The Beers

VPL 1012 Interior of Easthope Brothers (Ernest & Percy) Gasoline Engines Launch and Boat Builders. 1908. PT Timms photo. Easthope Bros seems to have occupied the 1705 W Georgia space just prior to Western Machine Works, so I’m guessing the interior of WMW appeared similar to this.

William James Beer and Fannie Philips lived at 623 Richards Street — across Richards from the Holy Rosary (Roman Catholic) Church (as it then was), roughly on the land occupied later by the Dunsmuir Hotel. The neighbourhood was a ‘churchy’ one. In addition to Holy Rosary at the northern end of the 600 block Richards, there was St. Andrew’s Presbyterian anchoring the southern end of the block. The Congregational Church was a couple of blocks southwest of there. And First Baptist Church was then nearby at Hamilton and Dunsmuir.

William was a machinist by trade, and co-founded, with A. H. Thatcher, Western Machine Works at 1705 West Georgia Street. Fannie worked ‘at home’. The couple had come to Vancouver from Ontario; they were married there in 1890 [1]. They had two children in Vancouver, boys: Lyle (born 1893) and Leland Harold (born 1895).

On January 14, 1902, Fannie died at home of causes unknown to me [2]. She was 33 at the time. Her funeral was taken by Rev. L. Norman Tucker, Rector of Christ Church Cathedral. (Fanny was Anglican; William, Methodist).

A little over 13 years later, on July 13, 1915, William was struck by a “jitney” (an unlicensed taxi automobile) and died “almost instantly”. While nothing was said in the press about how Fannie died, William’s death was covered in detail.

Stepping from the curb to catch a Fraser avenue street car at the corner of Pacific and Granville street near the north end of Granville Bridge yesterday morning, William Beer . . . was killed almost instantly by a jitney driven by R. W. McClellan . . .

According to eye-witnesses the victim stepped from the curb on the west side of the bridge approach [this was the Granville bridge that preceded the current structure] to board a [street] car that was going north and was about to turn east along Pacific. A jitney had drawn up near the sidewalk and stopped. Mr. Beer stepped out from in front of this towards the standing street car, but just as he reached the open roadway between the standing jitney and the street car the motor car driven by McLellan came through. Mr. Beer endeavoured to go back but the car struck him fracturing his skull, and according to one witness carried him some distance before it was stopped. Dr. R. C. Boyle passing at the time ordered the man to the hospital and although G. Vaner in another automobile raced to that institution [VGH, presumably], the unfortunate man passed away before reaching the south end of Granville Bridge.

Sun. 14 July 1915
Crop of CVA 99-2234 – North end of the Granville Bridge. The site of William Beer’s demise in 1915. ca1925, Stuart Thomson photo.

If the description above strikes you as confusing, don’t feel badly. It was unclear to the jury, too. They had to go to the site where the death occurred and be shown exactly what had happened and where. However, it seems to me that Beer had been trying to catch a waiting street car and, when stepping into the street to do so, was struck by a jitney that was dodging the street car.

Mr. McClellan, the jitney driver, was found “not guilty” by the jury of the manslaughter charge brought by the Crown.

William was 40 at the time of his death. Leland was “living in the city” at the time of his father’s passing; Lyle was in the Army Medical Corps in Esquimalt. So, mercifully, the boys were not youngsters at the time of their Dad’s death; although when they lost their Mom, they were just 9 and 11.

Lyle and Leland both enlisted in the Great War. Leland, however was spelling his surname with an ‘s’ at the end. Leland succeeded his Dad in running Western Machine Works on Coal Harbour. Lyle was shown in he 1945 Vancouver directory as being “retired” (age 52), but from what, isn’t stated.

Leland died in 1937 (age 43). Lyle outlived Leland, dying at home (723 Hamilton, a rooming house) in 1950 (age 57) of a heart attack. There was no obituary in the local papers at Lyle’s death. Indeed, the “informant” for Lyle’s death certificate was an anonymous bureaucrat at the vital records office. Evidently, there were no next-of-kin to fill in the blanks as to Lyle’s life. Lyle never married.

Leland married Constance Graham in 1923 and together they had a daughter: Louise Elizabeth Beers, born in 1926. She became a nursing student at the University of Oregon. In December 1951, she married Neville Clegg Jones in Seattle (he was a medical student at U of O whose parents lived in Kelowna). Louise died in September 2004 in West Vancouver (Sun, 21 Sept 2004). Neville died in November 2017. Louise and Neville had two sons: Owen and Ian, both of whom married.


  1. My thanks are due to Robert of for his help tracking down the marriage certificate for W. J. and Fannie and for help with other details in this post.
  2. Fannie’s death certificate is not available online and, as the microfilm section of VPL is currently closed (due to COVID restrictions), I’m unable to view it.

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