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Dec 20

George Staniford, Tribune and Breeze Editor

George Breck Staniford – Photo courtesy King David’s Masonic Lodge of San Luis Obispo. The photo is marked with the years he was leader of the Lodge.

They could have been bitter rivals. Benjamin Brooks was the long time editor of The Tribune. George Staniford had owned The Tribune before Brooks and later owned a competing paper the Breeze. Both held high office in the Masonic lodge.
Often rival newspapers of the era engaged in ugly personal attacks between editors and some kept pistols next to pens in their desk drawer.
A previous editor of The Tribune, James J. Ayers had almost lost a Calaveras newspaper partner after a duel in Sacramento.
When Staniford passed away Brooks wrote a sympathetic elegy for a fallen journalistic brother. At the funeral Worshipful Master Louis Sinsheimer read the Masonic burial service and pall bearers included two previous and one current editor of the Tribune: Benjamin Brooks, Myron Angel and J.K. Tuley. Six years later the Breeze would be bought out by The Tribune.

From the Morning Tribune, March 22, 1903:

A Good Man Passes.
Geo. B. Staniford dies very unexpectedly at his home.
Was Prominent in Newspaper, business Fraternal and Social Circles.
Funeral Arrangements.

This community was shocked yesterday morning about nine o’clock by the announcement that Geo. B. Staniford was dead. Mr. Staniford, though ailing with la grippe for some four or five weeks, seemed to be recovering quite satisfactorily and after being on the street part of the day Friday and eating a hearty supper at night, he went to bed in an apartment by himself.
Dr. Seaton, who has been the family physician for twenty-tree years, says he believes death came to Mr. Staniford before midnight.
Will Staniford opened his father’s bedroom about six o’clock in the morning before going to the express office but supposed his father was asleep and did not disturb him. It was not until after eight o’clock that his son Horace went to awaken him. Horace, scarcely realizing that his father was dead, called Dr. Seaton.
Death evidently came very peacefully to this veteran newspaper and business man of San Luis Obispo, perhaps while he slept.
George Breck Staniford was a native of New York state and was aged 65 years. He learned the printers’ trade in his native state and at the opening of the civil war volunteered his services in defense of his country, joining a New York regiment of infantry.
After doing valiant service in many battles, particularly the bloody battles of South Mountain and Antietam, the deceased came to Alameda county, California and soon fell into his chosen profession, the printer’s trade, becoming foreman of the Oakland News. Here he was frequently editor as well and in 1866 he published the San Leandro Gazette, San Leandro then being the county seat.
The county seat was later changed to Oakland where in 1875 Mr. Staniford established the Evening Tribune which is to this day the leading paper of Oakland.
In 1876 Mr. Staniford removed to San Luis Obispo to succeed J.C. Ortega as agent of the Wells Fargo Express office, this city then being a station on the Pacific Coast stage line from San Juan to Los Angeles, of which Wm. Buckley a brother-in-law, was the proprietor. This position he held continuously until his death.
But in connection with the express business Mr. Staniford found time to take an active part in the newspaper life of this county. In 1878 he became part owner and editor of the Tribune, which he retained until 1883. In 1884 he owned and published it for some time. From 1896 until 1901 he was editor of the Breeze and the popularity of that paper during those years was largely due to his powerful and fearless writing and his warm personal friendships.
Mr. Stanford was much admired in fraternal circles and belonged to the Masons, Knights of Pythias and G.A.R. lodges of San Luis Obispo.
He assisted in instituting Park Lodge No. 40, K. of P., December 20th 1876.
The deceased leaves a widow who is at present ill in San Francisco and three sons and two daughters.
The sons are George, a prominent insurance man of San Jose, and Horace and William of this city. The daughters are Mrs. C.H. Warren, wife of the city editor of the San Francisco Post, and Mrs. T.T. Crittenden of San Luis Obispo.
Funeral services will be held Monday at 10 a.m. with members of the Knights Templar as an escort.
When an eminent citizen leaves this world, the small service his friends and fellow citizens can render him is to testify to his worth and merits, express their sympathy for those more immediately bereaved and offer such consolation as may be within their power. Every man in his lifetime, erects in the hearts and minds of his fellows his own monument. Perhaps it may be no more durable than those other presently crumbling ones which for a few years stand stiffly in our burial grounds, but it is more adequate and perhaps more truthful. George Breck Staniford had been a resident of this town for twenty-seven years. During all that time he has engaged in active and exacting business. His devotion to duty, his keen sense of every responsibility laid upon him, his absolute integrity were recognized by all with whom he came in contact. For years in journalistic life, his vigorous and virile pen was never charged with venom or used unworthily but he could never be intimidated or be deterred from giving the fullest and freest expression to his opinions. His judgment might be at fault, and he was a man of great sagacity, but whether in a public meeting, on the floor of the lodge or in the columns of the several newspapers which he so ably conducted, his tongue and pen were fearless and untrammeled.
He was the bitter foe of everything that to him savored of wrong and injustice and the courageous champion of the truth and of righteousness of life. His monument is a pure clean white shaft, discolored by no evil leanings, no ill-will to his brother man, no base proclivities, no intentional fault or failure.
Where it fails in beauty or harmony, it is only blurred in outline and marred in design, because all they who are human must be blurred and marred.

Thanks to Robert Bettencourt, 2012 Master of the Lodge, King David’s Lodge No. 209 for biographical information and photographs.

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  1. Horatio Southgate Rembaugh, Tribune editor
  2. James J. Ayers, western journalist, Tribune editor part 2
  3. J.J. Ayers, The Tribune’s second editor, family details
  4. James J. Ayers, founder of the San Francisco Call, editor of San Luis Obispo Tribune
  5. Benjamin Brooks, longest serving editor-proprietor The Tribune