The Story of Liberal – The Churches and Charitable Organizations


The Churches and Charitable Organizations

It was stated near the beginning of this sketch that neither church or saloon was to be allowed in Liberal. For a time this injunction was obeyed. But after the town lots passed from the founder’s ownership, it is evident that neither church nor saloon could be kept out if they had any disposition to come in. And both did come in, and about the same time. While the first saloon was at Pedro, it more than answered for both Pedro and Liberal.

In “The Liberal” of August 29, 1894, we find this statement, “Liberal is the only town in Missouri of over 300 that has no saloons.”

Whether this statement included Pedro does not appear. If it does, then the saloon was opened in Pedro after this date, and certainly in the original limits of Liberal after this time. Assuming that the saloon and the church came to Liberal at the same time, it would only be a fulfillment of the Scripture saying, “When the Sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord,


Satan came also.”

The saloon has always been one of Satan’s favorite agencies for working his schemes; and he worked them well until the Prohibiton Law went into effect.

The writer does not know which came first, the Methodist or Christian church. Both were here at an early date, and report has it that one Rev. Ashbaugh, a Methodist minister, held the first meeting in an unfinished elevator. Later the Methodists bought the U. M. L. Hall. The writer is informed that an addition was built to the Hall to make it answer better for church services; and not long after, lightning struck the church addition and severed it from the main building. Whether this act of Providence was designed to favor the Methodists or Free-thinkers the writer does not pretend to say.

Both Methodist and Christian denominations have flourished in Liberal, and have recently built new church structures which are a credit to the town.

Speaking of the organization of the Methodists, after they purchased the U. M. L. Hall, Rev. George T. Ashley, now pastor of the Unitarian church at Wichita, Kansas, writes:

“The Methodist church was thus organized,


but it was a very weak one. I think when I arrived in May, 1890, it had about thirty members, which was a part of a circuit formed around Liberal, including the church at Verdella Iantha, and McCabe Chapel, some five miles to the northwest. I was the first regular minister to settle in Liberal, and arrived there in May 1890. In the meantime, before I had arrived there and long before the Methodist church was organized, the Spiritualists had made some inroads and in fact had become relatively strong in the town and had a small church building. In fact the old FreeThinkers Organization had gone to pieces and the way was open for any cult that might want to come. I remained there for two years and during that time the church had considerable growth, both from converts and from people moving in.”

It is reported that Adam Burris had done some preaching for the Methodists before Mr. Ashley’s arrival.

The Christian church held its first meetings in Pedro. This church seemed to represent the religious element for West Liberal and the Methodist church for East Liberal for some time. Later the Christian church held its services in various places in East Liberal until its stone church was built in 1900. It held its services in this building,


which was on the present site of the new one, until the latter structure was built a short time ago. So we have the Methodist, Christian, Baptist and Latter Day Saints in the modern town of Liberal; and these religious organizations can furnish a variety of spiritual consolation.

The Latter Day Saints is a recent organization, and has not been working long enough to make an estimate of its strength and probable future.

The Baptist church is a still later organization, and has recently built a neat and commodious building. The denomination seems to be in a flourishing condition.

Besides the above named religious denominations, various secret orders and charitable organizations are found in Liberal. Here are the Odd Fellows, Masons, Rebekahs, Easter Star, Modern Woodmen, Security Benefit Association, Brotherhood of American Yeomen, Royal Neighbors and K.K.K.s.

From the above report it will be seen that a resident of Liberal can enjoy the orthodox religious belief or can hold the Free-thinker’s views without molestation.

The history of Liberal reveals the fact that the one desirable thing is toleration for each other’s religious belief. We have no criterion for testing


the truth or untruth of our religious views. Liberal was founded as a Free-thinker’s town, but it did not long hold that distinction. While it drew to its limits, Agnostics, Deists, and Spiritualists, these were not always in harmony among themselves.

Orthodox religious denominations found their way here, and ere long dissentions were rife, not only in the liberal element, but in the orthodox churches. The many religious denominations show how hard it is to agree upon any one interpretation of the Bible. Even when the Free-thinkers came to Liberal, they did not find it that paradise their visions had pictured.

Goldsmith says:

“But where to find that happiest spot below
Who can direct when all pretend to know?”
A little change in the above couplet expresses the religious differences in the world:
But where to find the true faith here below, Who can direct when all pretend to know?
A person’s religion is his own private affair; and while we are journeying through life, let us not consign to Hades our fellow traveler because he does not agree with us in religion.

We may take to heart the following stirring lines of Jonquin Miller:


“Is it worth while that we jostle a brother
Bearing his load on the rough road of life?
Is it worth while that we jeer at each other
In blackness of heart?–that we war to the knife?
God pity us all in our pitiful strife.”

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The Story of Liberal, Missouri – The Woman’s Guild


The Woman’s Guild

Among the early organizations in Liberal was the Woman’s Guild. It was charitable in object, and besides looking after the mutual interests of the society, it aided in the education of the young and the care of orphan children. Along these lines its influence was very beneficial.

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The Story of Liberal, Missouri – The Brotherhood


The Brotherhood

This was the title of an organization founded in Liberal in 1882, and incorporated under the laws of the State of Missouri. Its objects are set forth in the constitution of the society, and may be stated in the following extract from the constitution:

“The objects of the Brotherhood shall be to extend the influence of benevolence, charity, kindness, fraternity and friendship as far and as wide as possible. * * * * * * * The members of this society shall visit the sick, bury the dead, care for the helpless, educate and protect the orphans of its members, and shall pursue such a course as is calculated to expand the mind and elevate man mentally, socially and morally, and bring him up to that standard which nature has fitted him to fill.”

The society had a ritual and a collection of songs suitable to the work of the society. The writer is informed that the Brotherhood did good work during the years of its existence along social and educational lines.


It is of interest to know the original incorporators of the organization. They were as follows: D. P. Greeley, C. B. Adams, E. A. Jewart, Harriet P. Walser, J. B. Bouton, T. R. B. Adams, F. L. Yale, J. W. Curless, Rach. H. Yale, G. H. Walser.

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The Story of Liberal, Missouri – Business Development


Business Development

When Liberal was founded, there was no railroad connection between Liberal and the outside world. The Kansas City, Ft. Scott and Memphis railroad was in course of construction, but was not completed till 1881. The Missouri Pacific came in 1885. It was the boast of Jay Gould, who was the main backer of this road, that he would make a cattle trail of the other railroad. He failed dismally to make good his boast. The first railroad now known as the “Frisco” (St. Louis and San Francisco) is one of the leading railroad lines of the country. The Missouri Pacific has grown into big proportions, and Liberal, since 1885, has had two railroad outlets.

The first building erected in Liberal was built by Capt. W. S. Guffy, father of Arthur Guffy, and was a hotel. It stood where J. F. Mohler holds his barber shop. W. A. Delissa was the first merchant in Liberal. Later he ran a store in Pedro.

This branch of Liberal was due to rival factions particularly in religious matters. The


Orthodox Christians felt uneasy in the Freethinkers’ town; so there was an “Exodus” from Liberal to Pedro about 1885. The latter place being so near at hand, no cloud by day or pillar of fire by night was needed to guide them. Their “Moses” was Morris and Goss who were the chief agents in moving the stores; and so many of them went that only one, Todd & Company, was left in Liberal. Of course others in private business followed, and it looked for a time as if Pedro might outwit Liberal in display of population. Rube Morris, one of the leaders of the “Exodus,” now lives in Denver.

When the Missouri Pacific came, their station here was first called Dennison. But as this was the name of one of their stations farther south, the name of the station was changed to “Pedro.” As the reader may know, that is the name of a game that is extensively played at the gaming tables, especially in saloons. The first saloon was in Pedro, and no doubt the game was freely played in that den of iniquity. This may not have been the impelling motive that led the railroad company to give the place the name Pedro. This is also the name of an emperor in Brazil. So the name may have been given in honor of this ruler. We leave the reader to draw his own



The “Exodus” to Pedro could not keep the Free-thinkers’ town from growing. Dry goods and grocery stores sprang up, and the town steadily grew. The firm of Todd & Co., later became known as Todd, Thompson & Co. This store was finally owned by John H. Todd.

Frank Yale early ran a livery stable, and we note by an issue of “The Liberal,” of January 3, 1884, that Mr. William Hesford bought a one-half interest in the stable. Mr. E. H. Wheeler, who later ran a confectionery store, was in the livery business about 1888. The livery stable in those days was a far more important institution than it has been since the coming of the automobile.

The resources of the country around Liberal have been an important factor in Liberal’s growth. In 1880, Mr. T. R. B. Adams, father of Mr. Gilbert O. Adams, in partnership with Mr. William H. Curless, bought 120 acres of land near Liberal. This tract lay a little to the southwest of Liberal, and on a part of this land was the big apple orchard that many now living well remember. On another part of this tract coal mining was early started; and it is needless to say that the coal mines in the vicinity of Liberal have been a great stimulus to the business of the community, and have distributed


each year many thousands of collars to the people of Liberal and vicinity. Two steam shovels are now opearting adjacent to Liberal; one near the old Boulware farm, and the other near the home of Mr. P. T. McClanahan.

Add to the coal industry, the corn, wheat, hay and fruit produced, and it is easy to see why Liberal has been a hard town to kill.

Blackberry culture, some twenty-five years ago a leading branch of fruit culture here, has been nearly abandoned for more profitable lines of fruit growing. Mr. M. L. Jackson, however, still raises many blackberries and is a leading fruit grower in this section.

Besides the mercantile business, grist mills have been erected, which have added to the material prosperity. In the later growth of the town, Mr. J. F. Curl built a grist mill; also Bennett & Son. Along this line came the Lipscomb, Grain & Seed Co., which from small beginnings has grown to one of the great business concerns of Southwest Missouri. Besides the elevator at Liberal, the Company has elevators at Irwin, in Missouri, Afton, Oklahoma, and recently a new elevator has been built at Springfield, Mo. The head of the firm, Mr. Caleb Lipscomb, was for some years a citizen of Liberal, but now


lives in Springfield.

One serious setback to Liberal was the great fire which occurred in November, 1897.

This fire swept the west side of Main Street from the hardware store of Conrad Brothers to the hardware store of L. L. Coleman. The burned district was soon rebuilt, in spite of the heavy loss.

It did not take long for the business conditions of Liberal to warrant the establishment of a bank. Mr. G. W. Baldwin came to Liberal in 1888 and started a bank in that year. It was known as the “Bank of Liberal.” Later Mr. Baldwin organized the Exchange Bank, and after it passed from him it was known as the “First National Bank.” It is now known as the “Farmers State Bank” with Mr. Jas. B. Smith as president and Mr. C. B. Armstrong as cashier. The Bank of Liberal came under the control of one Mr. Bollinger for a time, but about twenty-eight years ago passed into the hands of J. G. and son John H. Todd. J. G. Todd and his sons still hold a controlling interest in it and it is known as “Todd’s bank.” Both the Bank of Liberal and the Farmers State Bank seem to be on a sound basis, and doing a good business.

It may not be out of place here to note the growth of Liberal’s population.


Right click “view image” to see larger

In 1882, two years after the town was started, it claimed 300 population. In 1883, it claimed 400 population. The writer does not have the census of 1890 or 1900 at hand. But the census of 1910 gives the population of Liberal at 800; and the 1920 census gives 1,160. Of course, these figures include the old town of Pedro, for that place long since became united to Liberal, and the orthodox and the anti-orthodox sections are now marching together under the broad name, “Liberal.”

That the reader may know the present condition of business in Liberal, a roster of the business firms is given below:

Sechrist & Sons, Hardware and Furniture.
A. B. McIntosh, Hardware and Machinery.
Moore Drug Company, A. M. Moore, Manager.
The Leader, Dry Goods, O. N. Eddlemon, Manager.
Mohler Mercantile Co., Dry Goods and Groceries.
M. H. Bryson, Dry Goods and Groceries.
M. M. Jones, Groceries.
J. W. Stone, Groceries.
Charles Travis, Meat Market.
Farmers Grocery Co., A. N. Wimmer, Prop.
Farmers Exchange, Arlie Bowman, Manager.
Rolla Argo, Groceries.
F. A. Minnick, Restaurant and Bakery.


N. J. O’Neal, Restaurant.
W. A. DeLissa, Mercahnt.
G. R. Crank, Meat Market.
Mrs. E. A. Wilson, Racket Store.
Smith’s Clothing Co., Wilbur Smith, Manager.
Dickey & Morrow, Second Hand Store.
F. A. Marks, Shoemaker.
Taylor R. Palmer, Poultry.
Liberal Produce Co., Chas. Pomatto, Manager.
Geo. G. Minor, Confectionery.
J. E. Wicker, Veterinary Surgeon.
Wickers’ Pharmacy.
Lipscomb Grain & Seed Co.
Farmers Mutual Fire INsurance Co., John H. Todd, Secretary.
Baldwin Lumber Co., R. L. Baldwin, Manager.
Barton County Lumber Co., W. H. Curless, Manager.
Bank of Liberal.
Farmers State Bank.
J. F. Mohler, Barber.
J. M. Sinclair, Barber.
Earl Creamer, Barber.
Liberal Broom Co., Fred Mellor, Manager.
Dave Kendall, Blacksmith.
Frank Cale, Blacksmith.
Max Davidson, Garage and Wholesale Oil.


Thornton-Sweatt Motor Co., Garage.
Reed Bros. Motor Co., Garage.
J. A. Coy & Son, Harness Makers.
A. H. Wilson, The Ozark House.
I. G. Morgan, Manager of Brick Plant.
J. H. Brown, The Liberal Nurseries.
W. S. Jones, Wagon Maker.
Roy Smith’s Service Station, Garage.
Liberal Light Co., Electrical Supplies.
Lyric Theater, Chas. Travis & Son, Proprietors.
Liberal Undertaking Co.
Ozark Finishing Co., H. Bouton, Manager.
Liberal Coal & Mining Co.
Liberal Mutual Telephone Co.
Todd Bros., Real Estate and Insurance.
Liberal Land Co., Jackson & Moore, Proprietors, Real Estate.
J. O. Pinkerton, Real Estate and Insurance.

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The Story of Liberal, Missouri – The Medical Fraternity


The Medical Fraternity

One of the earliest doctors in Liberal was Mrs. H. M. Allen. She owned a drug store, but sold it in 1884. She became Mr. Walser’s second wife.

Dr. J. S. Gish arrived from Wheeling, Mo., in 1883. He is a graduate of the Missouri Medical College.

Dr. J. W. Clark came in 1884. He is a graduate of the Medical School at Ann Arbor, Michigan. For some years he and Dr. Gish were the only doctors in Liberal. They are still in active practice.

Dr. A. G. Eddlemon is a more recent arrival and is a partner of Dr. Gish.

Dr. F. R. Spell is also a recent arrival.

And so it comes that the medical profession has always been and now is ably represented in Liberal.

Dr. C. H. Hatten fills the dentistry profession with satisfaction.

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The Story of Liberal, Missouri – U. M. L. Hall


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.

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