Clay County MOGenWeb

Clay County Events

The City of Liberty

Upon the organization of Clay County, in January, 1822, the land on which the city of Liberty now stands was owned by JOHN OWENS and CHARLES MCGEE.

Owens had built a house on what is now the northwest corner of Water and Mill Streets some time the previous year, and kept a sort of tavern, or house of entertainment.

His house was a rather large and roomy affair, and, as elsewhere stated, was used to hold the first courts in, and for county-seat purposes, which donation was accepted, and soon after the town was laid out.

The legislative act creating the county appointed JOHN HUTCHINS, HENRY ESTES, ENOS VAUGHAN, WYATT ADKINS and JOHN POAGE commissioners to select a "permanent seat of government" for the county, and provided that, until such selection, courts should be held at the house of JOHN OWNES.

WILLIAM POWE was afterward appointed on the commission. In their report to the circuit court, July 1, 1882, as a reason for their selection, the commissioners say:

"That, in pursuance of the object of their appointment, they assembled together on the 20th of March last, to examine the different examining the sites for a town; that after mature deliberation and minute investigation the tract of land owned by John Owens and Charles McGee was thought best adapted for the object for which it was designed, as being more central for the population, surrounded with good and permanent springs, lying sufficiently elevated to drain off all superfluous waters, in a healthy and populous part of the county, and entirely beyond the influence of lakes, ponds, or stagnant waters of any kind; they, therefore, unanimously agreed to accept of the proposition of Mr. Owens and Mr. McGee of a donation of 25 acres each for the use of the county."

As soon as the town was laid out, which was in the early summer of 1822, improvements began to be made. The first sale of lots was on the 4th of July, and at that time, nearly all of those fronting on the public square were disposed of. But up to about 1826 there were not more than a dozen houses in the place, and these, with perhaps one exception, were log cabins.

Early hotel-keepers were LEONARD SEARCY, who had a licensed tavern in the fall of 1826 and continued in the business for six of seven years; LABAN GARRETT, who opened a licensed tavern in December, 1827, and JOHN CHAUNCEY, who began in about 1832.

These hotels, of "taverns", as they were universally called, were simply affairs, but were comfortable enough, furnished plenty of good, wholesome food, and were adequate to the demands of that day.

Probably the first store in Liberty was kept by WILIAM L. SMITH, the county clerk, who brought up a few goods with him from Bluffton in 1822, and sold them in his dewelling-house.


This page was last updated June 7, 2005.