Kusel Family: Pioneer Jews of the Northern California Gold Country

Kusel Family

Values Codes  I – E – L – P


Edward Abraham Kusel of Oroville, CA

Edward Abraham Kusel

Edward Abraham Kusel was born in 1824 in Mekhlenburg-Schwerin, then a part of Prussia.


Along the way 

Edward A. Kusel journeyed to America in the early 1850’s.

He headed West, from New York, via ox team and arrived in Placerville, California, in 1852.


The Gold Country

In Sacramento, Kusel first worked as an upholsterer for a furniture shop.

A flood in the city sent him to Marysvillewhere he made canvas hose used for mining.

In the late 1850’s, Kusel’s interest in the new art of photography led him to open a gallery at 70 D Street in downtown Marysville, where he sold sold ambrotypes and photographs, printed on both paper and leather.

In 1856, Kusel settled in Oroville, where he sold canvas hoses to miners and had a photography business.

In 1859, he opened a photo gallery in Chico on Broadway. He owned these galleries in Chico and Marysville until about 1870.

In 1861, Kusel opened another gallery in Sacramento.

There, he sold sun printing:  plain and enameled carte de visites, ambrotypes, melainotypes, microtypes and solar portraits.

From about 1860 to 1869, Edward Kusel owned a 150 acre ranch 6 miles outside of Chico.

In 1871, he opened a stationery and cigar store in Oroville.

Eventually, he stopped selling cigars and concentrated on the stationery/variety shop elements of the store.

In 1876, Kusel built a two-story building to house this store.

In 1878, Carl Kusel, Edward’s eldest son, became a partner in the family business.

The store became E.A. Kusel & Son.

Kusel's Oriville Store, 1906, #WS2548

Kusel’s 2-story Oroville store, 1906, #WS2548

Kusel's Oriville Store, #ws2547

Kusel’s Oroville Store, #WS2547


Edward Kusel served on the School Board as a trustee for thirty-five years.

He was responsible for the construction of Oroville’s first schoolhouse.

An avid reader, Kusel donated 60 books to the Oroville Public Library in 1903.



Edward Kusel was a member of the Odd Fellows.

He was also an abolitionist active in the Oroville chapter of the Union League.



Edward Kusel was involved in the Jewish Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

He donated funds and helped raise money to promote the Union’s educational and agricultural activities.

Kusel also wrote regularly for The American Israelite and gave the sermon during Yom Kippur services in Oroville in 1872.



Edward A. Kusel married Bertha Heilbronner (1837-1885) around 1856.

Bertha Kusel, #WS2674

Bertha Kusel, #WS2674

They had five children: Carl [Carolus Edward] (1857-1917), Minnie Leah (1863-1942), Emil (1867-1941), Eli (1874-1947), and Louis.


Edward Abraham Kusel died of pneumonia in 1907 following a devastating flood in Oroville, California.

Bertha Heilbronner Kusel died in 1885.


* * * * *


Carolus Edward (Carl) Kusel

Carolus Edward (Carl) Kusel was born in Marysville, California, in 1857

At the age of 21, in 1878, Kusel became a partner in his father’s store, E.A. Kusel & Son.



In 1905, Carl Kusel was a member of the City Board of Oroville. 

He was instrumental in achieving Oroville’s incorporation as a city.

Carl Kusel served as Mayor of Oroville twice, in 1907 and 1913.

In 1907, he supported regulation of water, gas, and electricity rates.

He was a member of the Board of Trustees of Oroville for over thirteen years.

Carl Kusel established the Oroville Fire Company and also helped upgrade the sewer system in the city.

In addition, he brought the Western Pacific Railroad shops to the city of Oroville.



Carl Kusel was a member of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce, Native Sons of the Golden West, and was a founding member of Argonaut Parlor No. 8.



Carl Kusel and his wife had two children: Carolus Edward (1913-1987) and Marian.

Dr. Carolus Edward Kusel was a dentist in Oroville


Carl Kusel died in 1921.


* * * * *


Dr. Eli A. Kusel

Dr. Eli A. Kusel was born in Oroville in 1874.

Around 1885, he finished grammar school and traveled to Oakland for high school because Oroville did not have the necessary education facilities.

His father, Edward Kusel, encouraged his interest in medicine.

Eli Kusel attended Toland Medical Collage (now University of California Medical School), and then transferred to Cooper Medical College (now Stanford Medical School). He earned his medical degree in 1895.

Eli completed his internship at San Francisco City and County Hospital. He also worked at Stanford University Clinic and the Odd Fellows Home.

Dr. Eli Kusel’s first practice was located above a drugstore in Oroville.

He later moved his practice to his late father’s building.

Dr. Kusel was the district surgeon for the Western Pacific Railroad, the Northern Electric Railroad, Swain Lumber Company, and Natomas Consolidated Company of California.

In 1911, Dr. Kusel studied at the University of Vienna and New York Post-Graduate Medical School at New York University.



Dr. Kusel established a hospital at the Great Western Power Plant in Las Palmas.

Prior to World War I, Dr. Kusel helped build the Oroville Curran Hospital in the former home of Marcus Reyman, a Jewish merchant.

Dr. Kusel served as a Captain in World War II.



From the time he was eleven years old, Eli Kusel wrote letters to The Sabbath Visitor, a Jewish news publication.



Dr. Eli Kusel was an active member in the Butte County Medical Society (he served as president), Native Sons of the Golden West, the Elks, Odd Fellows, Masons, and the American Legion.

Dr. Eli A. Kusel died in 1947.



The Kusel family contributed to Oroville’s infrastructure for ninety years.

Reminders of their legacy appear in many places:

Kusel Road, #WS2549

Kusel Road, #WS2549

Kusel Road is located on the outskirts of the city.

Leah Court, another street, was named after Minnie Leah, Edward’s daughter.

Minnie Leah’s Chickering piano, which was purchased in 1817, is located at the Butte County Historical Society.


Kusel Family Plot, Oriville, CA #WS2550

Kusel Family Plot, Oriville, CA



















  • Rosaline Levenson, “The Kusels of Oroville: Ninety Years of Community Leadership Part I,”  Western States Jewish History 24/2.
  • Rosaline Levenson, “The Kusels of Oroville: Ninety Years of Community Leadership Part II,”  Western States Jewish History 24/3.
  • Peter E. Palmquist, and Thomas R. Kailbourn, Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000).

Samantha Silver is curator of this Kusel Family exhibit.


Jews in the News

   Around this Time

Gold Rush Synagogue in Marysville, California — 1853

The Israelites of Marysville, comprising a large class of our best citizens, have established a synagogue in this city, as a place of worship. It was dedicated yesterday; a large number of adherents of that church being present. The ceremonies were imposing, and withal beautiful. The synagogue is in the new brick building on C Street, between 1st and 2nd, east side, upstairs.

Services were held in the synagogue this morning, and will be again, this evening at 6 o’clock. They are now engaged in celebrating one of their feasts, .

For the perfection of this, to them, Holy Day, they procured from Sacramento, the holy writings which have been handed down from the days of the patriarchs. The ceremonies will be held with regularity and decorum, and to those who have never witnessed the mode of worship of these “chosen people” will, no doubt, be exceedingly interesting.

An invitation is extended to the citizens of Marysville, and all others who desire, to attend the services at the synagogue. A. M. Englander officiates for the present, as the leader of ceremonies.

— Daily Evening Herald, Marysville, October 3, 1853 [WSJHQ 6/1]