THE STORY OF LIBERAL, MISSOURI
BY O. E. HARMON
Published by THE LIBERAL NEWS, J. P. MOORE PRINTER, LIBERAL, MO, 1925
Some Interesting Characters in Liberal’s History
Besides some already mentioned in the foregoing pages, there are a few others who from varying standpoints deserve mention.
One of these was Henry Dorman, the aged Civil War veteran who died in Liberal in March 1914, at the age of 115 years. He was born in Steuben county, New York, January 10, 1799. He enlisted in his 64th year and served three years. He was wounded in the battle of South Mountain. He had four sons in the Civil War, one of whom died in Libby prison. He lived in Barton county after 1892, and had lived in Liberal for nine years before his death. He was the father of ten children, the youngest of whom was the husband of Mrs. Hattie Dorman, who cared for him in his later years. At the time of his death Henry Dorman was the oldest person in Missouri, and was one of the oldest, if not the oldest, veteran of the Civil War. His war record combined with his extreme old age made him a person of much interest, and many visitors to Liberal made it a
special object to visit the aged veteran.
Another Civil War veteran, now living in Liberal, is August Beckmann, father of Charles Beckmann. He is 97 years of age. He is of German birth, and was born on the Baltic Sea. He served in the Crimean War, also through the Civil War. He enlisted as a Cavalryman from Connersville, Indiana, and saw much hard service. He came to Barton County in 1884.
It may not be out of place here to remind the reader that the Crimean War above mentioned was waged against Russia by England and France in the years 1854-6. One of the famous episodes of the War was “The Charge of the Light Brigade” which Tennyson has celebrated in a poem of that title.
Another Civil War veteran living in Liberal is George Hesford, familiarly known as “Uncle George Hesford.” He is 93 years of age. He enlisted in the Union Army from the state of Wisconsin. On a forced march he was captured, and after treatment for a time in a hospital, was discharged for disability. His home is near that of Mrs. Kate Hesford, his daughter-in-law. He is a great lover of flowers and his flower garden is admired by all who see it.
W. S. VanCamp is one of the characters of
Liberal who is well remembered. He died some years ago. He was a soldier in the Civil War, and had lived in Liberal many years. He was a Free thinker and, of course, a great admirer of Thomas Paine. He had been a school teacher, studied law, and had read extensively. He had considerable ability, but did not always put his ability to the best use. He made a good garden, made brooms, and could make keen lawyers sit up and take notice in a justice’s court. His home in Liberal was near the schoolhouse, and his friendship for the school children was one of his better traits. His escapade in calling spirits from the “Vasty Deep” has already been related.
George Mellor is another citizen of Liberal who deserves mention. He died a few years ago. He was born in Derbyshire, England in 1839. He always took great interest in the public school, and served on the school board for several years. He belonged to the liberal element in religious belief, and had read a great deal.
Mr. G. W. Baldwin has already been mentioned. He is one of the latest departures from us, having died September 7, 1924. He is best remembered as an Agnostic, a banker and a man of considerable culture. For many years he was one of the leading citizens of Liberal.
One of the eccentrics who lived near Liberal was Robert Dunn, best known as “Bobby Dunn.” He had been a sailor, and therefore had seen much of the world. He was a radical of the Freethinker sort. He had much mechanical ability and knew how to put the polish on many mechanical contrivances. But he was always rubbing the rough edge against those around him, and thought the affairs of this world were wrong side up. When he was not engaged in his farming or mechanical work, he spent his time “cussing the government.” Some nine years ago he broke his leg in an accident at his home southeast of Liberal. He was taken to the hospital in Pittsburg and died there.
Arthur Guffy’s father, W. S. Guffy, set out the first trees in Liberal; and as before stated, built the first building which was used for a hotel. The building has disappeared, but many of the trees are yet standing.
The question as to who was the first child born in Liberal has led to some controversy. It seems that the honor must go either to Walser Bouton or Will Thompson’s girl, Maude. The writer is not certain as to which one deserves the honor: but until the matter is definitely settled, we will just call the honors even.
Among those who settled near Liberal at an early day, and were drawn here on account of the “liberal” atmosphere of the town may be mentioned John G. Petgen who died July 31, 1915, from injuries in a runaway accident. His son George owns and lives on the old Ridenour place just northwest of town.
Another was James A. Noyes. He settled on the place where his son Ray Noyes now lives, in 1882. He died in January 1901.