Sep 04

Horatio Southgate Rembaugh, Tribune editor

Horatio Southgate Rembaugh, was the public face of the Tribune when it was founded in 1869. The photo is circa 1910. Photo courtesy Stacy McKitrick.

Horatio S. Rembaugh traveled many miles before he set out to California, arriving in San Luis Obispo just in time to help publish the first edition of the Tribune.
Born in Philadelphia August 3, 1840 he would never know his mother. Ann Rembaugh died within 9 months of Horatio’s birth. The fourth and last child of George D. and Ann Rembaugh likely was named after Episcopal missionary Horatio Southgate who had evangelized in the Middle East before returning to America.
Horatio’s father, George, would remarry and the stepmother made the family change the surname from Rumbaugh to Rembaugh erasing bothersome associations with demon rum.
Horatio did not like his stepmother and when she died, the seventeen-year-old boy did not attend her funeral.
In the book “Historical Sketch of the Rumbaugh Family 1753 to 1888” by Horatio’s older brother John Alonzo Clark Rembaugh, the youngest brother was very lively:
“He was baptized by Rev. J.A. Clark, of St. Andrews, September 1, 1841, and from that day to this he has been a wanderer over the face of these United States. He has resided in about every state from Pennsylvania to California, and we doubt if even he could tell how many different homes he has had.”
Apparently Horatio and John Alonzo were both strong willed and they had many “brotherly quarrels”. Horatio moved with his father to New Bloomfield, Perry county and apprenticed as a printer in his teens.
Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War Horatio the 21-year-old enlisted, as a private in Pennsylvania’s Forty-fourth Regiment, First Cavalry Company G. His company included 108 officers and men from Blair County, PA and had an enlistment term of three years.
According to the book “History of the First Reg’t Pennsylvania Reserve Calvary from its organization August 1861 to September 1864” the unit was organized to be a state force but after Union defeat at Bull Run on July 21, 1861 the state units were pressed into federal service in defense of Washington D.C.
From the regimental history:
“The men who joined this regiment, chose the service for the love of it, and because they were horsemen. They were mostly country laborers and farmers, accustomed to the use and care of horses, and at least good, if not properly trained riders.”
A cavalryman had to endure long hours in the saddle and be proficient with pistol, saber and rifle both mounted and on foot. Cavalry were often the first to find the enemy.
The citizen soldiers were given a crash course in cavalry duties. Tactics lessons were mixed with slashing saber exercises and regimental drills.
The unit first saw action on November 27, 1861 at the Northern Virginia town of Dranesville.
The regiment was part of a larger group of troops on a scouting mission, marching all night and arriving before dawn. The skirmish took place over the course of 90 minutes and was a small engagement. The action resulted in a rare defeat for the rebel cavalryman Brig. Gen J.E.B. Stuart. The result of the fighting were 194 Confederate casualties and 68 Federal troops. The rebels were driven from the field.
It was touted as the first Union victory on Southern soil.
There were other problems according to the regimental history:
“The greatest defect in material seems to have arisen, either from want of proper examination of recruits, or want of knowledge of the requirements of cavalry service, on the part of examining surgeons. This has been a fruitful cause of discharges for disability in our regiment, but most of our deficient men would have been fully able to do infantry service, although from various causes unable to endure service in the saddle.”
The numbers bear this evaluation out, about a quarter of the unit’s volunteers were given medical discharges over the course of the war, many in the first year.
Rembaugh served five months cavalry service before he received a medical discharge Feb. 1, 1862. The regimental history book lists Rembaugh discharged in February 1863 for disability but all other sources in the research of this article list his discharge in 1862.
According to an 1883 San Francisco pension document Rembaugh had suffered an abdominal injury. He would draw a modest pension and be a member of Grand Army of the Republic posts in San Luis Obispo and the Bay area later in life.
According to the Rembaugh family history written by his brother, Horatio next worked on army railroads.
“…when the war broke out, in 1861, he at once enlisted as a cavalryman, and this hard and adventurous life suited him well. The next we hear of him was on army railroads, and after this he was on western railroads. He became involved in some kind of a smash-up, and some men were hurt and perhaps nine were killed, and he had to move on right quick. The next we hear of him was as a printer, publisher, and editor of a paper in San Luis Obispo, California. Here he must have made some money, which he invested in a ranch venture…”

Staff listing on the front page of the August 7, 1869 first edition of the Tribune.

H.S. Rembaugh arrived in San Luis Obispo about a month before the first edition of the Tribune was printed. He would lend his name H.S. Rembaugh & Co. to the enterprise, fronting for ambitious Walter Murray. They did not like the Pioneer, a Democratic party boosting newspaper published by southerner Rome Vickers. The pro-Union Republicans gathered support for an alternative voice and the first Tribune was printed August 7, 1869.
Horatio seemed to be most comfortable as a printer. For five of his eight years associated with the Tribune he was partner with another man occupying the editor’s chair. He did not seem to have the burning political drive that many journal editors carried. Though the paper was founded as a Republican standard bearer it was less strident than loudly partisan newspapers like the Pioneer and the later replacement the Democratic Standard. The paper made an attempt to reach a broad readership rather than focus narrowly on only partisan issues.
The Tribune and an associated job printing business were successful.
Murray bowed out to pursue his dream of becoming judge shortly after the Democratic Standard ceased publication and was bought out by the Tribune. Both wrote editorials explaining the ownership arrangements.
One month after assuming sole ownership of the Tribune, Horatio Southgate Rembaugh would marry a woman from San Luis Obispo, Jane Ann Pennington on May 17, 1872.
Three girls would be born, Edith on March 28, 1873, Grace May Feb 1, 1876 and Elsie Viola March 28, 1881.
According to the spring 1999 history newsletter put out by Heritage Shared
“In November 1873, Horatio S. Rembaugh built the Tribune-Republic Building, the oldest surviving wooden commercial building in San Luis Obispo to house the San Luis Obispo Tribune.”
Rembaugh would buy a new press and take on a partner O.F. Thorton on March 20, 1875.
(After a steady beginning Thorton would later incite the town to call for his resignation, a story for another day.)
By June 23, 1877 Rembaugh would leave the relentless work of publishing a newspaper and sell his share of the Tribune to Jacob K. Tuley and W.W. Waters who maintained the partnership with O.F. Thorton.
The Pennsylvania born Civil War cavalryman dreamed of improving the runty horses that populated the county.
Horseracing was a passion in the region from the time of the Spanish settlement.
When Rembaugh sold The Tribune he had the cash to pursue the pastoral life of a horse baron.

Pacific Rural Press May 1878
The Stable.
Southgate Stud Farm.

Editors Press: — A laudable enterprise, worthy of all encouragement and a liberal support, has recently been engaged in by Mr. H. S. Rembaugh, of San Luis Obispo. It is the establishment of the Southgate stud farm on a fertile ranch of 130 acres one-half mile south of town. Two years ago Mr. Rembaugh was proprietor of the San Luis Tribune, but perceiving that the equine stock in the county was much below what it should be, he interested himself in the problem of bettering it. Selling out his interest in the paper and fully imbued with the idea that this great county is capable of producing as fine horses as the world has ever known, he went to Kentucky and imported two fine stallions, said, by good judges, to be among the best ever brought to the State. It is his intention soon to import 12 thoroughbred mares from the same State to stock the farm. We believe this enterprise will have a superior and lasting effect in the breeding of horses in this county, in which the standard is much too low.

Unfortunately for Rembaugh the market for racehorses proved to be less than he anticipated. The isolated area did not have enough money to make an expensive horse operation profitable.
In an article written by Myron Angel for the Tribune and republished in Pacific Rural Press, August 20, 1887 the horse breeding business had failed and the impressive Kentucky stallion “A.T. Stewart” had been sold to George Steele.
By the time Myron Angel published his history of San Luis Obispo County in 1883 Rembaugh his wife and three daughters had moved to San Francisco. He was remembered as a first class printer and a leading member of the Masonic order.
An internet search shows a January 1, 1883 list of Civil War pensioners in San Francisco County.
Civil War pensions were an expression of gratitude from the nation in the days before Social Security. Payments were based on military rank and level of disability. It is unclear from the listing if the payments were monthly or yearly. Pensions listed ranged from a low of $2 (gunshot wound left hand) to a high of $50 (widow). Rembaugh was listed as $6 (injury abdomen.)
(An amazing side note, as of a February 9, 2012 blog post on the U.S. News website, two elderly children of Civil War veterans are still drawing pensions.)
In August 1902 there are records of a H.S. Rembaugh filed lawsuit in San Francisco to try to recover unpaid wages from a bankrupt advertising firm he had worked for as a printer.
Later he shows up living in Alameda working as a printer and attending GAR meetings.
According to a death notice published in the Oakland Tribune, H.S. Rembaugh died in Alameda CA, Feb. 12, 1917 aged 76 years, 5 months and 9 days. His wife Jane and three daughters survived him. Appomattox Post no. 50 of the GAR directed the services.

Thanks to Stacy McKitrick for sharing genealogical information and a photograph of her great great grandfather Horatio.

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  3. James J. Ayers, founder of the San Francisco Call, editor of San Luis Obispo Tribune
  4. Early days of the Tribune
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