Liberty City’s Residents Discuss Fondness For Quirky Community
By KENNETH DEAN
Tucked inside the westernmost part of Gregg County lies a community, formerly named Hog Eye, with a rich history that includes being chosen for Texas Monthly Magazine's Bum Steer Award because of city government follies.
Liberty City's name would make one think it is an incorporated city, but the several thousand residents, the shops, fast-food chains and the mom-and-pop restaurants are part of a community with no city council, no mayor and no city ordinances.
Although the town runs along a portion of Interstate 20, and the residents are tech savvy, there is an air of old-fashionedness mixed with good old Southern hospitality.
The residents say they love the fact Liberty City, last known population of more than 2,300, has no city government or city taxes.
But the city, classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as a Census Designated Place, has not always been lacking in government.
In 1979, the city voted to incorporate, but elected a mayor who opposed the town being incorporated. In 1982, the city elected a pro incorporation mayor, but the council voted to disincorporate.
Chuckling about the city's history and the Bum Steer Award from Texas Monthly Magazine in 1983, 77-year-old Frank Camp said the town, formerly called Hog Eye until the 1930s, has had its share of problems.
But he said he loved the fact that there was no city government.
"We've gotten along pretty well without one, so why do we need one," he said.
Camp's family was one of the original families in the area, and his ancestors helped start Hog Eye in the late 1800s.
Camp said his grandfather was a sharecropper and worked hard for his money, which he used to buy up tracts of land in the area.
"My grandfather and his brother envisioned a town here and they began working to put one together," he said.
Liberty City's boundaries, about 3.9 square miles, encompasses all of the Sabine Independent School District, and depending on what side of Old Kilgore Highway one lives, the addresses are split between Gladewater and Kilgore.
Camp's sister, a feisty 82-year-old who did not want to be named, said she is the town's postmaster, collects the water and utility payments, fills prescriptions at one of the town's pharmacies, and performs many more jobs.
The woman said she always has lived in Liberty City and loves it.
"Oh I don't think there's any other place I'd want to live. We are a self contained community with our own doctor, two dentists, a grocery store, two banks and restaurants," she said.
She continued saying one of her relatives was the postmaster of the town that was named Hog Eye, because it was hog country, and people came from miles around to eat ribs and back strap.
However, the woman could not remember why the town changed its name from Hog Eye to Liberty City, but she said it happened during the oil boom in the 1930s.
Two doors down from the pharmacy, Ali Hirani manages the Liberty City Shell station at the corner of Old Kilgore Highway and Kilgore Road.
Inside his store, there are winning Texas Lottery scratch off tickets everywhere.
Each ticket gives the amount the person who purchased the ticket has won. There are $100 winners, $1,000 winners and everything below and above.
"My biggest winner came last October," Hirani said, as he proudly pointed at the ticket taped to the store's counter top. "See it's a million dollar winner and that was bought right here."
Other shops include beauty shops, a Foodland grocery store, Moe's Pizza, which serves a great chef's salad, Crazy Bob's Barbecue and other locally owned businesses.
Standing behind the counter at Crazy Bob's, where a giant pickle caricature smoking a cigar is painted on the wall, Carissa Purcell said she has lived in Liberty city since 1969, and she also is glad there is no city government.
"Hey, there are no city taxes, and I think we do just fine without a mayor and city council. I do have a copy of the Texas Monthly magazine giving us a Bum Steer Award; she said laughing as she prepared a couple's barbecue plates.
Ms. Purcell said the entire town is built around Sabine ISD.
"The only big thing that happens here is when something happens at the school, like when the basketball team won several years ago. I have really never lived anywhere else, and I love it," she said.
Everyone in the town is friendly and has a tale about their beloved little city, and a hand painted sign near the parking lot of the shopping center where Crazy Bob's is located, punctuates that friendly atmosphere.
One side of the sign welcomes all to Hog Eye Texas, the other side simply states, "Y'all come back."