Liberty, the county seat of Liberty County, is on State Highway 146 and U.S. Highway 90 in the south central part of the county. The site is in a major oil and gas production area served by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Liberty once stood at the head of navigation on the Trinity River. The town was founded 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, petitioned unsuccessfully to be included in Stephen F. Austin's colony. Subsequently, under Mexican law, land commissioner José Francisco Madero established an office in the settlement and on May 5, 1831, granted thirty-six land titles there, thus forming a new municipality, Villa de la Santísima Trinidad de la Libertad. Hugh B. Johnston was made alcalde. In this Anglo-American colonization period, according to some sources, the town shortened its name to Liberty, after Liberty, Mississippi, whence many of the early settlers had come. Anahuac military commander John Davis Bradburn attempted to dissolve the ayuntamiento in Liberty on December 10, 1831, but the municipality survived. It 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. 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 Harriet Paine, a slave of Hardin's who lived to be nearly 100 and contributed to the area's history and folklore.
Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.
Diana J. Kleiner | © Texas State Historical Association
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