Doukhobors are often associated with Northern Saskatchewan or maybe the Grand Forks, Castlegar and Nelson regions of BC, but other colonies existed in Alberta, including one named Anastasia, located near the towns of Arrowwood and Shouldice. Founded in the mid 1920s the colony lasted into the 1940s before finally disbanding.
Typically where these is one Doukhobor colony there is another – often dozens of them within a small geographical region. Anastasia is unique in that it was the only one in the area and was far, far away from any other and independent from them. The reason for this will be explained soon.
Founded by Anastasia Holoboff (or Golubova), or “Anastasia Lordly” (or “Anastasia Lords”) by her followers, she was the long time common law wife of former Doukhobor leader Peter “Lordly” Verigin. After his death in 1924 a power struggle ensued and while Anastasia seemed like his natural successor, instead his son Peter, who still resided in Russia was selected to take his place.
At that time Anastasia started a breakaway colony and purchased the land we see in this report. She and her followers arrived here in 1926 and quickly got to work constructing the infrastructure needed. The organization was known as “The Lordly Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood” and the village of course was named after it’s spiritual leader. At its peaks some 160 souls lived here and the growing of grain and vegetables and the raising of livestock provided both income and food for the colony.
After a successful start there was a slow decline. Poor crops, the great depression and many other factors lead to an eventual exodus of families from the village. The last resident left during world war two and the site then abandoned.
The barn we see here dates from the time of the founding of the colony. It’s a very large communal structure and it served the entire population. Beside is a smaller barn and a grain bin, but it’s not sure if these date from then or perhaps a later period. The main barn appears in reasonable shape although it’s starting to show its age. Hopefully it won’t be allowed to deteriorate beyond the point of saving. The second smaller barn seems okay and the grain bin looks like it could collapse soon.
Outside of the barns and grain bin no others buildings remain here. Research by this author shows a fairly intact group of buildings were still at the site not terribly long ago and pictures at Doukhobor.org have confirmed this. However at the location now there is only a few trees and nothing else, the town obviously having been bulldozed (reasons unknown). Sad, since the colony appeared somewhat complete before that act. These buildings, prior to their removal, would certainly have been considered historically significant (IMO).
Just north of the colony is the location of the Dunree school. According to the sign it operated from 1926-1943.
Further on is the old roadbed of the CPR’s Lomond Branch. The rails came though here just prior to the founding of the colony and later a siding was established here, named Anastasia of course.
I have found some data that suggests at least one grain elevator existed here during the time of the colony. The railway here operated into the late 1990s or early 2000s and for most of its existence was used to gather grain. It’s not known if passenger trains ever operated on the line or if they just tacked a coach onto the end of a freight (a mixed train). In either case, given its modest population, Anastasia would have only been given flag stop status (no station).
Just down the tracks, in a gully, a number of old wooden waggons and car bodies were found. Along with other bits and pieces of farming flotsam. Interesting stuff!
Across the tracks from the schoolhouse is the communal cemetery. A sign above states the “Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood”. I am told that officially is was the “Lordly Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood ”, so I am not sure if using that second slightly different label was accepted practice or if an error was made. The cemetery is well maintained and is still being used today by descendents of Doukhobors in the area. Anastasia herself, along with two brothers of Peter Verigin are buried at the site. She died in 1965.
Peter Verigin, along with other innocent people, was killed in an explosion on a CPR train in 1924. This happen at a place called Farron BC. Long a controversial leader, the blame was for his death was put on extremists within the Doukhobors community. The Doukhobors themselves blamed the government. To this day his death and those of the others killed along with him, remains a mystery.
I have my own connection to the Doukhobor culture, my step father being one from Blaine Lake Saskatchewan.
Update: December 2012. Some new pictures have been uploaded that help round out this story. They show a memorial along an abandoned rail line in Farron BC and it’s here that Anastasia Holoboff’s (Golubova, Lordly, Lords) husband, Doukhobor leader Peter Verigin was killed in a terrorist attack. This event was the catalyst that lead to the birth of the Anastasia village we see in this report. Thanks to Lorilei Plecas Thompson and the crew at the Haunted BC Facebook page for allowing us use of the pictures. You can visit them by clicking here.
If you wish more information on Doukhobors click here.
To see an old farm found nearby, follow this link…
The lonely old farm.
To see the old grain elevators in nearby Arrowwood Alberta, click this link…
Prairie sentinels – Arrowwood Alberta
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date: November 2012.
Location: Near Arrowwood Alberta.