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Otis Warren Barrett, Entomologist & World Traveler

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Otis Warren Barrett, Entomologist & World Traveler
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8/2/2020 12:04:43 PM
Historical People
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Robert Underhill
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Otis Warren Barrett (1872 - 1950) was the son of James Barrett (1839 - 1919) and Alice Warren (Kelley) Barrett (1852 - 1923).  His married his first wife, Katherine Colvin (1874 - 1960), in 1894.  They divorced and he married a second time in 1898 to Elizabeth "Bessie" Stearns (1875 - 1930).  With Bessie he had one son, Willard Warren Barrett, who lived only 6 weeks. Willard was born and died while Otis & Bessie were in Mexico and was buried in the Mexico City National Cemetery and Memorial, Cuauhtemoc, Cuauhtemoc Borough, Distrito Federal, Mexico. 

Otis grew up on the family farm but as was recounted in the 1946 publication Recollections of Vermonters in State and National Affairs by Earle S. Kinsley:

For many years my office secretary, an officer in the Woman's Relief Corps, was frequently called upon by members of the Grand Army of the Republic.  Among them was Captain James Barrett, a prosperous farmer in the town of Clarendon, Vermont.  In conversation with him one day he mentioned the fact that he had two sons, one of whom was going to be a good practical farmer, but the other lacked interest in agricultural pursuits and devoted most of his time to digging bugs and worms out of the ground, imprisoning butterflies and scratching bark from trees in search of parasites.  This other son was Otis W. (born April 18, 1872), who became the chief entomologist in the agricultural department of our government and was loaned by it to tropical governments for the purpose of making experiments to the end of improving and increasing crops.

One of the countries in which he operated was Brazil, where a parasite was destroying the coffee shrubs.  He corrected the condition, and I remarked to him some years later (when the coffee production in that country reached such tremendous volume) that it was due to his knowledge, wisdom and activities that there existed an over-production of the popular morning beverage.  To this statement he did not demur.

Doctor Barrett was helpful to the Louisiana sugar cane interests in discovering that their planting had "run out," and that it required injection of new life.  Stock from Java was procured and their crop soon restored to normalcy.

On a visit to Porto Rico I called on Doctor Barrett, then director of agriculture and labor of the island.  During a trip through the government experimental station he displayed with apparent pride a group of Ayrshire cattle.  I was smoking a cigarette; as we approached the animals I observed the head of the herd surveying me with special attention.  The doctor said to me. "The bull wants to smoke."  Not comprehending his statement I made no move toward accommodating the animal.  He then said to me, "Give the native a cigarette."  I handed the attendant a cigarette, which he lighted, and approaching the bull he blew the smoke into his nostrils.  The animal pawed the ground and tossed his head, exhibiting his appreciation of the nicotine treat.

Among the countries benefiting from Doctor Barrett's technical as well as practical experience and presence, are Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, British West Indies, Mozambique, Portuguese E. Africa, Manila, P.I., Nicaragua, Liberia and Haiti.  He is a voluminous writer and has published many books, most of which concern his special line of endeavor; each is interesting and understandable to laymen.

Dr. Barrett exhibits pride in giving his address as North Clarendon, Vermont. 

Otis attended the University of Vermont School of Agriculture starting in 1894 and attended for a couple years but did not graduate.  While there he was a charter member of the fraternity Alpha Lamda of Kappa Sigma.  Whether he pursued education elsewhere afterwards or his being referred to as "Doctor Barrett" was honorary in nature is not known.  In the 1940 census he was noted as having 1 year of college.  At the time he was living in the Hotel Woodstock in NYC and was listed as being a faculty member.  Presumably he was teaching at a college in NYC. 

At the time of the 1930 census he was living and teaching in Honolulu, HI.  He does not appear in the 1900, 1910 or 1920 censuses, presumably due to his then living overseas.  In 1901 UVM noted that Otis was working an entomologist in Mexico for 3 years which tells us his extensive travel began early in his career. 

It appears Otis did more for the federal govt than provide entomology services to foreign governments and private enterprise.  In his 1918 passport application there was a letter attached from the Gas Defense Service dated June 14, 1918.  It said:

The Gas Defense Service of the Medical Department, U.S.N.A. is planning to send Mr. O.W. Barrett to Singapore for the purpose of supervising the collection of coconut shell and reduction of the shell to charcoal, this charcoal to be used in the manufacture of gas masks.

The status of Mr. Barrett will be that of Expert in Procurement of Coconut Shells.  He will make his headquarters in Singapore, but may find it necessary to travel to other places in the Far East, including British India, Ceylon, and Borneo.  He is making application for passports for himself and wife in the regular manner, and we would be glad if you would issue to him a special passport for travel in the sections needed.

On June 20, 1918 another note was issued concerning the military's approval of his wife to travel with him on this assignment and mentioned  the travel including the Philippine Islands, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies.   On Dec. 30, 1919 a similar note was issued by the Division of Western European
Affairs concerning the Barretts traveling to Liberia at the behest of the US. Govt. Otis and Bessie needed their passports processed quickly for a ship sailing on Jan. 5th. 

In 1930 Bessie passed away in Panama.  She was cremated and her ashes spread at sea in Panama.  Otis lived an additional 20 years, died in Clarendon, and was buried in the Clarendon Flats Cemetery.

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