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 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.
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.