THE STORY OF LIBERAL, MISSOURI
BY O. E. HARMON
Published by THE LIBERAL NEWS, J. P. MOORE PRINTER, LIBERAL, MO, 1925
U. M. L. Hall
The readers in Liberal and vicinity who were here in an early day, know what the above initials mean. But there may be some who have come in later, and others away from here who may read this sketch, who do not know what the above initials mean. They mean “Universal Mental Liberty Hall.” This buildng was erected for public purposes; the main object being to provide a place where any person could come and speak on any subject providing he kept himself within the rules of parliamentary decorum. It was to be to Liberal what Faneuil Hall was to Boston in the old New England days. U. M. L. Hall was the scene of many a fiery debate; and we can easily imagine the diversity of views that would be expressed when Free-thinkers, Spiritualists, and Orthodox Christians aired their opinions. There was one occasion that deserves notice. It was the Sunday evening before the Presidential election of 1888. The meeting was held in the hall, and the usual liberty of speech was to be allowed, only the speakers were to be limited to ten minutes’ time.
Mr. G. W. Baldwin was chairman of the meeting. Various persons had spoken, and it wcame Mr. G. H. Walser’s time to speak. He was brim full of ideas, and when the ten minutes had expired he found he was not nearly through of what he wanted to say; so he kept on talking. Mr. Baldwin called him to order, whereupon Mr. Walser talked on, and Mr. Baldwin reminded him that his time was up. Mr. Walser finally quit under protest, but with the deep feeling that liberty of speech had been suppressed.
This was the last public meeting held in the venerable U. M. L. Hall. In the next issue of the paper was the following notice: “U. M. L. Hall closed for repairs.” The building was soon after sold to the Methodists and used as their place of worship until the new church beuilding was erected a short time ago. The new church was dedicated in 1923.
The above incident is interesting from the fact that Mr. Walser and Mr. Baldwin were leaders in their respective fields of thought. Both were well read men and good speakers. Mr. Baldwin was a strong Agnostic, while Mr. Walser was a strong Spiritualist. Baldwin was a Democrat, Walser a Republican. So it is easy to see that when they came in conflict, either in debate or otherwise, something was doing.