Mr George Andrew Brereton

George Andrew Brereton

Mr George Andrew Brereton was born in Madelia, Watonwan, Minnesota on 12 November 1874.1

The son of an Irish father and a German mother, his parents were Daniel E. Brereton (1838-circa 1920), a farmer, and Mary E. Rohe (1844-1915), the latter hailing from Bavaria and his father first arriving in the USA around 1858.

His known siblings were: Clarence Sylvester (1870-1963), Frank Daniel (1873-1911), Emily Barbara (1876-1970, later Mrs Horace Lathrop), John Adolph (1878-1951), May (b. 1881, later Mrs Howard C. Way) and William Edward (1883-1964). 

Brereton and his family appear on the 1880 census living at an unspecified address in Madelia; by 1895 he was living with his family in Minneapolis. The 1900 census shows the family living at 608 16th Avenue South, Minneapolis but George was not listed there at the time. 

He boarded the Titanic at Southampton (ticket number 111427, which cost £26, 11s) and was travelling under the alias Mr George Arthur Brayton. He was rescued (possibly in lifeboat 9).

'Brayton' (a professional gambler) had been in the First Class smoking room stalking a victim when the ship struck. Even after the disaster, while travelling on the Carpathia back to New York, Brereton was still at work. He met another First Class passenger Charles Stengel on deck and after their return to New York attempted to involve him in a horse racing scam.

George was married in Manhattan on 13 August 1912 to Grace Heron (b. July 1887), a native of Idaho; a son, George Daniel, was born on 10 July 1918. Prior to that George and his wife appear on the 1915 census living in New York.

In Toledo, Ohio on 29 January 1915 Brereton (alias Banning) was fined and sentenced to two years in prison for his part in a horse racing scam; one of his accomplices was a familiar name:

SHEA AND ASSOCIATES
Are convicted at Toledo of having swindled two farmers
Toledo, Ohio, January 29.--Five men were convicted in the United States District Court here today of having defrauded two farmers by the use of a fake wire scheme. The following were sentenced:
Harry H. Homer, alias Bolder, alias Baldwin, of Indianapolis, two years at Moundsville, fined $2000 and costs.
George A. Brereton, alias Banning, of New York, same sentence.
Berta Hathaway, alias Manton, of Chicago, 21 months.
John C. Arthur, alias Hayes, of Dayton, sentence deferred.
John J. ("Mickey") Shea, of Toledo and New York, who has been mentioned prominently in the " clairvoyant trust," was given 35 days in jail on a contempt of Court decision. He will be given his sentence later.
The men were arrested on charges made by Wilbur Rundell, a farmer of Pontiac, Mich
,, that he had lost money on an imaginary horse race. - Cincinnati Enquirer, 30 January 1915

It is not certain if Brereton ever served a full stretch in prison; around this time his mother died in Minneapolis on 5 April 1915.

His son George died on 2 March 1921 following complications from a routine tonsillectomy. Brereton's sorrowing wife Grace never recovered from the loss and spent the next year grieving before taking her own life on 23 February 1922 by shooting herself in the chest.

Only weeks after the loss of his wife Brereton was remarried on 7 April 1922 to Hazel Rell (b. 16 October 1895) of Tomahawk, Wisconsin, this also being her second marriage. The pair welcomed a son, Daniel Rell, who was born in Los Angeles on 20 July 1927. The family appeared on the 1930 census as residents of 868 Malcolm Avenue, Brereton being described the president of a finance company. 

The marriage between George and Hazel eventually broke down and they were divorced, with Hazel remarrying in 1938 to Donald McClure, a former district attorney, taking her son Daniel with her to Oakland, California; she died in California on 18 December 1983.

Hazel Brereton

Hazel Rell Brereton in 1923

In 1923 Brereton applied for a passport whilst in Chicago; described as a 'secretary', he gave his address as 219 East Olive Street, Huntington, California and was intending to sail with his then-wife Hazel aboard the Aquitania on 12 June 1923, listing his intended destinations as France, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. He was described as standing at 5' 9" and with a "heavy" chin, regular forehead and mouth, the latter topped with a moustache. He had brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion.

Brereton applied for another passport in March 1925; at the time his address was still 219 East Olive Street, Huntington, California and on this occasion he was intending to visit Italy, France and the United Kingdom, travelling aboard the Mauretania in April that year. The same passport indicates that he had spent several months of 1923 living in Cuba. 

George Brereton 1925

Brereton in his 1925 passport

He continued to travel extensively well into the 1930s and in the mid-1920S was a passenger for several voyages aboard the Olympic. By the time of the 1940 census he was living in an apartment on Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles with his profession described as that of being in the mining sector. It appears he continued to dabble with criminality even into his elder years:

Victim Spends Year on Trail of Asserted Fleecers

SAN JOSE, July 4. (AP) - Charged with swindling J. T. Taylor, retired New Yorker, out of $27,000 in a fake horse race deal, C. W. Coleman 55 years of age, and George Brereton, 60, said by officers to be members of the Maybury gang, are in the County Jail here in lieu of $30,000 cash bail each.

The pair were arrested at dawn this morning in Yosemite National Park by Sherriff William J. Emig, Deputy Sherriff Howard Buffington and park rangers on warrants sworn here on Monday when Taylor arrived with word that a friend had spotted the pair in the park, where Taylor had made their acquaintance about a year ago, leading to his placing $27,000 with them as a bet on a horse race supposedly taking place in Omaha. He had been hunting them ever since. - Los Angeles Times, July 1933

Twenty years after his first wife's death, and in the same house, 7021 Miramonte Boulevard, Brereton took his own life by putting a gun to his head. He was buried in Valhalla Memorial Park in Los Angeles. 

His son Daniel died in Los Angeles on 28 December 1982.

Brereton Grave

Notes

  1. Several records give the date as 11 November 1874.
 

Pictures

George Brereton Photographs
Grave of George Brereton
GRAVE OF GEORGE BRERETON
George Andrew Brereton
GEORGE ANDREW BRERETON
George A. Brereton
GEORGE A. BRERETON
Hazel Rell Brereton, wife of gambler George A. Brereton
HAZEL RELL BRERETON, WIFE OF GAMBLER GEORGE A. BRERETON
George A. Brereton
GEORGE A. BRERETON
Hazel Rell Brereton, wife of gambler George A. Brereton
HAZEL RELL BRERETON, WIFE OF GAMBLER GEORGE A. BRERETON
 

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2017) 
Titanica! (2001) 
NEW RESEARCH REVEALS THE TRAGIC FATE OF ONE OF THE TITANIC'S NOTORIOUS GAMBLERS.
Los Angeles Times (1942) 
Los Angeles Times (1933) 
The Sun (New York) (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
New York Times (1912) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. Mike Herbold said:

    The following article was just published in the British Titanic Society quarterly journal, "Atlantic Daily Bulletin." My thanks go out to Phil Gowan and George Behe for their continuing help. We have since found the great niece and another distant relative in Southern California and are continuing to find out more information about this most interesting passenger. Mike Herbold Lakewood, California George A. Brereton -- Mystery Man By Mike Herbold George M. Behe wrote an excellent two-part article for “The Titanic Commutator” in 1982 called “Fate Deals A Hand.” The story... Read full post

  2. Jan C. Nielsen said:

    Congratulations, Mike! That's an excellent story. Quite a guy. Does anyone know who Brereton played cards with on Titanic? Do you know where Daniel lived in Sausalito? I might go and take a picture of the house, if it still exists. Once again, congratulations to you and Phil for the work you did.

  3. avatar

    Maureen Zottoli said:

    Mike, What a great story It was easy to read and fascinating regarding the mistake in the name. My expertise on names being changed as they entered the US for immigrants was An American Tale. It was sad that after surviving so long under such circumstances and then to take his life. That is sad. Thanks fo rtaking your time to write it. Maureen.

  4. Mike Herbold said:

    Mo: In George Brereton's case, it looks like his use of different names was the result of wanting to stay one step ahead of the law rather than being a mistake. The story is not over yet. Phil Gowan and I have discovered more interesting info about Mr. Brereton and his relatives since then and should have an expanded biography sometime early next year. Don't touch that dial.

  5. avatar

    Maureen Zottoli said:

    ooooh....aaaaah....can't wait! So will the two of you co-write this one? Looking forward to reading it. All of the articles are great here. Thanks. Mo.

  6. John M. Feeney said:

    Hi, Mike! I only recently became a "card-carrying" member of this Message Board, though I'd lurked around it previously, and read your very fine article. Now that I am a "regular", I just wanted to thank you for a facinating piece of detective work. (It occurred to me I hadn't said anything about this previously when you popped up under Pat Cook's thread.) And, following on the heels of that recent, somewhat outrageous post to Pat's thread, I am ever so glad that, as you reported, "Bradley" went by "George (Boy)", not "Boy George"! ;^) Thanks again! I'll be looking forward to more... Read full post

  7. George Behe said:

    Did someone call? :-)

  8. Randy Bryan Bigham said:

    George, If you'll answer to Boy George your fashion IQ is seriously arrested! Now come on, those braids are just not you!!! Randy

  9. Randy Bryan Bigham said:

    Hi! Mike, I thought I'd left an earlier message praising your article but evidently not. So let me tell you, it's great! That's a lot of detective work you've done and good luck to you and Phil in your ongoing research. What a character this guy was. And a sad end. What is it with Titanic suicides? All in all it was a great story. Thanks for sharing it with us. We are all always appreciative of soundly based research from writers who really care about their subject. It shows in every word that you do. All my best, Randy

  10. Michael Findlay said:

    Mike, I had the pleasure of reading your article in another publication and I enjoyed it immensely. I'm glad that Phil included it here on the ET. Congratulations on a job well done. If you ever have a passion for tracking down a few of the remaining, elusive New York survivors, please let us know. Kind regards, Mike Findlay

  11. Mike Herbold said:

    Thanks very much Randy and Michael: If you two would get together and tell me which six numbers to buy on tonite's California Lottery I could quit my day job and do this full time, and have money left over to hire Gowan and Behe. GoHerBe. That's got a ring to it. Michael: I've got my hands full with the Californians. Like who in the world knows anything about the Klasens and Vestrom?

  12. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    Hey Mr. Herbold--if you win that lottery remember--Gowan can be bought!

  13. Mike Herbold said:

    PG: Why do you think I already named it GoHerBe. You're Number 1.

  14. Peter Engberg-Klarström said:

    Dear Mike, Hulda Kristina Löfqvist Klasén was a 36 year old seamstress from Gotland, Sweden. She was going to Los Angeles; she had lived in America since 1902 and had been back in Sweden to get her niece Hulda Amanda Adolfina Veström, whose father allegedly lived in the US at the time. Klas Albin Klasén travelled with his sister Gertrud Emilia, 1,5 years old. The two latter were probably not related to Hulda Klasén (although there is a possibility). Peter

  15. Mike Herbold said:

    Thanks Peter: I started a new thread on this in the passenger section.

  16. Iain Stuart Yardley said:

    Morning all, I recently saw an original of the passenger listing for the second voyage of the Olympic. Amongst the passengers was Thomas Andrews and a certain George A. Brereton. Would this be the same George Andrew Brereton (a.k.a. George Arthur Brayton / Bradley) who sailed on the first voyage of the Titanic? Cheers, Boz

  17. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    Hey Boz, Yeah, that's him. He continued to sail the seas for many years plying his trade. In fact, it was on one of the subsequent trips that he met his second wife. Her parents were sending her and her sisters to England in hopes that she'd find a "royal" to marry. Instead she found Brereton. But he pretended to be a blue-blood and on his son's death certificate it lists the father as "Sir George Brereton." What a hoot! Phil

  18. Iain Stuart Yardley said:

    Hallo Phil, Thanks for confirming that. If his "trade" was gambling and swindling who was he hoping to swindle on the crossing? I'm aware he swindled fellow survivor Stengel several weeks after the sinking in a horse racing scam. Was Stengel also his intended victim on the crossing? What happened to his second wife? Did she die before Brereton shot himself or did she see the light and do a runner? Cheers, Boz

  19. avatar

    Phillip Gowan said:

    Hey Boz, am sure Brereton was swindling whoever he could on the trans-Atlantic crossings. Hazel and George Brereton had a stormy relationship. Hazel couldn't have children so they adopted one son, Danny, who was said to be the out-of-wedlock child of a well-known movie star. Danny didn't turn out to be a gambler but he was a very unsavory character. He died a year before his mother and those responsible for the estate were reluctant to even enter his house, afraid of what they might find. Hazel and George finally divorced and Hazel then married a Maytag heir and lived to be a very old... Read full post

  20. Daniel Klistorner said:

    Iain, ... and speaking of George Behe, he has a two-part article on the gamblers in the Titanic Commutator. It is in two of the 1982 issues, but I can't remember which ones. I don't have the original issues just yet, but I hope to really soon I do have a photocopy of the article and it is excellent, well worth the read as it gives an excellent insight into the life of a gambler, as well as giving a good account of the gamblers on the Titanic. Also you might want to visit this past thread on ET: [URL... Read full post

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Phillip Gowan, USA
Mike Herbold, USA
Debra McWilliams, USA
Arne Mjåland, Norway
Hermann Söldner, Germany

References and Sources

Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])
Walter Lord (1986) The Night Lives On: Thoughts, Theories and Revelations about the Titanic. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 140 27900 8
National Archives: Passport Applications
Reno-Gazette Journal, 24 February 1922, Kills Self From Grief
Los Angeles Times, 17 July 1942, Tragedy Repeats in Dual Suicide
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

(2020) George Andrew Brereton Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #38, updated 30th March 2020 04:21:26 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/george-brereton.html