Liberty, Missouri

1877 drawing of the Clay County Court House in Liberty, Missouri. Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Missouri - Columbia.

Notable Events:

At the outset of the Civil War, it was clear that Liberty, Missouri (along with much of the rest of northwestern Missouri) possessed more Southern sympathizers than Union supporters. The city recorded zero votes for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election, and shortly after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, Southern sympathizers seized the federal Liberty Arsenal to the southeast of town. Later in 1861, the Battle of Blue Mills Landing was fought to the southeast of Liberty on the Missouri River. In that battle, the outnumbered Union forces were defeated by the secessionist Missouri State Guardsmen under command of former-senator and general, David Rice Atchison. Atchison was able to reinforce Confederate General Sterling Price after the First Battle of Lexington, or the "Battle of the Hemp Bales." After the Battle of Liberty, the campus of William Jewell College, in Liberty, served as a makeshift hospital and a burial site for the Union dead. Today, historic Liberty is best remembered as the site of the first daytime bank robbery in the United States and a place of incarceration of Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. According to numerous local reports, the Clay County Courthouse (and possibly Liberty's city hall) refused to fly the American Flag until the First World War.