The story of Brother Twelve (it was a superstition of his to use the roman numbers) starts on Vancouver Island British Columbia in the late 1920's. Edward Arthur Wilson is proported to have had a number of visions telling him to found a new foundation and to seek out a place to form it. His new name he supposedly took from the 12 astrological signs of his birth.
His first visit to Vancouver Island was in 1905, long before his visions where he worked at many jobs, the most notable as a Baggage Handler in Victoria. He never was a very health individual, so we do not find him living there very long. He gravitated back to England where his parents were retired, reputedly with a considerable fortune. There he cultivated a string of friends and confidants who would eventually come back to Vancouver Island with him.
There is lots of material in archives on the fellow, and a few books written on the subject. Some of which are absolute crap. He is also mentioned in a few books by famous writers such as Pierre Berton. Malaspina College, where I worked in the 80's, had a film on the man which eventually made it's way into the national film archives. To my knowledge it was one of the few films on the subject and I have lately been promised a copy. If one was to capsulate the story you could say he was the first true cult leader (perhaps the only) one in British Columbia.
Anyway, the facts...
During the 20's there were a great deal of miserable folk looking for a way out of the horrors of World War I and the stages of the depression. So, anyone with a so called "Vision" held a lot of sway with the public. When Wilson began having his so called visions he thought he was receiving the answers to the ills and woes of society, and a number of people were willing to follow him and his vision. The "Aquarian Foundation", a group he formed was to have all the answers to the salvation of humanity. In fact, it was a Society formed by Wilson and was under the absolute and total control of him. A number of folk joined right off the bat hoping to get in on the "Ground Floor" and pledged total loyalty and all their finances to him. So, The Society was a very well funded organization right from the start.
It is only natural that he should have a journey through California, the home of all the really serious cults, but he is reported to have had a vision that Nanaimo on Vancouver Island was the safest place for him to form his community of followers. So, his first roots were in the Cedar area, just south east of the main city of Nanaimo. There he formed a farm commune. In 1926 (or thereabouts) he started earnestly setting up the rituals and prayers used by his followers. These were said to have been given to him in dreams during his regular sojourns to his spiritual sanctuary. Nothing earth shattering seems to have occurred to lead anyone to believe that his way was not the true way.
About a year later, in 1927 however local folk were suddenly beginning to realize that this organization was not just a spiritual movement but was indeed a militant organization. There were many signs of withdrawal from any contact with the community (not that they had a lot of contact). He himself outwardly preached of the coming Armageddon. A catastrophe from which only he and his followers were destined to survive. Far fetched as it sounds he actually is proported to have gone to Washington DC to offer his services to the American President. It is even stated by some he made connections with Klan while there. Basically my take on it is that he very rapidly became a large "pain in the ass" and left Washington roughly as he found it. There were however a number of folk who heard of him and his cause in the US, so the trip was not utterly worthless to him. Some folk actually followed him back to "Cedar-By-The-Sea" as it is referred to in history. They didn't just bring money as we will later find out!
Land was plentiful, so Brother 12 (as he now was called) pressed on with his dream. His old past was totally forgotten, even to those who knew him. Anyone meeting him who claimed to know him was immediately dismissed. His sites were on the future, and his prophecy. It is interesting to read that there were other cults, some of which prophesied the devil and witchcraft. All of which were he felt were attacking the Aquarians. I wonder if this might have been an early sign of the madness in the man? However, considerable effort was expended by him in fighting off the threat he assumed they made. The one underlying thing about the cult was beginning to show at this time. It was apparent that certain women were being brought under the direction of Brother 12. A ban was beginning on normal relations between couples. It was beginning to appear that the only one allowed to have relations with any of the women in the cult was Brother 12. Does this appear to have been followed in later day cults too? Did Brother 12 start the trend? Sorry, not for me to speculate on. Suffice it to say, that practise alone could have contributed to the ultimate collapse of the cult. Not the only reason, but a pretty good one!
OK, the major question... how did he and his followers wind up on DeCourcy Island? And what did they do there?
All was not well with the foundation. Brother 12 was loosing his grip on the Society that was formed to run it. Members were in court suing Wilson and there were serious doubts of his sanity. They even went so far as to have him arrested at one point. The Cedar community and the small settlement community on Valdez Island were in trouble. His followers had dwindled from hundred to less than two dozen. One writer on the subject goes as far as saying it had deteriorated to a "Free Love" colony. That was in fall of 1928. The colony and Brother 12 were starting to be noticed by the community, and they did not like what they saw. Even the Government of British Columbia was to get involved in the affairs of the Aquarian Society!
Spring of 1929 saw the launching of the Kuenaten, a brand new tug boat. His travels led him to DeCourcy Island which he coerced one of his most followers, a lady called called Mary, into buying for him. Almost 700 acres, formerly owned by W.M. Flewitt passed into his hands for the mere sum of $10,000. The year was 1929.
All this time the men of the colony were becoming more and more disenchanted with the situation. In fact, a number of very strong willed and influential women seem to come into the picture. All of which seemed to have worshipped Brother 12. Money and power were coming back on board and plans were drawn up for a very extensive (and expensive) community. Meanwhile, the government was still involved in the legal matter of the foundation. They eventually decreed that the Cedar farm be dissolved and the land be given to the adherents there. Meantime rumours were flying. Right down to the disappearance of certain members of the cult who were assumed to have met a dire fate at the hands of Brother 12. But, by now he had built up a considerable fortress and was unapproachable by any normal means. Work progressed to the point that Brother 12, in the company of his present mistress went to England for a while. He bought a boat there and provisioned it for a journey back to DeCourcy. The boat was christened the Lady Royal and her destination was to become the colony. In only a fashion he could have managed he seemed to have sailed her across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal and up to British Columbia. Making more than one enemy along the way I have been told.
Fall of 1930 saw the Lady Royal arrive in our waters. His escapades on that voyage would make a book all of their own! He was almost shipwrecked off of California. The Customs folk were on the lookout for him up here. When spotted she was taken into custody in Roche Harbour, but was later spirited to Decourcy where the cargo was off loaded. The customs folk were then invited to inspect her. I refuse to speculate about just what was aboard, this story would again get too large for my grasp! One interesting aside is that it even survived an attempt at sabotage by a fellow Brother 12 stiffed for repairs. He actually drove an iron bar through the boat, an action which slowed the vessel by gathering seaweed and the like. But never stopped it.Even though the community was glad to see his return, the infighting had escalated. There was considerable dissent from the men of the cult. There were some very powerful women running the place too. But, even amongst them there were serious problems. You could even say they were fighting amongst themselves for power and favour. Eventually folk would start leaving the cult with huge amounts of cash. Some escaped hoping to get away from Brother 12. But, in most instances these folk were tracked down and returned. But, clearly things were falling apart...
Brother 12 went through a couple of ladies who were his actual mistresses. The last one, the most powerful was possibly the real power in the cult. He officially took out notice in The British Columbia Gazette that he was changing his name to Amiel De Valdes. His mistress changed her name later to Zura De Valdes. Both in obvious honour of the colony on Valdez Island.
Meantime members were getting braver and were actually starting lawsuits against the cult and Brother 12. Eventually the courts awarded considerable sums to the members, but when they went to DeCourcy there was no sign of Brother 12. Some of the buildings were wrecked, his sailboat was sunk in the harbour. He had blown a hole in the hull. Everything of value had been either looted or destroyed. Brother 12 and his mistress was gone. All through the spring of 1933 there were various reports of them. All the way from the Sunshine Coast to Victoria. Finally in fall of 1934 they arrived in Switzerland. His stay was short lived, he died on November 7, 1934 of a heart attack. He was just 56 years old. But, like Elvis, there were reported sightings of him long after his death.
The entire cult eventually disbursed. No one seemed to want to stay around and settle the area any more. Some of them died virtual paupers, a long way from DeCourcy and Brother 12. One of the longest supporters for Brother 12, Mary Connaly continued to live on DeCourcy. She died in 1947. The property spurred quite a treasure hunt. But to this day no sign of the gold said to be secreted there was found. It is said that a note was found proclaiming a prophesy from Brother 12 proclaiming "For fools and traitors - nothing". But no treasure. As close as we can come is Pirate's Cove on DeCourcy where there is an open treasure chest next to the sign proclaiming the Provincial Park. A few notes inside from folk who have stopped, and at least one recipe for some sort of rum drink.
Strange though, just like Nostradamus events that happened long after his supposed date of birth were said to have been predicted by him. But, in the large scheme of it all, he is still largely a local figure. The original buildings in Yellow Point are still standing. I will have a gallery of pictures here very soon.
For further information, here is a reading list:
Photographs of remaining buildings on Decourcy by S. Jones