Joseph O. Barret was born in Canaan, Maine in 1823 to Joseph and Olive Barrett, one of their seven children. He was educated in botany and forestry but after experiencing visions he became interested in mesmerism and trances. He trained for the ministry in the Universalist Church, and at the same time continued to practice mediumship.
Joseph married Olive S. Moore in 1853 and the couple had four children while they moved from one location to the next, including Detroit, Michigan and Franklin Grove, Illinois. When Joseph admitted to a congregation in Illinois about his interest in Spiritualism, it caused an uproar in the church. He eventually lost his position with the church. The family moved again, settling in Wisconsin where he was a lecturer, writer, forestry expert, and editor of the Chicago newspaper, The Spiritual Republic. He wrote mainly about religion, but also about women’s rights and botany.
Joseph was listed in the Banner of Light as an active lecturer in the Spiritualist community in the late 1860s and 1870s. He was a contributor to theSpiritual Rostrum, a delegate to the American Association of Spiritualists at their 1873 Chicago meeting and was a speaker at the Michigan State Spiritualists Association in 1866.
Unfit to fight in the Civil War, he published the Eau Claire Free Press during that time. His other publications included, Spiritual Pilgrim: a Biography of J. M. Peebles, Looking Beyond: A Souvenir of Love to the Bereft of Every Home, and Social Freedom: Marriage as It Is, and as It Should Be. He also wrote a book about “Old Abe” the war eagle of the 8th Wisconsin Regiment. He edited hymnals of Spiritualist hymns and was involved with the American Spiritualist Publishing Co. as one of their editors.
In his book, Looking Beyond: A Souvenir of Love to the Bereft of Every Home, he wrote, “Herein you will find a ‘Sunny philosophy,’ ‘a balm for every wounded heart.’ Its sweet truths, and its consoling revelations from the ‘better land,’ will be needed by all. For we are all journeying thither and do ask for light to shine upon the way. Mine is humble,–but a single ray,– while the great sun of heavenly benediction remains unmeasured. I may show you, perhaps, where its founts of divine baptism are. ‘Come and see.’”
In 1881, he moved to Browns Valley, Minnesota and focused on his interest in forestry. In 1890, he was elected secretary of the State Forestry Association. His Annual Tree Planters’ Manual encourage tree culture throughout the prairie sections of the state. He was also sent by the World’s Fair commission to personally supervise the Minnesota State Forestry exhibit at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1892.
Joseph passed away peacefully February 8, 1898, in Browns Valley, Minnesota.