The Fourth of July—when the weather is hot and the grill is hotter—is a time to stop and reflect on concepts such as liberty, independence, freedom and patriotism. It seems the founding fathers of several U.S. municipalities had the same thoughts when they named their locales.
Ever heard of Liberty (Missouri and Kentucky)? Iowa certainly seems proud of its liberty, with Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty and West Liberty. Need some Independence? Head to Missouri, Iowa or Kansas. Then there’s Freedom, California, and New Freedom, Pennsylvania. And let’s not forget the symbol of American freedom: the bald eagle. Scour an atlas and you'll find Eagle County in Colorado, Eagle Mountain in Utah, Eagle Point in Oregon, Eagle Pass in Texas and the towns of Eagle, Idaho, and Eagle, Alaska (population 88). And if that isn’t enough, you can always go to Patriot, Indiana, or Unity, Oregon, or Prosperity, South Carolina.
This Independence Day, check out three small U.S. towns where even the town names are as patriotic as apple pie and the Fourth of July.
About 16 miles northwest of Kansas City, the town of Liberty, Missouri, spends three days celebrating Independence Day. The Liberty4thFest is in full swing every year, and the town makes a real experience of it with a beer garden, a dessert competition, live music, children’s activities, a farmers market and the requisite fireworks. The first settlers arrived in the Liberty area in 1819, attracted by well-timbered hills and proximity to the Missouri River. Incorporated 1829, Liberty holds the distinction of being the second-oldest incorporated town west of the Mississippi River. The town also is home to William Jewell College; this liberal arts college has been around for over 160 years and served as the NFL training camp for the Kansas City Chiefs until 1991.
The county seat of Montgomery County is home to just fewer than 10,000 people, but with an American flag and a red, white and blue color scheme on its website, there’s no doubt of the patriotism in this Kansas town. The Fourth of July celebration—dudded "Indy in Indy"—will feature live music and fireworks at “our beautiful Riverside Park and Zoo,” says Assistant City Administrator Kelly Passauer. Independence is home to the "Little House on the Prairie" Museum, which works to preserve the historic site and history of the Ingalls family and their time in Kansas from 1869-71. The Ingalls, of course, were the inspiration for the famous 1970s and '80s television series of the same name. The site includes a reproduction cabin similar to the one in which the Ingalls lived.
The town was even a first for America's pasttime: Professional baseball's first night game was played in Independence on April 28, 1930, when the Muscogee (Oklahoma) Indians beat the Independence Producers 13 to 3 in a minor-league game sanctioned by the Western Baseball Association. The town of Independence also has a connection to America's space mission: Miss Able, a rhesus monkey, was born at the city's zoo. Miss Able and Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey, became the first monkeys to fly in space; they returned alive on May 28, 1959.
New Freedom, Pennsylvania
People of German, English and Scottish-Irish descent settled this borough in the southern portion of York County, Pennsylvania. Burough Administrator T.L. Crawford says the small town that borders the Mason-Dixon Line has a “rail trail” that is popular with locals. “It’s a trail that used to be a railroad, and that’s very popular for people to walk, picnic on and enjoy." Right now, the town is enjoying a bit of a tourism boom, thanks to Steam Into History, which is a replica of the Civil War steam locomotive that carried Abraham Lincoln to deliver his Gettyburg Address. Two years later, it served as his funeral train. The locomotive pulls custom-built coaches on hour-long and 2.5-hour-long rides. "It’s kind of our tie-in to Gettysburg," Crawford says. "We’re about an hour away."
Patriotic small towns, by the numbers
According to the National League of Cities, there are 31 places nationwide with "liberty" in their names. Iowa has 4 such towns, which is more than any other state: Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty and West Liberty. Some 31 places are named "eagle," while 12 places have "independence" in their name. Looking for a little freedom? There are 9 places that have adopted "freedom" as their name, but there is only 1 town named "patriot"—Patriot, Indiana, with a population of 195. And for a bit of confusion, there are 5 places in the United States of America that are also named "America."