Barrett, John W. (1814–1862)

By: Max S. Lale

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

John W. Barrett, Unionist and editor, was born in South Carolina on July 14, 1814. He immigrated with his family to Indiana at an early age, and in 1838 he moved to Texas. At his death he was cited by a rival newspaper publisher as having "participated in the struggle for Texas independence." Barrett bought the Star State Patriot, which succeeded the Soda Lake Herald, in April 1848 from Josiah Marshall and in June 1856 renamed it the Harrison Flag. The Flag supported Sam Houston, the American (Know-Nothing) party, and the Constitutional Union party of 1860. Robert W. Loughery, owner and editor of the Marshall Texas Republican and an ardent secessionist, classed Barrett and the Flag as oppositionist and submissionist during the secession crisis. Barrett insisted that Lincoln was a moderate and that fears that he would assail the institution of slavery where it already existed were unfounded. Therefore the fact of his election, Barrett argued, was not sufficient cause for resistance on the part of the South. In editorial after editorial during November and December 1860, Barrett opposed secession; he declared on December 15, 1860, that breaking up the United States would be "the most momentous political decision that has ever demanded the attention of mankind."

The same winter, ill and confined to his room, he suspended publication of the Flag with the issue of January 12, 1861. Writing five days afterward, Loughery called off their long political feud to reminisce about the problems they had encountered as publishers and editors: "He has been sick nine months with little chance of improvement . . .. He has a large family depending on him, with children to educate. He needs every dollar coming to him. Those owing him should not be insensible to his condition." Barrett died of tuberculosis on May 12, 1862, at New Salem (Rusk County). His son William (Billy) Barrett revived the Flag on November 15, 1865, at the end of hostilities and continued its publication in Marshall until October 22, 1868, when it was renamed the Weekly Harrison Flag, which continued publication until 1870.

Randolph B. Campbell, A Southern Community in Crisis: Harrison County, Texas, 1850–1880 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1983). Marilyn M. Sibley, Lone Stars and State Gazettes: Texas Newspapers before the Civil War (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1983).
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Max S. Lale, “Barrett, John W.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994