Edward Arthur Wilson, an early 20th Century mystic known as Brother XII, and his partner Mabel Scottowe (“Madame Z”) founded a religious colony just south of Nanaimo. Known as Cedar-by-the-Sea, it was an early off-grid community funded by donations from wealthy American patrons who found Brother XII’s writings compelling enough to send his Aquarian Foundation large sums – which he apparently converted to gold coins and stored in quart jars in the late 1920s.
A charismatic speaker, Brother XII excelled at soliciting funds. Shortly after founding the Vancouver Island colony and purchasing additional property on Valdes and De Courcy islands, Brother XII and Madame Z travelled to England where they managed to acquire, with donated funds, the converted trawler Lady Royal. With an English crew, they sailed to the Isle of Pines in the Caribbean. There, they sent the English crew home and hired on Edrick Douglas Agate (‘Black Agate’) and two Panamanians. Returning to BC, they dodged customs, had the boat towed to De Courcy Island, sent the two Panamanians home, unloaded a store of firearms and other contraband, and then sailed into Nanaimo to go through customs. Eldrick Agate eventually went to work for a real estate firm in Vancouver.
The tug that towed the Lady Royal had a Sunshine Coast connection, since it was usually piloted by Harold Krause and Bruce Crawford. This may have been their first meeting with Brother XII but it was not the last. At some point, Crawford was hired to build cedar boxes with rope handles (to facilitate lifting) to hold the quart sealers of gold coins. By Crawford’s reckoning, there were 43 jars, and a rough calculation of volume, allowing for about 75 percent fill would bring the total weight to about 1200 pounds.
Madame Z was reputed to be a hard taskmaster, working the colony members “without respite,” and telling them that each task was a test of their spiritual fitness. This, plus Brother XII’s paranoia, his living openly with a woman not his wife, and his odd pronouncements (claiming to be the reincarnation of the Egyptian god Osiris) finally drove members of the colony to open rebellion.
With revolt simmering, Edrick Agate came to the Sunshine Coast – directly across the water from the Nanaimo colony – and purchased property later registered in the name of Harold Krause at the junction of Highway 101 and Pixton Road. The name on the mailbox was Harold Crouse (during the war, there was some gossip as to whether he was a Nazi sympathizer.) Krause built a cabin on the land, and some say he hollowed out a large cedar stump, to be used as a bolt-hole. Subsequent owners never found any evidence of this.
Alex Harbinson had been a ship’s joiner, and had retired to a place on the coast waterfront, near where Gulf Road ends now. I still have a storage cabinet that he built for my Grandmother. Harby, as he was locally known, drove a taxi part time, and he told of a small sailing vessel anchoring in the creek mouth near his home sometime in the early 1930s. Two men carried heavy boxes to his door and asked for a taxi ride to the Upper Road, now Highway 101. There is conjecture that these boxes were Brother XII’s gold, taken to the Krause property for safe-keeping.
There is much conjecture as to where this property was located, as in John Oliphant’s book Brother XII: The Strange Odyssey of a 20th-century Prophet and His Quest for a New World, he says it was about “three miles from the Landing,” which is about right if we take the Roberts Creek wharf as the Landing, but in another case he says “a few hundred yards from the waterfront,” which is wrong.
In October of 1932, Brother XII and Madame Zee were ordered to appear in court in Nanaimo, to answer to a lawsuit by some members of the cult. They read of the proceedings each morning in their room in the Empress hotel in Victoria. Prior to leaving De Courcy, they, along with Agate and Krause, had demolished most of the colony buildings, and dynamited the Lady Royal. By this time, Agate was wanted by the police, and went by the aliases of James A Murray, and John Murray. About this time, Brother XII and Madame Zee travelled to Roberts Creek, and holed up in the Krause cabin. In April, 1933 they left for Prince Rupert in their tugboat, the Kheunaten, rather than appear in court to answer charges – taking a number of heavy steamer trunks. It is supposed that they then boarded a Great Northern train, destination Montreal, where they boarded a steamer for Europe. Brother XII supposedly died in Switzerland in 1934, but since an eyewitness placed him in San Francisco some years later the rumours of his death may have been exaggerated.
Editor’s note: In the 1940s and 1950s, Jeff Newman lived just about a half mile from the Krause place, and Alex Harbinson was a family friend, “and I always thought him quite reliable,” says Jeff. “Ms. Wendy Hillier owned the property after Harold Krause. For this story, some of it has been taken from John Oliphant’s books, some from local gossip that I can remember.” Jeff is a local history buff, and his Walking Tours of Gibson’s Landing, and the new Howe Sound Historical Cruise, are popular weekend activities for tourists and locals.