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 Edna Jackson, 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.
Edna Jackson is perhaps the daughter of Madison L. and Julia A. Jackson, born in Indiana, observed in the 1900 census of Ozark, Barton, Missouri. She was born in 1879 and in 1900 was a 21 year old music teacher. Her father was an insurance agent.
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Liberal is situated in the western part of Barton county, on the Missouri Pacific and Kansas City, Ft. Scott and Memphis Railroads. It is 820 miles from St. Louis and about the same distance from Memphis. Liberal was first laid out by M. N. Wills, the town plat as now known was laid out by G. H. Walser, in October, 1880. It was incorporated by an order of the county court November 7, 1881, but upon representation that the petition for incorporation had not been signed by two thirds of the taxable inhabitants within the limits described, the order was revoked, Nov. 12, 1880. The town was reincorporated Monday, March 8, 1881, by an order of the county. The people here were a liberal minded class of people and the town was named Liberal from their belief.
The Free Thought University was very successfully conducted by Prof. M. D. Leahy, for about two years. During that time progress in all the branches of education were marked, especially of Elocution.
This place has a Methodist and Christian church. The Spiritual Hall was built in 1889. Since we came to Liberal it has increased in both population and wealth, especially in the latter, at least ten dollars to one, in the past eight years. During the last six years the industry of raising small fruits has proved a great success.
In June 1893 was one of the greatest fires Liberal has ever known. About half of the west side of Main street was burned. It since has been built up with large buildings which make quite an improvement to the town.
The Public school is conducted by three teachers. J. A. Swank has charge of the Higher room, W. E. Condict, Intermediate, and H. M. Branson, the Primary Department. If the school improved as it has in the past two months I think we will have the best school we have had for many years.