About Harrison Delivan Barrett

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A Brief History of Harrison Delivan Barrett

Harrison D. Barrett Gallery

Gaston-family-gathering Speak Truly, live nobly Your sincere friend Harrison D. Barrett  21stSEPT-1899 Photo at  Temple Heights Spiritual Camp, Northport Maine Lilydale Group with Barrett-II Lilydale Group with Barrett-I Photo at National Spiritualist Association of Churches National Office-II Harrison D. Barrett Tomb Stone, Canaan, Maine Lilydale Group with Barrett-III Photo at National Spiritualist Association of Churches National Office-I



The following is from a talk given by Denise Webber of the Harrison D. Barrett Memorial Church of Bangor, Maine, given at the annual church service at Harrison D. Barrett Park in Canaan Maine on October 24, 1999. This work is one of the finest and most comprehensive researched biographies of the man that became the first president of what is now the National Spiritualist Association of Churches (NSAC).



“I feel very privileged to be here today to honor someone who is a hero to me, and certainly to many other Spiritualists, Harrison D. Barrett.

A couple of years ago, I began my official journey into this wonderful religion, we call Spiritualism. Harrison D. Barrett immediately caught my interest since the church that I became a member of, was named after him. HDB seemed to be a mystery. I found very little information about him, and so, I decided to make him my hobby. My goal was to find out as much as possible about Mr. Barrett and then make up an informational photo album on him so that everyone who was curious and/or interested could learn more about him. The search has not been easy, and it is far from over…but here is what I’ve compiled…I hope that you will find Mr. Harrison D. Barrett to be as interesting as I do, and I hope that you will learn something new about him today, as well.

Harrison D. Barrett was born on April 26th, 1863 or 1864 (depending upon the information that you are looking at) to Lucetta and Levi Barrett, in Canaan, Maine. He had 5 sisters; Ivaletta, Lucille, Viola, Lucette, and Ollie. He attended Bloomfield Academy and Lewiston High School. The college that he graduated from was the Meadville Unitarian Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in 1889.

Although Mr. Barrett was now an ordained Unitarian Minister, he found himself unable to resolve the conflict of religious concepts that faced him. He had been interested in Spiritualism since the age of seventeen, and in his mind it was impossible to reconcile the religion of Spiritualism with the beliefs of the Unitarian Church. He felt that the best way to solve the problem was to leave them both. He did so, and resumed his teaching career in public schools.

Then his sister “Ollie” passed to spirit at the age of twelve and he grieved severely. It was at this time that he heard several raps. He called out, “Ollie, is that you?” Three raps were heard. He knew Ollie still lived. He became a dedicated Spiritualist from that day forth.

On October 13th, 1897 Harrison married Margarite Coffyn. At that time he was also the editor of the Spiritualist paper, “The Banner of Light” and his wife became the assistant editor.

Mr. Barrett’s mediumship unfolded at Camp Etna, here in Maine. He became the president of Camp Etna and was a welcome worker at all the early Camps. He was an excellent platform worker; presenting a pleasing voice and an analytical mind that his audiences seemed never to tire of.

It has been told how he would walk the 25 miles from Canaan to Camp Etna, barefoot, with his shoes over his shoulders in order to present himself polished and prepared for his appointment with Spirit. His wonderful mediumship and his deep resonant voice made him a splendid missionary and he traveled all over the United States many times without funds and with cardboard in his own shoes.

Mr. Barrett was a writer as well as a speaker and worker for Spiritualism. His best-known book, “Pantheistic Idealism” expresses beautifully his ideas of life and religion. He was also the author of “The Life and Work of Cora L.V. Richmond,” and with the help of A.W. McCoy, published, “Cassadaga…It’s History and It’s Teachings.” He was known as a man of marked character, possessed with intense nervous energy and intellect, but with a lack of poise. He was said to be delicate as a woman and that he had all of the refinement of that sex, combined with a tremendous amount of masculine energy. He was an orator, poet and politician combined.

He was also the democratic candidate for the Massachusetts General Court in 1900 in the Seventh Norfolk County district (as a side bar: Mr. Barrett ran a good race but was defeated by the republican majority in his district.)He was also one of the candidates for the State Senate from Somerset County here in Maine.

Harrison and his wife Margarite had two children: one daughter that passed at an early age and is buried at Camp Etna, and one son.

In 1893, Mr. Barrett helped form the National Spiritualist Association of Churches. At about this same time, he gained a national reputation when he came to the aid of a Spiritualist on trial for practicing witchcraft or fortune telling.

In court, a judge told Mr. Barrett that if he could prove to him that Spiritualism was a true religion, that if he had a creed or definite form of religious organization, that it might be possible to free the woman. Mr. Barrett immediately asked for a recess of the court.

In the ante-room he wrote the first three declarations of our Principles. These became the fundamental statements of our beliefs as an Organization. Because of this quick action on his part, the medium was released and a new religious organization was born.

As President of the newly formed organization, Mr. Barrett not only encouraged the establishment of a national religious body of Spiritualists, but expressed the thought that mediums should have a federal charter for their protection.

For a number of years, Harrison and Margarite made their home in Boston, but they spent the latter part of their lives together in California. Margarite passed to spirit while in California, at about 1909. A few months later, Harrison returned to his early home, here in Canaan.

Mr. Barrett seemed to be plagued with illness for much of his life. For two years, while in Oregon, he was so ill, that he deemed himself an invalid and was cared for by Mr. and Mrs. Pippy. After an illness of 14 months, at the age of 47, on January 11th or 12th (again depending upon which piece of history you’re looking at), in 1911, Mr. Harrison D. Barrett passed into the Spirit World, and his earthly remains were buried here in Canaan. Mr. Barrett’s Spirit was strong, but his earthly body, seemed to be weak. In his final will and testament, written just 5 months before his passing, Mr. Barrett wrote: “To all who may know me I bequeath a kind and loving thought, and urge the men and women of the nation to see to it that they possess themselves of sound health by building strong bodies and clear analytical minds; or anything appertaining thereto, for with sound health all else will be added unto them.”

In Mr. Barrett’s will, I also learned a few other interesting and possibly eye-opening facts. First of all, the will was 7 pages long…which is considered to be “lengthily” by most standards. So, he was a true orator…right to the end!

Also, Mr. Barrett seems to have been an extremely precise and stubborn man. In his will, he remarked about the manuscript that he passed out in triplicate (one to his mother, and the two others to close friends) giving specific instructions on how to handle his funeral arrangements and service. It stated who was to conduct the service, who would lead the singing, and what songs were to be sung.

The gold chain and pocket watch that you may have seen him pictured with, was given to him by his Uncle Harrison, his namesake, whom he dearly loved. Mr. Barrett also possessed and bequeathed an onyx ring with 14 diamonds in the shape of the letter “B”. Another thing that I noticed was that Mr. Barrett’s son was not at all mentioned in his will…not even as a living relative…yet, his son was mentioned in his obituary as living “out west”. Was this a “typo” or deliberate? One can only guess at this point.

This “hobby” of mine has turned into a true “quest” to find out who Mr. Harrison D. Barrett was. This interesting search has not only answered some questions, but it has also revealed many more mysteries that I hope to unravel. What I believe that I have learned the most so far, is how HDB was very much like you and me. He had his share of tragedy, loss and rough times. He had strengths, weaknesses, virtues and shortcomings. Yet, inside his weak body was his special, strong Spirit that desired to share his gifts and talents with the world…all in the name of growing Spiritualism!

I would like to personally thank Mr. Harrison D. Barrett for all that he did and all that he still continues to do to promote Spiritualism. I would also like to thank his sister, Ollie, for the instrumental role she played in his life. Without Ollie’s spirit raps, who knows which path HDB would have taken.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with the words of Harrison D. Barrett and his thoughts on Spiritualism: “It gives us the phenomena, the science, the philosophy; which, when blended in oneness, give to the world at last a religion that is probably both by induction and deduction, by scientific demonstration and spiritual revelation. It is a religious science and a scientific religion, a religious philosophy and a philosophical religion. It gives to the world knowledge of the future, and has no negatives or speculations to offer to those who investigate its sublime teachings. The theologian and Christian say, ‘I believe,’ the agnostic says, ‘I don’t know,’ while the materialist affirms annihilation of man’s consciousness at the change called death. Spiritualism has one answer to all these speculations, and in two words solves the difficult problem of all mankind, saying, ‘I know.'”

~ Denise Webber ~
Harrison D. Barrett Memorial Church
Bangor, Maine 04401