Hathia Becker’s School Report on Liberal, Missouri

Liberal’s paper, “Enterprise”, published a number of essays on Liberal which were written by school students. A now defunct page on Liberal gave the following essay, by Hathia Becker, as published in December 1895.

The first schoolhouse was built in Liberal in 1884. A 2 year high school was begun in Liberal in 1897, the first graduates being–according to J. P. Moore’s “This Strange Town, Liberal Missouri”–a class of 1 male and 4 females: Charles Mellor, Alta W. Mayer, Hithia Becker, Edna Jackson and Elizabeth Thompson.

Hathia Becker’s family is in the 1900 Ozark, Barton County, Missouri census, District 25. Her father was John, age 74, a teamster who was born in 1825 in Canada, his father from New York and his mother from Germany. His wife was Rebecca who was born June 1842 and was 57. She was from England. They had been married 21 years and had 2 of 3 children surviving. The eldest was Hathia H., born Oct of 1880 in Ohio and was 19. Her brother, Wendell R., was born in March of 1884 in Michigan and was 16. In 1880 the pair was in Saybrook, Ashtabula, Ohio where John gave his profession as sailor, born in Quebec.

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In May 1880 G. H. Walser purchased several thousand acres of land in the southern part of Barton county, and laid plans for the present city of Liberal. He founded Liberal as a refuge for the freethinkers, thus it derived its name. The surrounding country is very fertile and is underlaid with vast coal fields. The first house was erected by Dr. Bonton in 1880. In 1882 it contained 300 people. The early growth was slow because they would allow no christians there. The Gulf railroad came through in 1880. The Elevator was built in 1881. The Liberal Hall was built by the people, who donated large sums of money. Mr. Walser sold it (1889) to the Methodists.

The first fire was in 1887, which burned the opera house and a store east of it. Another fire was in 1898, which burnt the main part of the town. The fires caused new and better buildings to be built.

It has a good school, which consists of about 140 pupils and three teachers.

The latter growth has been far more encouraging than the former.

HATHIE BECKER

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