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A ferrytale existence

Once exclusively a Doukhobor community, but now a mix of cultures, Glade is throwing itself a 100th birthday party this month

The Glade ferry will get its biggest workout in recent memory this month as the community on the south side of the Kootenay River marks its centennial with a three-day extravaganza.

The celebration from July 29 to 31 will include historical displays, multimedia presentations, sports, live entertainment, and traditional Doukhobor food.

Planning began last October, according to organizing committee chair Rob Zwick.

“The community’s interesting because right now it’s about half Russian and half non-Russian,” he says. “It’s a community that gets along great.”

Zwick himself is a self-described urban refugee from Vancouver, who moved to Glade with his wife in 1995. She was originally from the community and her parents still live there. Zwick’s great grandfather John W. Sherbinin, meanwhile, was a Doukhobor community administrator.

But while the celebration will have a strong Doukhobor flavour, it won’t be exclusively so. First Nations representatives have been invited, and the organizing committee itself includes people of diverse backgrounds.

“Everybody seems to be fairly accommodating on respecting each other’s cultures,” Zwick says. “It’s an overall celebration, but understanding we have strong Doukhobor history.”


Glade — also known as Plodorodnoye, meaning “fertile” in Russian — was founded as a Doukhobor colony in 1910, but didn’t become a major settlement until the following year.

Peter (Lordly) Verigin bought the 1,100 acre tract from John W. Moore, a South Slocan hotel proprietor, for $35,000. The area was originally known as Passmore, after rancher Richard Passmore (not the namesake of Passmore in the Slocan Valley).

An initial party cleared land, planted orchards, built the first ferry, and erected a sawmill that produced railway ties. The mill burned the following year, but was soon rebuilt.

On April 13, 1911, the Nelson Daily News announced: “Since the recent burning down of the original mill, and the erection of a new one, which has just been completed, the name of the locality has been changed by the CPR from Passmore to Glade.”

Before long, Glade was the second-largest Doukhobor settlement in the area, after Brilliant.

An October 1912 census found it home to over 1,750 people — about six times the present population.

Centennial festivities will include tours of Glade’s historic sites, although sadly not many traces remain of the 11 Doukhobor communal villages. Each was comprised of two large wooden houses, plus a U-shaped outbuilding, barn, bathhouse, and blacksmith shop.

Lifelong resident Nick Denisoff, born there in 1933, says unlike other Doukhobor settlements, the villages in Glade were named not after families who lived there but for values and principles, or other villages left behind in Saskatchewan.

For instance, he grew up in Khleb- odarovka, which means gift of bread or grain — bread is a Doukhobor symbol of peace, hospitality, and friendship.

When Denisoff was young, lightning struck the neighbouring village of Starozhilovka, and burned down one of the houses. Decades later, long after communal life ended, the only original house left in Glade was also from that village — and it was torched for a fire department practice.

In the interim, all others were torn down, some to make way for new homes and roads, and others simply because they were derelict.


Glade also had two key brick buildings.

A school built around 1929 used the same design as still-standing schools in Raspberry and Grand Forks. It had classrooms on either end and a four-room teacherage in the centre. However, its existence was troubled and brief.

Like many schools of the era, it was guarded from arsonists. Polly Romaine, who taught there from 1933-37, recalled the guards were discontinued in early 1936, “somewhat prematurely, I thought.”

On June 21 of that year, the school was bombed.

“Fortunately no one was present,” she wrote. “We teachers were away for the weekend. The primary end of the building suffered the most damage but the entire structure was useless.”

The school was rebuilt on the damaged foundation and expected to reopen in the fall, but as it neared completed in August, fire levelled the building. Once more it was rebuilt on the same foundation, and finally opened in November.

The school was destroyed for the final time in the fall of 1938. Classes moved to one of the communal homes and then to a former general store on the north side of the river — a narrow, tall building with two-storey balconies.

Although long since demolished, some of the store’s bricks were left on site, and in recent years used to build a new guest house at Verigin Memorial Park in Brilliant.


A century after Glade was founded, the ferry remains the community’s symbol and lifeline.

The original vessel, a reaction scow, was installed by the Doukhobors soon after their arrival, and later replaced by a pontoon-type reaction ferry.

There was no scheduled service. You simply yelled “Parome!” — meaning ferry — when you wanted it brought to your side of the river.

“If anyone heard your repeated calls, you were fortunate,” according to a history of the Castlegar school district. “Otherwise your weekend trip home or other plans had to be forgotten. Since the teachers lived close to the ferry, they frequently got out of bed at odd hours, even in winter, to fetch latecomers from the opposite shore who were calling Parome.”

After the Brilliant dam was completed in 1944, the river’s current was no longer strong enough for a reaction ferry. For the next 11 years, unless you had your own boat, the only access was via a community-owned rowboat, and later a privately owned barge and tug.

Eventually the provincial government began operating a single-lane, three-vehicle cable ferry, and moved the landing downstream to the centre of the community to make it more convenient for residents, who still mostly walked everywhere.

Service began on April 23, 1955 — a date Nick Denisoff and wife Mabel remember vividly.

“We got married that Saturday,” he says. “But I didn’t know I would spend 30 years on that ferry.”

When Denisoff began working as an operator, the hours were 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Then they were extended to 10 p.m., then midnight, 1 a.m., 2:30 a.m., and finally 24 hours.

The ferry was never out for an extended period except during high water, he says. One year, the Slocan River went on a rampage and large debris came floating down the Kootenay.

“Those were rough times. Sometimes it got to the point where we had to chop the cable off and throw it in. We couldn’t take it apart. That’s how many stumps there were. Then we got a high line the ferry held on to and went back and forth.”

Although the river rarely froze, Denisoff does recall using the ferry as an icebreaker.

On one occasion, he had just left the north side by himself because a car was waiting on the opposite side when a man walked halfway across on the ice and hopped aboard.

“He didn’t make the ferry, and I didn’t see him — it was in the dark. He walked on the ice and caught up to me. He got in and I just about jumped off. Scared the heck out of me.”

In later years, the ferry’s capacity increased to five, and then in 1980, the present eight-car ferry began crossing the river. Denisoff retired about 20 years ago.

Periodically, the notion of replacing the ferry with a bridge is suggested, such as in 2002 when the BC government threatened to reduce service and slap tolls on inland ferries.

Denisoff recalls one public meeting where he suggested they vote on it.

“I think 80 per cent were for the bridge,” he says. However, “now that we’ve got a lot of new people, it’s getting to be pretty even.”

He says Glade is becoming a “semi-recreational” haven, popular with hikers, canoeists, ATVers and snowmobilers. They like their seclusion, and fear a bridge would change that. To them, a short, free ferry ride is an asset, not an inconvenience.

“We have people from Kelowna and the Lower Mainland, and for them to wait the five or eight minutes, they’re laughing, because you go to the coast, [ferry sailings] will take you two hours at times.”


After the Doukhobor communal enterprise foundered in the late 1930s, non-Doukhobors began moving to Glade — but very gradually.

The population today is about 300 and not likely to grow much so long as Glade remains in the Agricultural Land Reserve, restricting properties from being subdivided.

There are homes, small farms, a hall, and a cemetery, but few businesses.

“We’re in a transition of sharing the community with [non-Doukhobor] people,” Denisoff says, noting with delight that a non-Doukhobor man has taken up his hobby of crafting wooden spoons and ladles.

“It’s a unique lifestyle here. At this time, 100 years since we’ve been here, it’s shifting. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I see a very interesting story developing.”


Glade’s centennial celebrations begin Friday, July 29 with a baseball game.

Things continue the next day with a pancake breakfast and opening ceremonies at 10 a.m.

Doukhobor leader J.J. Verigin and MP Alex Atamanenko are expected to be among dignitaries on hand. Atamanenko will also be one of the musical performers.

A prayer service will be held Sunday, followed by Doukhobor choir performances.

A full schedule of events can be found at or call 250-399-4773.

Friday, July 29

6 to 7:30 p.m: Baseball game (North Glade vs. South Glade)

5 to 11 p.m.: Concession and refreshments

8 to 11 p.m.: Live music

Saturday, July 30

8 to 11 a.m.: Pancake breakfast

10 a.m.: Opening ceremonies

12 to 4 p.m: Doukhobor meal (vareniki and salads)

1 to 3 p.m.: Doukhobor games for all ages

Sunday, July 30

8 to 11 a.m.: Pancake breakfast

10 to 11 a.m.: Prayer service

11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.: Doukhobor choir performance

12 to 4 p.m.: Doukhobor meal (borsch and fruit tarts)

6 p.m.: Closing remarks

Ongoing Saturday and Sunday

• Historical displays and multimedia presentation

• Historical tours

• Live music and entertainment

• Concession and refreshments

• Vendor booths