Colonel Nathan Crawford Barnett
Colonel Nathan Crawford Barnett
Submitted by Bob Klebs November 2005

From: Biographic etchings of ministers and laymen of the Georgia conferences / by W. J. Scott found in Digital Library of Georgia.
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Col. N. C. Barnett was during much of his long life a prominent State official. he served under not less than a half-score of gubernatorial administrations as keeper of the great seal of the Commonwealth, a special function of the secretary of state.
Such was the clearness of his official record and the uprightness of his private life that he was spoken of in the highest and humblest political circles as "honest Nathan."
He was a nephew of the great William H. Crawford, whose fame extended through both hemispheres. Not less than Ben Franklin or Tom Jefferson he was the idol of the French people, and but for a paralytic stroke he would have been the presidential successor of James Monroe.
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My first intimate acqaintance with Col. Barnett began during my pastorate at Milledgeville, in 1860. The strength and influence of that once strongest station in Georgia had greatly declined since its pulpit was occupied by Capers Howard, Lovick Pierce and other notabilities. During that year, however, it was blessed with a memorable revival, and from that date it has advanced to one of the leading appointments of the North Georgia Conference.
Col. Barnett was a man of courtly address, of liberal culture and strongly wedded to old-time Methodism. He kept his Christian reputation untarnished until his closing days, and it may be truthfully said that both politically and ecclesiastically he died in the harness.
No little of his success in life was due to his wife, a daughter of Dr. David Cooper, a veteran of the second British war and a former superintendent of the State lunatic asylum. Mrs. Barnett still survives, greatly beloved by a large number of her old friends of earlier days.
Nathan C. Barnett was the Secretary of State of Georgia during the War Between the States. On November 18, 1864, with Sherman's army advancing on Milledgeville, Barnett buried the Great Seal of Georgia under his house and pigpen located just east of the New Court House on Hancock Street. He is believed to have died a pauper.
Secretary of state of Georgia, 1843-49, 1851-53, 1861-68, 1873-90.

Sequential Number: 001
Law Number: (No. 1.)
Full Title: An Act to provide for raising a revenue for the political year 1864, and to appropriate money for the support of the Government during said year, and to make certain special appropriations, and for other purposes therein mentioned.
[[portions are intentionally omitted here RWK, 22 OCT 2004]]
32. SEC. XXXII. Be it further enacted, That the sum of five hundred dollars is hereby appropriated to pay the Compiler of the laws of this session of the Legislature; and that the sum of two thousand dollars, or so much thereof as may be necessary, be, and the same is hereby appropriated, to pay George N. Lester, B. H. Bigham, N. C. Barnett, and S. S. Stafford, commissioners to prepare a new great seal for the State of Georgia, for services, and to reimburse them such funds as they, or either of them may have paid out for the accomplishment of the said work. The Governor is hereby authorized to audit the accounts therefor, and to pay so much of said accounts as he may find just, from any fund in the Treasury, not otherwise appropriated.
[Sidenote: Pay to Compiler of the laws of session of 1868.]
[Sidenote: To Hon. G. N. Lester and others for services in preparing new Great Seal for the State.]
[Sidenote: Gov. to audit the accounts for preparing seal.]
Approval Date: Assented to Dec'r 14th, 1863.

 From an Article originally written for the Columbia Sentinel in 1883 by Dr. H. R. Casey:
May 10, 1883
"Hon. Nathan Crawford Barnett, the present Secretary of State is a native of Columbia county. His father was Wm Barnett and his mother's maiden name was Anna Crawford, a sister of Hon. Wm Crawford. His parents were of English and Scotch extraction and emigrated from Virginia to Georgia and settled in Columbia-- Losing his father when quite young, the widow and the children moved to Oglethorpe and settled in Lexington. Here young Barnett grew up to manhood, surrounded by some of the best of Georgia's citizens--William H Crawford, Thos. W. Cobb (of both of whom I have already spoken), Stephen Upson and that "prince of good fellows", George R Gilmer. On reaching his majority Nathan C Barnett moved to Monroe, Walton County. Soon afterwards he moved to Clarke county, married Miss Margaret Morton and settled in Watkinsville. While here he was first elected Surveyor, and assisted in surveying the Cherokee Purchase. In 1836 he was elected to the Legislature and was one of the warm and zealous supporters of the act to build the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Having lost his wife several years previous, he married in 1811[[note: this is a typo, should be 1841 NOT 1811]] Mary Ann Cooper of Harris County. In 1842 he was elected Secretary of State and was re-elected under Geo. W Crawford. Again, in 1850 he became Secretary of State under Gov Howell Cobb. In 1861 when the offices of the Surveyor-General and Secretary of State were combined, he was elected and continued in office during eight years of Gov J. E. Brown's administration.  When the iron rule of military power proclaimed Georgia's territory N.C. Barnett, quietly yet patriotically  folded the drapery of his honest office around him and boldly taking  with him the Great Seal of the State followed the lead of the Noble old Roman, Chas. J. Jenkins, the then Governor. When the Democracy again came into power, under Gov James M Smith, he again became Secretary of State and to-day holds the same office under Gov Colquitt. For many years he has been a prominent member of the Methodist Church."

 From the  New York Times, August 14, 1884, page 2.

"The Queer Character Georgia has for Secretary of State"
Atlanta. Ga.  August. 13. -- "Among the other nominations made by the Georgia Democratic Convention today was that of the Hon. Nathan Barnett, for Secretary of State.  Mr. Barnett is perhaps one of the oldest officeholders in the world, being now 90 years of age, and having held his present office since 1842.  Mr. Barnett was born in Columbia County while yet it was an Indian country, and as an infant had several narrow escapes from the tomahawk.  He grew up to be a man of splendid physique, 6 1/2 feet in height, lean of flesh, with a long, cran-like neck.  When elected Secretary of State 42 years ago, he was a man of much prominence, but held onto his office so long that the people forget the existence of both the man and his office.  When reconstruction measures necessitated the clearing out of the State House Barnett was found to be still there, and as soon as the Republicans gave up the State he was found there again.  Of late years he has become extremely sensitive as to his age.  When asked the question recently he took the questioner away into the darkest recess of his office and pleaded that nothing be said about that question, "because", said he, "the people are calling so much for young men in office that it might defeat me."  When the canvass just closed for State House officers was begun the old man for the first time in his life so far yielded to modern requirements as to write a card to the people announcing himself in the race.  Georgia, being one of the original States, and her Government only dating back 150 years, Secretary Barnett's memory takes in over one-half of that era.  hence his is one of the greatest authorities upon matters of titles &c.  A singular feature of his memory is that he does not remember recent events.  Speaking to a friend he could give but very little information as to matters happening in recent years, but when conversation drifted back to (can't make out word) he spoke of events of that date with the greatest vivacity.  At the age of 60 he married a girl of 16.  He now wears three pairs of spectacles bridged upon each other.
The full State ticket placed in nomination today is:  H. D. McDaniel, for Governor:  N. C. Barnett, for Secretary of State:  W. A. Wright, for Controller; R. A. Hardeman for Treasurer, and Clifford Anderson, for Attorney-General."
END of NY Times Article... Transcribed by Robert W. Klebs, May 10, 2003.

Death of Col. N. C. Barnett (Obituary, Milledgeville, Union Recorder, Feb. 4, 1890)
We hardly got into type a brief notice of the serious illness of Col. N. C. Barnett, Secretary of State, on yesterday morning, when a telegram was received in the city announcing the death of the venerable gentleman on Sunday evening. We believe Col. Barnett was a native of Columbia county, and was born June 28th, 1801. His second wife was Mary Ann, daughter of Doctor David Cooper, the first Supt. and Resident physician of the State Lunatic Asylum. Besides his widow he leaves three children -- Addison, Mary and Stewart.
Col. Barnett was first elected to the office of Secretary of State in 1843, while a resident of Clarke county, Ga., and, with the exception of two or three terms, when he was defeated by Col. Geo. W. Harrison, and Hon. E. P. Watkins, he has held the office continuously ever since. The old man has been in feeble health for several years prior to his death, but his wonderful vitality and will power enabled him to discharge the duties of his office with the valuable assistance he was so fortunate as to secure. Col. Barnett was a good man -- a Christian -- an amiable, lovely man, whose life has been one long illustration of the power and protection the Lord giveth to those who love him and obey his commandments.
The remains were expected to reach the city at 9:54 last night. We go to press before the train arrives. The funeral will take place from the Methodist church at 11 A. M. to-day.
Memorial Services and Burial of Col. N. C. Barnett (Union Recorder, Feb.... 11, 1890)

[Part of article omitted]
Sketch of his life
Nathan Crawford Barnett was born in Columbia county, Georgia, in July 1801 and was eighty-eight years, seven months and five days old at the time of his death.
His mother was a sister of William H. Crawford, the illustrious Georgian who served in the cabinet and as foreign minister, and his father was William Barnett, a gentleman of English descent.
On the death of his father his mother moved to Oglethorpe county where Col. Barnett grew up, completing his education at the Lexington academy. In his young manhood he bore a striking resemblance to his distinguished uncle, William H. Crawford [note: March 2002, see more about Crawford below]. Tall, erect, of commanding presence, high character and intelligence he grew rapidly in strength and reputation. In his boyhood he was thrown among such men as his illustrious uncle, Thomas W. Cobb, Stephen Upson and George R. Gilmer, and on his removal to Walton county his associates were Walter T. Colquitt, Hugh A. Haralson, and men of like stamp.
After his marriage to Miss Morton of Clarke, Mr. Barnett moved to that county, where he was elected succesvely major of battalion and colonel of the Clarke county regiment.
He was engaged in merchandise at Watkinsville when he was elected to the legislature in 1836. He served two sessions, and acquired considerable prominence in the state through his active and valuable work. The service there to which he has referred with most satisfaction was his active work in behalf of the Western and Atlantic railroad.
After Colonel Barnett was elected to the office of secretary of state in 1843 he held it with the exception of one or two terms until the days of reconstruction.
His departure from the public service after the war was characteristic of the man. General Ruger, who was at the head of the military government of Georgia, wished the treat seal of the state affixed to an executive act which Colonel Barnett could not approve. He refused to sanction the papers with the imprint of the seal and as a consequence was removed by General Ruger. Colonel Barnett took the seal with him, and kept it until his return to office in 1873. So the ancient seal of the state was not given to any of the corrupt transactions of radical rule.
Continually since the restoration of the democracy in 1873, Colonel Barnett has held office, and it was very seldom that any one had the temerity to oppose him before the people or the legislature.
Col. Barnett's chief characteristics were purity of life, firmness, faithfulness and candor. Always decided in his opinions, he did not thrust them upon others, but when they were asked for he gave them with candor and absolute fearlessness. His faithfulness to his duties was noticeable in his habits up to the time of his death.
Col. Barnett was married a second time, in 1841, to Miss Mary Ann Cooper, and on the 10th of next April the forty-ninth year of the sojourn together would have been completed.
As Nathan C. Barnett was involved with railroads, it should be noted that In 1837 the Western and Atlantic Railroad, a state-sponsored project, established a town at the termination point for the railroad, calling that location "Terminus."  In 1843 the town was named Marthasville in honor of the daughter of former Governor Wilson Lumpkin, who had been instrumental in bringing railroads to the area. Two years later, the town was incorporated as Atlanta.
The following article appeared in a Sunday edition of an unnamed (torn off) Atlanta newspaper in 1938 or 1939 two photo's were included in the article. One contains a portrait of Colonel Nathan Crawford Barnett with the caption " The mystery photograph at the Capitol, which has been identified as a portrait of Colonel Nathan Crawford Barnett, secretary of state for 43 years." The other photograph contains a photo of a smiling woman looking down at her hands which clutch the approximately 4" diameter Great Seal of Georgia.
Special thanks to Dorothy Olson Director Georgia Capitol Museum Office of Secretary of State Cathy Cox 431 State Capitol Atlanta, Georgia 30334 who provided me with this newspaper article on October 13, 2004.
Transcribed from the original by Robert W. Klebs a gggg nephew of Col. Nathan Barnett's wife Mary Ann Cooper Barnett on October 19, 2004.

Saved State Seal Twice
Mystery Picture Identified as Portrait of Col. Nathan Barnett
By Willard Neal

The mystery of the unidentified picture at the State Capitol has been solved.  It is a portrait of Colonel Nathan Crawford Barnett, who saved the Great Seal of Georgia on two occasions-first from Federal troops marching on Milledgeville; second from carpetbaggers who had seized control of the legislature.
  Colonel Barnett was secretary of state in Georgia for 43 years.  He held office before, during and after the War Between the States, and was one of the state's most remarkable citizens.
  The picture, an old-fashioned photographic enlargement, has been hanging in the office of the secretary of state as far back as any one can remember.  Whenever the walls were cleaned the picture was taken down, and usually was hung back in some other spot.  Nobody ever seemed to know the identity of the subject, a be-speckled, determined, even grim-looking gentleman, his mouth shut like a steel trap and whiskers sprouting under, and not on, his chin.
 When the Capitol got its recent overhauling, Secretary of State John Wilson became curious about the picture and called in Charles J. Haden, one of Atlanta's pioneer citizens.  Mr. Haden suggested that the subject of the mysterious picture was probably Colonel Barnett.
 C. E. Gregory, state political writer for The Journal, speculated about the old picture in an interesting news story.  Cy Young, of the Georgia Public Service Commission, recalled that Stewart R. Barnett of New Orleans, was a grandson of Colonel Barnett.  Mr. Barnett was invited to take a look at the picture on his next visit to Atlanta.
 "That's my grandfather all right."  Mr. [[portion of story missing]] picture is very much like my father's especially the large nose and square jaw".
 Colonel Barnett was born in 1801, and was a nephew of William H. Crawford, secretary of state of the United States and candidate for the presidency. In his you he was colonel of militia, at Watkinsville.  He was elected representative from Oconee County in 1836 and championed the bill to build the Western & Atlantic Railroad, which resulted in the founding of Atlanta.
 In 1843 he was replaced as secretary of state for two terms in 1849 and 1853, and of course during the carpetbagger period.
 Several legends have grown up about Colonel Barnett's adventure with the seal during the War Between the States.  One account is that he had his wife bury the seal under the house while he looked the other way, so that he could truthfully say he didn't know where it was.
  "That story is not quite correct" said Stewart Barnett.  " I remember hearing my grandmother tell how it happened. Grandmother was a wee little thing, barely five feet tall and she never weighed ninety-five pounds in her life.  She was the daughter of Dr. David Cooper, the first superintendent at the State Asylum.
 "When Sherman marched on Milledgeville, grandmother told me she and grandfather went to the Capitol and got the Great Seal; also the new acts that had not yet been signed by the governor.  She wrapped these in oilcloth, and she and grandfather buried them in the dead of night, the seal under the house and the acts under the pig sty.
  "Grandmother had heard of the reverence General Sherman held for the Masonic Order, and when the Yankees entered Milledgeville she hung grandfather's lodge apron on the gate.  As a result, her house was never damaged.  One time several soldiers came to the door and demanded food.  She told them that she would feed them, but the food would be poisoned.  They left without arguing."
 After the troops moved on to Savannah, Colonel Barnett dug up the seal and the papers unharmed and sent back to the clerk at the Capitol.
  In 1866 when Governor Charles J. Jenkins quit his office rather than follow the dictation of the Federal Government, enforced by Yankee bayonets, Colonel Barnett went with him.  Governor Jenkins took the executive seal to Canada for safekeeping. Colonel Barnett carried away the Great Seal, "so that it was never affixed to any of the documents of misrule which followed" under the carpetbag government.  Records at the Capitol do not relate how and where the seal was hidden.  It seems possible that this might have been the occasion when Mrs. Barnett buried it under the house, so that the colonel could retain his veracity while denying that he knew where the seal could be found.
  In 1868, when the new state constitution was adopted, Colonel Barnett surrendered the seal to the Republican secretary then in office.  It was shortly afterward, during the administration of Governor Rufus Brown Bullock, the only Republican who ever held the office in Georgia, that the capital was moved to Atlanta.
 When the Democrats returned to power in 1873 Colonel Barnett was elected to his old office of secretary of state and again became keeper of the Great Seal that he had protected so well on two occasions-once to save it from the hands of enemies, later to keep it from lending an honorable stamp to the acts of carpetbaggers.
 Colonel Barnett continued to conduct his office with no fuss or trouble until his death, February 2, 1890 at the age of 88.  He had had an attack of influenza a few weeks previously, and a relapse caused his death.
  Stewart Barnett recalled that in the later part of the colonel's life he went home at 1o'clock every day ate a light meal took a toddy and went to bed and slept until time to go to work the next morning.
 He was never a drinking man, but the toddy was considered important to his health, and its preparation became quite a ceremony.
 Before his death Colonel Barnett told General John B. Gordon, then governor, that he would like to be succeeded in office by General Phil Cook.  The request was fulfilled. General Gordon appointed General Cook to fill the unexpired term.
  General Gordon was noted as a soldier rather than an orator.  He seldom used flowery language, but he made an exception in his statement announcing the death of Colonel Barnett.  The rather long proclamation contained glowing tributes, including his assertion that " Everybody felt that the Great Seal could not be intrusted to cleaner hands than his".
 The Capitol was closed February 4, 1890, the day of Colonel Barnett's funeral, held at Milledgeville.  The Central Railroad tendered free use of its cars for Colonel Barnett's family and members of the funeral party.
 While the polishing up and identifying of the old portrait in the secretary of state's office brought to light an almost forgotten Georgia hero, he will not be forgotten again.  The Robert E. Lee Chapter of the U. D. C. at Milledgeville, is preparing a granite marker, which will be unveiled at Milledgeville on Memorial Day April 26.  The table on the stone will read:  "The Great Seal of the State of Georgia and The Acts of the Legislature, 1864.  "Four hundred and seventy feet east of this marker stood the home of Georgia's Secretary of State, Nathan C. Barnett, and his wife, Mary A. Barnett.  On November 18, 1864, before the arrival of General Sherman and his army, the Georgia Legislature adjourned and Nathan Barnett took with him the Great Seal and the unfinished Acts.
 At midnight Mr. and Mrs. Barnett with their youngest son, buried the Great Seal under their house.
 Mrs. Barnett hid the Acts in the pigpen.  When the legislature met in Macon, February 15, 1865-March 11, 1865, the Great Seal and the Acts were returned to the State.  Neither had been captured by the enemy.
 Placed by the Robert E. Lee Chapter, U. D. C. 1939.
The following appeared in:
Histories of Milledgeville and Baldwin County (Georgia) by Leola Selman Beeson,
The J. W. Burke Company, Macon Georgia 1943. 216 pgs.
Of this first Edition of the History of Milledgeville and Baldwin County
Three Hundred Copies have been printed.
Chapter 5. Baldwin County courthouses and jails
Marker on Courthouse Square for Preservers of the Great Seal of the State of Georgia

On Memorial Day, April 26th, 1939, under Miss Floride Allen’s Presidency of the United Daughters of the Confederacy there was set up on the Courthouse Square, the second marble marker for a historic site, to be obtained for Milledgeville from The Division of Parks, Historic Sites and Monuments in the State of Georgia.
The marker honors the preservers of the Great Seal of the State and the inscription reads: “In commeration of the Safeguarding of the Great Seal of the State of Georgia and the Acts of The Legislature, 1864.
Near here stood the home of Georgia’s Secretary of State, Nathan C. Barnett, and his wife, Mary A. Barnett.
On November 18th, 1864, before the arrival of General Sherman and his army, Mr. and Mrs. Barnett buried the Great Seal under their house. Mrs. Barnett hid the Acts in the pig pen.

More about Uncle William Harris Crawford:  Born in Amherst County (his birthplace is now in  Nelson County), Va., February 24, 1772.  He moved with his father to Edgefield District, S.C., in 1779 and to Columbia County, Ga., in 1783.  He pursued classical studies in a private school and in Richmond Academy, Augusta, Ga. He studied law; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Lexington, Ga. in 1799.  During that time he was appointed to prepare a digest of the laws of Georgia covering the period 1755-1800.
    In 1802 inspired by political rivalries a duel was held and Crawford killed Peter L. Van Allen a partisan of John Clark, who was head of the opposite faction. Two years later, in another duel, this time with John Clark, Crawford was wounded, suffering a crippled left wrist.
     In 1803 he was elected to the Georgia State House of Representatives.  In the stormy state political battles of the time, he was the leader of the upcountry forces and allied with the followers of James Jackson and later George M. Troup, leaders of the tidewater region.
   In 1807 he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Georgia's  recently deceased U.S. Senator Abraham Baldwin. In the Senate, Crawford quickly earned a reputation for wisdom and sound judgment, and the Georgia legislature elected him to a full term as senator in 1811. While in the Senate, Crawford staunchly advocated re chartering the Bank of the United States. In 1811, Crawford was elected president pro tempore of the Senate during the Twelfth Congress upon the death of Vice President George Clinton. Crawford backed U.S. preparations for and the declaration of war against Britain in 1812 and--unlike most Democratic Republicans--favored a tariff and extension of the charter of the Bank of the United States. During the war he declined the portfolio of Secretary of War tendered by President James Madison.  He resigned from the Senate  March 23, 1813 to serve as Minister to France, where he  was presented to Napoleon at Court.  A yet unconfirmed story tells that,  Napoleon said that Crawford was the only man he had seen that he wanted to bow to twice.
    In 1815 he returned home to act as agent for the sale of the land donated by Congress to Lafayette.  Later that August, President Madison appointed him Secretary of War.  Subsequently a year and a few months later Madison transferred him to the Treasury Department in October 1816. In leaving the War Department, he recommended to Congress the perpetuation of a War Department (now known as Defense Department) management staff.  At the Treasury he found a department still in fiscal confusion resulting from the poorly financed War of 1812. His goal was the organizing the nation's bookkeeping.  He initiated the Reform Bill of 1817, which placed with the Treasury Department the responsibility for settling the financial accounts of all the federal departments. The structure of the Treasury Department was subsequently altered to accommodate its increased duties. During his term, Crawford also oversaw extensive improvements to the nation's infrastructure, including the initiation of coastal fortifications and the construction of the great westward leading Cumberland Road.   He had strong support for the presidency in 1816 but disavowed his candidacy and served under Presidents Madison and James Monroe until 1825.  For the election of 1824, he was again a strong candidate for president. His opponents: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and Henry Clay. For a time Crawford was a leading candidate, he had won the vote of the party caucus, but by 1824 the caucus system had fallen into disrepute, and its choice of Crawford proved meaningless.
    During the campaign he became temporarily incapacitated and nearly blind as the result of a stroke.   At the election, Andrew Jackson wins the popular vote but fails to get all of the electoral votes he needs to be declared president.  An election deadlock ensues. The nation waits...Since no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes, the election goes to the House of Representatives.  The electoral votes that will determine the winner are now under the control of a third party. The former president's son offers this third party a deal: give me the votes, he says, and I'll name you to an important post in my new administration. Eager to receive the offered post, this third party gives the former president's son the votes all the candidates crave.
Although his supporters claimed Crawford was steadily improving, after the back room deal was made, Crawford finished a distant third behind Adams and Jackson.  John Quincy Adams was finally chosen.  Henry Clay was one of four people running for president in 1824. The least popular of the four, he nonetheless managed to win enough Electoral College votes to make Adams president. In exchange for his votes, the newly elected President John Quincy Adams appointed him Secretary of State. Crawford, citing ill health, refused the tender of President John Quincy Adams that he remain on as Secretary of the Treasury.
    Crawford returned home to Georgia and was appointed judge of the Northern Court of Georgia upon the death of the incumbent in 1827.   He was elected to the judgeship in 1828 and again in 1831. He died at a friend's home near Elberton, Georgia, while on the judicial circuit, 15 September 1834.

In the United States Crawford counties in Arkansas., Georgia., Illinois., Indiana., Iowa, Missouri. and Wisconsin. are named for him.
In 1878 The United States Treasury issued 50 cents paper denomination currency with his portrait.
During WW II, a "Liberty" ship was launched in 1943 that carried his name.
In 1947 the Internal Revenue Service issued  a 10 cent IRS stamp to be placed on paper documents subject to taxation.
His portrait hangs at the Treasury Department in Washington DC.
A sculptured bust of his likeness is in the Georgia State Capital in Atlanta.

For additional reading see biographies by:
 Green, Philip. The Life of William Crawford. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1965; Mooney, Chase. William H. Crawford, 1772-1834. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1974.

Eileen Babb McAdams website copyright 2005