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Visit Liberty

Explore Liberty, Missouri, and all it has to offer through the eyes and experiences of our guest bloggers. 

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Oct 30

Step Back in Time with the Clay County Museum & Historical Society

Posted on October 30, 2017 at 3:04 PM by Sara Cooke

As a life-long Liberty resident, searching through this community’s early history is my obsession. I like to share it with visitors and new residents who stop by the Clay County Museum and Historical Society on the historic Liberty square at 14 North Main St. The 1860s building that is home to the museum is resplendent with this history as well as a sample of the beautifully kept historic buildings in Liberty.

Home to the museum and historical society for the last 52 years, the building itself is a step back in time.

Main Street Date unknown

Come and visit.

Your journey begins before you even enter the building as you pass the iron ring embedded in the sidewalk that reflects the age of horse and buggy travel. As you approach the door, an 1888 stoop with “Simmons” in red tile leads to the heavy wooden doors with the brass bell heralds your entry.
Simmons doorstep

As you step inside, the stillness offers a transition into history as well as the invitation to wander the three floors of artifacts. Pointing out that this has always been a pharmacy, at least in some part, I give listeners a brief history. The beautiful walnut cabinetry and deep red stained-glass pieces that date to the 1877 renovation reveal the pride that druggist Daniel Hughes must have felt in their creation. The clay tile floor was added in 1888 by Joseph Simmons. The elegance of a bygone era permeates the air.

Clay County Museum interior

I marvel that earlier storekeepers supplied whatever the locals needed, from hardware to flour and banking to medicines. The evolution to the pharmacy still meant supplying necessities such as tobacco, fabric and even gasoline for decades to come. A heavy pot-bellied stove once graced the back workroom and provided a gathering spot for locals to gather. Today, we use this space as a Reading Room for guests to browse through news clippings and family histories.

As a talk with visitors, I am in my element when I get to say “This is a collection of hand sewn quilts and coverlets,” or “Here rests the gate latch from the 1836 Federal Arsenal, raided by southern sympathizers in 1855 and again in 1861.” Some of the pieces I am familiar with since I used many as a child (that was back in the 1950s, not the 1850s). Farm and kitchen tools that my grandparents used are displayed on the lower level. That was a time when people used up what they had rather than replace it due to wear. Truly a “waste not, want not” mentality.

Although my family “doctored” with Dr. Hendren across the square, I enjoy touring Dr. Goodson’s office that is preserved on the 2nd floor. He practiced there from 1906 until his death in 1963, making many of his own instruments. His surgery/treatment/office is a far cry from today’s sterile, modern counterparts, but at the same time rather homey and comforting. Visitors will marvel at the skill he used in treating his patients without the convenience of modern-day equipment.

Now, with your head filled with the sights you’ve seen, the history you’ve absorbed, you return to the reality of 2017. Your journey is complete. Your time well spent. A return trip – a must!

Contributed by: Chery Carr Holtman, President of the Clay County Museum & Historical Society

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