Stephen F. Austin State University

Liberty County

Liberty County is located in southeastern Texas, along the Gulf Coast. The county seat is Liberty. The Orcoquisac Indian tribe lived in the area until European expansion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Texas government formed Liberty County in 1836.

During the 1840s and 1850s, farmers and merchants became wealthy through the plantation-style agricultural production of cotton, tobacco, and other items, along with transportation via the Trinity River and railroads on the eve of the Civil War. Citizens overwhelmingly approved of secession and several regiments from Liberty County fought for the Confederacy. Racial tension between African Americans and whites hurt an already depleted economy.
However, the revamping of the railroad industry both benefited and hurt the economy. While transporting goods and travel was easier via railroads, river traveled suffered due to decreased importance.

Reconstruction through the 1920s marked a period of economic growth due to selling rice and exporting oil. During this period, land values increased due to the drive for more oil, and the county was able to buffer the effects of the Great Depression because of oil revenues. New Deal programs brought electricity to the county's houses and farms.

During the last fifty years of the twentieth century, Liberty County became a leader in soybean and rice production, and river transportation revived itself in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1990s, conservation groups created the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge and Big Thicket National Preserve.

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Text: Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association.