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The Lake News Online
  • Day trippin': History in Liberty

  • Historic Liberty was settled in 1822 and is still a fun town to explore. It is situated just north of Kansas City on Interstate 35 North.
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  • Historic Liberty was settled in 1822 and is still a fun town to explore. It is situated just north of Kansas City on Interstate 35 North.
    With a big variety of shopping, dining, cultural and recreational options, Liberty has something for everyone. The town ranked third in 2011 for being one of Family Circle Magazine’s “Best Town for a Family”, and was number seven in Money Magazine’s 2011 “Best Places to Live.”
    Visitors can spend the whole day shopping and exploring. There are three museums in town: the Jesse James Bank Museum, Clay County Museum and Mormon Museum. The area is home to many vintage structures.
    After the Mormon War of 1838, Mormon prophet Joseph Smith was arrested and held in the Liberty jail for several months. While en route to his new court venue, Smith and his followers escaped.
    More than 10,000 left Missouri for the new Mormon settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois. Within a few short years, Illinois ordered the Morman people to leave the United States. The entire settlement moved to the Territory of Utah.
    The owner describes the Jesse James Bank Museum, located on the historic square in Liberty, as “the site of the nation’s first successful daylight peacetime bank robbery.”
    While the robbers were never caught, the crime was credited to the infamous James Gang. Visitors can visit the bank as it was in 1866.
    It was a cold and snowy February afternoon when a group of horsemen rode into Liberty. After a short time, gunshots broke the winter silence as the men rode off with their loot leaving one young college student dead and the town in shock.
    It was not proved that Jesse and his James gang robbed this bank. Jesse had a criminal career that lasted nearly two decades. He was never apprehended. He was killed in his St. Joseph home by Robert Ford in 1882.
    The only known civil case against the James brothers was filed in 1870 for a horse, saddle, and bridle stolen when they robbed the Gallatin, Mo., bank.
    Visit the restored Liberty Jail, where the Prophet Joseph Smith awaited trial. It is said that while there he received three revelations that are included in the Doctrine and Covenants today. Located at 216 North Main, the admission is free. Call 816-781-3188 or email HSLibertyJail@ldschurch.org. Hours are daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    The downtown Liberty Square and surrounding area is one of the “most walk-able” districts and includes more than 200 vintage homes.
    Liberty was chosen a Preserve America community in 2007. The Preserve America program is a White House effort to encourage and support communities that preserve and promote America’s cultural and natural heritage.
    Page 2 of 2 - Liberty is “walkable” by using one or all five of the walking tour brochure guides.
    William Jewell College was founded in 1849 from a $10,000 gift from Dr. William Jewell. The 1861 Battle of Liberty had Union troops attempt to stop Confederate sympathizers from crossing the Missouri River to reinforce Confederates in the Battle of Lexington. There were many casualties and the attempt failed. The Union army used the William Jewell College as a hospital and buried their dead on the 1849 campus.
    Liberty was Union by day. but under darkness of night, illegal trading occurred throughout the town to help the Southern cause.
    Liberty’s City Hall was reported to have refused to fly the United States Flag until the start of World War I.
    Today there are about 1,100 full-time students on campus.
    Near William Jewell College is The Stone-Yancey House Bed and Breakfast. The vintage home sits at 421 N. Lightburne Street. For lodging information just contact stay@stoneyanceyhouse.com.
    After the visitors’ three-course breakfast, take a leisurely walk over the William Jewell campus.
    If travelers are partial to wineries, they can take a guided tour of Ladoga Ridge Winery and Vineyards in the nearby Smithville area. The area was named "Toad-A-Lope" in the early 1900s and is believed to be an Indian term meaning "Heaven."
    Tours are $5 per person and are scheduled on the second and fourth Sunday of each month at 2 pm. The winery is at 100 E. Pope Lane in Smithville.
    For information call 816-866-4077. A bit further up the highway in Kearney is the old Jesse James Farm and the cemetery where his remains are buried.

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