The Henry Reifel &
Annie Elizabeth Brown Family of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Henry Reifel of Speyer, Germany
and Vancouver, BC, Canada
Henry Reifel, born April 2, 1869, in Speyer, Rhineland-Pfalz, Germany;
died September 8, 1945, in Vancouver, BC, Canada
Annie Elizabeth Brown, born May 7, 1873, in San Francisco, California, USA;
died May 22, 1936, in New Westminister, BC, Canada
[2nd wife: Priscilla Bone, born ______, died ______]
Heinrich "Henry" Reifel was born in 1869 in Speyer, Bavaria [Rheinland-Pfalz], Germany, near Heidelberg. His parents were Johannes Reifel and Margaretha "Helmerfouth."* Henry was educated in the local schools in Bavaria. Henry was taught how to brew beer, and was engaged in the brewery business in Speyer in 1879 at 10 years of age.
Henry Reifel is known to have at least two brothers, Jack Reifel and Conrad Reifel. It is believed that they immigrated to America together in 1886. Henry was approximately 17 years old. His brother's ages at the time are not yet known.
Henry immediately found employment at the Weinhardt Brewery in Portland, Oregon, starting work in 1886. In 1887 he moved to the Chicago Brewery in San Francisco, California. In 1888 he traveled to British Columbia in Canada. Accompanied by his brother, Jack, they started a small operation on Brewery Creek, located near 16th and Main in Vancouver. They called their fledgling enterprise "San Francisco Brewery." Also located on Brewery Creek was a larger operation, Vancouver Breweries located on Seventh Avenue. The Reifel operation soon failed, and Jack Reifel decided to move south to the United States.
In 1889 Henry went to Victoria and worked for the Victoria Breweries for a time, then moved to Nanaimo where he brewed for the Landsdowne Brewery. This operation was owned by a British army man by the name of Cawthorne. Next he worked for the Nanaimo Brewery. In 1891, the Nanaimo Brewery merged with the Union Brewery. Henry subsequently became brew-master and manager. He was assisted here by his brother, Conrad Reifel.
In 1893 Henry Reifel fell in love with Annie Elizabeth Brown from Barkerville, and married her. She had been born May 7, 1873 in San Francisco, California. Her parents were Henry Nichols Brown and Mary Catherine Mockel.
Henry and Annie had three children. Their first child, George Conrad Reifel, was born May 15, 1892 in Nanaimo. He was sent to brewing school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the United States at the age of 16. Upon completion, he went to work for a time in a Victoria brewery. Their second child, Henry Frederick "Harry" Reifel, was born December 3, 1895, also in Nanaimo. Harry was also educated as a brew-master and drawn into the family business at a young age in Nanaimo. The third child was a daughter, Florence Reifel, born ______ in _______.
In 1908, with associates, Henry Reifel built the Canadian Brewing and Malting Company. Later it was merged with the Pilsner Brewery of Cumberland, the Nanaimo plant, and the old Vancouver Breweries, to form a new company that carried the old name: Vancouver Breweries.
The Reifel family owned three breweries, and ran all three quite successfully for several years. When this company was later sold by the Reifel family it was purchased by Carling O'Keefe, owner of an eastern Canadian brewing company.
With the advent of World War I, Canadian men went off to fight overseas, leaving women, many of whom were advocates of temperance, as a major voting constituency in Canada. By 1917 the temperance movement achieved its goal and the Prohibition Act banned the sale and consumption of all beer and other spirits. While the prohibition legislation was repealed just one year later, control boards set up in each province regulated breweries with a heavy hand.
Somewhat chagrined by this turn of events, the Reifel family decided to close up their Canadian businesses, at least for a while. Patriarch Henry Reifel took advantage of an opportunity to travel by steamship to Japan to assist in the establishment of a brewery there. His eldest son, George C., accompanied his father to the Orient even though George was a newlywed. He had married Alma Lucy Barnes, a young woman from Nanaimo, on October 23, 1916 in St. Paul's Anglican Church in Vancouver.
Henry and George C. brought a considerable amount of their brewery equipment along with them. In Japan they developed the technique of producing malt from rice, and they created the Anglo-Japanese Brewing Company. With the Japanese brewery successfully established, the Reifels sold their interest and returned to Vancouver.
George C. Riefel was welcomed home by his wife, Alma. She had been born in Nanaimo on September 8, 1895, and she was three years younger than her husband. They began a family that eventually included three children: Audrey Reifel, born _________, George Henry Reifel, born July 22, 1922 in Vancouver, and Alma Jane Reifel [Dawson], born __________.
In 1924 Henry Reifel acquired the B.C. Distillery of New Westminster, and later, the Pioneer Distillery at Amherstburg, Ontario. The Reifel breweries and distilleries were then amalgamated into the Brewers and Distillers Corporation. Henry Reifel remained president of this enterprise until his retirement in 1933. Upon retirement, Henry and his family disposed of their brewery and distillery interests.
Also in 1933 Henry's brother, Conrad Reifel, died at Nanaimo where he had managed the Island part of the family business. In 1936 Henry's wife, Annie Elizabeth, died on May 22 in the Royal Columbian Hospital, New Westminister, B.C., Canada.
In 1929 George C. Reifel built and owned Vancouver's "Commodore Block" on a section of Granville Street known as "Theatre Row." It was a ballroom/cabaret over retail shops located at street level. A popular bowling alley was located in the basement level. Its famous dance floor was sprung with tires and horsehair, had state-of-the-art stage and acoustics, and was served by a freight elevator needed for moving heavy musical and theatrical equipment. In the 1940's the Reifel family added the Vogue Theatre and the Studio Theatre. George H. Reifel owned this complex until the early 1970's, when the City of Vancouver decided to create the "Granville Mall." The Reifel family then sold the property to a company that makes and manages real estate investments for pension funds.
Henry Reifel played an active part in regional community affairs. For example, he was a life governor of the Vancouver General Hospital, and a member of the Board of Trade. He became President of the Nanaimo Pioneers, and was a member of the Vancouver Pioneers Association. He donated property for the original Vancouver Art Gallery on Georgia Street. In 1928 he built a wing on the Ocean View Mausoleum. He was also one of the organizers of the Eagles Lodge in Nanaimo, and was a charter member of the Point Grey Golf Club. Reifel family patriarch Henry Reifel died in Vancouver on September 4, 1945, at the age of 76.
George Conrad Reifel
George C. Reifel, the oldest child of Henry and Annie, participated in family businesses and owned a 500-acre farm on Westham Island at the mouth of the Fraser River Estuary. He was a vice-president of Alberta Distilleries, a company formed in 1946 with the oil and natural gas tycoon Frank M. McMahon as president. George C., an avid sportsman, dyked Reifel Island in the Fraser River Estuary in 1927. In 1929 he build a mansion called "Casa Mia" on Southwest Marine Drive in Vancouver. In the 1940's and 1950's the Reifel family made regular fishing trips between Vancouver and Rivers Inlet on their yachts, "Invader" and "Casa Mia." George C. Reifel died in Vancouver on July 20, 1958. His wife, Alma Lucy, died January 25, 1982, also in Vancouver.
Henry F. "Harry" Reifel, second child of Henry and Annie, became a leading stockman in Fraser Valley. His Bella Vista Farm in Milner B.C. near Langley, was renowned for its fine purebred Jersey herds. Along with his brother, Harry also served as one of the directors of Alberta Distilleries. In 1930 he built a mansion called "Rio Vista" on Southwest Marine Drive in Vancouver. In 1950 Harry served as Illustrious Petentate of the Gizeh Temple Shrine. He died in Vancouver on ________.
It is not known at this time what happened to Henry and Annie's third child, Florence Reifel, nor do we know what happened to Jack Reifel, Henry's brother who went to the United States.
George Henry Reifel
Henry's grandson, George Henry Reifel, son of George C. and Alma Lucy Reifel, received his B.Sc. degree in Agriculture from the University of British Columbia in 1944. He farmed the 860-acre Reifel Farms, and developed a technique for growing sugar beet seed during World War II. He built a distillery in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1949.
In 1972, George H. Reifel donated a portion of Reifel Island on the Frazer River Delta to the Canadian Federal Crown to maintain the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in memory of his father in perpetuity.
The George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary is one of the richest treasures donated to the preservation of wildlife and to the study of nature in North America. Located on Westham Island just south of suburban Richmond, it is about a forty minute drive from downtown Vancouver.
Henry Reifel's great-grandson, George C. Reifel, carries on the great Reifel tradition of wildlife conservation, first as a volunteer for Ducks Unlimited Canada, and eventually as President of that organization. Click here to learn more.
George Conrad Reifel Today
*Helmerfouth. This is an almost unknown surname. However, Helmer or Heilmer, and Fauth or Faut, are much more common. The possibility exists that this may be a middle name and a surname combined.