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L. T. Barret Collection

Identifier: A-0274

Scope and Contents

The L. T. Barret Collection compliments the more extensive Lyne Taliaferro Barret Papers (A-5) by adding new documentation of L. T. Barret’s mercantile and farming pursuits, military service, masonry, and community service. While the collection consists primarily of bills, receipts and promissory notes issued and received by L. T. Barret and Thomas Jefferson Johnson, there is also business, family, military, and personal correspondence, advertising, slave contracts and legal documents.

Items researchers might find of particular interest include slave-hire contracts from 1841 and 1846, medical bills from Dr. Johnson for the treatment of slaves, the 1855 medical account of free black man James Jacobs with Dr. Johnson, an 1863 petition from Nacogdoches County families to the Confederate government for aid, an 1864 crop impressments broadside, an 1869 bill of laden for cotton shipments, and a declaration of duties and principles for the formation of an anti-black citizen vigilante group in Melrose, Texas.


  • Creation: 1839-1966


Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Biographical or Historical Information

Lyne Taliaferro (L. T.) Barret’s notoriety as the first man to drill an oil well in Texas, and subsequent failure to make the venture profitable, often overshadows what was otherwise a fruitful life as a father, husband, Mason, farmer, and respected businessman in Melrose, Texas. Born 7 November 1832 to Charles Lee and Sarah (Taliaferro) Barret in Appomattox, Virginia, L. T. Barret moved to San Augustine County, Texas with his mother and 8 older siblings (Barret’s father died en route) in the early 1840s. The family eventually relocated to a plantation in Melrose. Although he probably didn’t know it at the time, Barret would call Melrose his home for the rest of his life.

Little is known about Barret’s adolescence and early adulthood besides the information in the 1850 Federal Census, which listed him as a store clerk living in his mother’s household. At sometime between 1850 and 1860, Barret moved into a house on property adjacent to his mother. When Barret married Angelina Martha Thomas (1842-1920) in August 1857, he not only started a prosperous family (11 children) but further elevated himself into the local elite. Thomas’s surrogate father was Dr. Thomas Jefferson Johnson (1799-1856), who had established the town of Melrose in 1840 and was among its most respected citizens.

At or before October 1859, Barret became a full partner in the mercantile firm of Hardeman Brothers and Barret. Later that year he also made his first investment in the oil business, leasing 279 acres from neighbor Lucy W. Skillern at Oil Springs [book]. The 1860 Federal Census reflected Barret’s improving fortunes. It now listed him as a merchant with an almost $6,000 in real estate and $30,000 in personal assets. Interestingly, while Barret had a mulatto farm hand, Tillisford Rosalidge, the 1860 slave schedule does not show Barret to have owned any slaves at that time. His mother, on the other hand, had 10.

Although initially exempted from service in the Civil War to tend to his mother’s plantation, Barret served from 1863-1865 as a captain in the 3rd Brigade, Texas State Troops, Nacogdoches District, as a quartermaster. After the war, Barret, along with several other investors, created the Melrose Petroleum Oil Company to drill on the land at Oil Springs. Although the venture had potential and led to the first oil well in the state, fluctuating market prices and Reconstruction unrest ultimately doomed the company and nearly bankrupted Barret. The 1870 Federal Census shows that while Barret still had land valued at $3,000, his personal assets had diminished to only $1,430. Receipts and bills of laden in this collection show that Barret was actively growing and shipping cotton from the late 1860s through the 1880s.

Despite his precipitous decline in wealth, Barret and his family continued to live in Melrose as respected members of the community. Barret was a founding member of the Ochiltree Masonic Lodge No.143 in Melrose, serving as secretary and later attaining the rank of master Mason. He was also a trustee of Melrose Academy, justice of the peace twice, road overseer, member of the American Legion, post office subcontractor, and an officer of the Melrose Methodist Church.

Historical markers attesting to Barret’s accomplishments can be found at the Melrose Providence Baptist Church, Stephen F. Austin State University, and at the location of his homestead, five miles south of Nacogdoches on Farm Road 2863.


Devereaux, Linda E. "BARRET, LYNE TALIAFERRO." Published by the Texas State Historical Association. Online at the Handbook of Texas Online at (accessed 16 May 2011).

_______. 1985. “Barret, Lyne Taliaferro.” In Nacogdoches County Families, by Carolyn Ericson. Dallas: Curtis Media Corporation, pp.151-152.

Ericson, Carolyn. 1985. Nacogdoches County Families. Dallas: Curtis Media Corporation,  p.102. 2009. 1850 United States Federal Census. Provo, UT: Operations, Inc.; Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Online at (accessed 16 May 2011).

_______. 2009. 1860 United States Federal Census. Provo, UT: Operations, Inc.; Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Online at (accessed 16 May 2011).

_______. 2010. 1860 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules. Provo, UT: Operations Inc. Online at (accessed 16 May 2011).

_______. 2009. 1870 United States Federal Census. Provo, UT: Operations, Inc.; Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Online at (accessed 16 May 2011).


0.60 Cubic Feet


The collection is housed in 1 clamshell box and 2 oversize bundles (369 items total). Bundle 1 is separated from the other is in a box with other bundles. The collection is processed to the item level and arranged in 7 series:

1. L. T. Barret Business and Personal Finance Documents

2. L. T. Barret Personal Documents

3. Hardeman and Co. Business Documents

4. Hardeman and Barret Co. Business Documents

5. Thomas Jefferson Johnson Business and Personal Finance Documents

6. Miscellaneous

7. Oversize Items

Alphabetical arrangement of folders within each series and chronological arrangement of items within each folder.

Related Materials

Lyne Taliaferro Barret Papers, A-0005.

Gladys Hardeman Research Collection, A-0069.

Hardeman and Barret General Merchandise, B-0038.

Separated Materials

There are 21 oversize documents located in Bundles 1 and 2.

Guide to the L. T. Barret Collection
Kyle Ainsworth
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the East Texas Research Center Repository