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Harrison D. Barrett Memorial Church, NSAC

Harrison D. Barrett History


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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 Caanan Maine on October 24, 1999.


     "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


     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


     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
                                       October 24, 1999


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