History of Liberty

The City of Liberty dates back to 1831 when Mexican Land Commissioner José Francisco Madero arrived here to validate land titles and establish the new municipality named Villa de la Santísima Trinidad de la Libertad.  The new town was located three miles south of the Atascosito Road and an early Spanish outpost of the same name.  Although Anahuac military commander Juan Davis Bradburn attempted to dissolve the local government on December 10, 1831, the municipality survived. William Barret Travis, the commander of the Alamo, practiced law here.  A post office was established in 1836. After the Texas Revolution, the residents changed the name to Liberty.  Mexican army officers captured at the battle of San Jacinto were held prisoner on the plantation of Judge William Hardin.  General Sam Houston practiced law in Liberty during the 1830s and 1840s and maintained homes nearby.
Liberty became the county seat and was incorporated in 1837.  The City initially took in what is now the City of Dayton, which was called West Liberty. A Methodist congregation was established here in 1840, followed by a Catholic church in 1853.  The population numbered 200 in 1845. The City Cemetery, a Protestant burial ground, was marked off in 1848, followed by a Catholic cemetery soon thereafter.  The town functioned as an important river port, taking an active role in the antebellum Trinity River steamboat trade.  The City's Board of Trustees attracted the Houston & New Orleans Railroad during the 1850s, which extended its line through Liberty in 1858.  The population at that time was approximately 650.  The Civil War and Reconstruction served to reduce the population, which declined to 497 by 1880.  Residents of West Liberty broke away in 1898.  The sawmill industry flourished here in the final decade of the 19th and the early 20th centuries.  The discovery of oil in the South Liberty field on January 1, 1925 brought on immense changes and population growth, which went from 865 in 1900 to 3,087 in 1940.  The city is located today at the juncture of US Highway 90, which was completed in 1927, and State Highway 146.  The population in 2010 was 8,397 with 526 businesses operating here.
A German prisoner-of-war camp was established here on the grounds of Trinity Valley Exposition during World War II.  The Geraldine D. Humphreys Cultural Center was completed in 1970 and houses the municipal library and a community theatre.  The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, a branch of the Texas State Archives, is located on Farm Road 1011 and houses records from ten Southeast Texas counties.  It was built on a 100-acre tract donated to the State of Texas by the late Texas Governor Price Daniel, Sr. and was completed in 1977.  The site also features the Jean and Price Daniel Home, built by Governor and Mrs. Daniel in 1984 based on the original design plans for the Texas Governor's Mansion in Austin.  Three restored buildings are located nearby.