Birth: 1850 in Germany
Death: November 20, 1896 in Nanaimo, B.C.
Marcus Wolfe was born around 1850. Canadian census reports that he was born in Germany while his death certificate and records at the Masonic Lodge show New Orleans as his place of birth.
Marcus moved from California to Yale, B.C. when he was about 16 years old. The obituary in the Daily Colonist on November 22, 1896 stated that Marcus was related to the Oppenheimers, perhaps a nephew, and that he came to Yale to work for Isaac Oppenheimer.
David and Isaac Oppenheimer established one of the earliest businesses in Yale, B.C. They opened their store on Front Street in 1858 and later established stores in Fort Hope and Lytton. As the gold rush extended deeper into the interior, the Oppenheimer Brothers followed. Their store in Barkerville soon became the center of town. In 1871 Marcus was in Barkerville as Isaac Oppenheimer’s employee and Power of Attorney.
The 1881 Canada census records that Marcus was living in Yale with Isaac Oppenheimer and his family including a Chinese servant. Marcus’ occupation was listed as Confidential Clerk.
A fire in 1874 affected the Oppenheimer’s Yale store. They rebuilt, but after a fire in 1881, the decision was made to close their 23 year old store.
In 1881, Marcus married Bertha Louise Mayer (1852–1933) in Portland, Oregon. Following their wedding the couple moved to Yale but settled in Nanaimo, B.C. a short time later. Their daughter Babette Ethel (1882–1935) was born in Nanaimo on August 26, 1882.
Marcus joined Bertha’s father’s firm; Alexander Mayer & Co and helped to run the successful Pioneer Red House. The 1891 the Canadian census shows Marcus living in Nanaimo with his wife Bertha, daughter Ethel, father-in-law Alex, and Berta’s brother Adolph and niece Minnie. Alex is listed as a retired grocer and Marcus is shown as a grocer with five employees.
In 1893, Alex sold Alexander Mayer & Co. Marcus became a Real Estate Agent, Money-lender and Insurance Agent. The Victoria Daily Colonist Special Edition in April 1896 stated that he:
“…buys, sells and exchanges properties; loans money in large amounts on mortgage or other good security, and places insurance at low rates in the best companies. Mr. Wolfe represents the Scottish Union, and National Insurance Company of Edinburgh; Phoenix Fire Assurance of London; Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada; London Guarantee and Accident Company Canada Permanent Loan and Savings Co; Citizen Building Society of Nanaimo and the Globe Savings and Loan Comapany of Toronto. Mr. Wolfe is also an agent for the Great Northern Railway.”
In addition to his business pursuits, Marcus was heavily involved in civic affairs. He was the secretary of the Nanaimo Board of Trade from it’s founding, Past Grand Master of the United Order of Workmen, and secretary of the Nanaimo Water Works Company.
Marcus was also one of the most prominent and advanced members of the Masonic order. He achieved his third degree of Freemasonry in 1871 in Barkerville, B.C. at the Cariboo Lodge, No. 469, SC (now Cariboo Lodge No. 4 under the Grand Lodge of B.C. & Yukon). In 1882 he joined Ashlar Lodge No. 3 where he served as Worshipful Master in 1887, 1888 and 1894.
Marcus was elected and installed as the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia at a meeting of that body held in Kamloops on June 19, 1891. He was the first Jew to hold this high office.
On June 22, 1891 Ashlar Lodge No. 3 and visiting Freemasons participated in a cornerstone laying ceremony for St. Alban’s Church in Nanaimo. Worshipful Master (M.W.) Bro. Wolfe laid the cornerstone, and did the same on July 22, 1891 for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Courtenay. Ashlar Lodge No. 3 sponsored a meeting for the creation of Hiram Lodge No. 14 in Comox. The first meeting of Hiram Lodge No. 14 was held on January 7, 1891. M.W. Bro. Wolfe issued their Charter in June 1891. Hiram Lodge No. 14 is still active today. (2022)
At a regular meeting on January 6, 1892, M.W. Bro. Wolfe suggested that the Ashlar Lodge No. 3 change its regalia colors from the traditional Royal Blue to light or sky blue. The idea was met with a lot of resistance and was adjourned until all members could be informed and the motion reviewed at the June meeting. In June, M.W. Bro. Wolfe spoke strongly in favor of adopting the lighter shade of blue. Although he had the support of several American Grand Masters, after a debate, the majority of those present defeated the motion. Despite that loss, M.W. Bro. Wolfe was elected Worshipful Master of Ashlar Lodge again in 1894.
On May 7, 1892 a small group of high ranking Freemasons from the Ashlar Lodge met to accept their affiliation with the Royal Arch arm of Freemasonry. They called themselves Keystone Chapter No. 8 and elected Marcus to be their leader. Keystone Chapter No. 8 is still active in Nanaimo (2022).
It had been known that Marcus’ business had been experiencing financial difficulties. On November 20, 1896 Mr. Stirtan found Marcus dying from a gunshot wound in the Water Works office.
The coroner ruled “death by his own hand during a fit of temporary aberration.”
There was a letter addressed to J.W. Stirtan in red pencil and another written with blue pencil to his wife; Mrs. M. Wolfe. Both letters seemed to be written with a “steady, bold hand.” There was also a note which read: “See about water at Haslam’s cabins. Party called here and said it was not on for some time.”
Marcus’ funeral was scheduled to be in Portland, Oregon, however it took place instead at the Masonic Temple in Victoria under the direction and auspices of Victoria-Columbia Lodge, No. 1, A.F. & A.M. The funeral was well attended and officiated by the Jewish tobacconist Worshipful Master, Mr. H.L. Salmon. Jewish burial rituals were conducted at the grave-site.
*** Special thanks to WB Mark Anderson, Historian, Temple Lodge No. 33 for his assistance in all things Masonic and for editing this biography.
Gravesite Details: Unknown, possibly Row D – Plot 32
Bertha Louise Mayer Wolfe (died 1933)
Babbette Ethel Wolfe Anderson (1882–1935)
Vancouver Island Masonic History Project:
Marcus Wolfe, P.G.M.
Ashlar Masonic Lodge No. 3, A.F. & A.M