Edwin L. Barrett Collection Edit


Mss. Coll. Barrett


  • 1822-1967 (Creation)


  • 1 cubic feet (Whole)



  • Abstract

    This collection contains correspondence between members of the Barrett family, handwritten newspapers, journal entries, poetry, compositions, notes, receipts, music, landscape drawings, and printed material, including Oxford Female Institute catalogues from 1856 and 1857, newspaper clippings, and a biography of Edwin Lawrence Barrett.

  • Language of Materials

    The records are in English

  • Biography of Edwin Barrett

    Edwin Lawrence Barrett was born on August 20, 1827 to Samuel and Nancy Lawrence Barrett in Worcester County, Massachusetts. The family also had two daughters, following Edwin. The first, Elvira, died of scarlet fever when she was four years old. Ellen, the second daughter, was four years younger than Edwin. Working as a music and drawing teacher, Ellen married and later divorced Edward Root, a preacher from Williamsburg, Massachusetts. After finishing school at Ashburnham, Massachusetts, he spent several years going to high schools in nearby towns. He finished his schooling in Ashby during the winter of 1843-1844. By the fall of 1844, Edwin was teaching school at Mason, New Hampshire. Upon returning to Ashburnham, Edwin met Sarah B. Petts, a native of New York who was teaching in Ashburnham. The daughter of Dr. John Petts and his wife, Phoebe, Sarah had three siblings: Charles, Quincy, and Maria. Edwin and Sarah were married on January 4, 1848. They had eight children - six sons and two daughters. Edward Lawrence was born September 14, 1850; Nellie in August 1852, who died of brain fever in 1862; Fannie in 1854, who died of scarlet fever during the winter of 1855-1856; Charles, who lived two months; and another Charles on December 13, 1856, who died September 26, 1857 and was buried in Oxford, Ohio; Frederick William, born November 15, 1858; and George Lawrence, born in 1861. Failing health prompted Edwin to move to North Carolina in October 1850. He lived in Franklin, Halifax and Warren Counties, teaching and overseeing a female seminary at White Sulphur Springs and Warrenton, until 1856. Edwin then moved his family to Oxford, Ohio, where he conducted the Oxford Female Institute with the Rev. J.H. Buchanan. An advertisement for the Oxford Female Institute in the October 31, 1857 issue of the Oxford Citizen lists Barrett as an associate principal and professor of instrumental and vocal music. In 1861, Edwin moved to Springfield, Ohio, where he entered the bookbinding and printing business with his brother-in-law, Charles L. Petts, under the firm name of Barrett & Petts. In 1862, he became associated with G.W. Hastings, and the firm was known as Hastings, Barrett & Petts. In failing health, Barrett dissolved the firm and bought a farm outside Springfield in 1865. In 1867, he established E.L. Barrett & Sons, a company specializing in the manufacture of legal, election and other types of blanks and forms. The firm later became known as the Barrett Publishing Company. After Sarah's death in 1865, Edwin married Clara D. Hulsey, a native of Milledgeville, Georgia and an 1860 graduate of Western Female Seminary, on March 18, 1867. They had two children, Anna Louise, born September 11, 1869; and Frank, born January 29, 1872. Edwin died on August 3, 1898.

  • Scope and Content

    The collection begins with letters written from 1828 to 1890, mostly between members of the Barrett family. Early letters from Edwin Barrett describe his studies at school, while a draft of a submission for the Sabbath School Journal provides an account of the death of a little girl named Sarah and her exemplary religious nature. Correspondence then turns to Edwin's taking a school in New Ipswitch and later in Danville, where on October 11, 1846, he reflects on his character and his efforts to be "a better & more faithful son, brother, and Christian." Meanwhile, Ellen continues her studies in Westminster and Hancock, where she writes of reciting French, and how her "bumps of self-esteem and ambition...have risen astonishingly" since she came there. "I feel now as to' I could do almost anything and especially do I delight in my music," she writes on April 1, 1847. The next year, Ellen spends time at Saratoga Spa, New York, where she writes of seeing the "Panorama of Amsterdam" and taking a boat ride. Correspondence from Sarah Barrett on July 13, 1848 provides details of her interest in becoming a teaching assistant in the subjects of mathematics, French, chemistry, and philosophy. By 1850, Edwin has moved to North Carolina for a teaching position; he describes his journey through New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, as well as the physical appearance of Warrenton, North Carolina, to his wife, parents and sister. After arriving in North Carolina, Edwin often writes of his desire and efforts to bring his family there so they can be reunited. Writing on November 24, 1850, Edwin says, "There is now but little doubt of my staying here for the present at least; and, if I am not eventually successful here, I think I shall still settle in the South at some point. I like so much better than I expected when I came away, as to climate, face of country & society; and especially, I find there is such a demand for teachers, that the more I become acquainted, the more I think I shall stay unless Providence plainly directs otherwise." Other letters from this period describe Edwin's teaching activities, his future prospects, and what life is like in North Carolina. By early 1851, Sarah and their child, Eddie, have joined Edwin in North Carolina. Hoping to have Ellen join them in North Carolina for a teaching position, Edwin frequently writes of future prospects for her and suggestions for becoming a successful teacher. Many other letters that year illustrate Edwin's desire to have his parents join them in North Carolina; they describe Edwin and Sarah's "want of company & of excitement" and provide suggestions for the journey, what household items would be most advantageous to have there, and what provisions should be made about their house in Ashburnham. By 1852, circumstances have led Edwin to continue living in North Carolina and Sarah to return to Ashburnham. Letters written between the couple during this year provide insight into household business matters, the growth of their children, and their desire to be reunited, which takes place by early 1853. After that, correspondence continues in Edwin's advising his mother about business matters in Ashburnham, particularly the rental or sale of their home there. 1854 finds Edwin teaching at two female institutes in the Warrenton area, trying to delay a visit to Ashburnham until he is better settled financially. Letters from this period continue to express his wish that his extended family be reunited. On November 25, 1854, Edwin writes that "the cards & toils of combined poverty, ill health, & a dependent & increasing family" have made things difficult for him. A stern sense of duty and necessity not only has kept him in North Carolina, but also has made him a "more cool, circumspect & cautious person." By November 6, 1855, Sarah is back in Ashburnham, while Edwin continues teaching in North Carolina, as a result of a "very unsettled state of affairs." Later letters reveal sickness and death suffered by the Barrett children; the family's relocation to Oxford and later Springfield, Ohio; and Ellen's divorce from Edward Root. The collection also includes a number of handwritten publications in the style of illustrated newspapers. Edited by Sarah Petts, "The Budget" covers literary and scientific topics, poetry, the editor's diary, and letters to the editor. "On the Improvement of the Mind" was featured in the November 19, 1841 issue, as was "Marks of a Bad Scholar" on October 25, 1841. "Diligence" was the topic of the December 17, 1841 issue, as was the definition of politeness and character on March 4, 1842. Unique animals such as the tamarind and the ostrich, as well as the asbestos stone, are also covered in 1842 issues. Charles Petts edited "The Olio," which features the mottos, "Improvement Must Shine" and "Enterprise," on its masthead. Poetry and letters to the editor are complemented by short essays on subjects such as geography, the weather, and temperance, including a child's temperance pledge in the November 9, 1843 issue. A description of Northampton is featured in the January 9, 1844 issue, and of Ashburnham, Massachusetts in the January 23, 1845 issue of The Olio. Both Sarah and Charles Petts edited "The Star." Published under the motto, "Just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined," "The Star" includes literary and scientific features, as well as poetry and a daily journal. While temperance is covered in several issues, some other features of interest include the Boston Statehouse and the solar system (February 27, 1841), Niagara Falls (March 6, 1841), phrenology and fortune telling (April 10, 1841), the death of General Harrison (April 17, 1841), school libraries (April 24, 1841), a view in a prison (August 28, 1841), and the telegraph (several issues in October 1841 and February-March 1842). The collection also includes some anonymous journal entries, perhaps attributed to Nancy Lawrence Barrett. One series of entries from April 23, 1834 through April 19, 1835 describes the author's attending a meeting at her church, her renewal of her efforts to become a better Christian, and her happiness in hearing her husband express his determination to read the Scriptures and take a temperance pledge. She also records sitting by the grave of her daughter, Elvira, who died of scarlet fever. Other journal entries from July and August 1847 and July of 1848 detail attendance at religious services and continued efforts to improve as a Christian. Poetry and compositions on religion and other topics such as friendship are included in the collection. Notes on scientific topics such as electricity, astronomy, physiology and Bright's disease and pneumonia (including young Eddie Barrett's symptoms during his illness) can also be found in the collection. Three receipts for dry goods and grocery purchases made by Nancy Barrett in 1852, 1857, and an unknown date are included in the collection. Handwritten music for an untitled composition from 1822 and "Scattered o'er the starry pole" (from Gould's Social Harmony), dated May 25, 1826, follows. Landscape drawings include views of a raft on Lake Champlain, Ellen Barrett's drawing of Chimney Rocks in North Carolina, sunrise at Cape Ann, and Phoebe Petts' drawing of Georgian Springs, Ottawa River, Canada. Printed material in the collection contains a broadside advertising monochromatic drawing lessons taught by Ellen Barrett, a copy of The Springfield Republic from November 18, 1861, and undated newspaper clippings documenting a meeting of the Central Mother's club, a petition in favor of establishing free Kindergartens in Springfield public schools, a kitchen shower given by Nellie Barrett for Lou Winwood and George Perks, and the marriage of Nelle Barrett (daughter of Edward L. Barrett) and Edgar Mizener. Copies of the catalogues of the Oxford Female Institute from 1855-1856 and 1856-1857, list Edwin Barrett as associate principal and professor of instrumental and vocal music. The collection concludes with Clara Barrett Coffman's publication, The Book of My Grandfather: A Biography of Edwin Lawrence Barrett.

  • Statement of Arrangement

    Series I: Manuscripts Series II: Printed Material

  • Restrictions on Access

    This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections, Miami University Libraries.

  • Preferred Citation

    Edwin L. Barrett Collection, Walter Havighurst Special Collections, Miami University Libraries, Oxford, Ohio.

  • Acquisition Information

    The collection was donated by Clara Louise Barrett Coffman, through her son-in-law, John B. Deinhardt, in December 2008.