Free-thinkers Town of Liberal, Missouri

The plat for the freethought town of Liberal was made by George Walser, October 26, 1880. In October 7, 1881, land at Liberal was deeded to my Noyes family–James Allen Noyes and Caroline Atwell Noyes–who moved there due to their life philosophy. James Allen Noyes’ family had been members of the socialist Alphadelphia community. Upon its dissolution, before his marriage, he had traveled to different socialist and freethought communities. A Noyes family constitution, written at Liberal in 1883, shows the Year of Man dating system, which had been recommended by the National Liberal League, the year 0 based on the martyrdom of Giordano Bruno for his pantheistic and scientific beliefs. Though the Noyes name isn’t on the Spiritual Science Association’s 1889 petition for incorporation, I know that the Noyes were spiritualists.

The majority of historical material on the internet on Liberal is posted by those with Christian associations who have a vested interest in painting Liberal as having been a desperately sinful town, an experiment in godlessness that was doomed to fail. In fact, anarchists and proponents of free love felt that Walser’s experiment was flawed as it was too conservative, and complained of curtailment of their freedoms in Liberal due this. Liberal was thus controversial on both sides of the freethought fence, and really very little of its early history has reached us by which we may have a fair portrait of the town. Yes, we’ve O. E. Harmon’s early book on Liberal, but he was more a speaker and a poet, and his history, with the exception of a few stories, predominately reads like an outline. J. P. Moore’s 1963 book on Liberal is more substantial, but it too provides a meager overview, attempting to cover decades in 167 pages. Moore approaches his subject from a combination of assumption and personal knowledge that most involved were decent human beings, who he describes as independent, their ideologies far-ranging. As to the attacks on Liberal, he notes in his chapter, “The Crusaders and the Columnists”, that feature writers “almost invariably concentrated on the ‘Infidel Town’…their dissertations have all been very similar. They seem to have felt they must follow a pattern to please their reading clientele. There may be others (to) come; and when and if they do, no doubt their stories will be read with interest, as have been all the others”.

For postings on Liberal, refer to the Liberal categories archive or the site map.

Comments
One Response to “Free-thinkers Town of Liberal, Missouri”
  1. olivia stabler says:

    I remember in 1961, when I was 17, coming to Liberal Missouri to where My aunt and uncle lived. Carl and Esther Williams. My 90 year old grandfather was there as well. Ben Brown. My dad, Francis Brown had driven all the way from California. So, aside from all the freeways en route: All I remember was coming down some non- paved roads to the farm. We had a nice visit for a few weeks in June 1961, the first time I met my dad’s family actually. I lived in California and still do. I remember going into “town” with my Aunt Esther and hearing loud music and singing out of a bar or bars in the town. Sounded like they were having a wonderful time in there. Outside, things were rather the opposite. That is, from a teenager’s vantage point. I did have a great time there, but only in retrospect of meeting my relatives and my grandfather for the first and last time.
    Later, in 1979, after I was married and I heard that my dad, had a small stoke or some such mentally disabling problem, while travelling to Liberal, Missouri, to visit his sister Esther via a Greyhound bus. Esther’s husband, Carl, had passed away the previous October of a heart attack. My dad, Francis Brown, had gotten off of the bus in Tulsa, Oklahoma thinking he was in Missouri. Therefore, My husband, myself two kids and my brother ventured forth from California to bring him back home. First, of course, we had to bring him back to see his sister, Esther and gathered relatives for about a week before we came back to California.
    Since the trip of many years before, I had no idea as to how to reach the Williams’ farm. So, when we got into Liberal, we saw a phone booth with a slim phone directory hanging there. I called Aunt Esther and she directed us land mark by land mark to the correct place. My dad, Francis Brown, was not terribly cognitive, but said, This looks like Carl Williams’ place” when we came up the driveway. Then he said “couldn’t be”. But it was the place. He never was really ok again, he was suffering from some sort of dementia, whereas he remembered more of the past than what was in the present.

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