Romantic Canada is

One morning in autumn we left Winnipeg by a C.P.R. train to Morden with
the avowed intention of visiting the Mennonites of that section, getting
acquainted with them and seeing their community life from the inside.

On arriving in Morden we were somewhat at a loss to find ourselves far
away from the typical Mennonite village to which we had been recommended
by a young teacher in a “new-Canadian” school in another part of the
Province. When we had asked her about the Mennonites, their habits and
customs, she had told us as much as she knew of their quaint ways and at
the end added: “They have their faults no doubt, and many of their
customs are strange, but I shall never forget how kind they were to us
children when our mother died.”

I had treasured this in my memory because if these people were a people
ready to be good to children, I had no doubt but they would show the
same milk of human kindness toward–visitors.

In Morden, the mayor kindly lent us a time-yellowed chart of “The Old
Mennonite Reserve”, and steering by this we left Morden in the early
afternoon on a branch line of railroad running south. It was an obliging
sort of coach-train and set us down some six miles out of town at a
grain elevator. The boys “running” the elevator got out their Ford and
drove us over to Ostervick, which was our destination. Thus the day,
begun in Winnipeg, found us in the late afternoon driving down a
tree-lined Mennonite village street, with the prairie-wind scattering
golden, autumn leaves in the car and under our wheels.

The Mennonite village here is the most perfect bit of camouflage in the
world. It is located in a wood and as no house is visible it differs in
no respect from any of the bluffs in sight, until you come right upon
it. Even in the wood the houses are all set back from the street and a
little tree-lined lane leads into the yards. Nothing can surpass the
privacy thus obtained for each family. We turned in at the lane leading
to David de Fehr’s house and when we presented the teacher’s letter of
introduction, David and his wife laughed at our venture, looked us over,
looked at each other, and agreed to take us in. This, briefly, was the
manner of our reception into a Mennonite home with the opportunity of
seeing at close quarters the life in a Mennonite village on the “Old

I think the first surprise came to us, after the idyllic situation of
the village, in the large, substantial houses. Most of them were
painted, usually white, all having Dutch shutters painted a Delft-blue.

Most of the houses are long, one-storey affairs with shingled roofs and
are not unlike “Cape Cod houses” of the early type. The de Fehr home was
a new, two-storey cottage with the characteristic Dutch shutters at the
downstairs windows. It joined the barn by a separate room where water is
pumped up for the stock in the winter. We visited a number of houses,
drove through other villages and were at Morden and Winkler, but I saw
only one house that might be said to be _in_ the barn, after the manner
of the old-time farm-houses in France, although more or less all
appeared to be connected _with_ the barn so that you could step out of
one into the other without going out-of-doors. At Mr. de Fehr’s a fair
white door led into the barn from a room with pumpkin-yellow floors
which looked as if they had just been painted–as they look down in
Quebec. There were, by way of furniture in the room, which might be
called the winter-kitchen, two lounges, a table, two or three chairs,
and a rocker in which David de Fehr sat to read his mail, including the
different newspapers to which he subscribes.

In addition to this room, on the first floor, were a large parlour, a
smaller room used as an office, and the family bedroom. There were three
bedrooms upstairs. In our room, in addition to the bed with its heavy
homemade all-wool comforters, a large Russian chest with black, iron
handles, occupied one side.

I speak of the room on the ground floor as a winter-kitchen because the
_summer-kitchen_ is a dear little white cabin in the yard, under the
Manitoba maples. A Mennonite custom which went at once to our hearts is
this of outside-kitchens for summer use, we having seen so many in the
West Indies and the South. The little summer-kitchen here was a house of
magic from the cooking angle. There Mrs. de Fehr prepared all her long
list of Mennonite dishes, and at her large stove with her kitchen apron
about her, she was the typical housewife–an example to her sisters
scattered far and wide all over Canada.

Every Mennonite _gate_ had its family group at night standing inside or
sitting on the fence to watch the cows come home. Evidently it is an
event of which, in all these years, they’ve never grown tired. And a
little variety creeps into it every night in watching how the cows will
carry their tails, for on this hangs the weather for the next
twenty-four hours according to Mennonite lore. “If the cows run with
their tails straight out behind them when they come home in the evening,
it is a sign of rain, and if they come with their tails down it is a
sign of fair weather.” The manner of their going in the morning
apparently doesn’t count, probably because the cows are then too sleepy
to know more than that their tails are behind them.

The Mennonites, though primarily grain-growers, are generally interested
in stock. They keep horses, cows, pigs, chickens, geese. A few own
automobiles, but these are not “old kirk” folk. The de Fehrs are Old
Church people, and were to us even more interesting on that account, as
we felt that our visit was with the real old-timers. The Old Church folk
have little points of dress which aim at simplicity. Men of the Old
Church do not wear a tie or a white collar, and the married women wear
black caps. Otherwise the house-life seemed little different from any
other prosperous farmer’s, believing in the simple, old-time rural life.
One aim of Mennonite life, it seems, is to keep its people loyal to the
soil. And this is a fundamental thing in these days of farm-need.

Madam de Fehr is a great spinner. Indeed, in the winter the spinning
wheel fills in much of the time in every home. But in summer there’s the
cooking and the horses and other live stock to attend to. The Mennonite
women in all the villages lend a hand with the horses, grooming them and
getting them harnessed, ready to go in the wagon or to draw plough or
harvester. We had not noted this work so much among other foreign women.
The women work very capably and easily with the horses and it doesn’t
seem hard work to them. They are at their best, however, in the little
kitchen, before the door of which the wind was strewing the golden
leaves when we went for afternoon–no, not tea–_coffee_! It is a
Mennonite custom to have coffee and bread-and-butter and perhaps jam,
every afternoon at four o’clock. The men leave off ploughing and come in
from the fields for their cup of this refreshing hot drink. Mr. de Fehr
said the Mennonites think coffee very stimulating and good for a man
that works. I fear that all our Canadian farmers are not so well looked
after by their wives in the cold autumn afternoons at the ploughing! The
coffee is ground fresh in the little mill over the stove at every
making–a pointer for any who wish to adopt this custom.

At dusk the cows come home–two hundred and twenty-two of them–in the
village of Ostervick. Supper is at seven. And at night while we were at
table the herdsman came to make his report to Mr. de Fehr, who this year
holds the office of head overseer of all the herd. The holder of this
office is elected for one year. He keeps the books, knows just how many
cows each villager has, and pays the herdsman out of the several kinds
of grain–so much of each–and the money that each owner pays per head.
The arrival of the herdsman disclosed the fact that the cows are
assembled each morning at the blowing of a horn after six o’clock. We
were up betimes that first morning and every morning after to watch a
scene of old-world life which we believe can be witnessed nowhere else
in Canada.

The piper starts from one end of the village, blowing the horn or bugle,
as he goes, down the whole length of the street–carpeted at that time
with the golden autumn leaves! When he has passed the entire length he
turns around, and the cows come out of the first gate, the second, the
third, as fast as the rats followed the piper of Hamelin. Our gate
happened to be near the centre of the village so we had a box-seat at
this strange performance.

Of course before the cows come out of each picturesque lane it means
that an army of milkmaids have been up betimes getting them milked and
ready to come upon the stage at the psychological moment of the herder’s
arrival at that point. It spoke well for the girls that few cows were
late. Unless one has witnessed this strange foreign sight and heard the
bugler coming on, with the bugle in one hand and cracking his heavy whip
with the other, driving those two hundred beasts to pasture, one cannot
imagine how dramatic an event it is. But I think perhaps that, except as
the early morning is always the hour of charm and witchery, the manner
of the herd’s arrival home in the evening, though different, is equally
dramatic. For then the cows come in a hurry to be milked.

All the Mennonite women are good cooks. Some of them still hold to the
out-of-door ovens as do the habitants of Quebec. For heating these ovens
the women cleverly make use of the straw-pile, and many are the loaves
of homemade bread and the pies that find their way in and out of these

Marking the progress of this people, in some of the yards, stand the log
houses of the pioneers, mute witnesses of the wilderness life to which
these people came nearly fifty years ago.

We noticed that Mr. de Fehr often looked with apparent affection upon
the trees in his yard. So one day we commented on them, their sizes,
etc. “They were planted?” we inquired.

“Yes,” he said, “my mother planted them. She brought them from the
mountain in her apron. We boys went with her to get them. Each of my
brothers had a bundle of them–I had a little bundle too.”

What a picture he conjured up! Can’t you see that old peasant-woman from
Berdiansk with her saplings and her boys–saplings, too? And the
mountain? We could just see the outline of it against the distant
horizon. That will give you some idea of the journey she made and the
distance she brought her load. As we looked at the arboreal beauty of
Ostervick, to which she had contributed, we found it in our hearts to
wish that every woman-settler in the West would direct some of her
energy to tree-planting and tree-culture. And we wondered what this
dead-and-gone mother could have given her son for remembrance one-half
so precious?

Speaking of trees, the Mennonites are fond of flowers, too–hollyhocks
being especially popular. But I did not notice that they kept bees in
quantity as do the Doukhobors. The Mennonites are not vegetarians like
the “Douks” but eat meat of all kinds, and fish. Macaroni, homemade, is
a staple dish, also noodle soup. But _plemm-moase_, a sort of
pudding-soup made of stewed fruit, prunes, raisins, etc., thickened with
flour, seems to be the national dish. And their cottage-cheese dumplings
served with cream and melted butter, make a dish fit for a king. There
were other good things to eat, chickens, eggs, fried crabapples, etc.
The Mennonites may be a plainly dressed people, but they certainly live
well as to food. They say “silent grace” before and after meals.
Smoke-houses stand in many yards and we saw one Dutch windmill for
grinding grain. At Winkler there is a fine flour mill.

In one house we saw a quaint old clock brought over from Russia. It had
no case, merely a large face with sprays of pink roses, and long brass
weights. In the same house the chairs were newly painted in art
combinations of black and lemon yellow.

Among the Mennonites we were everywhere struck by their thrift. Indeed,
in thinking of them, my memory flies back to those substantial
well-built, well-kept-up farm-houses. “Real Martha’s Vineyard and Cape
Cod houses”–long, low, shingled, with sides painted white, against
which the clean delft-blue shutters make a Dutch picture. Especially do
I recall one freshly painted home which, in addition to white sides and
blue shutters, boasted a terra-cotta band at the base of the sides,
lemon-yellow balcony and steps, with apple-green railing above white
bannisters with green centres. And this dignified, yet gay, little house
with the real air of charm about it, sits well back in a wide lawn of
its own, with a lane leading into the backyard and stable and out to the
tree-lined highway, which passing straight through the length of the
village, is this little rural settlement’s only street.

The day we left Ostervick it blew a slight prairie gale, but after
lunch, the wind abating, Mr. de Fehr and his wife put the horses to and
drove us nine miles to Winkler. The wind was still high, however, and
the dust like smoke, so we were very thankful to accept the kerchiefs
which Mrs. de Fehr lent us to tie over our heads, and in the picture of
all in the wagon it is very difficult to distinguish between Mennonite
hostess and the guests now thoroughly won over to the “plotok”.

Romantic Canada is never halted by natural obstacles. Like the true
diplomat, she wins over hindrances to become aids. High mountains, large
rivers with swirling rapids and falls, immense lakes, inland seas, have
thus become to Romance, mere stepping-stones. So the cold of the Great
Northland, from being a barrier of conquest, has simply inspired Madame
Romance to call for her heaviest and finest furs, her dog-team and sled,
her snow-shoes, and a supply of good pemmican. Snow is to her but
Nature’s cosmetic for rosy cheeks.

“Trade” long ago, claimed The Pas, in Manitoba, as “The Gateway to the
Great Northland” and at once Madame proclaimed that “solemn-faced
Business” was justified in this; but at the same time she herself
reserved the right to spread her pelts for a mat, and sit in this Gate
at all times. And Trade, which always walks hand-in-hand with Romance,
was very glad to hear her fiat, knowing that the Romantic and business
are so close interwoven as to be almost one and inseparable.

The Pas, as a town, is new; but its site was a Trading Post ages upon
ages ago. Old in this particular, to the Indians before the advent of
the Hudson’s Bay Company in these parts, it was an objective of the
Crees, perhaps before Leif coasted from Greenland to Newfoundland. The
Pas is still remarkable for the absence of ordinary roads. To get to and
from the Pas of old there was only the broad bosom of the Saskatchewan
inviting the canoe. But of late years advancing civilization has pushed
northward the Hudson’s Bay Railroad. Pioneer wit and humour, with its
gift for nomenclature, at once personified the trains for this romantic
adventure in rails. The train from the South was christened the
“Tamarack”. The sub-Arctic Explorer conquesting to the North they aptly
called the “Muskeg”. These two names speak for themselves concerning the
nature of the country.

Anyone, who has watched the indomitable “Muskeg” go forth from the Pas
station in the thick of a driving snowstorm, knows, beyond doubt, that
Canadian courage is a driving force practically at work to subdue to the
service of the nation all that vast coastline of Hudson’s Bay which has
hitherto been allowed to run to waste.

For all this great enterprise “The Pas” is the “Gate”. Nevertheless when
one goes down to the bank of the Saskatchewan and looks up and down the
silvery bosom of this ribbon of water, which makes its start somewhere
out there in the Rockies, one knows that The Pas has a waterway which
must always place it in the first ranks among the busy centres of the
country. The river is to The Pas what the Grand Canal is to Venice. The
gondola here is the canoe or the old stern-wheel passenger boat, tapping
the neighbouring country.

There was a time when The Pas knew that romantic flotilla, the York
Boats of the H.B.C., which periodically passed here with cargoes of
pelts between York Factory and the Old Stone Fort or Lower Fort Garry.
The York Boat has long ago “cleared” for her last long voyage and, with
her passing, passed also that old Character of the Canadian
Northland–usually come hither out of the Shetlands or the Orkneys–the
H.B.C. boat-builder. No more are heard either, the chansons of the
rowers. In the place of these old boats of the fur-trade there is now
the flotilla of Ore-boats; for The Pas, the gate to the fur-country, is
likewise the water gate for receiving the rich mineral wealth of
northern Manitoba. Copper comes down the river and steps ashore here,
destined for the smelter away off at Trail, B.C. This is indeed a long,
long trail for ore to take; but it is an admirable illustration of the
unity between widely separated parts of Canada. Today there is more
inter-provincial business, and more universal assistance from one
section of the same Province toward the development of some other
section, than has hitherto existed. In this, Canada has caught the
National stride with remarkable celerity. What helps one helps all. The
Pas is the natural gateway to the opening-up of the mineral wealth of
the New, Old North.

Sitting in this Gate a long caravan of prospectors files past, carrying
in their packs “supplies” furnished by the local out-fitting stores.
Strangely enough, Pas stores are among the finest in Canada. It is
claimed that in them anything from a miner’s shovel to embroidery-silks
is in stock. These things, though commonplace on Yonge or Saint
Catherine’s Streets, become romantic, indeed, in this far Gateway to the
Great Northland; the more so when the woman who goes to the H.B.C. or
any of the other stores, for a hank of embroidery-silk or cerise or
art-blue horse-hair, put up especially for her use, is a light-stepping
Cree, whose habitat is across the river, but who roams the vast
stretches of the hinterlands as other women walk in their gardens. The
Crees are especially artistic. They take beads, embroidery silks and the
horsehairs in hand as other women take pen or brush. But their
embroidery is not wrought on cambric or linen, but on skin of moose or
caribou shot by their family hunters and cured and tanned or “smoked” by
their own hands.

The Factor will tell you that it is one of the interesting sights of the
Christmas Season at this northern town to see the young braves turn out
to the English Church, adorned in richly embroidered skin-gloves, edged
perhaps with a border of plucked-beaver, the gift of their fiancees.
Nevertheless, the Cree women still make their infants’ little beds of
reindeer moss, carefully washed and picked clear of all grit, and on the
road they still carry their babies in a tikanagan strapped to their
backs. The “tikanagan board” is often decorated by the mother in stains
of reds, blues and browns, and the reindeer-moss nest, on which the baby
reclines, is held in place by facings of smoked moose-hide neatly
thonged together. This cradle of the Cree-baby is always provided with a
handle, so that the mother, unstrapping the contrivance from her back,
can hang it up in some tree and be sure that the gentle swaying of the
bough by the breeze will keep her baby asleep, while she herself fishes
or cooks a meal for the rest of the family. This Cree mother and the
Japanese woman in the salmon factories of British Columbia have never
heard of one another, yet it is interesting to note that both strap
their babies on their backs while at work.

The Hudson Bay Railway crosses the Saskatchewan on one of the finest
steel bridges in Canada. It is some 850 feet in length and of ample
width for vehicles and pedestrians, as well as for the railroad. It is a
bridge of the most up-to-date type, yet the tikanagan sways from the
trees on either bank where this Colossus plants its feet as it bestrides
the river. And when the “Muskeg” thunders by, it is a signal for Eskimo
dogs in the yards of the Big Eddy Reserve to set up a howl of protest
against the invader of their transportation-copyright in the great

To the old-order-of-life represented by the tikanagan and the dog-team,
belongs the canoe on the river. Come the “Muskeg”, come the “Tamarac”,
come the automobile, the steamboat, the barge, ore-or grain-laden, the
canoe holds its own on the river. Playing with the paddle is an
inheritance. As has been said “A canoe represents not only Cree but
Creed in this Northern-Gate.”

But the Pas has many sweet as well as strong touches. Surprise awaits
the traveller in the beautiful flowers in the gardens of Pas homes.
Flowers are always a surprise in the Northland, and when encountered
they have an especial appeal created by their very rarity.

On a bluff of the river-bank stands the historic old Church of England,
first church in these parts. Dropping in to matins here of a Sunday
morning is to find one’s self surrounded by the “atmosphere” that is the
Northland’s Own. Here, the old pews, pulpit and reading-desk were carved
by men belonging to a Sir John Franklin Relief Expedition which wintered
in these parts and at Cumberland House, while they waited for the ice to
break up. Sitting in one of these old pews brings back to life all that
long stirring period of the Nation’s history involved in Arctic
Exploration. Sir John and Lady Franklin become personal to you sitting
here in a pew fashioned by the hands of men who adventured their lives
in noble effort to bring back news of England’s great Explorer.

The atmosphere of Arctic Exploration brought to life by the old pew,
appears mysteriously amplified and fulfilled in the Ten Commandments in
Cree on the right and left walls of the little Chancel. The Crees are
the children of that Northland into which the pew-carver ventured. Old
Chief Constant sits over there in the corner of one of these pews, the
Assomption belt, a gay dash of colour, about his portly waist,
attentively listening to the service, which is the tribal “Voice of
‘Mahneto’–The Great Spirit”.

In the wake of the church are the schools for the Crees. There is a
boarding-school at the Big Eddy under the management of Archdeacon
MacKay. The fine school building, with accommodation for eighty pupils,
was erected by the Government and opened in October, 1914. The Woman’s
Auxiliary of the Diocese of Ottawa furnished the parlor as a memorial to
their one-time Corresponding Secretary, Helen Josephine Fitzgerald. This
Body also built the pretty little stone church in the grounds; but the
fine hospital was the gift of the Government.

Archdeacon MacKay, the principal of this Indian School, is a Canadian
and an octogenarian, who has spent fifty-six years in Missionary work in
this North. The Archdeacon paddled us the five miles down the
Saskatchewan to The Pas in his canoe, with two of the Indian boys to
assist, as nonchalantly as any young man of twenty. All through his long
ministry, beginning between fifty and sixty years ago, he has been able
with the canoe’s aid, to carry the double Message of the Gospel and
Canada to a remote and savage people. He has lived to see The Pas become
the centre of the Northward-urge of Canadian life and development, now
so much a part of the national ambition.

On the North bank of the river, not more than halfway to the Big Eddy
boarding-school, is a little, whitewashed schoolhouse, which is kept by
a young Indian woman, a graduate of the Elkhorn School; and here all the
little local youngsters pursue “the Three R’s.” The school garden is
laid out in tiny beds; but the true atmosphere of the life is tellingly
indicated in the small bows-and-arrows which each little boy carries in
hand as he comes through the woods to the schoolhouse. The Cree is a
born hunter. These bows and arrows of childhood are, after all, but
stepping-stones like Readin’, ’Ritin’ and ’Rithmetic. It is as a
_hunter_ the Cree must make a living.

The Cree, having trapped the wary fox, or other furred animal, brings
the pelt to be smoked in the yard of the little homes that radiate in
the woods from the schoolhouse. In the smoking and curing the women take
the pelt in hand. A green and pliable branch is cut from a tree. The
skin is then turned under side out and stretched tightly over the green
and springy wood. The ears and legs are stuffed with hay. After the
process of stretching the skin, it is laid over a frame of sticks like
the ribs of a tepee, and a fire is made underneath and kept going with
half green wood to make plenty of smoke. The Indian woman keeps turning
the skin from time to time so that all parts are evenly cured, and,
every once in a while, the man comes out and takes a look, fingering the
skin, and then, when it is pretty well cured an old man or old woman,
grandfather or grandmother, a living manual of pelts, comes out, and
grunts a last opinion. Thus is cured the pelt, that, finding its way
from Cree hands to the fur-markets of the world, sooner or later graces
the shoulders of some lady of the land.

No greater contrast can be afforded by Nature than that between level
Prairie and the Rocky Mountains. It is at the moment of the change from
one to the other that one realizes _both_ are Characters, each separate,
individual and eternal. Here, as the train swings along by the banks of
the Bow River, one looks up to those towering peaks, their gray and aged
cheeks flushed with the wine of the air into perpetual youth, the
Character that is Nature dominating all others. One cannot think of
those peaks as still and dead matter only. They must be alive! There is
the sharpness of the Craig, the smoothness of the scumbled bloom upon
it, head after head against that faultless blue that one has hitherto
thought of as exclusively Italian. But there it is–Capri inverted.

And so one comes to Banff, or drops down at Lake Louise, or bestrides a
pony to the Valley of the Ten Peaks, or watches the Mountain Goat a
riotous snowflake against the blue sky or wanders at the end of a rope
about the face of the Great Glacier and, doing these things, feels it
good just to be alive. That must surely have been the thought behind the
preservation of this section of the Rockies as a national playground in
perpetuity when it was reserved by the Dominion Government as a great

But British Columbia, in addition to being a land of Mountains, is also
a land of large tumbling rivers and fingerlike lakes pushing out into
the fruitful valleys. It was the West of early days that enriched the
language with that word “Trail”. British Columbia is the land of the
Trail. The Trail or mere thread-road of the early pioneer from the
Prairie to the Coast has now been completely metamorphosed into the
orderly double-track of the railroad; so that hardships have vanished
and, in their place, positive luxury attends a trip to the Pacific Coast
via the Canadian Rockies.

Yet there is more than enough of the “primeval” remaining to give sauce
to the voyage. Romance still clings to the Columbia and the Fraser
Rivers. The mere names of Sun-Dance Canyon, The Crow’s Nest, Glacier,
Jasper Park and a dozen others but faithfully record the existing charm
and atmosphere. They suggest, too, that these Ranges were once the
Hunting Grounds of Indians. Some old-timer says that these now have
headquarters “down about MacLeod”. Nevertheless the Indian still comes
back to the hot sulphur springs at Banff which it is quite probable he
knew and used long ages ago, before even the discovery of the American

The Indian in British Columbia, like the Indian all through Canada, is
still a romantic figure of the atmospheric background. He is still and
always will be a page from the tome of the simple life, retiring before
the advance of that form of society which involves living indoors. He
still clings to the wigwam, to the canoe and to fishing and hunting for
a living. (Although, of course, even among the Indians there are many
notable exceptions and some of them carry on business and own fine homes
of their own).

Romance, however, clings to the blanket of the old-timer. The web of
fancy is not confined when a bend in the road reveals a group of Indians
spearing salmon from a flat rock, perilously over-hanging the swirling,
canyoned cauldron of the Fraser. There is something bizarre in the
simple arrangement of the bleached wooden poles whereon their salmon
swings a-drying in the wind. One feels that if anyone knows the secrets
of the great Ranges, the towering peaks, the vast stretches between the
Pacific and that faraway Northern mysterious Arctic, it is that man, a
ragged-spot-of-brown above the swift cascade; too steep for all
navigators except the salmon, madly daring every obstacle in efforts to
reach the very highest pools where her spawn will be safe. A well of
tradition is stored up in that old squaw’s head down there by the calmer
waters, cooking the evening meal where the spiral of blue smoke trails

These folk know the Nature-book of these parts by heart. For long
centuries there trails in these old hearts and minds a survival of the
fittest in picture. And that is all there is in history and Tradition
… a series of pictures, a few outstanding facts and figures. Time in
the aggregate is like that. As a Figure, the Indian is a Synopsis.

The land embraced by British Columbia is elemental–big. Every form of
it, rivers, peaks, lakes and valley, is grand in the sense of bigness.
It is a land of big trees, big mines, big ranches, big outlook. And the
big outlook not only glances Eastward across a Continent, but wings its
way outward across the Pacific with its ships touching the shores of
Asia and Australia.

The co-relation of interests between those most widely separated of
Canadian Provinces, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, has been
strikingly increased by the prominence acquired by the Pacific since
1914. Canada has now a _Pacific_ Maritime Province as well as the
Atlantic group which for so long has held exclusive rights to the term.
But the craft of the Pacific coast are laid down on different lines from
those of the East. Nova Scotia started with sails and she still stands
by the halyards of Banker and Coaster. Vancouver came into the race at a
later date. Steam, now oil-burners, and the Panama Canal, have opened
her way to European as well as Oriental ports. Truly the Canadian Trader
is a big ship!

But British Columbia has its little ’longshore boats too. And the
Westerner, with Cowboy breeziness, looks upon these half-indulgently and
dubs them the “mosquito fleet”. In this lesser fleet are found the
halibut-fisherman and the whaler, cruising, the one, many hundred miles
out in the Pacific; and the other off the Queen Charlotte Islands or
along the Alaskan shore, in fact anywhere a skipper deems he can raise
the cry of “Thar she blows” from the lookout. A whaler out of the
Pacific ports is a steamer with mechanical devices and bombs for killing
and inflating the whale at once, so that the carcase floats and can be
brought in to market. Her counterpart in Newfoundland and the Gulf of
Saint Lawrence is the sturdy old “sealer”; but what a difference in
model! The Sealer is old. But with her staunch, wooden timbers and
planks and roomy deck, with a “crow’s-nest” for the lookout, her
ocean-wisdom for seals, is every bit as keen, as the Westerner’s for

In British Columbia great stress is laid on the proper “smoking” of fish
and delicious indeed is the flavour attained by the Western process. A
range of characteristic atmosphere follows in the long trail of “smoked”
salmon and herring. Scotch lassies have come out from fishing-towns of
Old Scotland to give the proper “Scotch Cure” to the Pacific bloater in
the curing houses at Vancouver. It is a far cry from these girls, and
the big plant, with its chill-rooms for freezing the halibut, the latter
with its own private car to Boston, to the old Indian woman, who has her
little “smokehouse” on the shingle at Alert Bay and trusses up her
salmon on splints in the shadow of the wet piles of some old

These are sea-pictures and pictures of ’longshore life. British Columbia
in its valleys is a land of farms. It raises its own famous apples
around its lakes, as Nova Scotia brings Bellefleurs and other beauties
to perfection, round the Bay of Fundy. Okanagan, Arrowhead, Kootenay,
all have their ranches with their acres of meadow, bench-lands and
climbing fields. And here, on these Ranches beside the Lake, backed by
mountains from whose peaks the snow never melts, are perched the homes
of the ranchers.

Each of these homes presents its own epic, each family tracing it to the
chosen spot from somewhere in Eastern Canada–Nova Scotia, Quebec or
Ontario–or coming here to this Alpine region of the Dominion from
somewhere over-seas, the British Islands, France, and indeed, all other
countries of Old Europe, even reaching a finger into Asia at India and
Japan. Truly the human-interest element of British Columbia is as big as
its outlook.

Each little homestead and ranch stands for a family uprooted from old
associations, whether Eastern Canadian, British or Foreign, transplanted
here to the West, on the edge of things; but now–within the past ten
years–coming to a consciousness of itself as no longer on the edge of
wilderness and remoteness, separated from its fellows of the East by the
great barrier of the Mountains, but a part of the beautiful curve of the
World-circumference of the British Empire. Each little log-cabin in its
forest or surroundings of stump-land (and the big trees of British
Columbia make an endless number of big stumps) is a stake in the land.
Practically it represents the bombardment of the black and unfriendly
wilderness with a home and a family–the best ammunition in the world
for the pioneer.

There is a long list of miniature cities and little towns, with a hotel,
a bank, a couple of grocery shops, a butcher, a drug-store with week-old
newspapers from Winnipeg or Calgary, yesterday’s Vancouver Sheets and
the Newspaper from the nearest Over-the-Border large city; all these
business places with large single-pane show-windows, in utter contrast
to the little old-fashioned shop-windows of the small towns and villages
of rural Quebec. The arrival and departure of trains once or twice a day
is a thing as personal as the letter which comes into the hand of the
butcher, the banker, the druggist, from that same adventuring train that
kicks the level dust of the Prairie miles behind it, with the ease of a
thoroughbred, and climbs the gorges, the canyons and the steeps of the
passes, and enters the black mysteries of the long tunnels as
nonchalantly as a cowboy, hand on hip, sits astride his pony.

These little towns may be rather dull, with a society only partly
stirred into life by an occasional Movie, but there is always more than
appears on the surface, since, behind them somewhere out there in the
miles, threaded up sometimes by mere trails, are the little homes of the
ranchers converting the soil to agriculture, “making land”–a curious
phrase–where every ranch is a stage of dramatic action, and every
little simple act of everyday life takes on heroic proportions from the
very closeness of success or disaster constantly stalking the adventure
on which the rancher has staked his all.

In the Russian Doukhobor settlements of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and
British Columbia, the Canadian West houses the Community-life of a
curious religious sect. Through them it may be said that Canada is
perhaps the only country in the world outside Russia having a very
intimate living, human-interest acquaintance with the Slav on the
land–the only country presenting an opportunity to study him in his
daily life. And what pictures this life does make! Not even Old Russia
has just such pictures, for although the Doukhobor is Russian the
religion of these peasants in British Columbia gives them a certain
distinction and grace of their own, shearing the elements of coarseness
from even ordinarily coarse work. Indeed a rare dignity attends the
individual Doukhobor as it attends the transaction of all work and all
business involving the people of one “village” with those of another.

As religion is the foundation on which the very existence of these
people is laid; as it was religion which brought them into existence as
a separate people; as it was the source of all their difficulties with
the government of the Czars, and as it was the immediate motive which
brought them to Canada–“the Promised Land”–some twenty years ago, it
is necessary here very briefly to touch upon the chief item of the
Doukhobor Faith. And this can best be done by giving an example.

Romance seems to have reached idealism indeed when one of these peasants
here on the uplands of a British Columbia valley meeting another on the
highway, lifts his hat and makes a ceremonial bow–a bow arresting and
almost Eastern in its slow dignity. The habitant of Quebec is hardly so
solemn in making his obeisance to the roadside calvary. Yet these men
are in a hurry, too. Work presses.

Questioning them as to this ceremonial greeting brought out the fact
that the Doukhobor believes first of all that Jesus is actually a living
presence, alive in every human being! All other articles of the Faith it
appears are merely the natural sequence of this condition. One man bows
to the Christ-spirit in the other, rather than to the man himself. He
bows in reality exactly as the habitant, man or boy does–to the
beautiful thing that is symbolized by the roadside Cross. Life is a
Universal brotherhood, to the Doukhobor–hence the Community idea in
which all share alike. Peasants often lay hold of many elemental facts
and ideas of religion and holy things as to which other people are, for
some reason, more timid. There is the world-famous example of the
peasant rendering of the “Passion”, at Oberamergau.

The Doukhobor talks about Jesus with the sweet simplicity of a child. A
swift shade of surprise, as quickly gone, flits across the gentle face
of any of them that you question as to how they get along without such
institutions as poor-houses, old peoples’ homes, asylums, jails, etc.
They tell you the idea of “the Spirit of Jesus in all men”, simply
lived, prevents all the sins of the Decalogue and so renders these
institutions unnecessary. For this reason, they explain, they object to
military service because they believe that in killing a man they are
killing Jesus. They go even further, claiming that even the taking of
animal life for food is contrary to the spirit of God, and therefore
sinful; so that they are vegetarian not because they think vegetables
more wholesome, but because they know meat and fish can only be achieved
by the destruction of a life. In this matter their belief is carried out
to the letter. Some of the old folk even now find it difficult to kill
flies. And it was only after a long time and many inroads on the
precious grain that they could be induced to kill rats and gophers.

Legally the Doukhobors have now exchanged the name “Doukhobor” for a
name in English. They call themselves in all business dealings “The
Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd.” “Doukhobor” is,
strictly speaking, their religious name, only.

Neighbours however will always call them “The Douks.” Brilliant, Grand
Forks and Verigen, their three outstanding settlements, are worth in the
neighbourhood of five million dollars; and approximately eight to ten
thousand persons abide in these settlements,–the largest successful
“Community” settlement in the world. Its success, as against many
another attempt at Utopia that has failed, is undoubtedly due to the
fact that it is founded on a basis of simple religious faith rather than
either a colonization scheme or a business trust.

In the settlements, the houses are set up in groups of twos. Local wit
aptly calls these “the twins”. The Doukhobors themselves call these
groups “villages”. Each village contains anywhere from thirty to fifty
people who are apportioned a certain amount of land for culture. The
women in these villages take a hand in all work, at home and in the

Stepping through the big Russian gateway into one of the yards, or all
of them, reveals an almost interminable series of tableaux of heroic
significance. Women with sieves in hand play them, full of seed, millet,
etc., above their heads as dancing-girls the tambourine, in an effort to
scatter the chaff on the breeze. Under their feet tarpaulin is spread to
receive the grain or the seeds. From some doorway an old woman appears,
with a broom of dried twigs, and brushes up a circle or a corner whereon
to lay a mat. Laying aside the broom, she disappears around some corner
to return with voluminous apron stuffed with beans in the pod. Sitting
down on the mat she begins to belabour the beans with a billet of wood.
Thus the shelling is accomplished. Two women appear carrying a plank
between them. Presently they come again with a tub of apples already
cut, and these they carefully spread to dry on the plank already
brought. A mother appears out of a door, plotok on her head, a cup in
hand, and begins to feed from the cup a little boy, with bread-and-milk,
in which there is a dash of mustard. Other women are picking over
tomatoes on the porch-floor. The cook for the week appears in the
doorway of the great community-kitchen, seeking a momentary rest for her
eyes, so long centred on her pots and pans with their contents, in the
life and scenes going on in the yard. In the sun an old grandfather
warms himself as he amuses his old age with making wooden spoons. Over
there, two boys with their heads together are making a pair of
nut-crackers by hammering two long wire nails into shape. Everywhere,
there are flowers.

When the tasks in the yard are completed the women repair to the fields;
or, on other days the field work comes first.

Here is a group of women in a field of sunflowers, some passing from
plant to plant plucking the seed-discs into their aprons and carrying
them to a group of women and children sitting about a big mat. This
scene resembles some religious festival, the women and girls with white
plotoks on their heads and sticks in their hands beating, on the reverse
side of the seed-plate and the seeds falling, like a rain, in a drift on
the old tarpaulin.

Sunflower seeds are the peanuts of this people, unaccustomed, as they
are, to candy. Shy children met on the highways, overcoming their
shyness, and falling into step by your side, offer you little handfuls
of sunflower-seeds drawn from their stuffed pockets. And when men or
women go on long journeys afoot they always take with them a supply of
these seeds to munch by the way. As one chats with the sunflower
harvesters, the bright figures of the clover-seed gatherers flit in the
upland-climbing clover fields; and among the leafy green on the
mile-stretching orchards of plum, apple and peach are to be seen the
carts, the pickers and the boxers all working together like bees in a

Everywhere children accompany their elders, naturally imitating with
their tiny fingers the tasks of the larger hand. Thus, quite easily, the
children learn, and, learning, look upon work as pleasurable. A
Doukhobor child is seldom or never told to do any especial task. They
simply fall in, of their own accord. The Douks are very gentle with
their children and a child is as free to speak, and is listened to with
as much courtesy, as an elder. This applies in “church” as well as in
the daily life.

The flowers growing everywhere in the dooryards and in every little
pocket of soil here and there on the edges of the orchards and flanking
the vegetable gardens, are explained, when one happens on the bee-hives
in some sheltered nook of more or less every “village”. The Doukhobors
place honey on the market and it is a stand-by on the home tables.

The interior of the “twins” presents no fewer pictures than the yards
and the fields. The kitchen and the living room occupy all of the
ground-floor. The kitchen is always a large room. In the middle of it
stands an enormous brick oven wherein are baked innumerable loaves of
brown bread. These loaves are always round and, for size, put to shame
the “big loaf” of Quebec. After the bread is done, the pans are lined
with straw, and, filled with fruit, are replaced in the cavernous mouth
till the oven is full. Thus pears and apples are dried for the
home-table. The dining-table is a long board resembling a giant
carpenter’s bench and painted an art-red, standing across one end of the
big room. Long benches serve the big table in lieu of chairs.

The chief stand-by on the Doukhobor menu, as seems to be the custom with
peasants everywhere, is soup. In this respect one is carried back to the
habitant table of Quebec. But here the soup is solely vegetable, fat
being supplied by butter which makes this Russian _borsch_ more delicate
in flavour than _la soupe_ of the habitant. Butter is the one Doukhobor

Pancakes, with jam or honey, boiled millet-and-butter, sliced cucumbers,
tomatoes, onions, big slices of the Russian brown bread,



all sorts of vegetable pies, beets, carrots, cheese, little triangles
blanketed in a pastry of millet or a mixture of brown flour and white,
make up one of these vegetable meals, all being completed by unlimited
draughts of Russian tea sweetened and flavoured with raspberry or
black-currant jam. The women take turns at the cooking, a week at a
time, and as there are usually six or seven women in each village, no
woman is worn-out at the stove, but each has a six-week interval before
the wheel of time brings her turn round again.

In this time her spare moments are filled with knitting, making rugs for
her room, spinning and weaving, and embroidering her own or her
children’s plotoks or kerchiefs. The Doukhobor women are especially
clever at all work of this kind, showing exquisite taste in the
selection and blending of colours in their rug-making. Occasionally one
of the older women brings out to show you, a Turkish rug which she wove,
in conjunction with a Turkish woman, at the time, when, by the Czar’s
decree they were banished to the wild parts of Southern Russia bordering
on Turkey; in the hope, perhaps, that the Turks would put them to the
sword. Instead, it seems the women of each side took to making rugs

In the threshing of straw into a fine powder, to help-out in feeding
horses and cattle, a peculiar kind of instrument is used, consisting of
a board, its under-side teethed with sharp stones. This instrument the
Doukhobor men tell you they learned how to make from the Turkish men, so
it is evident that the men of both sides fraternized, as well as the
women. It seems strange indeed to happen on these things in Western
Canada, until we remember that Romance knows no political or racial
boundaries; that there is a great sisterhood in spinning and weaving, in
embroidery, in rug-making, and in home-making everywhere.

No phase of this Community life is more Russian or Tolstoyan in
appearance than the great threshing-floor, in the centre of the
Settlement, at Brilliant, B.C.

The action of threshing is like that of a chariot-race, with the driver
on board the drags, and the horses racing in pairs, one behind the
other, round and round the large, circular earthen floor, in which the
dust of the flying chaff arises and half conceals horse and driver,
passing in a whirl. Ten minutes of this and the man in charge signals a
halt. Each horse is then given a bucket of water and a new driver takes
the place of the old. These drivers are usually mere boys, entering
into the race with all a boy’s excitement in the sport.

While the horses are resting, the older men come out with pitchforks
made from forked branches cut in the woods, and shake up the chaff, the
heavier wheat falling to the bottom. After the race has gone on for
several hours or until all the grain has escaped from its tiny
straw-sack, these men pitch the chaff to one side, and the wheat is
swept up and carried off in the big carts, to store in the
community-granary till it goes to mill.

Early in the morning of a Sunday when daylight still leaves the shadows
deep under the fruit-trees in the orchard, and the grass is wet and the
air full of the dewy freshness that only melts with the sun, the
Doukhobors may be seen–a figure or two at a time–stepping lightly
under the apple-trees, clad in their homespun suits of bleached linen,
the men in their Russian blouses and bareheaded, the women in full
skirts, and tight “bodies” with snowy plotoks on their heads, all
barefooted, all converging upon the church. Inside, gravely bowing, the
men range down one side of the empty room and the women line up on the
other. In the centre of the aisle between, stands a table always
supplied with a little dish of salt, a loaf of bread, and a jug of
water, the three elements that are the Trinity of life. In season, these
three simple elements are supplemented by offerings of a plate of the
most perfect specimens of tomatoes, a plate of the finest peaches,
another of the largest plums, a fullgrown watermelon, and a bunch of
asters. This dash of colour against the simple purity of the white linen
suits of the congregation is indeed effective.

The Doukhobors are very fond of singing, and this carries one back to
the daily life in the “villages”. For at almost every meal the
Doukhobors, in addition to saying a solemn “grace”, end the meal with
the singing of old religious chants. At the evening meal in particular
the singing is never omitted. It is worth while going among these people
just to listen to this sweet community part-singing gathering in volume
as it goes rolling through the miles of the “Valley of Consolation”
caught up from village to village, and borne away on the romantic wings
of the dusk enfolding the mountains, the rushing river and the orchards.

The garments of linen worn as the ceremonial dress at these early Sunday
morning services, are the offering upon the altar, as it were, of the
epic of flax. The Doukhobor women though “Doukhobor” in religion are
Russians in their knowledge of flax. This knowledge is their own special
contribution to Canada. Other wheat-wizards there are, other masters of
mixed-farming, other specialists in stock, others who would find them
children at the fishing. Perhaps no Doukhobor has ever been a sailor,
(because this is a strictly earth-loving people) but nowhere else in
Canada is the complete story of flax, from the seed to wearing of the
woven linen, to be come upon, without moving outside a settlement! Flax
knowledge is the Doukhobors’ gift to Canada but up to this time,
apparently, there has been no attempt to employ these people as

In the fields at Verigen one comes upon the figure of a woman stooping
over and seizing in her strong hands a full handful of the tall plants.
These she pulls and ties with a twist of green into a sheaf. “Flax must
be pulled”, she tells you. In response to inquiry as to the quality and
length of the fibre in this Canadian flax, she raises herself to rest
awhile, and drawing a wisp through her fingers says half-reminiscently
“Oh, good, vera good. Vera long fibre.”

The British Columbia woman “rets” her flax in the river. And she keeps
the swift current from running away with her precious plants, by
weighing them down with the rounded river-stones, the smoothed product
of the ice-age. These smooth stones serve the Indian-woman as pestles
for the stump-mortar wherein she grinds her corn, and this Russian woman
turns them to service for anchoring her flax, as though they were made
to order. A week or ten days and the flax, now clear of all wood-fibre,
is given the final washing and then carried up the steep bank of the
river to sway in the wind, the while it dries on some “village”
clothes-line. After this it comes into the hands of the heckler and the
spinner, in every odd moment between drying fruit, picking beans,
winnowing seeds, gathering aprons full of ripened millet and the
thousand and one tasks the hand finds to do on these almost
self-supporting farms.

The spinning-wheel is as common in every household here as in Quebec.
Indeed, in the big yards, one often happens on several women at their
wheels, while indoors, other women are sitting at the big handmade loom
that their husbands have concocted of the B. C. cedar log. The Russian
flax-wheel appears smaller than the wheel of _de laine_ in Quebec. But
its whirr and blurr of action is no less musical and rapid, and its
measure of spun thread as long. The only difference between the spinners
of the East and West is that the Russian woman spins flax and her
habitant sister–wool.

The Doukhobor woman is also a spinner of wool but as yet the keeping of
sheep on the Doukheries is in its infancy.

The Russian woman’s flax-wheel is light so that she can easily take it
under her arm, spinning here or there, as she wishes, indoor or out. In
the heat of the midsummer day, when work in the fields is only pursued
early in the morning or in the late afternoon, you find her spinning in
her bedroom or on the porch. Or she sits out of doors among the flowers
abloom in her dooryard enjoying the blossoms and the shade thrown by
peach-trees–laden boughs bending, a symphony in fruit, to lay
themselves across the heart of their Earth-mother. Indoors, the blur of
the flying shuttle hums a minor accompaniment to the song of the bees
busily planing from flower to flower, gathering up the nectar, that, as
honey, is later to come to home tables. Then some morning the bolt of
linen is finished, the linen that will, with ordinary care, long outlive
the women whose industry has brought it into being.