Benjamin Franklin

Although he was not one of the “founding fathers” of Cambria, Benjamin Hubes Franklin was an important figure during the 1880s. He was born in Philadelphia on September 1, 1856, and was the eldest in a family of nine children. He was a son of Colonel William H. Franklin, a native of New Jersey. His grandfather was Benjamin Franklin, also a native of New Jersey, and his mother was Morgiana R. (Hubes) Franklin.

Franklin was raised and educated in San Jose and was a graduate of the business college, high school and normal school. In 1876 he came to Cambria where he taught school for two years. For a time he was engaged in real estate and money lending and purchased county warrants. He was appointed Postmaster in 1881, but was removed by the administration of President Grover Cleveland in1887, and re-installed by Benjamin Harrison in 1889. He was a member of the County Board of Education. For five years he was a clerk for the firm of Grant & Lull and at the same time he was telegraph operator and Postmaster.

In 1885 he opened a variety store, which grew until, within six years, it became the largest in town. When the great fire of 1889 broke out, he owned 100 feet on Main Street including the Franklin Theatre building, a building rented to the Granger Saloon and his store.  At that moment, he was totally uninsured and was negotiating for a new policy. The fire originated behind the Proctor Hotel at the corner of Bridge and Main, a block from him, and he succeeded in saving $2,000 worth of goods. The rest, except for his residence, was a total loss, amounting to about $10,000. The morning after the fire he opened his store in the parlor of a dwelling house, and in five days he moved into a 26 by 40 foot building where he conducted the only mercantile business in town.

In addition to his Cambria properties, Franklin owned a 500 acre ranch on Santa Rosa Creek seven miles from town on which there were 100 head of cattle. He also owned a residence in Cambria which today (2009) houses the Olallieberry Inn and a business block in San Luis Obispo containing three stores which he rented. Franklin purchased the Guthrie-Bianchini House, which now houses the Cambria Historical Museum, in 1882. He added on to the house, doubling its size, and sold it in 1883 to Sarah Guthrie.

In 1876, the twenty-one year old Franklin married Mabel Runyon, age seventeen, a native of Colfax, on the Sacramento River. She was the daughter of Alexander Runyon, a rancher and horticulturist from New York. They had four children, all born in Cambria, including three sons, Benjamin H., Raymond, and Alexander, and a daughter, whose name is not known, and who was the youngest.

In 1892, Franklin married Blanche Music of a prominent Cambria family. Blanche was the daughter of Benjamin Franklin Music, born in Virginia and Cambria native Martha Music. This marriage produced eight children: Grover born in February, 1893; Lew W. born in June, 1894; Blanch born in October, 1896, Charles born in April, 1899; Albert M.; Pauline M.; Mildred E.; and another who died.

Benjamin H. Franklin died of apoplexy at age 56 on August 6, 1913 in San Luis Obispo. He is buried there at the Odd Fellows Cemetery.

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