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Liberty, MO, Clay County Courthouse
Liberty, MO, Clay County Courthouse
TitleLiberty, MO, Clay County Courthouse
DescriptionPostcard of Clay County Courthouse, Liberty, MO
Historical ArticleA color post card made in Germany in 1909 shows the south side of the square in Liberty and the historic, red brick Clay County Courthouse, which occupied the center of the town's square from 1857 until it was removed in 1934 to make way for the present courthouse.

The carved wood statue of Justice, which topped the courthouse dome, came to Liberty on a steamboat, by way of the Liberty Landing, from St. Joseph.

The U.S. flag was removed from the courthouse in 1864 in respect to Clay County sympathizers of the Confederacy, and it was not until 1912 that the U.S. flag was raised again on the courthouse flag pole. A Washington official was due to visit Liberty, and it took some frantic hunting to locate a flag for the occasion.

Shown parked at the left side of the picture is an old 2-seater, 4-cylinder Model S Ford roadster, and lounging in front of the courthouse wall are the car's owners, Sterling Price Boggess and his son, H. L. Boggess. They had the distinction of owning the second automobile in Liberty, the first car having been a Renault owned by John Fisher.

Boggess had been a farmer in the Providence neighborhood and had moved from the farm to Liberty and started a hardware business with his sons, H. L. Boggess and Collier Boggess, in December, 1902. Their 2-story store building was directly across the street from the old courthouse. Collier Boggess still operates the store and identified the Model S Ford, his brother and his father in the post-card scene.

Collier Boggess said that when automobiles began to be made, the hardware business became secondary to his father. He was crazy about the new invention and couldn't think or talk of anything else.

Boggess obtained a Ford dealership in 1903 and he ran it for more than 20 years. An old brick building at Mill and Main streets, which joined the hardware store in the rear, was used for the automobile business.

Collier Boggess remembers going to Kansas City with his father when Henry Ford was to be there on business. They drove to Harlem and crossed the river on the Annie Cade ferryboat. Collier said they didn't think of Ford as a celebrity but as just a very smart mechanic who knew a lot about the vehicle that was going to outdate the horse and buggy, a lively and friendly fellow.

At the close of a day filled with automobile talk and discussion of the Model T that was being planned, Ford asked Boggess if he would take on the entire Kansas City area as dealer. Boggess was pleased, but knew his financial limitations and refused the offer. After all, he was just a few years from the farm, and the dealership had not been a money-maker. He thought he better stick to the Clay County automobile trade and his hardware store.

In the background of the old post card scene are other landmarks. At the right is the Clay County Savings Bank, where in 1866 Jesse James staged his first bank robbery, the first daylight robbery in U.S. history. The building is now Jack Wymore's museum and gift shop.

The large, gabled Gosney residence in the left background still stands and looks much the same today. Alan Wherritt, its owner, has converted it to business offices and apartments.

The old courthouse had two jails, which opened on the north side of the building. Collier Boggess told of a mentally disturbed prisoner who escaped his cell and climbed through a trap door on an upper floor, up a ladder past the clock works and into the great copper dome.

It took eight deputies a day to get the man safely back to his cell, the rescue being hampered by a large swarm of bees.

The iron grill work and outside iron steps leading to the second floor balcony of the courthouse also brought back memories, for here on two different occasions citizens of the county had taken things into their own hands, and there had been lynchings from the strong ironwork. Bodies were left dangling for all to view.

The old courthouse was razed in 1934, and a separate 3-story jail was erected one block south of the square. A St. Joseph wrecking company paid $330.00 for the old courthouse (as pictured), which included the flagstone floors and the wrought iron steps. Justice was salvaged by Jim Davidson and was eventually placed on the lawn of a rural Clay County restaurant, Sandstrom's Oak Ridge. Her scales and sword are gone but, with hand held high, she nicely supports an outdoor light for the customers.

The address side of the post card tells a story of travel time in 1910. It was mailed in Excelsior Springs by an Independence couple that had made an overnight stop in Liberty while traveling by horse and buggy from Independence to the spa. It reads:

Excelsior Springs, Mo. Aug. 21, 1910. When we go home (to Independence) we will drive southwest to South Liberty, cross the Big Muddy there and land near Sugar Creek, and by so doing can easily get home in a day. Excelsior Springs is quite a town and has hundreds of mineral springs and wells.

We are staying out of town at Hill Crest and we have 'Slipper' along. Slipper is on pasture. Our bath house is in the P.O. Bldg.
Angie and Allan.

Today Collier Boggess goes to his hardware store daily, closing it only one hour at noon, when he goes home to lunch. At the store he sits at his desk in the rear of the store, where he can see folks coming and going. Three helpers wait on the customers, many of whom come from out of town to purchase heavy hardware, tools, chain, coal-oil lamp and lantern fixtures, wicks and chimneys, iron skillets, tinware and crockery. Many of the older items are not usually available in modern stores.

Kansas City Times
September 1, 1977

AuthorRay, Mrs. Sam (Mildred)
Item TypePostcard
CollectionMrs. Sam Ray Postcard Collection (SC58)
See finding aid: http://localhistory.kclibrary.org/u?/Local,36981
Local SubjectCourthouses
Liberty, Missouri
Clay County, Missouri
Digital FormatJPEG
RepositoryMissouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
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