Newspapers of the past made their mark on Liberty Hill
Liberty Hill Cyclone
Historians say this paper was established in the 1880s by the Rev. James King Lane and two business partners. He also served as postmaster of Liberty Hill in 1887. From 1874 until 1890, Lane was a circuit rider, attending to the spiritual needs of Methodists in San Gabriel and Liberty Hill. He was later elected to the Texas Legislature. Longtime Liberty Hill area resident Rex Lane is among his great-grandchildren.
Liberty Hill Index
The Index began in July 1892, and continued until at least 1918. The paper was published every Friday, and proclaimed that it was “Devoted to the upbuilding of Liberty Hill and surrounding country.” A classic 15-inch broadsheet, The Index’s four pages mostly contained national news and commentary, syndicated opinion columns, sermons, songs, and above all — advertising. Large display ads took up much of the space on the front page, from businesses such as G.W. Adams and Son, which promoted its groceries, feed and seed, as well as First State Bank.
Local news was primarily contained to small tidbits and personals, as seen in these examples from a damaged 1907 issue:
– “Harry Burke of Pohusky, I.T. [Indian Territory, modern-day Oklahoma], is here on business. He reports the Territory prosperous.”
– “Last Sunday afternoon, at the Baptist church, Miss Mills, a young lady of Baylor College, made an interesting talk on Missionary Work in Brazil.”
– “T.I. Simmons is erecting a nice house on his place east of town.”
More specific records are scarce on this newspaper, as well as on its publisher, Wesley J. Earls. His wife was listed as assistant editor.
Scanned images of The Index are available at a website maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries’ Digital Projects Unit, which has established what they call “The Portal to Texas History” that includes documents and photos from the past.
The Liberty Hill News
Only two issues of this paper are available on microfilm from the University of Texas at Austin’s archives, which the Library of Congress lists as the only known institution with copies. Both issues are from 1928. Five more are owned as hard copies by The Independent, which received them from the Round Rock Public Library in 2011.
Its editor in these copies is listed as J.H. Kavanaugh.
Like The Index, The News’ local news was mostly smaller isolated blocks of text, though they were now considerably longer.
– “S.R. Adams has installed at his residence, an all-electric radio set. It is one of the best radios in the country and he got it installed in time to hear Gov. Al Smith’s speech accepting the presidential nomination.”
– “Car Whitted was in with the first bale of cotton on Wednesday of last week. He estimates that the crop will make from a fourth to a fifth bale per acre.”
There was, however, more dedicated local coverage. The July 5, 1928 issue announced in a two-inch bold headline the coming of a religious revival set to begin the following Friday. Accompanying the headline, the visiting preacher from Waco was depicted in a photograph. That, too, was a marked development from The Index.
Archived copies are also available for viewing online at the University of North Texas Libraries’ Digital Projects Unit.
Liberty Hill Leader (1st)
There have been at least three newspapers in Liberty Hill that have published under this name over the years. Little is known about the first. First published in 1932, and running through the 1940s, it was purchased by The Williamson County Sun.
An April 30, 1948 issue in local historian Gary Spivey’s collection shows a front page dominated by half a dozen local stories, none more than four paragraphs long.
– “The Liberty Hill Bridge Club met at the home of Mr. And Mrs. E. I. Purser Tuesday night. There were five tables of bridge and one 42. A salad course was served to the following guests…”
– “Liberty Hill will have several units in the Centennial Parade at Georgetown Saturday. Two floats, one representing the school, and an Indian float; horseback riders; bicycle riders, Indians; and a real honest to goodness covered wagon, with Mr. And Mrs. Jon Faulks, dressed as pioneers, riding in it. The time is 2 o’clock.”
There were also, for the first time, local features.
“In the Hopewell Cemetery a mother, father, and daughter lie in a common grave, victims of the last Indian massacre in this part of the county, possibly the last in the whole county….”
Established in 1975, with Ellis Posey listed as publisher and editor, this publication was originally published monthly, then later twice a month. It was purchased by Taylor Newspapers, Inc., in 1976, at which time it became a weekly publication with Carolyn Harper listed as editor.
Sleek mid-century type, a focus on photographs and political cartoons, and a somewhat lighthearted editorial tone set this paper apart from its predecessors. It was the first known newspaper in Liberty Hill to have a crossword.
The year before The Libertarian folded in 1978, subscriptions were $5, though on special, they were only $3.95.
The Liberty Hill Community Advisory Council published The Paper for a short time in 1981, with Dee Dee King as editor. It was mailed free to local postal patrons.
As was the case with other local papers into the 1990s, the overwhelming majority of space was dedicated to school stories. They were broken up, however, by the occasional feature, such as a seven-week series that examined each of Liberty Hill’s seven churches.
The flooding of the North San Gabriel River was covered in the Oct. 1, 1981, issue by a local citizen writing in the first-person, and by a high school essay. “It was certainly not just the adults who were very frightened,” an editor’s note with the piece said.
This tabloid-style paper began its monthly publication in August 1982, with Dee Dee King again as editor. Copies can be found going into 1983. It covered Bertram, Andice and Florence in addition to Liberty Hill.
The Sentinel was less-school based (somewhat) than its predecessor, and more focused on columns.
“One of the problems facing residents of Liberty Hill has been the lack of law enforcement,” read King’s column from May 1, 1983. “Recently, the Cultural Affairs Council sent a letter to Williamson county Officials asking for increased police patrols on the weekends.”
Next to it, the “Shinoak [sic] Ridge Philosopher” column lamented the passing of winter.
Florence Free Press – Liberty Hill Leader
In 1986, Liberty Hill’s news coverage was limited to a weekly column in a nearby county newspaper and occasional coverage by two other out-of-town newspapers.
The Florence Free Press, which began earlier that year, expanded its coverage to include Liberty Hill, taking on the mantle of the 1932 paper.
Its publisher, Peggy Jo Ross, worked with Editor James Wear to produce the news for the two towns — but only for a short period. In 1987, Wear split off, taking the “Liberty Hill Leader” portion with him. Ross continued the paper as The Florence Press.
James Wear, now a columnist for The Independent, started this paper in 1987 after dissolving his partnership with the Florence Free Press-Liberty Hill Leader. The Outlaw Express covered Liberty Hill in addition to Florence and Jarrell.
Before shutting down in November 1987, the paper underwent some changes. Its bi-weekly schedule became weekly, and its tabloid format became a broadsheet.
The Outlaw had a distinctly self-aware country style, and was named so, an editor’s note read, because “Everyone says we look like a bunch of outlaws, anyway.”
Bertram Liberty Hill-News
Believing Liberty Hill to be on the verge of a breakthrough in growth, The Burnet Bulletin expanded its coverage into the town in 1984. Three years later, former staff member Ed Schaeffer split off to form The Bertram Liberty Hill News, which centered on short, punchy features and large photos.
In a second split, sports writer Jim Linzy left The Bertram Liberty Hill News to establish The Liberty Hill Independent — the first issue was published Oct. 29, 1987.
A month or so later, James Wear discontinued The Outlaw Express to join Linzy. The Bertram Liberty Hill News lasted only a few more months.
A large part of The Independent’s early success, Wear says, was that it was the only newspaper dedicated solely to Liberty Hill. Hence its slogan, “The only newspaper that gives a hoot about Liberty Hill.”
Shin Oak Ridge Reporter
James Wear left The Independent in 1989, after feeling that he and Jim Linzy had grown apart in how they saw the paper’s future. In 1997, Wear and his wife, Paula Wear, began publication of the Shin Oak Ridge Reporter.
A four-page broadsheet, coverage was still mostly focused on high school sports (written without adjectives, mostly). Its other focus was the Liberty Hill Volunteer Fire Department, where Wear was a volunteer.
“I could provide a lot of information because I actually witnessed it,” Wear said about the accident scenes he would cover.
The paper continued for four years before shutting down operations.
Liberty Hill Bullet
After the Shin Oak Ridge Reporter closed its doors, Kathy Canady began The Liberty Hill Bullet in 2001. Contrary to rumor, it was not a continuation of the Reporter.
Canady, though she had no newspaper or writing experience, produced the paper for three years as an alternative to The Independent’s coverage of city council.
The Bullet was characterized by its fiery editorials and commentary, written to defend Canady’s husband on the city council, but equally by its folksy newsletter-style features. “Welcome to the Home of…,” for instance, listed a different household in town every week.
In 2002, it became the first Liberty Hill newspaper to print in color.
The Liberty Hill Leader
The third paper in Liberty Hill with this name, The Leader began after Jamie Williamson obtained what remained of The Bullet in 2004. Williamson published a few issues as The Bullet before changing the name.
Like its predecessor, The Leader was known for its strongly-worded op-eds, but it also covered hard crime and vehicle crashes at a time when Pogue’s Independent would not. Its front page often featured arrest mug shots from the week, which began as a way to chronicle the ongoing methamphetamine busts law enforcement officers were making at the time. Later the mug shots expanded to include individuals arrested for other offenses.
Williamson, who is the daughter of The Independent’s founder Jim Linzy, remained Leader publisher while she served as Liberty Hill Mayor from 2012-2014. She sold the paper in 2014 to sports writer Chuck Licata, but a year and a half later she returned to help production.
In January 2017, the newspaper was purchased by The Independent and put out of publication.