Gustav “Gus” Leiser

Birth: 1856 in Kerpen, Germany

Death: December 5, 1896 (age 39-40

Gustav (Gus) came from Germany to help his elder brother Simon make improvements to the Cassiar Trail. After his uncle/father-in-law’s business went bankrupt due to poor crops, Jacob Lenz also joined Simon and his wife in the interior. Gus came to the interior to help his brother and cousins. Jacob Lenz, his son Moses and Gus established Lenz & Leiser in 1880; a wholesale dry goods and clothing store.

For a short time following his time in the Cassiar, Gus went to Yale, New Westminster, and opened a dry goods store. He returned to Victoria and by 1884 he was a principal in the firm of Lenz and Leiser. Besides manufacturing items in BC, products were imported from England, Germany, France and Persia. By 1891 the company is one of the largest importers of its kind.

Gustav Leiser was active in fraternal organizations. He was one of the organizers and founders of a Victoria chapter of the Ancient Order of United Workmen. Gus was also active in bringing Woodmen of the World to Victoria. In addition, he was a Freemason.

Gustav married his maternal uncle Jacob Lenz’ daughter Sophia Lenz. He was active in the synagogue, and she was very active in the Hebrew Ladies Society. Gustav died at the age of 40 leaving Sophia Leiser widowed and childless. Following an obsolete Jewish custom/tradition called Yibbum, or levirate marriage brother Max married Sophia.

Said to have been energetic and enterprising, Gustav was a prominent member of the BC Board of Trade. He was in his second term as Vice President when he died. Promoting the building of a railway from the coast to the southern Kootenays was of particular interest to Gustav. In November, 1896, he was part of a delegation sent to a Vancouver Board of Trade meeting to discuss building the railroad. On that trip he caught a chill which brought on a hemorrhage of the lungs that later developed into pneumonia.

He died on December 5, 1896, surrounded by his relatives. In addition to family and friends, many members of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, A.O.U.W, Woodmen of the World, and Freemasons attended his funeral. Arrangements had been made for the funeral services to be conducted by the A.O.U.W., but with overflowing crowds, services of that order were cancelled. Jewish prayers were recited both at the hall and at the cemetery.
The headstone was vandalized in 2011.

By 1884, Lenz & Leiser’s store was located at what is now 531 Yates. They became one of the largest importers in the city.

Gravesite Details: Row Q – Plot 2

This gravestone bears Woodmen of the World logo
The Woodmen of the World (WOW). Started in the 1880’s, WOW was a fraternal organization which provided life and burial insurance for it’s members. Until the 1920’s members qualified for the monument program which entitled the widow of a WOW member to receive $100.00 to help defray the cost of gravestones. Including the WOW logo on the gravestone was required. The tree stump, symbolizes that the the life of the breadwinner of the family was cut short. The olive branches represents harmony and neighbourly cooperation. These letters “C” and “O” stand for Canadian Order. The Latin phrase, Dum tacet clamat translates as “Though silent, he speaks”; meaning that the person buried there lead a worthy life.

In Loving Memory of
Gustav Leiser
Born in Germany
1856 – 1896
Max Leiser
Born in Germany
1862 – 1935

Sophia Lenz Leiser

Simon Leiser (1851-1917):
Max Leiser (1862-1935)

The Victoria Historical Society:
“The Leiser Brothers of Victoria, B.C.” by Ronald Greene (page 8)

Vancouver Island Masonic History Project:

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