Peter Barrett was born in Keason, Cornwall, England in 1841. He emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1866 to work in the Acadia Coal Mines at Albion Mines in Pictou County. Following his travels to the United States and Ontario, he returned to Albion Mines where he worked for several years. He married Hortense Langille on 16 January 1873. In June 1873, the Barretts moved to Springhill, where Peter worked in the mines. While in Springhill, he acquired some property and became involved in a legal battle which resulted in the loss of all of his property. The Barretts removed to Truro in October 1877, and to Cornwall on 8 November 1877.