Skip to main content

George Barrett Family Papers (MS-636)

Identifier: MS-636

Scope and Contents

Series 1, Barrett Family Historical Material, consists of Barrett family papers dating to the nineteenth century, and early twentieth century.

Subseries I, Business Records, features materials documenting the business enterprises of George Barrett and Isaac M. Barrett. The majority of the material documents operations of George Barrett’s woolen mill. Material is scattered, but provides a broad view of the network of people and businesses involved in the production and consumption of textiles in mid-nineteenth century Ohio. George worked with relatives, as well as with people (workers, merchants, and other professionals) throughout the Miami Valley, and in places like Cincinnati, and Indiana and Tennessee. The material includes documents about machinery (including looms and spinning machines), correspondence about ownership and employment at the mill, correspondence and documents regarding the processing, dyeing, manufacture, and trade of wool, yarn, fabrics, and blankets. Material is foldered according to subject, and arranged in chronological order. Also included is business material related to assorted enterprises the Barretts undertook, such as Isaac’s fuel oil burner patent, and George’s later-life employment as an insurance agent and book canvasser.

Subseries II, Legal documents, primarily contains deeds, mortgages, and bonds involving members of the Merritt and Barrett families. The materials document land ownership in New York, Michigan, and Ohio, as well as relationships between Mahala Merritt Barrett and her siblings. Additionally, the series contains Mary Evans’s articles of agreement for teaching a school in Greene County, Ohio.

Subseries III, Correspondence, contains letters written primarily by and to members of three generations of the Barrett family. Letters are arranged in chronological order, grouped by sender or recipient. Though many family members are represented in the correspondence, the majority of the letters are by and to Isaac Barrett and Mary Evans Barrett, exchanged with their children, relatives, and friends. A significant amount of the letters document the couple’s courtship, as well as the their time during Isaac’s business trips and government service, as well as Mary’s trip to Iowa to be with her daughter during Ella Barrett Dolliver’s first pregnancy and childbirth.

The letters provide significant insight into daily life in the nineteenth century. Many shed light on women’s lives in the mid-nineteenth century, including mother-child relationships, courtship practices, spousal relationships seen through Mahala and Mary Barrett’s letters. Letters also feature discussions about everyday activities like knitting and sewing, as well as decision-making processes about household management. Correspondence to and from Mary during her studies at the Xenia Female Seminary document the activities and thoughts of woman pursuing higher education, as well as daily home life of the siblings of students. Letters also contain themes of women’s health, including a relative’s stay in Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium, Mahala Merritt’s treatment for breast cancer, and Ella Barrett Dolliver’s pregnancy.

Subseries IV, Writings, contains compositions by members of the Barrett family. This includes the handwritten manuscript and an early edition of George Barrett’s book Versification of Some Portions of the Four Evangelists. (Additionally, there is an 1833 Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad note, which was found tucked between pages 80 and 81 of Versification). There are multiple essays composed by Mary Evans (later Barrett) during her studies at the Xenia Female Seminary. (As well as material that may have been written or transcribed by other women, possibly one of Mary’s sisters.) Additionally, there are two drafts of speeches in Isaac Barrett’s handwriting.

Subseries V, Photographs, contains two photographs (one a negative) of the Barrett & Sons Mill operated by Isaac Barrett in the late-nineteenth century. There is a silver gelatin print of a Barrett family gathering, which features annotations on the reverse identifying the subjects. There are also twentieth-century copies of portraits of Mary Evans Barrett’s parents.

Subseries VI, Memorabilia, contains miscellaneous books and objects owned by the Barrett family. Of note are several textile objects: souvenir swatches of Mary Evans Barrett’s wedding dress and traveling dress, a pair of Civil War insignia from Isaac Barrett, a sample of blanket wool manufactured by George Barrett’s mill, and a watch case owned by Mary Evans Barrett.

Series 2, Genealogical Material, contains genealogical research notes and material created by descendants of George and Mahala Barrett in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Subseries I, Family Trees and Genealogical Schedules, contains scattered pedigree charts, family trees, and genealogy reports, and other summary-level information on members of the Barrett family. It includes two pedigree charts handwritten by George Barrett. The subseries also contains self-published volumes on Barrett family history, featuring historical narratives, photocopied documents, and other research materials produced and compiled by genealogists in the Barrett family.

Subseries III, Research Notes and Genealogical Correspondence, contains genealogical research notes as well as correspondence of Barrett family descendants regarding Barrett genealogy. The bulk are letters written among George Barrett’s great-grandchildren, particularly letters written to Evelyn Barrett (wife of Lawrence H. Barrett) by her cousins Arthur M. “Arch” Barrett, Barbara Hougen, and Louise Edwards (wife of William N. Edwards). These letters document the cousins’ collaborations on family trees, and contain notes on their recollections of family history. Researchers of more recent generations of the Barrett extended family may find this genealogical information useful. It also contains notes of research by Barrett family genealogists, as well as notes about family documents. Some materials described by the notes are not a part of this collection, and their location is unknown, but the notes provide sidelights on Barrett family history.


  • Creation: 1824 - 2010
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1850 - 1900


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

George Barrett (1796-1875) was born in New Hampshire to Jaazaniah and Rhoda (Reed) Barrett. In 1824, George married Mahala Merritt (1805-1870), daughter of Joseph and Cynthia Merritt. George and Mahala had ten children: Maria Barrett (1825-1900), Isaac Merritt Barrett (1827-1894), Sarah Barrett (1829-1840), Slocum Barrett (1830-1847), Mahala M. (Martha) Barrett (born 1833), John R. Barrett (born 1835), Merritt H. Barrett (born and died 1838), Calista (also Callista) A. Barrett (1840-1918), Maryelle (Mary) Barrett (1842-1863), and Rosanna S. (Sarah) Barrett (1844-1884).

At the time of his marriage, George, a resident of Vermont, obtained land in Saratoga County, New York. This was the Merritt family’s place of residence. Mahala also owned land in Saratoga County, having obtained it from her siblings. George, Mahala, and their growing family appear to have lived in or near Half Moon, Saratoga County, New York until at least 1833, and possibly 1835 (census records suggest John was born in New York). Barrett genealogists note that the family appears to have lived in Middletown Springs, Vermont, and possibly in White Creek, New York, in the 1830s. Quaker meeting records show that they moved to Delaware County, Ohio, by 1839, and were residing there around 1842. George obtained a parcel of land in Spring Valley, Greene County, Ohio, in 1845. The family may have been living in the area before that, since George is said to have started his woolen mill or woolen factory in 1844.

Around 1854, a fire destroyed a significant portion of the Barretts’ Spring Valley home. George, determined to rebuild with more fire-resistant materials, researched and implemented a building technique using concrete. He published the results of his experiments in The Poor Man’s Home and Rich Man’s Palace: Or, the Application of Gravel Wall Cement to the Purposes of Building in 1854. This technique gave the building a historical significance that helped to secure it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

In early 1866, another fire, this one in the textile factory, forced George Barrett to undertake another rebuilding exercise. During the factory’s course of operation, George received assistance from multiple individuals, including his nephew Charles Merritt, who would go on to found his own woolen business, Merritt Brothers. Mahala emphasized George’s need for assistance as he aged. When George was in his early seventies, he explored options for renting or selling the factory, potentially following Mahala’s advice. Whether he followed through on any of these offers is unclear: county histories note that George managed the factory until his death, and his son Isaac Merritt Barrett may have taken over the mill after his father’s death.

Isaac Merritt Barrett, George and Mahala’s oldest son, married Rebecca Swayne (1828-1854) on September 25, 1850. The couple had two children, Thomas Swayne Barrett (1851 or 1852-1918) and George Barrett (1853-1854). After Rebecca’s death, Isaac remarried on March 11, 1856, to Mary Evans (1826-1901), the daughter of Robert and Sarah Evans, born in South Carolina. Their marriage followed a correspondence-heavy courtship during Mary’s course of study at the Xenia Female Seminary. The couple had seven children: Robert Evans (1857-1930), John R. (1860-1932), Claribel “Belle” (1861-1929), Maryelle “Ella” Barrett Dolliver (1863-1938), Avanelle Harriet “Hattie” Barrett Evans (1866-1943), Don Carlos (1868-1943), and Ernest Clifford (1870-1955). Several of the children attended college: Don Carlos and Hattie went to Earlham College.

Isaac operated a grain mill, Barrett & Sons, in Spring Valley in the late-nineteenth century. County histories suggest that Isaac may also have operated a woolen mill from 1865-1910. (Broadstone, Greene County, 349, 423.) Isaac also served in Ohio’s House of Representatives from 1874 to 1877, and in the state Senate from 1888 to 1889. He appears to have been a well-recognized figure in Spring Valley.


2.75 linear feet

Language of Materials



This collection contains personal and business papers of the Barrett family, a Quaker family prominent in Spring Valley, Greene County, Ohio from the mid-nineteenth century to the early-twentieth century. Materials document the story of the family’s textile mill, in operation circa 1850-1870, their flour mill, their education and experiments, and government service at state and national level. It also contains personal correspondence with family and friends, detailing family experiences and daily life. This is complemented by mid-twentieth and early twenty-first century correspondence and research notes assembled by Barrett family genealogists.


Material is arranged chronologically within the subseries. Correspondence is arranged chronologically, and is generally divided out by correspondent.

The collection is arranged in two series, with eight subseries.

  1. Series 1: George Barrett Family Material
  2. Series 2: Genealogical Material

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

The collection contains numerous letters that are weak along fold lines, and must be handled with care; some paper is fragile as well. Some writing is extremely small or faint.

Custodial History

Materials in the collection were donated to Spring Valley Association of County and Township Services by Steven Barrett Hoskins, a descendant of George Barrett, in 2005. Ernest Clifford “Ford” Barrett III, another descendant, donated additional family materials to the organization in 2010.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated to Wright State University Libraries' Special Collections and Archives by the Spring Valley Association of County and Township Services (ACTS) in September 2018.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Materials

George Barrett’s concrete house at 4 East Main Street, Spring Valley, Ohio, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is operated as a museum by the Spring Valley Association of County and Township Services.

Some photographs of members of the Barrett family are housed at Earlham Friends Collection and College Archives, Earlham College Archives, in “Earlham Photograph Collection: Individual Photographs.”

Publication Note

Barrett, George. The Poor Man’s Home and Rich Man’s Palace: Or, the Application of Gravel Wall Cement to the Purposes of Building. Cincinnati: Applegate & Co. Publishers, 1854. Google Books. Accessed April 8, 2022.

Sarah Evans, mother of Mary Evans Barrett (wife of Isaac Barrett), is discussed in Linda Otto Lipsett Remember Me: Women and Their Friendship Quilts The Quilt Digest Press, 1985 (pp 86-97).

Separated Materials

Oversized material (deeds and large photographs) were separated to oversize storage.


References for biographical sketch:

Broadstone, (Michael A. History of Greene County, Ohio: Its People, Industries and Institutions. Indianapolis: B. F. Bowen, 1918.

Cope, Gilbert. Genealogy of the Darlington Family : a record of the descendants of Abraham Darlington of Birmingham, Chester Co., Penna., and of some other families of the name. West Chester, Pennsylvania, 1900. The Internet Archive. Accessed June 10, 2022.

Dills, R. S. History of Greene County, Ohio. Dayton: Odell and Mayer, Publishers, 1881.

“George Barrett Cement House Historical Marker.” The Historical Marker Database. Accessed May 31, 2022.

Hoskins, Stephen Barrett. “Barrett Family History from Arrival of James Barrett (First Generation) in the Massachusetts Bay Colony circa 1638 to the Arrival of George Barrett (Seventh Generation) in Spring Valley, Ohio, in 1843. Bernardsville, New Jersey: (privately published), 2003. (Box 5, File 4)

Biographical review of Calhoun County, Michigan : containing historical, biographical and genealogical sketches of many of the prominent citizens of to-day and also of the past. Chicago: Hobart & Mather, 1904. Michigan County Histories, University of Michigan.;view=fulltext;q1=iosco. Accessed May 31, 2022. page 62.


This collection was extensively researched by members of the Barrett family before its arrival at Special Collections and Archives. A number of documents in the collection contain annotations written by Barrett genealogists in pencil or ballpoint pen prior to acquisition by SC&A. Ballpoint pen annotations appear to have been made by Steven Barrett Hoskins. Penciled notes were made by an unknown person, potentially Barbara Barrett Hoskins or another mid-twentieth-century Barrett genealogist. Information added by SC&A archivists was written lightly in pencil and enclosed in square brackets.

Processing Information

Barrett family genealogists had performed in-depth arrangement of the historic correspondence prior to donating the collection. Letters had been stored in photo album sleeves, featuring abstracts and notes written by Steven Barret Hoskins. Hoskins’s notes were photocopied, and clipped to their respective letters. Arrangement reflects the order established by Barrett family researchers.

The frame containing a memorial of Ella Barrett was scanned to preserve the notes on its back. A penciled annotation at the upper corner, proper left side, read “Murray Morris | c/o Friends First C. | 137 So. East.”

The collection initially contained an envelope of powdered cudbear dye. The dye powder was removed from the collection to prevent staining of other material.

Guide to the George Barrett Family Papers (MS-636)
Megan O'Connor
2022 June
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA