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, on a contract to make improvements to the Cassiar Trail. They were joined by their maternal uncle, Jacob Lenz after his business went bankrupt due to poor crops. In 1880, Jacob, his son Moses and Gus established Lenz & Leiser; a wholesale dry goods and clothing store.

Following his time in the Cassiar, Gus opened a dry goods store in Yale, New Westminster. He returned to Victoria and by 1884 he was a principal in the firm of Lenz and Leiser. Their shop was located at what is now 531 Yates. (corner of Yates Street and Commercial Alley).  Items were manufactured in B.C. and imported from England, Germany, France and Persia. By 1891 the company was one of the largest importers in the city.

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

Gus was very active in fraternal organizations. Besides being a Freemason, he was one of the organizers and founders of a Victoria chapter of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and credited with bringing Woodmen of the World to Victoria.

Said to have been energetic and enterprising, Gustav was a prominent member of the B.C. Board of Trade. He was Vice President from 1895-1896 and Co-Vice President with A. Kirk in 1896. However, Gus died before completing his term.  

In November, 1896, Gus was part of a delegation sent to a Vancouver Board of Trade meeting to discuss having the railway extended from the coast to the southern Kootenays.  However, 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.

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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