Oct 29

Walter Murray retires from journalism after founding the Tribune

Walter Murray, Tribune founding editor. Photo courtesy the San Luis Obispo County History Center

It was an open secret. Everyone in town knew Walter Murray was the founding editor of The San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Competitors criticized Murray by name on an almost weekly basis.
But the first edition the Tribune in August 1869 showed H.S. Rembaugh and Co. as the publisher.
Except for a failed ownership change for few months under James J. Ayers the paper had almost exclusively been written by Murray and printed by Rembaugh.
Murray had been active in almost every significant arena of power in the muddy pueblo near the mission.
How active? He had been vigilante, lawyer, postmaster, district attorney, county supervisor, notary public, Mason and his most lasting contribution to the community, Tribune founder and editor.
The paper Murray founded was Republican, pro-civil rights, but not exclusively political. The paper printed sharp witted, logical stories as befitted a lawyer’s training and also often included a column or two translated by Murray into Spanish. A generation after California had been admitted to the Union, San Luis Obispo still retained a strong Spanish contingent.
Walter Murray’s ambition was to become a judge and after the demise of two competing journals, the San Luis Obispo Pioneer and the Democratic Standard, Murray made the decision to give up the newspaper business to his faithful partner Horatio Southgate Rembaugh.
It made sense, Murray didn’t have time for the incessant weekly demands and Rembaugh had bought leftover machinery that had printed the Pioneer and later the Standard. Unlike a previous ownership change, this transition was orderly and clearly explained to all the readers in notes from both owners. This posting is Murray’s farewell and the next posting will be Rembaugh’s promise for the future.

Saturday morning April 20, 1872


In concluding his connection with this paper, the undersigned deems it to be not inappropriate to review the history of the journalism in this county.
Previous to January 4th, 1868, no newspaper had ever been published in San Luis Obispo, except the so-called San Luis Obispo Gazette, which for a brief period, being printed in San Francisco, professed to have a circulation here. On the day stated, there appeared the San Luis Obispo Pioneer, published by Rome G. Vickers.
It was started as a neutral paper, and enjoyed as ample a support as might be expected at the time. The leading members of both parties assisted in its publication, both pecuniarily and by literary contribution. Seduced by promises which the proprietor afterwards declared to be illusory, on the 18th day of July, 1868, Mr. Vickers hoisted the Seymour and Blair standard, and declared the Pioneer thenceforth to be in harmony with the Democratic party. This course lost to that paper the Republican assistance which it formerly enjoyed, and it was thrown back upon party subsidy, which is notoriously the most unreliable support for any journal. From July 1868, to August 1869, the Pioneer continued its party advocacy, in a manner which it is not deemed at this time necessary to qualify, further than to say that the members of the republican party became daily more and more convinced of the necessity of the establishment of a newspaper which should serve as a counterpoise to the one then in existence, and as a defense to men and measures which they deemed to be worthy of support. With this view, the undersigned, on August 6th, 1869, issued the first number of the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Its material was purchased and paid for by the voluntary contributions of leading republicans in our county, and was freely presented to its editor and manager upon the condition that the paper should be published for at least one year as a republican journal. That condition has been more than fulfilled, as the undersigned, the originator of the enterprise, has carried it on in conformity with the programme proposed, from August 6th, 1869, until the 16th inst., subsisting all that time only upon the legitimate support of a newspaper. It is not for him to speak of the manner of its conduct. The bound volumes of the Tribune are on record in the archives of the county, and speak for themselves.
In November, 1869, the Pioneer ceased to exist. Sharing the usual fate of a party organ, it died of the apathy consequent upon the close of a political campaign. Supported by subsidy, it expired as soon as the exigencies of an election no longer existed to charm the sinews of war out of the pockets of interested parties. The Tribune continued on because its proprietor from the first determined to look only to the legitimate support for the subsistence of his paper, and was ambitious of establishing a journal which should in very truth be devoted to the building up of the material interests of the county. He had hoped that as soon as a disposition would be shown by him to lose sight of the party tendency of his paper, and to conform its course more closely than before to the general interest, there would no longer be manifested any desire or intention to resuscitate the Pioneer upon a party basis. Some of the former supporters of that paper, however thought otherwise, and on February 12th, 1870, appeared the first number of the Democratic Standard, printed on the old Pioneer material, and edited by Mr. John B. Fitch. Of that gentleman it need only be said that he had evidently mistaken his vocation, and not that, withstanding the fair promise of his “Salutatory,” his course until his departure in November of last year, reflected small credit upon his principal supporters. Upon his exit from the journalistic arena of San Luis Obispo, the conduct of his paper was assumed by Mr. A.A. Oglesby, who failed to add to the exchequer of the institution he attempted to carry on, however much he may have added to its laurels. The reduction of the regular subscription price to $4 per annum under Mr. Fitch, and to $2.50 under his successor, proved a true augury of the demise of the journal in question. Five dollars per annum is the standard price of a country newspaper in California, and only journals of exceptionally large circulation can afford to make a reduction upon this established price. The Tribune never was offered for less, because its proprietor knew that it could not be afforded at any less rate.
The undersigned has long been desirous of withdrawing from newspaper enterprise in this section. The Tribune has always been a drag upon his other business. He would have long ago hung his harp upon the willows, could he have seen an assurance that the journal he started would continue its existence. He made an attempt to do so in October of last year, which failed. Now, however, the Standard having expired, its material having been purchased by the present proprietors of the Tribune and having confidence that the gentleman last referred are men every way worthy of the confidence of the public, and competent to conduct a journal which shall commend itself to the support of all the citizens of our county, irrespective of politics, he takes pleasure in giving way to men who will devote their entire time and attention to the production of a sheet, which will strive to be worthy of the undivided patronage of their public. It is no an established fact that two newspapers cannot live in San Luis Obispo; ant it is equally an established fact that any paper which pretends to occupy the position of the only one published, must eschew party politics and take an independent if not a neutral position on political matters. This the Tribune will henceforth do; and if its efforts in this direction shall prove a success, its former proprietor and editor will not regret the change of base. He believes that the paper which he founded is destined to rise and flourish with the advancing interests of a county whose prospects are second to none in the State; and in this belief he is very willing to resign his position, and leave to others the future carrying on of a newspaper, whose conduct heretofore, although extremely onerous to him, had not been bereft of pleasure and consolation.
Thanking heartily the men of both parties who have heretofore been pleased to honor his editorial labors with their support and encouragement, he gives to each and all of them a hearty farewell.

Related posts:

  1. Walter Murray founds The Tribune
  2. James J. Ayers, western journalist, Tribune editor part 2
  3. Early days of the Tribune
  4. James J. Ayers, founder of the San Francisco Call, editor of San Luis Obispo Tribune
  5. Volume I Number I, The Tribune’s first issue