Jonas Reis (1819/20-1877)

by Richard Hudson

Jonas Reis (1819/20-1877)

Jonas Reis was a highly respected Liverpool banker and bullion merchant. He was born c.1820 in Alsace Lorraine, then part of Germany. His father, Maurice Reis (1784-1855), a judge, and his mother Emilie Picard (1784-1860) came from Paris. Little is known of his early life or when he settled in Liverpool. Certainly, by 1848, he must have been resident for some time for, on 13 August 1848, he married Marian Samuel at the Pilgrim Street Synagogue. She was living on Great Orford Street and Jonas was living on Mount Vernon Road. Records show that he was a partner in the banking firm of Adam Spielmann & Co.

His wife, Marian Samuel, was born in Liverpool on 20 July 1825. She was the daughter of Moses Samuel (1795-1860), a watchmaker and Hebrew scholar, and Harriet Israel (1793-1843), also both now buried at Deane Road Cemetery. The bride’s cousins Saul Samuel (1806-1881) and Edwin Louis Samuel (1825-1877) were witnesses at the wedding. Edwin Louis Samuel was the father of Viscount Herbert Samuel, the first British ruler of Palestine after the First World War.

By 1851, Reis was working as a banker at Stanley Buildings, 12 Bath Street. His home was at 15 Chatsworth Street, West Derby. It was there that his 5 children were born. Charles Lionel (1849), Harriet (1851), Theresa (1853), Arthur Montagu (1857) and Alphonse Louis (1860).

The family attended the Seel Street and later the Princes Road Synagogues, and it was while the congregation worshipped at the former that Reis served on its Sub-Committee. He held the post of Junior Treasurer in 1864-65, Senior Treasurer 1865-67 and Junior Warden 1867-69.

In 1869, a notice in The Times records that Jonas Reis, bullion merchant, was declared bankrupt. The effect of this on the family is unknown, but by the time of the 1871 census they had moved from West Derby to 24 Newbie Terrace, Belmont Road, Everton. It could well be that other members of the family came to their aid. Jonas Reis’s sister-in-law, Harriet Samuel, founded the well known chain of jewellery shops trading as H Samuel.

Reis died unexpectedly on 25 March 1877 at the London and North Western Hotel, Lime Street. He was 56 years old. An inquest was held and his death certificate records that he “poisoned himself with laudanum – temporary mental derangement”. It is unclear if he committed suicide. His tombstone declares that he was “in the midst of health and happiness”, but his probate indicates that he left under £500.

His wife subsequently remarried and moved to London where she died in 1900 and is buried at the Jewish cemetery at Willesden. Soon after his death his children also moved away from Liverpool and established successful retail jewellery businesses, notably in Glasgow and Edinburgh. In her will, his wife made a large bequest in memory of Jonas Reis such that a donation be paid out each year on the anniversary of his death to four poor married men selected by the Princes Road Synagogue.


Grave Reference
Jonas Reis (1819/20-1877): A 12.08