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Liberty, Texas
Location of Liberty, Texas
Location of Liberty, Texas
Country United States
State Texas
County Liberty
 • Total 45.77 sq mi (118.55 km2)
 • Land 44.52 sq mi (115.31 km2)
 • Water 1.25 sq mi (3.24 km2)
30 ft (9 m)
 • Total 8,397
 • Estimate 
 • Density 209.20/sq mi (80.78/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 936
FIPS code 48-42568
GNIS feature ID 1339866

Liberty is a city in the U.S. state of Texas, within Liberty County. The population was 8,397 at the 2010 census. It serves as the seat of Liberty County.

Liberty is the third oldest city in the state—established in 1831 on the banks of the Trinity River. The city also has a twin of the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Its area code is 936 and its ZIP code is 77575.


Liberty, Texas is the county seat of Liberty and the third oldest town in Texas. Texas heroes William B. Travis, Sam Houston, and David Burnet all practiced law in Liberty. Three brothers from Liberty died at the Alamo, while some 50 Liberty citizens fought in the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836 when Texas won its independence. Liberty is located on U.S. Highway 90 in the south central part of Liberty County and the Houston, Texas Metropolitan Area. The site is in a major oil and gas production area served primarily by the Union Pacific Railroad. Liberty once stood at the head of navigation, both steamboat and barge, on the Trinity River.

The town was founded by Mexican land commissioner José Francisco Madero Gaxiola in 1831 near the sites of a Spanish settlement called Atascosito (established in 1756) and Champ d'Asile, a French colony established in 1818. The area was first occupied by American squatters as early as 1818, when it was still under Spanish law. Settlers along the Atascosito Road, which crossed the Trinity three miles to the north of the present Highway 90 western city entrance, petitioned unsuccessfully to be included in Stephen F. Austin's colony.

Madero established an office in the settlement in the Coahuila-Texas province and on May 5, 1831, granted thirty-six land titles there. Thus was formed a new municipality, Villa de la Santísima Trinidad de la Libertad translated “Village of the Most Holy Trinity of Liberty.” Hugh B. Johnston was made alcalde. In this Anglo-American colonization period, according to some sources, the town shortened its name to Liberty, honoring both the Spanish name and after Liberty, Mississippi, from which many of the early settlers had come to Liberty, Texas.

But the history of the Liberty area actually was recorded much earlier in maps and documents. From these earliest records and maps available of this area, documents show the Indian inhabitants were called the Orcoquisac (Akokisa or Arkokisac) tribe. The most accessible, and therefore, most frequently used route into the interior was the river and it was usually given the name of the Indian tribe indigenous to the area. Thus, the Trinity River of today was, in all probability, known as the Arkokisac River.

A map attributed to a Spanish cosmographer Alonzo de Santa Cruz, who had access to all documents relating to the maritime expeditions of Spain (i.e., Niza’s, De Soto’s & Coronado’s) designates yet another name for the Trinity River. His map, tentatively dated 1572, labels the river “Rio del Oro” or “River of Gold.” LaSalle traversed the Trinity River in 1685 and called it the “River of Canoes.”

Alarmed at reported French activities in Texas, the Viceroy of Spain in 1689 dispatched a Spanish expedition under Captain Alonzo de Leon, with one hundred men who penetrated the Trinity River region of Texas in the vicinity of present Liberty. On Friday, May 19, 1690, two days before the Sunday of the Holy Trinity, Alonzo de Leon arrived at this river and following the custom of the Spanish explorers of the day, named the river after this religious Holy Day – “Rio de la Santissima Trinidad” or the River of the most Holy Trinity.”

During the period 1745 to 1748, Don Joaquin de Oribio y Basterra, captain of the Presidio at La Bahia (modern Goliad) was instructed to explore the Texas Coast and expel French invaders reported to be in the territory. He reached the Trinity near Liberty, “finding Indians on the Trinity River living in rancherias of bearskin tents.”

In 1754 a party of French traders was arrested by Spanish Governor Barrios orders at the mouth of the Trinity at a site designated by Spaniards as El Orcoquisac. The leader, Blancpain, who claimed to have traded with the Indians for 25 years, was clearly a government agent and not a private trader alone.

At Governor Barrios’ suggestion, the Presidio of San Agustin de Ahumada was erected in the summer of 1756 near El Orcoquisac, the spot of Blancpain’s capture. The mission of Nuestra Senora de la Luz (Our Lady of Light) was made by its side. The site of El Orcoquisac, the name of the settlement on the Trinity, was near a lagoon a short distance east of the Trinity, about two leagues from the head of the bay.

Texas Governor don Antonio Cordero dispatched from Nacogdoches a company of 110 men in 1805 to be stationed at Arkokisa above the mouth of the Trinity, near the present town of Liberty, supplementing a detachment of 50 men already there. Troops and supplies for this station came by the La Bahia Road, marking out the route known as the Atascosito Road, the oldest known road crossing the Trinity River in this area at a point about three miles north of the present town of Liberty.

Generals Charles Lallemand and Antoine Rigaud, formerly of Napoleon’s Old Guard, headed a French expedition that established a colony twenty leagues from the Gulf of Mexico on the Trinity, near the present town of Liberty in 1818. They received the assistance of Jean LaFitte, known in history primarily for his pirate activities, in setting up their colony. Seeking refuge from the restored Bourbon government in France, they named their colony “Champ d’Asile” – Place of Refuge. The French colony erected houses, forts and storehouses and attempted to cultivate the soil.

Because of scarcity of provisions and threats from the Spanish, the French group were forced to abandon their place of refuge and retreat to Galveston, seeking LaFitte’s assistance once again; thence to New Orleans, and some returned to France. The location of “Champ d’Asile,” while not positively proven, is designated by a State of Texas Historical Marker to be on the eastern side of the Trinity river bridge to the south on U.S. Highway 90.

In 1821, Mexico had become free of Spanish reign and opened the area legally to colonists; settlers poured into the area by the hundreds. The region was far removed from the Capitols at San Antonio and Saltillo and the Mexican administration moved so slowly, the area frontiersmen in their typical fashion, moved onto the land and worried later about legalities of title.

The establishment of the Atascosito District with two Alcaldes, George Orr and Henry Munson was finalized in 1826. The District was bounded on the north by the Nacogdoches District, on the west by Austin’s Colony, on the east by the reserve lands on the Sabine River and on the south by the Gulf of Mexico.

The first census ever taken in Texas was “The Atascosito Census of 1826.” The census takers were Mathew G. White, Joseph W. Brown, George Orr and Henry W. Munson. After the census was taken, the results of a vote of the people showed that a majority of those in the district desired to be added to Austin’s Colony, rather than the Nacogdoches District.

At Stephen F. Austin’s insistence, the petition of the citizens to be attached to his colony was finally approved in August, 1828. The alcalde, George Orr expressed the gratitude of the Atascosito District as the approval to be in the Austin colony enabled the area citizens to obtain proper grants and titles to their lands, which was the purpose of the census and the attachment.

James Taylor White established the first Anglo-American ranch in Texas. White is thought by many to be responsible for the establishment of the longhorn cow in the Liberty and southeastern part of Texas. James Taylor White did establish the first cattle trail in Texas known as the “Opelousas Trail.” The “Opelousas Trail” began in Liberty when White drove his cattle to the markets in Opelousas, Louisiana.

A decree was passed in 1830 suspending colony contracts and prohibiting further settlement of Americans. A customs house was established at Anahuac, with Colonel John Davis Bradburn in command of Mexican forces there. Bradburn introduced martial law, arresting and imprisoning citizens in the fort, meanwhile allowing his troops to steal and pillage property from citizens. Anahuac military commander John Davis Bradburn attempted to dissolve the ayuntamiento in Liberty on December 10, 1831, but the municipality survived.

During the period in 1831, J. Francisco Madero petitioned the Mexican government and was later granted complete navigation rights of the Rio Trinidad (Trinity River) for a term of 15 years. The state could not impose any special tax on the ships – it would be imposed on them by the impresario. Liberty was represented at the Consultation in 1835 and granted a post office in 1836.

Throughout the period Liberty served as a shipping point for plantations along the Trinity, for lumber operations, and for a variety of shipments from farmers. By 1840, James Taylor White, in cooperation with Jones & Co., an English firm, had built what was probably the first meat packing plant in Texas on the banks of the Trinity River in Liberty, marked also by Historical marker.

Sam Houston practiced law in the community from the 1830s to the 1850s. He maintained two plantation homes in Liberty County until his death. In the Texas Revolution, Andrew Briscoe's Liberty Volunteers, organized in 1835, fought at the siege of Bexar and the battle of Concepción, and it was to Liberty in February 1836 that one of William B. Travis's letters requesting reinforcements at the Alamo was delivered by Joseph Dunman.

After San Jacinto, captured Mexican officers were held for a time in Liberty at William Hardin's homestead, afterwards known as Mexican Hill. There the prisoners received kind treatment from the Hardin family and Harriet Evans Paine, a slave of Hardin's who lived to be nearly 100 and contributed to the area's history and folklore.

Liberty became the county seat and was incorporated in 1837. At that time, the town was a trade center for surrounding plantations. The arrival of Creole immigrant families in 1845 increased the area population, but by 1840 only ten or twelve houses stood at the town site. James Taylor White furnished most of the beef for Jones and Company, the English beef-packing business located at Liberty Landing. A trading post and warehouse served local residents.

The town functioned as an important port, with steamship transportation of passengers, trade, and mail to and from Galveston and with access to stage routes and ferry service across the Trinity. A school was founded in 1838. The population numbered 200 in 1845. The town cemetery was marked off in 1848. In the 1850s, as the community expanded, additional industry developed around its gristmills, cattle shipping docks, and two sawmills.

The Liberty Gazette was published as early as 1855. In that year the local Methodist congregation had more black members than whites; in 1858, of a population of 651, 189 were black. The Liberty Female Seminary and Male and Female School opened in 1858, and an Ursuline convent academy for girls in 1859. Liberty expanded as a shipping point when the Texas and New Orleans Railroad reached it in 1858, and in 1860 a Market House was under construction at the site of the future Sam Houston Elementary School.

The Liberty Invincibles were organized in 1861 for duty in the Civil War, and military leaders enlisted additional men from the community. The railroad suspended operations, but had resumed by 1875. The schools closed briefly during Reconstruction. Residents cooperated with the Freedmen's Bureau and organized no local Ku Klux Klan, though segregation continued. Smallpox and yellow fever epidemics in 1866 and 1867 slowed recovery, and the population dropped to 497 by 1880, when the town reported four churches, three schools, and a hotel. Liberty was divided into three wards in 1883. The Liberty Observer was first published in 1870, the Star State was first published in 1875, and the Vindicator in 1887.

By 1900 the town comprised roughly seventy houses, many of which stood alone on their respective city blocks. Livestock roamed the streets legally. Many local houses were owned by or rented to African Americans. The East Texas Bee was first published at Liberty in 1902; the Liberty Daily Courier, Progressive Outlook, and Liberty County News followed.

Oil discoveries in 1903 at the Batson-Old oilfield in neighboring Hardin County made Liberty, the nearest train stop, a boomtown. Three cotton gins, a gristmill, and a cigar factory were operating in Liberty around 1910. By 1907 the Trinity Valley and Northern Railway Company, built for use of the Dayton Lumber Company, served Dayton, located on the west side of the Trinity River and originally known as West Liberty.

A major boost in the population came in 1925 with the development of the South Liberty oilfield. The area's leading crop in the 1920s was cotton. Efforts to make the Trinity navigable for steamers continued from 1852 to 1940, when 236 miles of waterway had been completed and Liberty served as an inland port with barge connections to the Houston Ship Channel. The population rose steadily from 865 in 1900 to 3,087 in 1940.

During World War II, a camp for German prisoners of war operated at the Liberty TVE fairgrounds. The county fair, first held in 1909, moved to its Wallisville Road grounds in 1930 and with the support of Chambers County had become the Trinity Valley Exposition (TVE) in 1939.

Highway 146, which provides a route from East Texas to Baytown and the Texas City-Galveston area, was completed in 1950. In that year a veneer mill, a cannery, a commercial printing plant, and an ice plant contributed to the economy, and a local farmer grew orchids. The population rose to 4,161 in 1950, 5,591 in 1970, and 7,733 in 1990, when the town had 213 businesses. In the 1960s the Central International Corporation air-milled ingredients for insecticides, and in the 1970s the offices of seventy oil firms were located in the city. National Pipe and Tube became the major industry in 1973, constructing an immense facility in south Liberty. The downturn in the Oil Industry resulted in the corporation closing seven years later.

The only true replica, uncracked, of the Liberty Bell cast as the original at Whitechapel foundry in England, was dedicated by actor John Wayne in September 1960 in association with Sally and Nadine Woods fight against muscular dystrophy. The Geraldine D. Humphreys Cultural Center was opened in 1969, housing the Liberty Municipal Library and a performing arts theatre utilized by the Valley Players for frequent stage productions. The Liberty Bell of Liberty also has rung proudly in an award-winning bell tower located at the Geraldine D. Humphreys Cultural Center. In 2009 the Geraldine D. Humphreys Cultural Center is in an expansion and modernization program, including modernization of the bell tower.

The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center opened in 1977 and serves as both a museum and depository for thousands of historical documents utilized by researches nationwide. Governor M. Price Daniel, Sr. and his family built and contributed a home structure in 1984, based on the original plans for the Governor's Mansion in Austin. That structure, together with several historical building renovations, is now open to the public in the area of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center and used often for events. Liberty is also known as one of the most oldest towns in Texas.


Liberty is located at 30°3′27″N 94°47′48″W / 30.05750°N 94.79667°W / 30.05750; -94.79667 (30.057546, -94.796662).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 35.4 square miles (92 km2), of which 35.0 square miles (91 km2) is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2) (1.02%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 584
1870 458 −21.6%
1880 497 8.5%
1900 865
1910 980 13.3%
1920 1,117 14.0%
1930 2,187 95.8%
1940 3,087 41.2%
1950 4,163 34.9%
1960 6,127 47.2%
1970 5,591 −8.7%
1980 7,945 42.1%
1990 7,733 −2.7%
2000 8,033 3.9%
2010 8,397 4.5%
2019 (est.) 9,314 10.9%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the 2010 census Liberty had a population of 8,397. The racial composition of the population was 70.3% white, 13.3% black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 13.4% from some other race and 2.1% from two or more races. 23.2% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.

As of the census of 2000, there were 8,033 people, 2,860 households, and 2,053 families residing in the city. The population density was 229.2 people per square mile (88.5/km2). There were 3,187 housing units at an average density of 90.9 per square mile (35.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 75.54% White, 13.11% African American, 0.40% Native American, 0.68% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 9.25% from other races, and 1.01% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.83% of the population.

There were 2,860 households, out of which 35.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.9% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.2% were non-families. 25.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.65 and the average family size was 3.16.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.1% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 27.8% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,325, and the median income for a family was $41,369. Males had a median income of $33,013 versus $24,688 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,635. About 12.4% of families and 13.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.7% of those under age 18 and 11.8% of those age 65 or over.


Liberty Municipal Airport, a general aviation airport is located approximately 6 miles east of Liberty, just north of the intersection of FM 160 east with FM 2830. The runway is 3,801 ft. long and is oriented 16 – 34 ( 160 degrees – 340 degrees ). The Liberty Municipal Airport has a pilot courtesy room and fueling facilities with 100LL and Jet-A available. A new set of T-Hangars were completed with room for more in the future. Other major renovations and technology improvements are in progress. A runway extension is planned for the near future. The city provides a courtesy car for transient pilots. Pilots are encourage to check it availability prior to arrival.

Parks and recreation

The Park Theater was constructed and opened in 1938. This movie house entertained people for years before closing its doors. The theatre sat idle, then in 1993, the Cox family purchased the theatre and re-furbished the building, re-opening it as The Liberty Opry; a live, Branson-style musical entertainment venue. The theatre seats 400 and has a building adjoined to the theatre with restroom facilities, an office, dressing rooms to accommodate the entertainers who perform there, and a concession area, which seats 80. Although the owners have changed over the years, The Liberty Opry continues to operate today with weekly shows ranging from Country to Gospel to Rock & Roll every Saturday night under the direction of Jay Cantu at 7:00 pm. The Theatre and facilities are also available for private events.

The Geraldine D. Humphreys Cultural Center, a 23,000 square feet (2,100 m2) municipal facility, houses the Liberty Municipal Library and the 153 seat Humphreys-Burson Theatre. The Geraldine D. Humphreys Cultural Center opened and was dedicated on October 18, 1970. The Geraldine D. Humphrey's Cultural Center has undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation project completed in 2010, including renovation of the Humphreys-Burson Theater adding new seating, expanded storage space and new carpeting.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Liberty has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.

  • The Handbook of Texas Online,article on Liberty, Texas


The city of Liberty is served by the Liberty Independent School District. All residents are zoned to San Jacinto Elementary School, Liberty Elementary School, Liberty Middle School, and Liberty High School.

Cody Abshier is the Superintendent of Schools.

Residents of Liberty ISD are zoned to Lee College.

Public libraries

The 43,000 volume Liberty Municipal Library is located in the Geraldine D. Humphreys Cultural Center in Liberty. The Geraldine D. Humphreys Cultural Center, including the Humphreys-Burson Theatre which is home to the Valley Players theatrical company, was renovated in a major multimillion-dollar remodeling completed in 2010. The project has doubled the size of the municipal library serving Liberty, Texas and southeastern Liberty County.

The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, operated by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is located 3 miles (4.8 km) north of Liberty in an unincorporated area. Judge and Mrs. Price Daniel donated 114 acres (46 ha) of land for the purpose of establishing a library on September 27, 1973. Construction began in the fall of 1975; by then $700,000 had been raised through private donations. The library opened on May 14, 1977. Archives and displays show development of region, artifacts, furniture, Jean Lafitte's journals, and 1826 census. It also contains the Texana collection of former Governor Price Daniel.

Notable people

  • Bill Daniel, Governor of Guam, member of Texas House of Representatives
  • Vara Martin Daniel, Educator, First Lady of Guam
  • Marion Price Daniel, Sr., 38th governor of Texas, US senator
  • Bill Dodd, Louisiana politician
  • Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party
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