LIBERTY — For local historian Christopher Harris, the Liberty Arsenal, located south of town, has provided the inspiration for his latest book, a chronological history text about the people who were involved with the military storage facility over the years. The depot was seized twice by Southern partisans, once during the Kansas troubles in 1855, and again shortly after the outbreak of the American Civil War.
Harris, who is well known for his local research and his work at the Clay County Archives, published “The Liberty Arsenal: An Ordnance Depot on the Missouri Frontier” in July. Prior to the publishing, Harris, along with a local student, managed to contact the current land owner and spend time on the property. A cistern was found and a north wall. Then the desire to write the timeline hit.
“After that I dug in with a passion,” he said. “I looked at all the records in the Archives. I talked numerous times with Jay Jackson (another area historian who passed away recently) and then spent numerous hours online. Out of my work came 155 pages.”
Harris calls it an obsession when he dives into history.
“I was also encouraged by Tony Meyers, another avid historian, to create the book,” he said. “The desire to either write the history books or collaborate with others represents a bit of everything for me. I was born and raised here. I love history. I started with examining the historic houses. Then I started helping with the walking tours.”
However, this book is something that Harris wants to see as a reference for those who want to look at the history from their backyards.
“I want the general public to learn about a period of time that they don’t often look at in history class,” he said.
The book begins with the history and purpose of the arsenal, which President Andrew Jackson ordered built in 1836. However, the extensive timeline begins with Missouri’s statehood in 1821 and moves forward from there. The book is full of correspondence from military leaders to those who served at the arsenal, manning the storehouse.
“I like to think that I am helping preserve those who worked at the arsenal,” Harris said.
Eventually military holdings and another arsenal was constructed at Fort Leavenworth, resulting in the Liberty Arsenal being decommissioned. Harris said he likes to define his book as having two sections. The first is about the military interaction in the city of Liberty. The second half is the importance of Liberty during the Civil War.
“Liberty saw soldiers marching to the Battle of Lexington. Then there was the Battle of Blue Mills Landing.” He said. “Then you have William Jewell serving as a hospital for Union troops. There were southern sympathizers as well.”
Harris currently has two more books on his research plate: a book on Liberty’s bicentennial and another book on century houses.
“I would love to get more people involved, helping with research,” he said. “I like to be part of ‘we’ projects. I think we are at a time for the renewed interest in our local history.”