The History of Liberty NC

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

It all began before Scotch, Irish and English colonists settled in this area. Liberty was primarily inhabited by the Catawba Indians, a branch of the eastern Sioux tribe. With fertile crops, bountiful hunting grounds and a nearby river, it's the geography of Liberty that made it a paradise for its original residents.

Around the year 1750 the future of this area would change forever. A mass migration was underway. 'The Great Wagon Road' as it was nicknamed brought immigrants from the North with their dreams of affordable land. Traveling by wagon-train and crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, thousands of colonists descended upon the Piedmont.

Liberty, NC Time-line

  • 1753 - Orange County is created. Within it, future Liberty.
  • 1770 - Liberty of Orange County becomes part of Guilford County.
  • 1775 - Sandy Creek Baptist Church established just outside of Liberty.
  • 1779 - Randolph County secedes from Guilford County
  • 1809 - The town of Liberty is officially born as Liberty Oak
  • 1809 - A town-square is formally established.
  • 1884 - Locomotive travel and transportation begins in Liberty.
  • 1884 - The Congregational Christian Church, Liberty's 1st church begins.
  • 1886 - Fairview cemetery is opened.
  • 1886 - The Liberty Academy begins operation.
  • 1889 - Liberty Is Officially Chartered
  • 1894 - The Liberty Herald, Liberty's 1st newspaper begins
  • 1895 - Fire ravages Liberty business district.
  • 1903 - Liberty's first bank begins operation.
  • 1907 - Liberty Telephone begins operation.
  • 1917 - Electricity Begins to flow Through Liberty.
  • 10/06/1922 - Joe Frazier professional baseball player is Born in Liberty
  • 1926 - Liberty establishes works & sewer.
  • 1927 - Liberty's landmark water tower: "Freedom Tower" is erected.
  • 1927 - Paving of town streets begins.
  • 1929 - Runa Curtis Greenleaf, opens Liberty's first theater
  • 1934 - The Liberty News begins publishing.
  • 1942 - first town library established
  • 1949 - Town theater moves to current location as the Curtis Theater.
  • 1949 - Liberty purchases first fire truck from Elmira, N.Y
  • 1966 - Library is relocated to current location
  • 1966 - Randolph High School of Liberty is closed
  • 1968 - Killer's Three starring Dick Clark filmed in Liberty.
  • 1971 - Paul Henry Smith Park established.
  • 1975 - The town hall is added to the library complex
  • 1976 - Patterson Cottage Museum restored.
  • 1976 - Freedom Park established
  • 1978 - The former Town hall, is renovated into the Roy Reitzel Center.
  • 07/21/1991 - Stephen King's Children of The Corn 3 filmed in Liberty
  • 1995 - Liberty resident Craig Kirkman wins world championship
  • 06/25/2001 - Liberty Heritage Wall unveiled
  • 06/25/2001 - Liberty is Designated As A National Historic District
  • 03/05/2003 - Local newspaper, the Liberty News suspends publication.
  • 09/01/2003 - - Liberty's first website goes live.
  • 11/22/2004 - Town council adopts centennial flag as town flag.
  • The Town of Liberty once part of Orange county and later Guilford County, would eventually become part of Randolph county after secession in 1779.

    Only three years earlier the Declaration of Independence was signed, throwing the town of Liberty and nearby counties into ground zero for the Revolutionary War.

    While population of the entire county at the time was less than one-thousand people, only a few small plantations, and farms made up the area called Liberty.

    During the war soldiers camped out in what is now Liberty. A large Oak tree in the center of the camp was used as a make-shift town-square, meeting place, and ultimately a place to hang war time criminals. The soldiers called it the Liberty Oak, after the Boston "Liberty Tree" a national symbol of individual liberty & anti-tyranny (popularized by the "Sons of Liberty" and the hanging of tax collectors during the 1765 British Stamp Act Imposition). In 1807, it was that same tree that John Leak, Liberty's first official resident would build his plantation around and later give the town its first official name of Liberty Oak.

    It is obvious even by the year 1809 people began to call the town Liberty from preserved official land transactions now located in historical archives in Asheboro. It is because of these findings that Liberty's town seal bears a picture of the Liberty Oak and has 1809 as a founding date, although the charter date is 1889.

    In 1886, the Liberty Academy, a tuition paid school began in Liberty. The town quickly gained a reputation as an educated, upper-class area. With bright minds flowing its streets, access to Liberty was easy due to the railroad and local depot. In 1889, the Cape Fear & Yadkin Valley Railway publicized Liberty as a town "where many contemplated and actual improvements evince a spirit of progress and enterprise. A fine school is established here, which for discipline and curriculum of study has already taken high rank among educational institutions of that section."

    During the 20th Century Liberty eventually evolved into a textile and manufacturing mecca thanks to the railroad and its convenience to the center of town. Liberty eventually gave birth to the Liberty Chair Company, remarkably employing more workers than the town had citizens.

    During the 1960's, encompassed in the civil rights movement and while the nearby town of Greensboro was bringing news of the Woolworth's sit-ins- Liberty laid metaphorically split into two different towns. Liberty & West Liberty.

    Eventually Liberty began to fuse again into a single town many years later. The downtown Curtis theater which posted segregated bathrooms and balcony at one time, would be transformed into a musical-arts outlet giving way to several other artistic venues from which the town now is known for. Today Liberty is diverse composite of various races, cultures and people who have moved here from all over the world to call it their home.

    Patterson Cottage Museum

    One of Liberty's most notable landmarks is the Patterson House Museum. Originally constructed in 1885 by Dr. Armstead Jackson Patterson as a retirement home for his parents, it is now a museum located near the town hall. When first built the home was located in what today is downtown, some two blocks to the north of its present location. Remarkably, this same area of town was ravaged by fire in 1895, but the house would survive the disaster and later be relocated in 1974. In 1976 the building was restored. Today artifacts and relics of the past can be found within the museum. With hosted tours and guides, the museum continues to serve visitors and residents to the town of Liberty.

    Liberty Chair Company

    Established in 1910 as the Picker-Stick & Novelty Company, The Liberty Chair Company would eventually take its namesake in 1912. Purchased by the Mohasco Corporation in the early 1980s, it once filled the large downtown factory adjacent to the Liberty Shopping Center. It served as the single largest employer in eastern Randolph county for many years, providing more jobs than the town of Liberty had citizens. The Liberty Chair Company produced everything from church pews to kitchen chairs. Its nameplate is still widely recognizable today throughout the antique industry and furniture insiders. The factory is responsible for providing the town of Liberty with its first electricity when it acquired a Dynamo electrical generator in 1916. The chair company would later be the motivating force behind Roy Reitzel's legendary water works vision, after the famed Liberty Chair Company fire in 1926. Today the building that once housed the Liberty Chair Company still exists in a less glorified state as a reminder to those who come to Liberty about the industry that built the town.

    Wesley Benton Owen
    Wesley Benton Owen was instrumental in keeping law and order in Liberty as its first marshal. Beginning with his assignment in Liberty in 1889, he would become popular with the citizens of Liberty by stopping train robberies, bank heists and counterfeiters. He would eventually go on to be mayor of Liberty in 1907.

    Roy C. Reitzel
    Roy C. Reitzel was a mayor of Liberty in the 1920s.Reitzel was the motivating force behind the construction of Liberty's first water and sewer works. Voted out of office likely because of the associated cost of drilling two wells and putting up a water tower, it's because of Reitzel that today Liberty has nine town wells with over 975,000 gallons of water in storage and over twelve miles of sewer lines that serve its nearly three-thousand residents. For this reason, many consider Reitzel ahead of his time.

    The former town hall, now senior center is named after Reitzel in his honor and is a hub of activity for the town's retirees and seniors.

    Paul Henry Smith
    Grandchild to the infamous Wesley Benton Owen. Paul Smith, gained his notoriety as mayor of Liberty beginning in 1965. He was praised for his collective and conservative handling of racial integration during his term. Because of his service to Liberty, he would later have a park named in his honor as Paul Henry Smith Park.

    Liberty Academy
    Located on what is today Liberty School. The Liberty Academy opened on May 6, 1885. With one teacher and a initial class of twenty one students, it quickly gave Liberty its reputation as the center of educational possibilities in North Carolina. Eventually, the school would evolve into the Liberty Normal College a school for training teachers. This began in 1899 and continued till 1909 when it became Liberty graded school and a public school to the town of Liberty. It continues to operate today as a elementary school under the Randolph County School System.

    Joe Frazier
    Professional baseball player and manager, Joe Frazier was born in Liberty, NC. At the age of 25 Frazier broke into the big leagues on August 31, 1947 with the Cleveland Indians.

    Liberty Heritage Wall
    The wall, actually a mural seven feet tall and 20 feet wide is located in the hallway which connects the town hall to the town library and was the brain child of Beverly Wilson. In 1999, Wilson and Liberty artist Brenda Shelton designed the montage of historic places and things represented on the wall. Several dozen volunteers used that design to carve and paint the 140 clay tiles which make up the wall. Seagrove artisan Ad Vanderstaak fired the tiles and mounted them to the wall.

    The wall incorporates images of such places as the train depot, the old firehouse and the Curtis Theatre. An oak tree with the date 1809, recognized as the founding date, occupies the central portion of the wall.

    Sandy Creek Baptist Primitive Church
    As the genesis for the beginnings of the church of the Southern Baptist, the largest Protestant organization in the world. Liberty has had historical and religious influences that can be felt throughout the planet. It all began in 1755 when 16 Baptists worshipers descended upon an area just outside of Liberty. Led by Elder Shubal Stearns of Connecticut, they founded the Sandy Creek Baptist Church.


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