Vancouver Island Masonic History Project

As part of our Vancouver Island Masonic History Project, here is a page on Gustav Leiser (1856-1896), who was a prominent figure in late 19th century Victoria business. Gustav Leiser was a member of Vancouver & Quadra Lodge No.2, as were his brothers Simon Leiser and Max Leiser.

Gustav Leiser was a partner in the wholesale dry goods firm of Lenz and Leiser. He was also a prominent member of the B.C. Board of Trade, and served as vice-president of that body for two years immediately prior to his death in 1896.

Here is a brief biography of Gustav Leiser from the reports of his death and funeral in the Daily Colonist:

“Very general were the expressions of regret when it was learned last night that death had cut short Gustav Leiser’s busy and useful life. His was one of those progressive spirits that fully realiz­ed the opportunity that has come for active development of the province, and it was while serving the city’s interests that he contracted the illness which he terminated fatally. He was one of those who took the leading part in the board of trade to promote the building of railway from the Coast to Southern Kootenay and was one of the delegates sent to the meeting of the board of trade in Vancouver in the early part of November. On the trip he contracted chill that brought on hemorrhage of the lungs, and pneumonia supervening he passed away shortly after 5 o’clock last evening surrounded by his relatives and conscious to the last.

Mr. Leiser was in the very prime of life, he having been born in Kerpen near Cologne, Germany, 40 years ago He first came to Victoria in 1875, and entered the establishment of his brother Simon. The two brothers afterwards went to Cassiar, where they engaged in mining, and later Gustav opened a business house at Yale, and subsequently had a dry goods store at Westminster. About twelve years ago he came back to Victoria, when he formed a partnership with Mr. Lenz under the firm name now to well known throughout the province, of Lenz &. Leiser. Energetic and enterprising, Mr. Leiser took a most active part in developing the trade of Victoria. As a member of the B.C. Board of Trade, he was indefatigable in seizing every op­portunity of opening up the resources of the province, and especially in directing attention to the northern portion of British Columbia. His worth and services to the board were recognized by his election as vice-president, a position he filled for the past two years.

Mr. Leiser was a great believer in benefit societies, and it was largely through his efforts that the A.O.U.W. took root here. He was the first Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of the order, and several times was a dele­gate to the Supreme Grand Lodge, and only last summer attended the meeting of that body in Philadelphia. He was one of the moving spirits in bringing about the erection of the fine A.O.U.W. building on Yates street. He also assisted in forming the first camp of the Woodmen of the World, and was the first Past Consul Commander in the city of that flourishing order. He was also a member of the A.F. & A.M.

Mr. Leiser leaves a widow and two brothers, Mr. Simon Leiser, head of the firm of Simon Leiser & Co., and Mr. Max Leiser, of Pither & Leiser. There are also two brothers and a sister in the fatherland.

The council of the Board of Trade meet to-morrow morning to give expression to their regret at the loss of their vice pres­ident.

(Source: British Daily Colonist, 6 December 1896, page 5)

“One of the largest private funerals ever seen in Victoria was that of the late Gustav Leiser, which took place yesterday afternoon. The A.O.U.W. and Woodmen of the World attended in a body, and among those present were many of the Masonic fraternity, of which deceased had also been a member. The pall-bearers were Messrs. Thomas Earle, M.P., and A. C. Flumerfelt, of the board of trade; Ald. R. T. Williams and Mr. G. Hauck, of the A.O.U.W.; Messrs. J. J. Sargison, Spence, E. Merman and Marks. The flowers sent by the Workmen, Board of Trade, Maternity Home and other public bodies and fraternal lodges, besides the tributes of private friends were exquisite and so numerous that they had to be carried to the cemetery in an express wagon. By the wish of deceased the funeral was conducted by the A.O.U.W., but owing to lack of room the services of the order were dispensed with at the house, only the Jewish prayers being read there by Mr. H. Bornstein, who also performed the last Hebrew rites at the grave. The A.O.U.W. services at the cemetery were read by G.M. J. E. Church and P.G.M. J. T. McIlmoyl.”

(Source: British Daily Colonist, 9 December 1896, page 5)

The former Lenz and Leiser warehouse is still standing at 533 Yates Street in downtown Victoria.

533 Yates Street was the Lenz & Leiser warehouse, circa 1890-96.
533 Yates Street was the Lenz & Leiser warehouse, circa 1890-96.

Here is a link to B.C. Archives photo B-01497, showing the Lenz & Leiser warehouse at 533 Yates Street (then 9 & 11 Yates Street) circa 1890

Gustav Leiser is buried in Victoria Jewish Cemetery with his brother Max Leiser . The grave of another brother, Simon Leiser, is nearby.

Grave of Gustav Leiser (1856-1896) and Max Leiser (1862-1935) in Victoria Jewish Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.
Grave of Gustav Leiser (1856-1896) and Max Leiser (1862-1935) in Victoria Jewish Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.
Grave marker of Gustav Leiser (1856-1896) and Max Leiser (1862-1935) in Victoria Jewish Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.
Grave marker of Gustav Leiser (1856-1896) and Max Leiser (1862-1935) in Victoria Jewish Cemetery, Victoria, B.C.

Here are some websites with addition information on Gustav Leiser:

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