Liberty, Missouri, (population 27,000), has a history rich in events that helped shape a young state and nation. The first settlers arrived in the Liberty area in 1819, attracted by an excellent water supply, well-timbered hills, and proximity to the Missouri River, the early transportation route of U.S. westward expansion.

The town was platted and chosen as the seat of Clay County in 1822. Liberty incorporated as a city in 1829 and is the second oldest incorporated town west of the Mississippi River. The city grew as an important commercial, government, and educational center in western Missouri. Today, Liberty is among the largest suburbs of Kansas City.

The Liberty Jail, built in 1833, is known for its most famous prisoner, Joseph Smith, first president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who was housed there in 1839. From the late 1840s through the 1860s, more than 70,000 Mormons passed through on their way to Salt Lake City, Utah.  

William Jewell College, one of the oldest private colleges in Missouri, was founded here in 1849. The first successful daylight bank robbery, allegedly by the James-Younger Gang, took place at the Clay County Savings Bank in 1866, which today houses the Jesse James Bank Museum. 

The city works with local property owners to maintain the historic character of the downtown area and has designated 18 local landmarks and five local historic districts. Liberty’s Courthouse Square is one of seven historic districts and seven individual properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The town’s Century Project recognizes the nearly 250 buildings in the community that are more than 100 years old through plaques, a poster and book, and guided tours. Guided walking tours of historic neighborhoods are held on the first Saturday of each month, and historic preservation staff coordinates tours for more than 700 area third-graders each year.

Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2007.

For more information

City of Liberty History

Historic walking tours

Historic downtown