It isn’t often that a museum is fortunate enough to receive a significant artifact tied directly to local history.
But thanks to the Mill Bay Marina the Heritage Museum now has on display the original steel door from the vault that was believed to have held bootleg liquor in the 1920s.
Mobsters in Mill Bay???? – Was the Mill Bay Marina site used by Rum Runners to run liquor to the USA during the ‘Roaring Twenties’?
Mr. G.F. Scollard, who resembled ‘Colonel Sanders’ of fried chicken fame, arrived in Mill Bay in the 1920s and built an impressive home on the current Mill Bay Marina property. He was reported to be an American millionaire and very well connected and respected. However, rumors started to fly when his elderly neighbour, wanting to welcome him to the community, toddled over with a ‘basket of goodies’. To her indignation, she was met at the gate by armed guards who took the baked goods, frisked her and made it very clear she was not to return. Things escalated when it became known that Mr. Scollard had installed numerous spotlights that illuminated his house and yard at all hours, and constructed a large, steel doored vault in his basement. This gave rise to rumors that he was linked to the most infamous American mobster of the time, Al Capone, and was possibly his accountant.
Al Capone was well known during the 1920s prohibition era when it was illegal to produce, transport, sell, or consume alcohol in Canada and the United States. When prohibition was lifted in British Columbia in 1921, it remained in effect south of the border until 1933, so rum running became a very profitable business, much of which was controlled by mobsters like Capone. Liquor was produced here and transferred to the coast where it was loaded onto fish boats, transported to large ‘mother ships’ that waited off shore and shipped, primarily to California.
Mr. Scollard’s bank vault was thought to be perfect for storing large amounts of alcohol and there were rumors of a tunnel connecting his house to a creek called Wheelbarrow Creek, supposedly because wheelbarrows were used to take the alcohol down to the beach.
Is any of this true?
Well when Mr. Scollard’s house was demolished to make room for the current Mill Bay Marina townhouse development, interesting facts began to emerge.
The house did have bullet proof windows, a large reinforced vault in the basement, a tunnel in the yard and according to the minutes of a Cowichan Valley Regional District Electoral Services Committee meeting, ‘the residence was at one time owned by the accountant of the famous mobster “Al Capone’.
To learn more, visit the new Heritage Museum at 2851 Church Way in Mill Bay, Sundays 12-4pm, where the original vault door is on display as part of the ‘1919-1929 The Roaring Decade’ exhibit.