Welcome to Liberal, Kansas!
When we planned this trip earlier this year, we chose a handful of states to visit, but decided not to follow a specific itinerary. We usually go to large towns and ask people for recommendations or look at the map for points of interest. For obvious reasons, we couldn't resist going to Liberal, Kansas (population 20,218)!
The Liberal Visitor's Guide explains how the town got its name:
"In the 1880's water was a rare commodity in Southwest Kansas. Travelers and ranchers needed a place to rest their live stock and quench their thirst as they headed to the west, but when water was available it was quite expensive.
Mr. S.S. Rogers homesteaded in this area and dug a well. When visitors came through the area they asked Mr. Rogers if they could use his well. He obliged their requests, and when they had watered their livestock and restocked their water supply they asked Mr. Rogers what they owed him. "Water is always free here," Mr. Rogers would say.
The surprised visitors would respond, "That's mighty liberal of you." In time the area became known as "The Liberal Well." As the name caught on, travelers were cautioned to be sure and stop at the Liberal Well. Just a few miles off the southern Santa Fe Trail route, Liberal became an important stop in the history of westward immigration.
Mr. Rogers added a goods store so people could purchase other items they needed during their travels. Some decided to stay and farm this area and in 1886 Mr. Rogers added a post office to his store, incorporating the small community known as Liberal, Kansas."
Ironically enough, Liberal couldn't be more conservative. Bush got 79 percent of the vote in this area.
Liberal, like many small towns across America, is full of stores and businesses that are named after the town. Some remain in business, whereas most are empty. It seems that in years past, there was much more pride in maintaining the look and feel of the local community. Those that are still in business are struggling to maintain their existence even though there's little to no chance of surviving after Wal-Mart comes to town.
Much to our surprise, Liberal is also home to Dorothy and the Land of Oz!
Being that I'm a big fan of the Wizard of Oz, we had to take the tour...and a lot of photos.
Who says Kansas isn't ready for gay marriage?