July 18, 1932 Investigative Report
Regina, Sask. July 18, 1932
Moose Jaw File 39336
Winnipeg File 37147
RE: Explosion Near Farron. B.C., in First Class Day Coach 1586 of Train
No. 11, October 29, 1924 whereby Peter Verigin, Sr., and several others
received injuries which resulted in their deaths.
Pursuant to instructions I respectfully beg to report that while on duty in the Nelson District during May and June 1932, in connection with the removal of one rail and the attempted removal of another rail from C.P.R. track, damage to C.P.R. water tank at Perry Siding, and C.P.R. switch situated at Thrums being blown by explosives, outrages being committed in the vicinity of Doukhobor settlements, for which crimes they were believed to be responsible. Further crimes had been committed about that time in the blowing of water pipe lines, burning and blastings of schools situated in the Doukhobor vicinity.
J.P. Burns. Esq., Ass. Chief, Western Line, made headquarters at Nelson in company with Investigators and Constables and took charge of operations in so far as this Company was concerned. Inspector H. McGowan and Investigators being stationed at Grand Forks and working out of that point. The Asst. Chief was in close touch with P. Cruickshanks, Inspector of the B.C. Police ,with headquarters at Nelson, B.C. and the two Forces co-operated in a matter considered most likely in detecting those responsible for the outrages and preventing further crimes, whereby life and valuable property was in danger. [...]
In the course of enquiry the names of several Doukhobors were given to Asst. Chief Burns and Inspector Cruickshank, who might be able to throw some light on the parties responsible for the explosion which occurred on train No. 11, on October 29th, 1924, whereby Peter Verigin was killed and several others received injuries which resulted in their deaths. [...]
The man mentioned as Blaney, is Joseph Blaney, C.P.R. Loco[motive] Engineer, who resides at Nelson. I interviewed Mr. Blaney, who stated that on the night of October 28th/24 he boarded the day coach of the C.P.R. passenger train No. 11 at Nelson for the purpose of proceeding to Farron, where he was to relieve another Engineer who had been taken ill at that point. There were a number of persons in the car when he boarded the same at Nelson. Before reaching Castlegar he noticed Peter Veregin and a little girl sitting about three or four seats in front or him. While the train was stopped at Castlegar Station, Mr. Blaney states, that two men, apparently Doukhobors, entered the day coach carrying two grips or suitcases, which they placed close to Peter Verigin, but was not sure where they placed the grips, just in front or just behind the seat occupied by him. These men engaged in a short conversation with Veregin, shook hands and apparently wished him good luck and left the train, leaving the grips or suitcases where placed.
Mr. Blaney thought that these men were merely carrying some of Veregin's baggage on board for him, which was customary amongst the Doukhobors, the two men were strangers to Mr. Blaney and he does not think that he would recognize them again if seen, but, he often thought that one of the men looked very much like J.P. Shukin, the present Vice Pres. of the Doukhobors under Peter Verigin, Jr's control, but he could not identify him as being one of the two men and he could not say that he has seen either of the two men since that night. Mr. Blaney left the train on arrival at Farron and shortly after the train pulled out of the Farron station he heard a tremendous explosion. He ran to his engine and proceeded to the scene of the explosion, picked up the cars which were undamaged, and later conveyed some of the injured to Nelson Hospital. Beyond seeing the two men board the train at Castlegar with the two grips, which they placed in the vicinity of where Peter Verigin was sitting, and seeing the men leave the train, leaving the grips behind, he knows nothing further that would assist in placing responsibility for the explosion on train No. 11. [...]
I interviewed Peter Hardie, Hotel Proprietor, Castlegar, he stated that he recalled the evening of Oct. 28th/24 and train No. 11 leaving Castlegar, as there were several persons in his hotel that evening [w]ho proceeded West on that train. He stated that he always suspected a Russian, who had been in the vicinity for some time as being responsible for making the bomb which caused the explosion resulting in the death of Peter Veregin and several others. He stated that this Russian, who was traveling among the Doukhobors, was a watchmaker and he was in his hotel at Castlegar on the afternoon of Oct. 28th., but since that time he had disappeared and he had not seen him since. Mr. Hardie described the man as being a Russian, about 44 years of age, slim build, 5"7", dark hair and moustache, carrying a bag said to contain watchmaker's tools.
I made the closest inquiries and took the matter up with Inspector Cruickshank, who recalled that in the Spring of 1930 he received information that a Russian answering this description was living among the different settlements of Doukhobors, but for the time being he was unable to locate him. On July 14th, 1930, Inspr. Cruickshank, in company with Interpreter Spielman, proceeded to Porto Rico, B.C. While talking to the Doukhobors the Inspector observed a man looking through the thick brush on the West side, where no Doukhobors were living. George Feminoff informed the Inspector that the man was Russian who had been visiting there for a few days. The Police went to the place where the man was and found a small shack occupied by the Russian who was about 50 years of age. He stated that his name was Jim Mitgren in English and that the Russian pronunciation was Grishin. He stated that he had been living there since January 1930, and that he was a watchmaker by trade and traveled around repairing watches and clocks. The man was searched and there was found on him which showed that he had been arranging for a passport back to Russia upon his arrival in Japan, also that he had a brother a school teacher in Russia and that he had some relatives who were in the employ of the Soviet Government. He had in his possession an American Express Order for twenty dollars, which was made payable to himself and about $20.00 in cash. He was brought to the Police Office at Nelson where Mr. Cowell, Canadian Immigration Dept. interviewed him. After a lengthy interview Mr. Cowell informed Insp. Cruickshank that the man was deportable, but could not be deported to Russia.
Mitgren or Grishin promised the Police and Immigration Officer that he would leave Nelson that night on train 11 for Penticton and from there would work West, repairing clocks and watches until he secured enough money to pay his way to Japan enroute to Russia. Inspr. Cruickshank stated that this man was very smooth and very ready with answers and he felt certain that he did not obtain all the information that he could have given. The Inspector found a photograph of the man on his person, which he retained. He was not connected up at that time with being in the vicinity in 1924 and was allowed to go.
The Inspector took the matter up by phone with Sergt. G.J. Duncan, B.C. Police at Penticton, and requested him to make inquiries if Mitgren could be located in that District, and received a reply, from the Sergt. stating that he had interviewed Simeon Kamenchikoff, better known as, "Orange Sam" or the "Czar of Heaven", also Mr. P.H. Keane, well known Fruit Grower there, who at one time employed "Gretchin". They both stated Gretchin returned to Russia about two years ago and is still there as, Kamenchikoff received a letter from him a short time ago. Gretchin is described as a Russian, aged 50 years, slight build, about 5"7", gray hair and a moustache, watchmaker by trade.
In company with Insp. Cruickshank we interviewed Nick Maloff, Independent farmer at Castlegar. Maloff recalls seeing this watchmaker in the doukhobor district in 1924 and he stayed two nights with Mr. Maloff at Castlegar, but he would not tell any person his name, only that he was "God". Mr. Maloff stated that the last he heard of this man was in 1930, when he was living at Porto Rico among the Doukhobors. As the photograph of Metro Grishen or Gretchin had disappeared from the B.C. Police files when I was making inquiries at that point, but has since turned up and this department supplied a copy; I would respectfully suggest that Peter Hardie, Hotel Proprietor at Castlegar, and Joseph Blaney, C.P.R. Loco. Eng'r, Nelson, be shown the photograph, Mr. Hardie with a view to the identity of the man as being seen in his hotel on Oct. 28th, 1924 ,and Mr. Blaney with a possibility of identity as one of the men seen carrying baggage on the train at Castlegar, which they left behind on the train.
I proceeded to Shouldice, Alta., and there interviewed Annastasia Lords, who up until Oct. 28th, 1924, lived with Peter Veregin, Sr., at Brilliant. After the death of Verigin, Annastasia attempted to get control as President of the Christian Community of Doukhobors, but there was some divided opinion as to this, and Mrs. Peter Veregin, Peter Veregin's wife, who had been residing in Russia with her son, Peter Veregin, Jr., arrived at Brilliant in the Fall of 1925, so as to pave the way for her son Peter taking over the control of the doukhobors as President. A large meeting was held in Brilliant for some days
and finally Peter Veregin, Jr. was voted in control and made President. Annastasia left Brilliant with several hundred of her followers and purchased about two sections of land two miles frorn Shouldice, where a Community has now grown up, and they appear to be living peacefully causing no trouble. Annastasia stated that she was very pleased to see and hear that the C.P.R. had not forgotten the murder of Peter Veregin, but that she had changed her views very much since the time Peter was killed, she at that time expressing the views that the Government and the C.P.R. were responsible. She stated that Peter Veregin Jr. and his mother came to Brilliant from Russia in 1905 and Peter Verigin put them in a Community house to live and ordered Peter to work, which he did for a few days and then refused to work further, whereupon he and his father had a quarrel. Peter Jr. also at that time said to his father and also told Annastasia that he would kill her. Finally Peter Veregin ordered his wife and son off the property and ordered their return to Russia. The two returned to Russia and in 1906 Peter Jr. returned to Canada by himself, and came to see his father, who refused to see him and sent him word to return to Russia. Peter Veregin refused to acknowledge his wife and son after their visit in 1905, and bitter feeling existed between them.
When Mrs. Veregin returned to Canada in 1925 to endeavour to get control for her son, Peter, Annastasia and Mrs. Veregin did not speak and the two had no dealings with each other. After Peter Jr. arrived in Canada he went to Shouldice to see Annastasia and her community, and she met him and saw that he was much the worse of liquor. She rebuked him for his behavior. The second time he returned he was also drunk. Annastasia told him she would like an inscription placed on the tomb of Peter Veregin at Brilliant, and he told her he would place an inscription on the tomb that would astonish the world. He also told her that he knew all about who killed his father on the C.P.R. train in 1924, but he was not yet prepared to tell. The third and last time Peter came to her settlement he was also drunk and she sent word and ordered him off the property. She is satisfied that his only object at visiting her was to attempt to break up her settlement. From what Peter had told her on these visits she feels satisfied that Peter Veregin, Jr. and his mother had some hand and played some part in the death of Peter Veregin and the explosion on the train but she could not supply any definite information at this time that would prove this to be true. She is of the belief that the murder of Peter Veregin was plotted in Russia, but who carried out the crime
here she has been unable to find out, but she is still hoping that some day she will be able to obtain this information and will gladly notify this Company in appreciation for the interest this Department has shown in endeavouring to locate the parties responsible for the murder. I showed her the photograph of Metro Grishen, alias C. Mitgren, but she had never seen him before.
I also interviewed Larry Veregin at Shouldice. He stated that he had never obtained any information as to who was responsible for the death of Peter Veregin. He stated that on Oct. 28th, 1924, he had been busy all day with correspondence for Peter Veregin before he left for Grand Forks, and he knew that he would then proceed to Spokane, where he was to meet Lazaroff and Baskin, who were both driving to Spokane by auto. He further stated that it was quite common for Peter Veregin to purchase a railway ticket only part way when he intended to travel ,and informed me confidentially that the Conductors used to pass him on without transportation. He stated that he often traveled with him and had seen this done, which he stated accounted for Verigin only purchasing a ticket on the night of October 28th, 1924, Brilliant to Castlegar. I showed Larry Veregin the photograph of C. Mitgren, which he recognized as the man who in 1924 was around the Doukhobor settlement at Brilliant, passing as a watch and clock repairman. He knew that he was a Russian, but never knew his correct name. He stated that he suspected that he was there for a no good purpose and sent word to have him removed off the property and he did not see him again, later in the summer of 1924. He did not know if Peter Veregin was acquainted with this man or not, but never saw them together.
It will be noted in the reports that Constable R.J. House, dated Nelson, B.C., Nov. 6th/24, that exhibits A and B mentioned in Jury's verdict as an alarm clock, a portion of the dry cell battery, which were believed to be portions of the attachment in connection with the time bomb which exploded in the coach on the morning of Oct. 29th, 24 with fatal results. From expert evidence given at the inquest there was an attachment in the shape of a small piece of copper or brass wire fastened to the hour wheel of clock and a dry cell battery having a strip of tin soldered onto the zinc casting of the dry cell. Both these articles having been found by the Constable in the vicinity of where the explosion occurred. Both these articles show evidence of having been through fire and explosion and are still held by the Prov. Police at Nelson. Expert evidence was given at the Inquest to the effect that the clock had been taken apart at least once so as to fasten the copper or brass wire to the hour wheel, which manipulation was said to be the work of a man acquainted with clocks and their movements.
It is quite possible that Metro Grishen alias Mitgren may have had a hand in the making of the time bomb mentioned, owing to his knowledge of watchmaking and his suspicious manner in loitering in the Doukhobor vicinity. And also with regard to the statement of Peter Hardie, Castlegar, that he saw the man at Castlegar on Oct. 28th, he having disappeared from the district after that time until 1930, no trace of him having been found in the meantime, and also his apparent connection with the Soviet Government in Russia, to which country he has now returned.
There may be truth in the rumor that the assassination of Peter Veregin was planned in Russia and it is quite possible that Mrs. Veregin and her son Peter played a part in this so that Peter Verigin, Jr. might get control of the Doukhobor community in this country. But up to the present it has been found impossible to obtain any evidence to connect up the guilty parties.