Welcome To the Liberty County Historical Commission

Historical Sites

This page contains Links to Liberty County History and sites regarding such.  The LCHC simply provides the link for educational purposes. 

Liberty Bell and Bell Tower

The Liberty Bell is the first true replica of the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia as it was first cast. Liberty’s bell weighs 2,016 pounds and was made at the Whitechapel Foundry in London in 1960. The bell was given to the citizens of Liberty by Sallie and Nadine Woods, founders of the Liberty Muscular Dystrophy Research Foundation, the first national foundation to fund muscular dystrophy research. The Woods sisters, natives of Liberty, were both victims of muscular dystrophy.

The bell tower was built in time to honor the 200th anniversary of our nation’s founding, and the City of Liberty was awarded a certification as a National and State Bicentennial City because of the uniqueness of Liberty’s bell and bell tower project. The ringing dedication of the tower was held on April 24, 1976, the date of Liberty’s Bicentennial celebration. The bell tower was Liberty’s gift to the nation, representing a permanent monument reflecting pride in the past and hope for the future. The Bell Tower was demolished in the spring of 2009 because of structural problems and design plans for a new bell tower are being developed.

The 1848 Gillard-Duncan House

1848 Gillard-Duncan House
The 1848 Gillard-Duncan House

The Gillard-Duncan (Welder) House, built in 1848 by Dr. Edward J. and his wife Emma DeBlanc Gillard, and located on the grounds of the Sam Houston Regional Library & Research Center, is one of the oldest homes in Southeast Texas. The restored home, complete with original furnishings, is open to public for tours. Please contact the Center for tour information. Tours must be arranged two weeks in advance.

Portait of a man with the words Edward Joseph Gilliard printed in lower righthand corner

One of eight families with the Creole immigration from the Red River Valley of Louisiana, the Gillard family arrived in Liberty County in December of 1845. These French families were direct descendants of the French nobleman and explorer, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis. Their family entourage included their daughter Eliza, nephew and niece Simeon and Celima DeBlanc.

Dr. Gillard built his plantation home to resemble the Red River Valley homes of "Plaisance" and "Castile." The home, strongly influenced by the Creole style of architecture, was built of native pine and cypress wood and was located on the M.G. White League, near Ames. The lumber for the house was milled at their plantation sawmill located nearby. Special features of the two-story home included a travelers' room, an enclosed stairway, marbling, and wood-grained doors. Another unique feature of the home was the upstairs school room. The Gillard family believed in a good education for their children as well as those of their neighbors.

The home remained in the family until 1976. In 1848 the Gillard's daughter Eliza married Captain William B. Duncan. After her death in 1856, Capt. Duncan married Dr. Gillard's niece, Celima, in 1858. Following Celima's death in 1925, her son Emory Duncan lived in the family home until he died in 1939 after which time Julia Duncan Welder made the home her residence until her death in 1954. Mrs. Welder, a well known local historian, is credited with the preservation of the many family artifacts and archives.

Elizabeth Gay Bennett, granddaughter of Mrs. Welder, inherited the home and in 1976 made a gift of it to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. In 1980 the home was relocated, for reasons of security and public access, to the grounds of the center. Through generous donations by family members including Elizabeth Bennett, Connie Pratka, Pat O'Conner, Chessie Quesenbury, Duke Felton, Mary Urban, Mary Welder Gay, Thelma Gay, Mrs. Emory Dugat, Pat Allison, Duncan Welder, Jr., Ann Welder Jolly, Mrs. Duncan Welder, Sr., Mr. & Mrs. W.H. Devine, Mrs. Opal Hightower and the Mary Gay Trust, the home was fully restored under the auspices of the Atascosito Historical Society which maintains the home on behalf of the Texas State Library. The house received a Texas State historical marker in 1984. Many members of the Gillard, Duncan and Welder families live in the Liberty County area.

The 1893 Norman House

1893 Norman House
The 1883 Norman House

This house illustrates how successfully the Greek Revival form could be reduced and simplified in the one-story house.

The principal characteristic of the Greek Revival evident in the Norman House is the floor plan of a central hallway with identical rooms on each side. Other characteristics include the front columns supporting a classic pediment, and the rectangular transom and side lights.

This house typifies many of the Texas residences between 1850 and 1890. Originally it had a detached kitchen and other outbuildings. The historical Norman House, built around 1883, was owned by three families.

It was probably constructed by Aurelia and Gilbert LaCour, who sold the house in 1887 to B.F. Cameron. W.T. Norman, a prominent Liberty attorney, purchased the home in 1910. His family occupied and owned the home until it was donated to the Atascosito Historical Society, Friends of the Sam Houston Center, by Miss Edna Norman in 1988. Miss Norman provided, in her will, an endowment to restore and maintain the home.

After studying various possibilities, the Atascosito Historical Society donated the house to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission as an addition to the Sam Houston Center complex. The house was moved on May 20, 1992, and restoration was completed in June 1994.

The Norman House features exhibits in an historical house setting and is open to the public for tours. Current feature attractions in the house are the "Victorian Parlor," a display entitled "A Woman's Work is Never Done" on housekeeping and food processing artifacts, and a Depression-era exhibit featuring glassware, furnishings, and games. Please contact the Center for tour information. Tours must be arranged two weeks in advance. 

History of the Families

The LaCour Family

Gilbert LaCour was born ca. 1818 in Louisiana and married Aurelia P. They had a son, Y.O., born ca. 1848 in Louisiana, and by 1851 they were living in Liberty, Texas.

In 1852 the elder LaCour became a partner with Byrd Holland and others in the ownership of the Sour Lake Springs Hotel which lasted until 1856. A prominent citizen throughout his life, Gilbert LaCour was elected a member of the Liberty City Council in 1884. Aurelia and Gilbert LaCour probably built the house around 1883.

The Cameron Family

The LaCours sold the property to Benjamin Franklin Cameron in 1887. He was born in 1840 or 1841 in Alabama. During the Civil War he served as captain of the militia organized in 1861 to guard the home front.

According to an affidavit, Captain Cameron came to Liberty in 1865 and boarded with H.C. Stone. Around 1865, Cameron married Adelia Ann Wrigley, who was born in Liberty in 1852 and a member of a well-known family. (Her father, James Wrigley served as Liberty County Treasurer from 1869 to 1871 and as Mayor of Liberty in 1850 to 1851, in 1858, and in 1882. He obtained the rank of colonel in the Confederate army. Wrigley was a commission merchant on the Trinity River in Liberty and a charter member of the Liberty Masonic Lodge.)

In 1870, Cameron was a dry goods clerk who had accumulated $2500 in real estate and $1000 in personal property. By 1880, he was a farmer and county government office holder with at least four children: eight-year-old Mattie, five-year-old Frank W., three-year-old Nina, and 18-month-old Charley.

Cameron served as the Liberty County Clerk from 1874 to 1893, the District Clerk from 1874 to 1875, from 1880 to 1893, and as the Texas State Representative serving District #36 (Tyler, Hardin, Liberty, Jefferson, Orange, and Chambers counties) from 1895 to 1896. He was initiated into the Masonic Lodge in 1868, and served in a number of leadership positions including secretary from 1869 to 1870, worshipful master in 1883, and treasurer in 1897. He also held the office of dictator of the Knights of Honor, a group which aided widows and orphans.

In 1887 Cameron and several other men had a merchandise business in Dayton and, as contractors, built several homes in Liberty. Even the Cameron family home had business functions, as it was used not only as a dwelling place but also as an eating establishment and as a boarding house for a small number of people. For example, in 1900 Thomas Branch, a single lawyer, and Jim A. DeBlanc and his wife and young daughter boarded with the Cameron family.

Cameron and his family took an active part in the religious life of the day. He and his family were active Methodists until 1893. He served as Sunday school superintendent and his wife, Adelia, organized a Sunday school class, led a music program, helped with fund raising suppers, and served as an officer in the Liberty Missionary Society.

Mrs. Cameron's ill health may have had an important impact on the Cameron family's religious life. Mr. and Mrs. Cameron frequently traveled to health resorts which offered mineral baths, such as Sour Lake. At Sour Lake they may have heard an Episcopal speaker which inspired them to change religious faiths. In any case, shortly after their return from Sour Lake, a missionary priest stayed at the Cameron home in May 1893.

As Cameron was the dictator of the Knights of Honor, he facilitated using the Masonic hall for Episcopal services. In fact, after Cameron and his son, Frank were confirmed in October 1893, Cameron himself conducted the church services in 1894.

The Camerons played an active role in the church. Frank Cameron played Romeo in a musical concert which was put on to raise funds for the church in 1896. In the same concert Frank Cameron and his future wife, Gertie Steusoff, performed a number called "Before and After."

In 1897 a Japanese tea benefit was held at the Cameron home.

Mrs. B.F. Cameron died March 8, 1903. Her life was not an easy one. She would have been married around the age of sixteen. She had had nine children, and by the time of her death she had buried six of them. She may have felt burdened by operating a boarding house out of her own home.

Mr. Cameron remarried in 1906. He sold the house to W.T. Norman in 1910 and relocated to San Antonio where he died in 1914. He was buried in the Liberty City Cemetery.

The Norman Family

W.T. (Wilber Tatem) Norman's paternal grandparents were John Simeon Norman of Norfolk, Virginia and Elizabeth Old of Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His father, Hollowell Old (H.O.) Norman, was born in 1840 in North Carolina and in 1858 married Emma Lucy Tatem.

H.O. and Emma Lucy Norman moved to Tennessee where H.O. Norman graduated from Cumberland Law School and worked as an attorney. While living in Tennessee they had seven children. Wilber Tatem was the fifth child, born in Memphis, Tennessee, on December 15, 1869.

Around 1888, after the death of Emma, the family, except for the eldest daughter, moved to Texas, settling in Shepherd, in San Jacinto County. W.T. married Katherine Wasson of Summerfield, Louisiana. Katherine "Kitty" Wasson Norman was born in Summerfield, Louisiana around 1874. She bore seven children, over a 22-year period: Wasson (1896-1901), Hollie E. (1898-1991), Elizabeth (1900-1980), Edna Ruth (1903-1991), W.T. "Dub" Norman, Jr. (1913-), Morris S. (1915-), and William "Ole Bill" Norman (1918-1979). The last three of the Norman children were born in the Norman house. A capable seamstress, Kitty made much of the family's clothing.

W.T. Norman worked at a variety of occupations before settling on a legal career. At one time he worked as a tie maker, using a broad ax to chop ties for the crossties for the railroad. In 1900, Norman's occupations were listed as farmer and preacher. By 1910 he was working at a livery stable which served as an early-day taxi service, transporting customers to cities such as Houston and Anahuac.

Later in life, his interest in religion became an avocation and not profession, as he continued to serve as a lay minister for the First Baptist Church in Liberty for many years and often held religious activities at the Norman home. His wife did not share his fondness for that particular faith and, perhaps due to his wife's influence, all of the children were raised in the Methodist church.

Norman followed in his father's footsteps and became an attorney. Like his father, he graduated from Cumberland Law School in Tennessee. By 1911 he served as Liberty County Justice of the Peace, a position he held until 1914. In 1915 he advertised that he was a real estate and land dealer, in addition to being an Attorney at Law. He practiced law throughout his life.

He died on August 16, 1950 at age 81, after a long illness. He passed away at the family home. His widow Kitty died in the hospital on September 1959 at the age of 85. After Kitty's death, the house was no longer used as a residence, although Edna Norman continued to maintain the property and preserved the residence. The house is dedicated to Miss Edna Norman.

The Jean and Price Daniel House

Jean and Price Daniel House

The Jean and Price Daniel House

The exterior of the Jean and Price Daniel House is patterned after the Greek Revival style Texas Governor's Mansion, built by Abner Cook between 1854 and 1856. Although Cook's plans for the Austin mansion included wings on either side of the house, they were not added due to insufficient funds. The wings of the Price Daniel House were constructed in the Greek Revival style; the balustrades and Ionic columns of the house were patterned after those built by Cook. Except for the entry hall and stairs, the interior of the Price Daniel House is unlike that of the Governor's Mansion.

Construction of the Price Daniel House began in May 1982 and was completed in December 1983. The 7,318 square foot house was officially opened in April 1984. In 1985, the Daniels, reserving a life interest in the house, donated the home and ten acres to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Full ownership passed to the State of Texas in October 1998. Officially known as the "Jean and Price Daniel Home and Archives," the house preserves and displays the library, archives, furniture, and mementos that document the Daniels' lives and years of public service. Artifacts of interest in the home include two paintings by Porfirio Salinas; official portraits of Jean and Price Daniel; and many awards given to the Daniels.

The Price Daniel House, maintained and funded by the Atascosito Historical Society, is located on the grounds of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, a part of the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Located 3 miles north of Liberty on FM 1011, off of State Highway 146, the Center is open Tuesday through Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM and Saturday 9 AM to 4 PM. Free admission. For further information, telephone 936-336-8821 or write PO Box 310, Liberty, TX 77575-0310. Tours are available by appointment; group tours must be arranged two weeks in advance.

Comments or complaints regarding programs and services of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission may be addressed to: Director and Librarian, PO Box 12927, Austin, TX 78711-2927; 512-463-5460; fax 512-463-5436.

Jean and Price Daniel

Price Daniel, the son of Marion Price and Nannie Partlow Daniel, was born October 10, 1910 in Dayton, Texas. He attended Baylor University, where he earned a BA in Journalism (1931) and a law degree (1932). Daniel practiced law until 1938 when he was elected a state representative. In this position (1939-1943), he fought against a state sales tax and was involved in the development of the Trinity River. He became speaker of the Texas House of Representatives in 1943; he later enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army. In 1944, Daniel enrolled in Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a 1st lieutenant.

While Texas Attorney General (1947-1953), Daniel fought against price fixing and organized gambling, and began his defense of the Texas tidelands. He continued the struggle into the U.S. Senate (1953-1957) and co-sponsored legislation that confirmed state ownership of the land. As senator, he fought against communism and drug trafficking. Daniel was governor of Texas from 1957 to 1963 and from 1967 to 1969 served as director of the U.S. Office of Emergency Preparedness under President Lyndon Johnson. Daniel was an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court from 1971 to 1978. For sixteen years, he was a member of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Daniel, who held more high state elective positions that any other Texan, died on August 25, 1988.

On June 28, 1940, Price Daniel married Jean Houston Baldwin, a great-great-granddaughter of Sam Houston. Born on February 13, 1916 to Franklin T. "Star" and Jean Houston John Baldwin, Jean Daniel attended Rice University and the University of Texas, where she graduated cum laude with a BA in English. As First Lady of Texas, Mrs. Daniel established the Texas Governor's Mansion Historical Collection in Austin and published the first comprehensive inventory of Mansion's furnishings. From 1988 to 1992, she served as a member of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Jean and Price Daniel had four children: Price Jr., Jean, Houston, and John.

The Daniels' contributions to historical preservation have been numerous. They co-authored two books, Executive Mansions and Capitols of America (1968) and The Texas Governor's Mansion (1985). In 1973, they donated the 110-acre site for the Sam Houston Center.

Why Liberty?

Two reasons led to Liberty as the site for the Southeast Texas regional center:

It is the location of the 1756 Spanish outpost of Atascosito, which became the seat of government for the present ten-county area in 1826, with name of town and district changed to Liberty in 1831. All or portions of the ten counties were carved from the Atascosito-Liberty District.

Former Governor and Mrs. Price Daniel donated to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission the 114 acre tract of land, a beautiful and historic site in the original B.W. Hardin League, immediately South of the Hardin Cemetery and north of the site of Atascosito. Governor Daniel also served as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Texas Attorney General, U.S. Senator from Texas, and as a member of the Texas Supreme Court. Mrs. Daniel is a great-great granddaughter of General Sam Houston.



Historic Attractions

Cleveland-Partlow HomeCleveland-Partlow Home
2131 Grand Avenue, Liberty
Built in 1860 by Judge C.L. Cleveland, purchased in 1886 by W.S. Partlow and occupied by the Partlow family for 96 years the Cleveland-Partlow home is now owned by the Texas State Library and managed by the Libertad Chapter of the DAR. The house is a recorded Texas Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Dayton Historical Society Old School Museum
111 West Houston Street, Dayton. Open Thursday – Saturday, 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
In operation from 1900-1910, this two-room school originally housed students in grades 1-7, with two teachers on staff. In later years it served as a private residence and an antique store. The restored Old School Museum is presently maintained by The Dayton Historical Society.

Gillard-Duncan House – Norman HouseGillard-Duncan House
FM 1011, Liberty (936) 336-8821. Located on the grounds of the Sam Houston Regional Library & Research Center
The restored Gillard-Duncan House (right), one of the oldest homes in Southeast Texas, was built in 1848 by Dr. Edward J. Gillard and his wife Emma DeBlanc Gillard. It features the original furnishings.
The 1883 Norman House, with restoration completed in 1994, showcases the Greek Revival form common to homes during the mid-to-late 1800s. Originally owned by three families, the Norman House was donated to the Atascosito Historical Society, Friends of the Sam Houston Center, by Miss Edna Norman in 1988. Miss Norman provided, in her will, an endowment to restore and maintain the home.

The Haunted Historic Ott Hotel
305 Travis, Liberty (936) 336-3832
Opened in 1928, the Ott Hotel was erected to accomodate the overflow of passengers from the T.N. & O. Railroad who were unable to obtain reservations at other nearby facilities. The interior has been restored to its original appearance, and the outside appears much as it did in 1928. In 2006, the Ott Hotel was designated a historical site, and is the last original functioning train depot hotel in the state of Texas. Tours are available by reservation. Be sure to visit the Ott Hotel’s website for photos and information on its “ghostly residents”.

Liberty Bell
1710 Sam Houston Avenue (Humphreys Cultural Center), Liberty
The first exact replica of the original Philadelphia Liberty Bell hung in a special bell tower on the grounds of the Humphreys Cultural Center in Liberty. The bell was cast by White Chapel Bell Foundry in London to serve as a symbol of the Liberty Muscular Dystrophy Foundation. It was dedicated on the Courthouse Square in 1960 and rung sixteen times by the late actor John Wayne. The Bell Tower was erected in 1976 to celebrate America’s Bicentennial. Due to damage from Hurricane Ike in 2008, the tower had to be dismantled in early 2009. The bell is currently on display in the lobby of the Humphreys Cultural Center.

http://www.libertydaytonchamber.com/virDirEditorAssets/libertydaytontx/chamberAccess/images/courthouse.jpgLiberty County Courthouse
400 Travis (Courthouse Square) in downtown Liberty.
The last of seven courthouses built on this present site, the Liberty County Courthouse was ready for occupancy in October 1931, and officially christened as the seventh structure in February 1932. The building has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Texas Historical Commission regards it as “among Texas’ most well-kept historic courthouses”. (Photo: Skeet Raggio Publishing)

G.W. Pounds Home
South of Daisetta on FM 770.
Constructed in 1890, the Pounds home is maintained by the Historical Society of East Liberty County. It is usually open to the public during the Mayhaw Festival celebration in May, as well as the holiday season in December.


Rosenwald School Museum
231 S. Colbert Street in East Dayton. 936-402-3560.
Opened to the public in February 2011, the Rosenwald School, used by African-American students from 1927 – 1967 until schools were officially desegregated, has been completely restored to its original design and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum holds artifacts and memorabilia from the time period that the school was used. Saving the historic building has been a priority for Dayton ISD and the Colbert Alumni Association, with a combination of public and private efforts. Donations, financial or historical, are welcomed. (Photo: James Grays, Colbert-Rosenwald Corporation)

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