Known by the single name “Lordly,” he was revered as a semi-deity by Doukhobors. Peter Vasilievich Verigin inspired his Doukhobor followers to build a communal empire that spread over three western provinces in the years after 1899, when they arrived in Canada.
But in the early morning of October 29, 1924, an explosion on the remote Kettle Valley Line in southeastern British Columbia ripped apart Canadian Pacific Railroad Car 1586, killing the 65-year-old Lordly, his 17-year-old female companion and eight others.
Not everyone mourned his death. Some Western Canadians were jealous of the success of the communal Doukhobors, while others resented their attachment to their culture and language. Could fanatic nativists have killed him? Or was it, as many felt within the Doukhobor community, the work of the Canadian or Russian governments, as each was thought to want to be rid of Verigin?
While loved by most of his faith, even some Doukhobors resented Lordly’s heavy hand and had deserted the commune. Others believed Lordly’s accommodation to government laws was treason to Doukhobor principles. Some, living under very harsh circumstances, resented his exalted status. Was it fellow Doukhobors who caused his death?
Or could it have been a tragic accident: an explosion of the gas used to light the rail car, or dynamite carelessly transported by prospectors?
Assassination or accident? No one has ever been charged and the case remains open. What shattered Verigin and the others on that snowy night has remained locked in the lonely Monashee Mountains where they died. Now, with the benefit of access to archives, a reconstruction of the death scene and a modern forensic report, perhaps you can solve this mystery.