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This page last updated on November 30, 2006

Person County Historical Society


November 2006 Meeting

Person County Historical Society met November 28th at Zeko’s Restaurant. The program this month was given by LuAnne Barnett Maldonado, who presented a program on Jack and Herbert, the Barnett midgets. She got interested in the midgets while she was a student at Piedmont Community College when she had to do a project on family history. She got some information on Herbert from their family’s attic. When her grandfather died, she inherited more information that had been stored outside the house since her grandmother would not allow it into the house because they were considered freaks of nature. She has slowly gathered information from many sources such as the circus, flea markets, newspapers, and people that knew the midgets. Some of their memorabilia can be seen at the Person County Museum of History.

They were born to Mr. & Mrs. S.C. Barnett, who lived on McGehee’s Mill Rd. Jack was born February 22, 1891 and grew to be 42 inches tall. Herbert was born September 20, 1898 and grew to be 36 inches tall. The boys were a "freak of DNA" since there have been no more midgets in the family since then. Jack and Herbert had three brothers that were normal size.

The Barnett midgets traveled with Barnum and Bailey from 1910 to 1923. Jack was known in the circus as "Dainty Dewey". They appeared in Vaudeville as "Captain Jack and Son". LuAnne stated that the boys made a lot of money, but, gave a lot of money away. It was not unusual for them to see someone on the street that needed shoes and give them money.

Jack was a real "cut up", LuAnne stated, while telling a story someone related to her about how he dressed up and tried to "rob" the insurance agency where his aunt worked. He got so tickled that he couldn’t carry out the plot. Jack went fishing with Christine Barnett and her father once. Jack caught a fish that was bigger than himself. Jack met and fell in love with Dorothy, his first wife, at the circus sideshow. They married in St. Louis, MO. They moved back to Roxboro and had one child, Jack Jr., who was normal size. Dorothy left her husband and son and went back to the circus. He married a second time.

Jack never liked to drive after he got a ticket. Herbert liked to drive and had the car gears moved to hand level. There are a lot of photos of Herbert dressed as a Confederate soldier. Herbert was featured on the New York stage in the show, "Little Nellie Kelly" in 1923, also in the movie, "Some Baby". He returned to Roxboro and became a cigar salesman. Herbert was also a member of the W.R.A.U., White Rats Actors Union.

On July 22, 1933, Herbert was driving back from Danville one evening with some friends when he stated he was tired. He pulled over and let a friend drive, he laid down in the back seat with his head in the other friend’s lap. When they arrived in Roxboro, his friend could not wake him because he had died of a heart attack. Herbert weighed 35 pounds. He had never married but did have a lot of girlfriends.

On September 14, 1935, Jack went hunting with some friends. After hunting all day, he got tired and went back to Johnny Walker’s house, which was on Kitten Hill at the time. He sat down on the front porch and died. Jack weighed 60 pounds. Both are buried in Burchwood Cemetery in Roxboro.

We thank LuAnne for that most interesting presentation. The next meeting will be January 23rd at the Senior Center on Depot St. Our meeting will start at 7:00 p.m.

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