listings however changed substantially in the following days. But the focus of this web page is on trains associated with the explosion, and in that sense, the report is interesting in at least two ways. Firstly Miller refers to "a relief train of doctors and nurses being ordered from Nelson 140K, left 335, arrived (arriving) at scene of accident 7K."  As it turns out this event is reported differently in newspaper reports, claiming that the medical team was only dispatched as far as Castlegar, where they would wait for and tend to the injured, as they returned from Farron in the sleeper. Other reports reveal that Walter Miller himself, was also on this same relief train, travelling further on to Farron. That would suggest that his reported "7K" arrival time would have more likely referred to his own arrival time at Farron. Evidently, there was (or still is) some confusion on this subject.

The Farron sleeper, having arrived in Castlegar, was then "returned to Nelson with injured "psgers" (passengers) on Extra 3456.", which is useful information, as this detail is not stated so precisely elsewhere.

Click to enlarge full document

This is a work in progress illustration of the Train 11 casualties resulting from the Farron Explosion. Details vary from one report to another and there does not appear to be a definitive final analysis, partly because serious injuries in some cases became fatal in the following days.

Kootenay Express Train 11 at the Grand Forks Union Station ...

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Bereaved followers of Peter Verigin at the City Union Station, awaiting the CPR train bringing his remains. This photograph was long thought to be associated with the tragic death of Peter Verigin, but the photographer had been previously unknown until a recent Facebook post by Bob Smith of Grand Forks, B.C.. He claims that it was taken by his grandfather, Dr. William D. Smith, who was seemingly well aware of the significance of the historic moment. It is likely the only such photograph to be taken in Grand Forks at that time. (Additional views of the Union Station)

The date, timing and subject matter of this photograph is confirmed by a news story in the 1924 October 30th issue of the Nelson Daily News. Interested readers can read a transcription of the story in its entirety here (Link). A following paragraph will also summarize its content, describing the arrival of the Kootenay Express in Grand Forks, and its departure back to Brilliant some six hours later.

A preliminary look at the following map may also be useful. It depicts the location of the CPR/KVR Union Station, relative to the court house where the coroner's inquest was held that evening, and the old hospital, barely a city block distant. The map also reminds us of a peculiar railway arrangement here in 1924. The normal route to the downtown Union Station would have involved the crossing of a railway bridge over the Kettle River, just south of town. This bridge was however washed out in the 1921 spring runoff, and was no longer functional in 1924, and the Kootenay Express would have needed to bypass downtown and travel to the Westend Junction, from where it would reverse its way into town instead. The bereaved Doukhobors, awaiting the arrival of the train at the Union Station, would have observed the tail end of the dining car approaching them rather than the D9c 582 CPR locomotive.

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Train 11 is reported to have finally arrived in Grand Forks at 6:00 pm on the 29th, later than expected by waiting crowds of anxious Doukhobors, many of whom had traveled as far as 30 miles on foot or wagon, to mourn the death of the Doukhobor leader. 300 local Doukhobors gathered at the Union Station platform hours earlier, to hear further news of the tragedy, and await the coming train, many remaining there until well after midnight. At the end of October, daylight would have already been fading by 6 o'clock, as the train was being moved closer to the depot, close enough for Peter Verigin's followers to observe his body through an open window, lit by lamplight, resting in peace amidst a display of flowers in a lower berth. As the coroner's inquest continued into the evening at the court house nearby, Doukhobors were permitted to enter the interior of the coach to file past their leader's remains. A solemn occasion, there was little chit chat, but in traditional Doukhobor fashion, a constant singing of comforting Russian hymns and prayers could be heard outside on the depot platform, until the last final moment near midnight, when the train began its departure. Unable to hold back their emotions, the crowd of heart-broken mourners, finally unrestrained, broke down in tears, in the words of the reporter, as "a weeping mass of humanity". Peter Verigin's remains and two coaches filled with Doukhobors, then proceeded to Brilliant for special funeral services and the final burial.

Photographs at Brilliant in the aftermath of Peter Verigin's death ...

As the funeral and burial of Peter Verigin was to be held at Brilliant on November 2nd, there would have been plenty of time for professional photographers to prepare their glass plate negatives and camera gear to immortalize the moment on film. The following images represent a selection of Alberta's Thomas Gushul's work, as well as that of the well known Nelson Campbell Studio and the Trail Hughes Brothers Studio. Fortunately some are dated and inscribed with their trademark signatures, but unfortunately, some are not, leaving us to speculate as to their source and their subject matter.

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Gushul's print above, supposedly 1 of 14, is rather crudely inscribed, but it is particularly useful, as it is identified and dated, depicting a crowd of Doukhobors at the Brilliant Station, either waiting for a train to welcome visitors, or, on the other hand, preparing to board an expected approaching train. Whether the train had anything to do with the death of Peter Verigin, is not clear, and even so, there were a number of train configurations passing through Brilliant in the aftermath of the Farron Explosion, so the subject matter of this image remains a bit of a mystery.

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This is also Gushul's print, although a cropped version for this page. The hand lettered inscription on the full image, includes the 1924 date and identifies the photographer. It would be tempting to associate this photograph with the one before it, as this photo also depicts a similar waiting crowd of Doukhobors at the station. But more than that, it also obviously depicts an approaching train, from the Nelson side, powered by what looks to be a typical D9 locomotive. Robert D. Turner, in his book, Steam Along the Boundary, claims this to be Peter Verigin's funeral train. While this may be true in a general sense, the actual funeral train with the body of the late Peter Verigin, would have approached the Brilliant station from the Castlegar or western side. This photograph may however be more likely associated with the one, here below it, although it was captured from the opposite direction, and with the train now parked at the station. - a Vancouver Public Library archive photo.

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This photograph of a similar scene at the Brilliant Station, is demonstrably the clearest and the most striking. It unfortunately lacks a date and signature, but could it be another Gushul print? The photographer chose his expansive vantage point with great care, capturing the Kootenay Columbia Preserving Works (Jam Factory), the CPR station, four or more CPR First Class Passenger Day Coaches, and this wide view of a large crowd, either disembarking from the train, or awaiting expected visitors. We can almost feel the tension of this moment at the station. And the sense of anticipation in the crowd is almost palpable, with the steam of the engine still hanging in the air. We see snow on the hillside, and members of the crowd huddling together in their long warm overcoats, in quiet conversation, their early morning shadows stretching far across the ground. The CPR day coaches beside, were identical to coach No. 1586, on which Peter Verigin died.

Speculation once again, but there are three possible scenarios depicted here: There were two instances of Special Trains reported to have been chartered at Nelson (from the eastern side) by the Doukhobors themselves. The first of these was hired on the morning of the explosion, when some 30 Doukhobors were sent off to Farron to retrieve Peter Verigin's body, back to Brilliant. The second charter was to convey mourners from Nelson to Brilliant on the morning of November 2nd, the day of Peter Verigin's funeral. The train left Nelson that Sunday morning with hundreds of Doukhobors reported to be onboard, to pay their last respects. But a third group of Doukhobors, perhaps the largest at 640, was also expected to attend the funeral from the prairies via the Crows Nest on special charters. - Doukhobor Discovery Centre photograph. Click the photo for a stunning enlargement.

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A snowy scene at Brilliant, date and photographer unknown. A train approaches the station from the west, perhaps from Castlegar or even Grand Forks, with a large awaiting crowd of Doukhobors. This image may or may not, be related to the Farron Explosion and the death of Peter Verigin. If it were so, the evidence of snow on the tracks would be of significance. We do know that there had been considerable snowfall at the Farron Summit on the night of the explosion, on October 29th, and there may have also been minor residual snowfall at the Brilliant station the morning after. It would be tempting to suggest that this was indeed the train bringing Peter Verigin's remains back to Brilliant on the following morning. But there was also significant snowfall six weeks later, on December 10, 1924, when a memorial service was held in Brilliant, and this train may have been bringing distant participants. Photographs of this event appear later on this web page below.

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Anastasia F. Holubova, Peter Verigin's companion, beside his death bed at their Brilliant home, as seen below.

Peter (Lordly) Verigin's Funeral, November 2, 1924 ...

Doukhobors of all factions, Community members, Independents, and Sons of Freedom, came to the funeral of Peter Lordly Verigin, gathering outside his home at Brilliant, many travelling from the prairies, Grand Forks, Trail, Nelson, Rossland and even Oregon. Several thousand formed a continuous chain along the expected route of the funeral procession, all falling in line on foot, as the casket made its way approximately a mile distant to a specially chosen site on a hillside overlooking Brilliant, where he was to be buried. Details of the service and burial were reported in the Nelson Daily News the day afterward (Link). The historic moment was also immortalized in the excellent photographs below.

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One of the Hughes brothers, from the well known professional studio in Trail, B.C., documented the CCUB Doukhobor community in British Columbia in a series of numbered high quality photographs in the late 1910s and 1920s, many of them in panoramic format. These examples have immortalized the moments of Peter V. Verigin's funeral at Brilliant on November 2, 1924, as well as a related traditional Doukhobor memorial service, six weeks later at the site of his burial. The two extraordinary photographs of the six-week "Pominki" capture the winter scene from two different vantage points. The date, December 10, 1924, is inscribed at the bottom of each photograph.

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View this historic Hughes photograph and a listing of family mourners and guests, as it appeared in the October 13, 1993 issue of ISKRA (No, 1794), here: (Link) - courtesy of former editor, D.E. (Jim) Popoff


The original Brilliant Verigin Tomb and Monument ...

The Brilliant bluffs and burial site

Peter Verigin's burial site was chosen for its central yet panoramic vantage point, not far above the very Brilliant Railway Station from which he departed in 1924. The photograph below illustrates the Brilliant bluffs as they appeared approximately 10 years earlier. The CPR station (just out of view at left) and the suspension bridge were both constructed between 1912 and 1913, and the Verigin guest house (following photo) in 1922. Both the guest house and bridge required substantial dynamite blasting and rock work for their massive foundations, particularly those of the suspension bridge, which were 12 feet thick and 34 feet wide, to support the tall pillars on both sides of the Kootenay River. The buildings to the right of the later site of the guest house, are yet to be identified.

The Verigin Retreat and Guest House

According to the late local historian, Bill Rozinkin, the Verigin Guest House was built for Peter Verigin in 1922, in gratitude for his administrative leadership and spiritual guidance. It would serve as a private retreat and a place to meet special visitors and friends. An exquisitely designed architectural show-piece, and a credit to the skill and aesthetic sensibility of its builders, its ornamentation was perhaps only surpassed by a similar home built in Verigin Saskatchewan several years earlier. Peter Verigin can be seen on the veranda in the photo at right, overwhelmed by the support of his followers, while he also overlooked with satisfaction and pride, the prosperity of the Brilliant and Ootischenia communities below. But the rocky cliffs beside the retreat also harboured a very private sanctuary, a "besedka, where he would meditate and pray outdoors in solitude. Greg Nesteroff describes this recently rediscovered special historic place of interest on his KÜTNE READER blog. (Link)

Sadly, Peter Verigin's enjoyment of this unique guest house and retreat was not to last. It was destroyed by arsonists only two years later, just months before he too, was about to lose his own life at Farron.

Brilliant apiary and western view of Guest House  -  Guest House with Peter Verigin & Anastasia on balcony. 

The construction of the Verigin monument

With a burial site chosen at Brilliant, the Community Doukhobors would have immediately commenced discussions regarding a suitable permanent monument to their revered Doukhobor leader. The details of its design and construction are not available, but there is a personal account, a photograph, and a basis for a bit of speculation.

The Doukhobors would likely have approached local businesses specializing in tombs or stone monuments, for consultation and a final contract or commission. A newspaper ad for the Campbell & Ritchie Monumental Co. on Front Street, regularly appeared in the Nelson Daily News at the time, and it would have been a prominent firm capable of such an ambitious commission. It may indeed be this firm and its work crew that is depicted in the Campbell Art Gallery photograph below, at work on the side panels of the new Verigin Monument, on February 21st, 1925.

Verigin Tomb under construction in Nelson, presumably by the Campbell & Ritchie Monumental Works. Doukhobors recall that a number of these workers may have been of Italian ethnicity, with an acquired Mediterranean stone-working skill-set. The gentleman observed at right in the overcoat and cap, supervising the work, may well have been Mr. Campbell himself. According to an opinion piece by Greg Nesteroff in the Nelson Star, Kenneth Campbell, was a winning Nelson candidate in the provincial election of June 25, 1924. (Link)  In this capacity as an MLA, he was also interested in Doukhobor matters and the aforementioned CCUB Oregon Guaranty Trust Loan.

By the 1920s, Kootenay marble and granite were already being commonly used in Nelson for special monuments, and architecturally, for building purposes on commercial and public buildings. Granite was chosen for its hard finish where necessary, while crystalline limestone or marble, was softer and often used as dimension stone, for building blocks or facings. Marble was also more suitable for machine formed pilasters or columns, or hand-carved raised relief panels. It polished more easily, and in time also hardened with exposure to the atmosphere. Local granite quarries existed at Ymir and Three Mile Point near Nelson, while marble was quarried across Kootenay Lake from Kaslo, and at Marblehead near Lardeau.

Numerous well known Nelson buildings were built with this local stone, including the original Nelson Post Office in 1902 (later City Hall and Touchstones Museum), built with blocks of Kaslo gray crystalline limestone (marble). According to geologists, this Kaslo stone was course grained and "charged with tremolite" which had a "tendency to turn yellow, and later brown" on weathered surfaces, such as those observed on the old post office building. The historic 1907 Bank of Commerce, was however, faced and ornamented with pure white marble from Marblehead.

Post Office 1902 (now Touchstones Museum)   Bank of Commerce 1907 - Nelson Heritage Walking Tour brochure

Nelson Post Office (now Touchstones Museum) with marble facing in progress - Queen Studio photograph c. 1902

Alex Kurbatoff, a retired elder Doukhobor from Shoreacres, BC, now deceased, had a known interest in local stone quarries. An avid collector of old newspaper clippings and photographs, he had a photo copy of the 1925 Campbell photograph (previously shown above) and was able to identify many of the stone workers. He also recalled reading that the stone for the Verigin Tomb originated in a Kootenay quarry at the very north end of Kootenay Lake. This would have undoubtedly been the Marblehead rather than the Kaslo quarry, as the remaining side panels of the tomb show no evidence of tremolite discoloration. The Marblehead quarry was also often preferred because it was equipped with special saws to cut large blocks or thin slabs of stone.

Marblehead underground quarry with abandoned stone cutting saws.  - recent Youtube video screen caps.

This quarry was the larger of the two, with several above-ground and below-ground workings, the marble being of varied crystalline origin and banding pattern, too complex for this web page to consider. The quarry, now abandoned, was located approximately 2 miles north of the current Meadow Creek bridge on Highway 31 south of Duncan Lake. According to a 1986 paper, by geologist G. V. White, these quarries were geologically a part of the "Lower Cambrian Badshot-Mohican Formation, producing white to grey, pure or banded crystalline marble, medium grained, and containing no visible sulphides or other impurities". And thankfully, for the purposes of this web page, this marble was also simply referred to as "Light Kootenay" or "Dark Kootenay" stone.

The newly completed Verigin tomb and monument, with its distinctive "Kootenay Light" and "Kootenay Dark" stone coloration, appears in the remarkable Gushul photograph below, the capstones, dove carvings, and pedestals all white, and the carved side panels and colonnades, different shades of gray marble. The monument was also garnished on both sides with two free-standing symmetrically placed white marble carvings of wheat sheaves that represented one of Peter Verigin's well known slogans - "Toil and Peaceful Life".

Tomb of Peter P. Verigin at Brilliant - Thos. Gushul photograph, 1925

The bombing and destruction of the tomb

Documents cited in Steve Lapshinoff's book, Documentary Report on a Death of Peter Verigin, suggest that not everyone was pleased with such an extravagant, and arguably somewhat ostentatious monument, as an attempt was made to destroy it with dynamite on May 25, 1930. Attributed to a radical element of the Sons of Freedom, the attempt was however foiled by a watchman who de-fused the timing device. A second attempt was more successful on April 24, 1931, when the frontal capstone and columns were toppled and the pedestals crushed, scattering bits and pieces all over the ground. The damage is being viewed by Peter P. Verigin, the deceased leader's son, in a photograph below. Apparently reassembled or reconstructed somewhat in the following years, the monument was finally completely destroyed in 1944, in four separate attempts. The first curious attempt involved the shooting of a watchman in the hand by the assailant(s). The fourth and final attempt completely shattered the structure. The monument was replaced shortly afterwards with a more modest and less vulnerable white concrete rectangular block. Several carved panels from the original old tomb have been preserved as artifacts over the years and can be seen below the current monument at the Verigin Memorial Park.

Peter P. Verigin viewing his deceased father's damaged monument - John Straloff photograph , Castlegar 1931

Verigin Tomb completely destroyed by deliberate bomb - Vancouver Province photo, 1944

Verigin Tomb carved marble side panel artifacts, at the Verigin Memorial Park - L. Kalmakov photo 2013

The 1968 Peter Verigin Tomb Act

After the foreclosure of the CCUB, and the dispossession of its Doukhobor assets and properties in 1939, the former Brilliant lands, including the site of the Verigin Tomb, were held under BC Land Settlement Board jurisdiction. These former Doukhobor lands were re-surveyed and subdivided in the 1950s for repurchase by individual Doukhobors, as a first option. In the 1960s, 6.73 acres of Plan 2938 were granted for the Verigin Tomb, excluding a power line allotment, and a certificate of title was issued to the USCC (Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ).

A BC Provincial law, the Peter Verigin Tomb Act, was enacted to designate this property as a public park under USCC stewardship. The original Bill was introduced in Victoria by the Ministry of Lands, Forests, and Water Resources, and the Act was assented to on April 6th, 1968. A later amendment was also enacted in 2009, formalizing the Verigin Tomb as a "Verigin Memorial Park" and expanding the scope of burial entitlements by other Verigin family members.

The current Verigin Monument and Memorial Park

Verigin Memorial Park - L. Kalmakov photo 2013

The Verigin Memorial Park brochure, dated 2012

Verigin Memorial Park - USCC Website Places of Interest

The Farron pilgrimage and wheat sheaf monument ...

Memorial anniversary visits are now periodically made to Farron and the site of the Kootenay Express Explosion. These pilgrimages were initially traversed on foot along existing railroad tracks, as seen in the photographs below. With the rails removed in the 1990s, the route is now far more accessible to the general public with normal vehicles, although still on gravel road. In recent years however, visitors would far more likely encounter logging trucks rather than CPR trains.

The photographs below were taken in the late 1970s by this writer, while accompanying a small group of USCC Doukhobors to observe and document such a memorial event. The 35 mm. film negatives depicting this event had been filed away in plastic sleeves in a personal collection for decades, previously never enlarged or printed until now, as digitized images for this web page. The memorial participants can be seen in these photographs, as they walk to the site of the explosion, and as they were gathered below the railroad tracks, surrounding a concrete wheat sheaf memorial set in place to mark the location of Peter Verigin's death. His descendents, the Verigin family, John J. Verigin Sr., Mrs. Laura Verigin, and one son and daughter, are also seen behind a temporary table set up with traditional Doukhobor symbols, bread, salt and water.

As the group departed after the service to the site of the old railroad station, a thoughtful young man paused for a moment to have a closer look at the monument, where he was told at Sunday School, that "Petyushka", the Doukhobor leader, had taken his last breath.

The following three John Leeming photographs, courtesy of Jeremy Nelson, depict the Farron Station site in 1974. The two upper photos depict a north-east view looking toward Castlegar, the lower view of the three, depicts a train at Farron, making its way south toward Christina Lake and Grand Forks.


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