THE ALBERTA SETTLEMENT
In 1915-17, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood established a new colony of 13,500 acres near the towns of Cowley and Lundbreck in Alberta on the main southern lines of the Canadian Pacific Railway, 265 miles from Brilliant. Peter Verigin and his Board of Trustees chose this location as an intermediate supply source for the production of grains and vegetables and hay for the extensive horse logging and orchard operations in B C, and for the natural advantage of stock raising.
Within two years they had a flourishing grain growing and livestock operation including horses. The long shipments from Saskatchewan for certain items were no longer necessary.
Alberta became the intermediate area where purebred Percheron horses as well as cattle were raised under the famous Doukhobor 'D' brand.
Within two years wheat and flour were shipped from these foothill colonies to Brilliant, instead of from Verigin, Saskatchewan, nearly 1000 miles away.
Between Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, a flourishing trade developed to fulfill the total needs of the entire community. Fruit and jam and timber could be shipped to serve the prairies, livestock, hay, and grain was shipped to serve the British Columbia communes.
The villages in the area: Bogatyi Rodnik, Lundbreck, Stoopnikoff Village, Ribalkin Village, Faminoff Village, Gradovaya Dolina, Sibir, Cowley, Bozhiya Milost, Maloff Village, Village east of Cowley, Bozhiya Celo.
The villages were colonized from British Columbia by about 300 Doukhobors in family groups.
Two grain elevators and a flour mill were constructed within the acreage holding. A residence for Peter Verigin was built in Cowley which also served as a head quarters. A community residence was also built near by.
By 1939, the community numbered 360 souls.
In 1938, National Trust, from which the Doukhobors, represented by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, had borrowed money, began foreclosure proceedings respecting all Doukhobor properties and dismantled and disbursed all assets to recover over $90,000. Unfortunately, bankruptcy procedures against the CCUB included all properties across the provinces. Alberta properties were subject to foreclosure when the Federal government refused to consider the commune for relief under the Farm Credit Corporation Relief Fund. Their view was that this agricultural commune was just another corporation and therefore not eligible for consideration as farmers. All properties eventfully went to private sale. [The foreclosure action was triggered by an interest payment default of $300,000. The B. C. government negotiated a settlement of $280,000. and subsequently came into possession of assets estimated at $11,000,000.]
Forced into independence from the communal life style many Doukhobors remained in the area and continued a cultural life style including choirs and sobranyas at different homes. Eventually, a communal hall was built in Lundbreck with volunteer labour, 1953-55. It is now designated as a Provincial Historical Resource.
As the Doukhobor community diminished use of the hall faded, but choir practises were held there 1994-5 for the Centennial Voices for Peace ensemble and Peter’s Day’s commemorations have been held there fairly regularly.
In 1974, a sign denoting the Doukhobor contributions was erected near Cowley. Subsequently it was removed during highway improvement and not replaced. The new sign appears below right.
The barn from the Maloff village was moved to the Pincher Creek Heritage Museum as the Old Man River was flooded, however, without appropriate interpretation of its history and its origin and history of being part of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood settlement.
THE UNCLE JOHN STORY
In 1939 when the Sun Life, Crown Mortgage and National Trust, foreclosed on the CCUB, the community in Alberta was particularly hard pressed. The various members lived on outlying farms and harvesting operations meant that available manpower travelled from farm to farm in large crews, carrying out all work in order of readiness; horsepower was the order of the day, and horses were essential for the survival of the community.
One of the effects of the foreclosure was the selling off of assets; families were allowed to live in their dwellings for the time being but assets were being disposed of.
One of these assets, of course, were the community horses, then valued at $3000.00, perhaps $30,000. by today's currency evaluation.
John Ewashen was the Secretary of the Cowley-Lundbreck CCUB. He immediately saw that if the horses were not saved for harvest, disaster faced all of the Alberta members of the community, not to mention further hardship incurred as expected shipments of grain to BC would not be made.
After consulting with his fellow executive members, he set out trying to raise the necessary $3,000. to 'buy back' the horses. The only way possible to do this was to borrow the money, and after some enquiries, he managed to borrow the entire sum from the local elevator agent, 'Danilka' [Dan] Wynan, who knew and trusted him.
The horses were saved and so was the harvest, and life continued to develop in its own interesting way in those times. Great Uncle John reported his activities to the head office of the CCUB, now under the charge of John J. Verigin. Mr. Verigin agreed that the CCUB should pay this debt of $3,000. out of remaining community funds, and he asked for the statement of account. Our great uncle obtained the original receipt from Mr. Wynan, and presented it to the office.
Before the account was paid, Mr. Verigin's dwelling was burned, the receipt with it.
Because of the ensuing turmoil and unsettled times and lack of official statements, this account was not paid.
In the fifties, when Uncle John was dispersing his property, he managed to repay this debt of $3,000. out of his own money.
Further correspondence between John Ewashen
and Peter V. Verigin