Prologue–J. P. Moore’s “This Strange Town–Liberal, Missouri”

1880 – 1910


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(Once So Called)




[pages 3-5]

This treatise is a history of the beginning and early years of Liberal, Missouri. Liberal has variously been called an infidel town, an atheist town and “this strange town.” If the town has deserved or merited either, any or all of these appellations, and if bad or good, has always been a matter of individual opinion. This has all been because of the unusual purposes of the founder and the antagonisms he encountered in the early days of his efforts to implement his plans.

Exciting vocal and sometimes physical activities were generated within and roundabout, and continued in one degree or another for a number of years.

The founder of Liberal was a Freethinker and hoped to establish a community in which fellow Freethinkers might have the opportunity to join in forming a sort of colony, and enjoy living among those of kindred thought, unannoyed by opposition–and as an example to the world of the possibility of such. He had been raised in the Christian faith, but because of reasons satisfactory to himself, he had become dissatisfied with the dogmas of the church, as of that day; and the hierarchy he thought to be intolerant and narrow in its thinking. So in his town churches were to be excluded, with strong opposition to any teaching of the Christian religion. As to any other religion, there seems to have been no pronouncement.

In that day–1880–“Freethinker,” to the church, was an ugly word and meant “Infidel.” So the setting up of any such anti-Christian community quickly became a sharp and wicked thorn in the side of Christiandom, which was to be counteracted with all honorable strength. The result almost became an example of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object–but not quite. Which gave way, the reader may have the privilege of being judge. To simply say that friction was generated would be a mild statement. Word battles were wild and furious; and Liberal soon became known, not only as an infidel or atheist town, but as a very strange town.

Through the years, from time to time, there have come professional feature writers to journalize on Liberal and its eccentricities as “this strange town.” The reason will be seen as the reader peruses these pages. A previous “Story of Liberal, Missouri,” has been written on a more limited scope, and published some years ago; and a few pupils in the Liberal high school, students of English, have undertaken to write limited sketches on the subject–so strange is the early history of Liberal still thought to be, even after the passage of so many years.

It might be stated that in that early period there was a considerable movement towards Freethought across the country. But nowhere else, to this writer’s knowledge, did the cult crystalize to the point of founding a town dedicated to the proposition of that philosophy.

It has been the endeavor of this writer to chronicle, in more or less vivid detail, the peculiar history of early Liberal, to the end of correctness and fairness. And the writer hopes to present it in a style that will appeal to the reader, and at the same time preserve the dignity of all concerned. These few lines are a prologue to that story–the story of what has been called “THE STRANGE TOWN,” the town that was different.

In this history in a very few instances it has been found to be desirable to step a little beyond the period of 1880 to 1910, in order to complete an important story, or to relate its equally important sequel. This, I believe, will be appreciated by the reader.

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