The Story of Liberal, Missouri – Why the Town of Liberal Was Founded
THE STORY OF LIBERAL, MISSOURI
BY O. E. HARMON
Published by THE LIBERAL NEWS, J. P. MOORE PRINTER, LIBERAL, MO, 1925
Why the Town of Liberal was Founded
In 1880 there lived in Lamar, the county seat of Barton County, a man named George H. Walser. He was born in Indiana, May 26, 1834. He received his early education, as he tells it, “on the jump and on the run.” He served in the Civil War and came to Lamar soon after its close, a young lawyer from Rockport, Mo. He had been Prosecuting Attorney, served in the legislature, and had been in public life in various ways.
He knew Barton county well, and had a vigilant eye on the inviting resources in the vicinity of the future town of Liberal. But these were not the sole reasons for his planning the town. He had broken away from the Calvinistic religion, and had become a Free-thinker. It dawned upon him one day that it would be a good thing to found a town where Free-thinkers could live in a sort of colony and enjoy their belief in a quiet, unmolested way. It may be remarked here that a good deal of the land around Liberal had been reported to the government as “swamp land.”
Mr. Walser got hold of some of this same “swamp land,” and a part of it is where the town of Liberal now stands. This land may have been swampy in the early geological ages; but its swampy nature has long since disappeared, and that without the modern system of drainage.
Perhaps it is time to give Liberal a definite location. The town is 125 miles south of Kansas City, 75 miles west of Springfield, 17 miles from Lamar, about 4 miles from the Kansas line and 18 miles northeast of Pittsburg, Kansas. To be more specific, it may be stated that Liberal is in latitude 37 degrees and 33 minutes north, and 94 degrees and 32 minutes longitude west from Greenwich. By the survey the town site of Liberal lies on parts of sections 1 and 2, Township 32, Range 33. With this definite location, anybody ought easily to find Liberal Missouri, whatever part of the globe he may hail from.
As stated above, Liberal was to be a Free-Thinker town, and what is more remarkable, churches and saloons were not to be allowed within the town limits. Under these conditions the town was platted in 1880. Then Liberal began its career, and as we shall soon see, it was at times rather stormy.