1908 – 2008 Centenary Exhibit
1908 was an important year for the Doukhobors in Saskatchewan. It was the year they had to face the prospect of assimilation if they accepted the Dominion government’s ultimatum of swearing out individual homesteads and losing their communal lifestyle, or ‘pulling up stakes’ and trying to begin all over again.
Peter Verigin gave them a choice, but announced that he had been successful in seeking new land, land which they would own and thus not be obligated to swear the oath and since it was to be their own land, would allow them to preserve their communal status.
About two thirds of the Doukhobors decided to trust their reliant spirit and make a new beginning.
Between 1908 and 1913, about 5,000 hardy souls had trekked to British Columbia to the ‘Valley of Consolation’, so named by Peter Verigin, a new place of solace, Ooteshnie.
When the Doukhobor migration began, the population of what is now the Castlegar area, was about 400 souls. By 1913, 5000 Doukhobors had arrived; developing basic agriculture, orchards, lumber mills, irrigation projects, brick yards, roads, bridges, apiaries and the construction of over 90 communal villages in the Kootenay and Boundary regions. In 1913, they built the historic Doukhobor Suspension Bridge.
This year Peter V. Verigin, mastermind of the migration, has been declared a Person of National Historic Significance, and the migration itself has been declared an Event of National Historic Importance.
Our exhibit for 1908 illustrates this largest migration ever recorded in Canada. The 1908 initial purchase of 2800 acres at Ooteshenie was soon followed by 2700 acres on the outskirts of Grand Forks, 2200 acres in Pass Creek and 1100 acres at Slocan Junction.
By 1910 the CCUB owned 10,000 acres, by 1912, 14,403 acres and by 1924, 21,648 acres in BC and nearly 50,000 in Alberta and Saskatchewan. By 1938 when the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood was forced into bankruptcy, the modest beginning had grown into the largest communal organization in North America, totalling over 70,000 acres in the three western provinces and including orchards, sawmills, jam factories, brick factories, blacksmith works and farms.
Our new exhibit presents many archival photographs previously unseen, from the decision in Saskatchewan to the early settlement in British Columbia. One cabinet and wall is devoted to Peter V. Verigin, featuring many historical photos and personal possessions. In addition to the archival photographs, specific notes and bulletins provide the entire history of the Doukhobor pioneering presence from 1908 to the demise of the CCUB in 1938.
The Doukhobor Discovery is pleased to take advantage of an opportunity to continue our exhibits of significant events, seek out rare photographs and restore and add these photos in this display. A highlight of our opening was the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the Doukhobor Suspension Bridge as a National Historic Site, and this plaque is now on display on our grounds, pending removal to a restored bridge.
We would like to express our thanks and sincere appreciation to the BC Arts Council for their assistance in helping us to create this unique exhibit, the Columbia Basin Trust through Castlegar Arts Council, and we also thank the CCUB Trust Fund for their support.
The Doukhobor Discovery Centre is located across from the Airport in Castlegar and is open 10am – 5pm daily from May 1 to September 30.
Contact Us to arrange your tour, bus tours, corporate tours, or school tours today!