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BARRETT, George L. ( Col.)


Posted By: Sharon R Becker (email)
Date: 1/6/2016 at 15:53:12

Graceland University, Lamoni, Decatur County, Iowa

Col. George Barrett was born in Erie County, Pennsylvania, on January 11, 1931 [the son of Oramel Sr. and Elizabeth (Hunt) Barrett].

Col. Barrett surveyed the original Graceland College grounds [present-day Graceland University] and is credited as the man who gave Graceland College its name.

Col. Barrett was a colonel during the Civil War, serving under Gen. Sheridan. After the war, Col. Barrett worked as a civil engineer and marked off the first 66 2/3 acres of college land in Lamoni into 146 lots prior to the construction of the Administration Building. Along with his assistant, Col. Barrett also marked the sites for the planting of 800 trees to further enhance the grounds. Frederick M. Smith, who had assisted in the surveying, wrote in the March 1903 Athenian Arena: "Just who suggested the name, we do not know, but are inclined to think that it was 'Colonel' George Barrett, who surveyed and laid out the grounds in 'lines of grace and beauty', as he terms the double curves which abound so plentifully. . . ."

A few years after surveying the grounds for the RLD-owned college, Col. Barrett was baptized into the church on November 28, 1896.

Col. Barrett died at the age of 88 years on April 5, 1919, in Independence, Missouri.

NOTE: Col. Barrett's wife Anna M. (Marlett) Barrett was born December 11, 1836 the daughter of Gideon and Maria (Lemon) Marlett of Cambria County Pennsylvania; married Col. Barrett in 1855; and died June 16, 1903; interment was made at Rose Hill Cemetery, Lamoni, Iowa.

Col. Barrett died on April 5, 1919, Independence, Missouri, and was interred at Mound Grove Cemetery, Independence. The Col. George Barrett Disc Golf Course established on 1999 and located on Graceland's campus was named after Col. Barrett.

Edwards, Paul M. "The Hilltop Where . . . . An Informal History of Graceland College." Pp. 13, 20. Venture Foundation. Lamoni IA. 1972.

Goehner, David. “The Graceland College Book of Knowledge: From A To Z.” p. 391. Herald House. Independence MO. 1997.


Transcription and notes by Sharon R. Becker, January of 2016

Lamoni's Passing Parade
by Joseph H. Anthony

Copied from Lamoni's Passing Parade by Jean Belzer, July 11, 2007

Col. George Barrett, Page 117

History records that Col. George Barrett was the surveyor who laid out the Graceland College grounds which in those early days were known as the Graceland Addition. The record also includes this interesting detail in connection with this project: that upon its completion the designer was so strongly impressed with the beauty of the design and its multitude of graceful lines that he suggested it be given the name of Graceland. This suggestion was accepted by those in charge of the project and became the name of the school, a name that is well known today in many parts of the world.

There were many things about Colonel Barrett which made his an unusual and interesting character. He was a small man who wore a thin white beard and who always carried a heavy cane which he used in a variety of ways to emphasize his actions as well as his speech. For such a small man he had an especially strong voice which in his profession proved quite an asset.

In his capacity of surveyor he laid out the race track at the old North Park where I as a youngster was one of an interested group of volunteer helpers who carried stakes to the different parts of the field where they would be handy for the men who were setting them under the Colonel's direction. In the process of this work the outline of the track as well as the fills and the cuts on the high places were definitely indicated with stakes driven into the ground, and the Colonel directed the lacing of each one of them as he stood by his instrument and shouted his orders to the men, emphasizing these instructions with elaborate and emphatic gestures with his cane.

It was sometime following the construction of the race track that I with two of my boy friends was sitting upon the steps of one of the business houses as Mr. Barrett passed down the street. WE had all helped on the race track project in a variety of ways and we felt we had come to know the Colonel pretty well - sort of fellow workmen in a way - and upon this occasion we greeted him with a degree of familiarity we thought befitting that status. However, as he returned our greeting in a friendly sort of a way, one of the boys added, with an undue note of familiarity: "It's a fine day, Dad."

The Colonel had passed us, but the instant this last remark fell upon his ear he turned with the speed and agility of a cat, and a moment later he confronted us angrily as he thumped the board sidewalk vigorously and menacingly with his heavy can. "My name is Barrett, Mr. Barrett," he shouted in that herculean voice of his. "You may call me Colonel Barrett if you like, but understand this, once and for all: I'll not have any of you young upstarts "Dadding' me around."

With that he turned sharply and walked away, his cane thumping the sidewalk at every step in a way that emphasized the seriousness of the offense we had committed, and leaving three frightened and silent youngsters facing the fact that what a few moments before we thought had been a pleasant friendship, had suddenly come to a tragic end.

After this incident, I felt more or less reluctant to enter into any conversation or contacts which involved the presence of Colonel Barrett, and it was perhaps several months later when one evening he walked into one of the business houses where I was making a small purchase. Without waiting for me to complete my purchase, the Colonel strode in his positive way up to the proprietor and demanded abruptly: "Say, Jim, you know your flowers. There is a flower that rows in the South that I have been trying to think of all day but I simply can't recall the name of it."

The proprietor smiled rather amusedly and suggested several names of flowers, none of which happened to be the one the Colonel had in mind, and finally he turned disappointedly and walked to the front of the store and looked meditatively out of the window, at the same time tapping the floor in a nervous sort of way with his can, signifying that he was not a little perturbed because he could not recall the name of the flower.

I knew nothing about the flowers of the South, but at that time one of the popular songs of the day had for its title, "Down South in Dear Old Georgia Where the Sweet Magnolia Bloom," and the moment the Colonel asked about the name of the flower the words of that song popped into my hear, but remembering the previous unpleasant experience I was afraid to suggest it for fear he might again attack me with his cane. After watching him for some moments, however, I finally mustered up enough courage to approach him and in a faltering sort of voice suggested: "Mr. Barrett (emphasis on the Mr.), could the flower possible be a magnolia?"

"That's it," he shouted excitedly as he stomped the floor emphatically, while I immediately ducked and retreated to a spot I considered safely out of his reach. "Magnolia, magnolia . . . . strange I couldn't think of that," and he turned and strode hurriedly from the store.

For a moment I was as badly frightened as I had been on the occasion when he so emphatically resented the boy's impudence in calling him "Dad," for it was difficult to know whether I had pleased or angered him, but a smile from the proprietor of the store reassured me somewhat and the next time I met the Colonel I realized that I had nothing to fear, for from that moment on he really went out of his way to be friendly; and when, during the course of one of our many conversations that followed this incident, he found out that I had done some wood carving, he insisted that I come to his room to visit him.

At that time he lived alone in an upper room in one of the business buildings, and when I called there to fill the appointment I found his room but sparsely furnished, and anything but inviting, and while I was not a little amazed at the number of books he possessed and the technical nature of the titles they bore; to me this bore conclusive evidence that the owner was a serious-minded student.

The think that especially impressed me upon this visit was the exceptional array of wood carving the Colonel brought forth for display. It was of elaborate design and showed expert craftsmanship and by far the most beautiful collection of its kind that I had seen - human figures, animals, fruits, leaves, flowers - in fact, almost every conceivable form and figure exquisitely done by hand from the choicest of woods and expertly finished. Colonel George Barrett, in addition to his other qualifications, was undoubtedly a master at woodcarving.

And then he told me a little of his life. It was evident that his lot had not been a happy one, for he had encountered many disappointments. The old man's eyes filled with tears as he told of the hope he had held that his son might appreciate his craftsmanship sufficiently to whish to learn it and follow it as a vocation, but in this hope he had also been disappointed and he felt that his art would died with him.

In spite of his eccentricities, Colonel George Barrett made a definite contribution to Lamoni and to Graceland College. If his activities in connection with the plotting of the college grounds were the only ones on record, his contribution could well be considered of major importance. In that day many called his plans idealistic and fantastic and some said: "{What in the world will the college every do with all that land!" Time has proved that his visions of the needs of the future were not overdrawn or fantastic, for they are proving very practical as the Graceland campus develops into one of the most beautiful.

But he was a man who was capable of contributing much more than he did, and had circumstances in his life been more favorable there would be no way of estimating the extent of his contribution. No doubt he was somewhat erratic and eccentric in his habits but he was also a man of dynamic and forceful personality, with unlimited resources of vigor and vitality, who finding no other outlet for this surplus energy spent much of his time walking - never at a leisurely pace, as a man who is seeking diversion from mental concentration - but with a rapid determined stride that suggested that speed was of prime importance and that he must reach a given destination in the least possible time. On balmy summer evenings he could be plainly herd from any apart of town, walking, walking and his cane always in perfect rhythm as it sounded its persistent accompaniment upon the board sidewalks.

"That is Colonel Barrett taking his evening walk," was a common remark in those days, but personally, I have wondered many times concerning the thoughts that might have been going through his mind during those nightly walks. His was a brilliant as well as a well-trained mind, one adept at analyzing problems and finding the solution to them. Probably he walked to divert his thoughts from some of those problems . . . and probably he walked because he knew that the more strenuously he exerted himself the quicker it would all be over . . . who knows?

Few people really knew Colonel Barrett. Under a rather gruff exterior he was as human as any of us, a man who had known sorrow and disappointments but never the less an interesting and significant character in Lamoni's passing parade.


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