THIS STRANGE TOWN–LIBERAL MISSOURI
A HISTORY OF THE EARLY YEARS
1880 – 1910
BY J. P. MOORE
A newspaper is always a valuable asset to any town, new or old. Liberal has always been fortunate in this respect, having not been without one for more than the briefest period since the very beginning. All of these, save one, for one reason or another have passed into oblivion
The first paper was The Liberalite, which name was later changed to “The Liberal.” Its publication was started within a year or less, after the founding of the town, itself. Mr. Walser was the owner and editor. Men who succeeded as assistants in publication, and whom were printers, in order, were Frank Green, E. H. Adams and Bryon Cowley, all of whom were Freethinkers. Because of the limited field from which to draw business, the newspaper was probably more of a liability than an asset financially to Mr. Walser, but it was just what he needed to promote the new town, and his beliefs. Mr. Walser took full advantage of the means.
Publication of The Liberal was suspended in 1889. Mr. Walser probably thought the newspaper was no longer needed to serve his purpose, as an equalizing influence had set in by that time, and the old antagonisms were less sharp. Besides, Mr. Walser’s interests were turning towards spiritualism at this period, a philosophy that generates little or no militant opposition.
In September, 1890, The Independent was founded by K. G. Comfort and W. A. Martin. Mr. Comfort was a practicing attorney at Liberal; and Mr. Martin, a native of the eastern part of the state, came here from Moundville. He apparently had had some experience as a printer. After about one year friction developed between the partners, and the business association was dissolved. Mr. Comfort retained ownership of the newspaper.
Desiring to continue in the newspaper business in Liberal, Mr. Martin founded the Liberal Enterprise, in November, 1891.
After a period, Mr. Comfort sold the Independent to Carl B. Hesford, who had worked as a printer on both the Independent and the Enterprise, and for Mr. Walser. Because of ill health, Carl closed down the Independent and the Enterprise, and for Mr. Walser. Because of ill health, Carl closed down the Independent in 1904, and sold the plant to Luther Liscomb. Carl went to California. Luther disposed of the equipment to W. T. Cowgill, a newspaper man who came here from Oklahoma. This was in about 1907.
Mr. Cowgill began publication of a newspaper named “The Republican.” Mr. Cowgill’s newspaper was powerless against the well-established Liberal Enterprise, and his publication quit after about one year. The plant was moved away.
A semi=monthly magazine, “The Orthopaedian,” published by Mr. Walser in 1899 and 1900, for about one year, discontinued for lack of subscribers and practically no advertising business.
During the years, the Liberal Enterprise developed into the best newspaper Liberal had had up to that time.
Then came the “Liberal News,” founded by J. P. Moore and C. L. DeLissa. The first issue was dated February 25, 1910. Fates favored the News. Mr. Martin sold his newspaper in 1913. In about a month the new owners folded the Enterprise, which, after more than twenty years, was no more. The new owners were strangers in Liberal and could not successfully compete with the News. The partnership of Moore & DeLissa was dissolved in September of 1910, seven months after the founding of the News. Moore bought the interest of the partner. Moore sold to Hal McDoowell in 1944, after thirty-four years of ownership. In 1955, McDowell sold to Mr. Aand Mrs. Edward Savage, the present owners.
So the News has weathered good times and bad, until thsi date, and continues in good strength.
Goodspeed’s history of Missouri, published in 1889, names three early Liberal newspapers of which this writer has found no other record. It says The Liberal Ensign was published by Scott & Searles, and later by Scott, in 1887-88, in some way associated with the publishers of the Sedalia Democrat; and that the Liberal Messenger was published in 1888-89.
According to the Goodspeed historian, Pedro had another newspaper, “The Pedro Enterprise,” published in 1887-88. This date seems to conflict with the date of the Ensign. No further particulars are given; though I recall having heard that, years ago, Jim Searles, member of a pioneer family, once published a newspaper in Pedro for a short while. I find it futile to attempt to reconcile these names and dates.