The History of Bagdad - Established (1855) by Max Cacher
Despite the dangers of being attacked by Indian raiding parties, white settlers began moving in small numbers into what later became the town of Bagdad (named for Bagdad, Tennessee, the hometown of one of the early settlers) in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Soon a thriving little community existed on the South Fork of Brushy Creek just west of present-day Leander.
One of the settlers, John Frederick Heinatz, built his home and adjoining store in 1850 near the intersection of present-day Bagdad Road and Nameless Road.
John later became the postmaster of Bagdad, served as a public school trustee, was a superintendent of Sunday School, banker, and practical advisor to his neighbors. He married Emilie Krohn and had nine children, six boys and three girls, seven of whom lived to adulthood in their home in Bagdad.
In 1854, Bagdad (named after the hometown of one of the residents) was surveyed by innkeeper Charles Babcock and a post office established in 1855; thus, the town of Bagdad, Williamson County, Texas was established in 1855.
Also, in 1855, Bagdad became a stage-stop for the Austin to Fort Croghan (in present-day Burnet) stage line and later joined by a second stage-line, the Austin to Lampasas stage. Both stagecoach routes made a stop in the adjoining villages of Liberty Hill to the Northwest and Pond Springs to the Southeast...
The earliest schools in the area were held in the homes in Bagdad.
In 1860, the Methodist Church log building was constructed and used as the Bagdad public school. In 1871, the Masonic Lodge was completed in Bagdad and became the public school for Bagdad. Then in 1893, a free public school opened in the new railroad town of Leander. The Leander business leaders then organized a high school association in 1899 to furnish support for the Leander educational system.
That same year (1899), the Masons moved their lodge to the new town of Leander, where it still stands today, just west of U.S. 183 near the new post office.
The original Masonic Lodge, Built-in 1870/1871, became a public school in Bagdad.
This building was built in 1899 as the Masons moved their lodge from Bagdad to Leander.
In the 1881/1882 timeframe, the townsfolk of Bagdad were told of the approaching railroad line that was being built from Marble Falls to Austin to carry granite for the new state capitol building being built in Austin.
However, the railroad officials met a solid wall of opposition from the already entrenched town of Bagdad. As a result, the railroad decided to move their tracks a mile or so to the east of Bagdad and establish a new town.
Leander is Established in 1882
Among the first settlers in the Leander-Bagdad area were Thomas Hornsby, born 1805, who came to the area to become Bagdad, in the summer of 1846 and put up a 1og cabin, the first known home in that vicinity; Harmon Smilser, born in Tennessee in 1793, who came sometime between 1846 and 1850; Charles Babcock and his family, who came on Christmas Day, 1851. It was Babcock who surveyed the town of Bagdad in 1854. John H. Shaffer and John F. Heinatz were two of the first merchants in Bagdad; Heinatz also opening a blacksmith shop and succeeding the first postmaster, Thomas Huddleston. Others arriving in the early 1850s were James Williamson, George Craven, Robert Marley, Eli, and Andrew Hamilton, John Faubion, Colonel C. C. Mason, William f. Carothers, John Schooley, E. A. Walker, W. R. Walker, and Tom Cashion. Arrivals before 1850 in the Leander‑Bagdad area included two brothers, James and Nicholas Branch--James, born in 1807, and Nicholas in 1813; Greenleaf Fisk (1811-1887); M. J. Wells (1819-1893) and Henderson Upchurch.
As the railroad tracks were completed in 1882, the land was sold to the railroad and surveyed into lots to form the new town of Leander.
As was the case in most early-day railroad towns, the town of Leander was named after a railroad employee; in this case, the town was named for Leander “Catfish” Brown, who was one of the men responsible for the completion of the rail-line. The post office was brought from Bagdad to Leander in 1882, and the first bank, Humble & Chapman, was established. Doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices, and a drug store had also joined this new community. The business leaders of Bagdad soon realized the advantage of being located close to the railroad tracks, and a rush was on to relocate businesses to Leander, which virtually closed down the town of Bagdad in 1882.
Bagdad Cemetery Historical Marker, Bagdad/Leander, Texas
Opened 1857 with burial of 3-year-old John Babcock, whose father Charles later gave tract to community. Other early burials were Civil War veteran John Haile and Col. C. C. Mason. Leander, founded 1882 when railroad bypassed Bagdad, shares use of this tract, enlarged in 1959 and 1966
Address: 400 N. Bagdad Rd, Leander. N on US 183 from Leander, L on Hero Way West (Old FM 2243) about 1 mile W to N. Bagdad Rd, the cemetery at the intersection, SE corner.
The History of the Bagdad Cemetery by Frances W. Wynn
Part of the material used in this report was based on an article written by M. James Faubion, which was written for the Sun (the Williamson County Sun) in June 1921. Mrs. T. M. Wiley Fred Henry
One mile west of Leander on Ranch Road 2243 is the Bagdad Cemetery.
The cemetery is visible for nearly one-half mile as you leave Leander. It is surrounded by a chain-link fence. As you approach it, you can see on the slight upgrade high headstones and tall spiked monuments in and about the several small groves of large live oak trees. In the northwest corner, a small group of white stone crosses mark the old Mexican and Negro cemetery, which is now a part of the well-kept grounds. Midway on the upgrade is a large shed built of limestone for special services. Beyond this building to the south is the newer grave sites end further to the west in a flat is the newest part with only a few graves. Further south in an undeveloped area among large Live Oak trees is the large open shed built for homecomings.
The Bagdad Cemetery has not always been this way.
Even though it was not in total disorder, the need was seen early enough to turn the tide. In order to take a close look at how this all came about, it would be well to look at the development of Bagdad and Leander.
It was in 1844 that Thomas Hornsby moved into the area, which is now known as Bagdad.
Hornsby was of the family of Hornsbys from Travis County and Hornsby Bend on Colorado. It was Hornsby that built the first cabin on the prairie around this area. The Smelsers and Dawsons came next from Missouri in 1845. The Dawsons built nearby but did not remain long. Fiery D. Edwards and his wife, the former Miss Mary Smelser, settled shortly after the Smelsers.
Later about 1846, Nicholas Branch and his brother, James Branch, moved into the area from Mississippi, coming formerly from Tennessee. A little later, Uncle Charlie Babcock and others came from Illinois to settle.
Judge Greenleaf Fisk moved here in 1848 and settled with his family on the South San Gabriel.
Judge Fisk was the chief justice for the area at the time that Williamson County was formed, and he became the county judge thereafter.
Other early settlers were John Faubion, Thomas Huddleston, J.W.S. Williamson, Col. C. C. Mason, John Heinatz, the Bittick and Taylor families, James B. Knight, and B. F. Dalton.
Colonel Mason applied for a postmastership and received it.
There was, however, a question as to what the name of the town would be. Thomas Huddleston suggested that they call it Bagdad after a hamlet near where he lived in Tennessee. There was no objection to the town officially became known as Bagdad. Mason being a stockman, turned the post office over to John Heinatz, who is the blacksmith, afforded a central location where people gathered. John Knight opened the first store in Bagdad in 1855.
A small grave with a tall limestone marker and a limestone cover stone seems to tell the story of the beginning of the Bagdad Cemetery.
For it was only three years after his birth in 1854 that John L. Babcock was buried. It was the acre on which little John Babcock's grave was located that Charlie Babcock donated for a church and burying ground.
Five years later, in 1862, Mr. Babcock gave 2.9 acres more for a church and burying ground.
It is believed that during this time, a brush arbor was built. Mr. Babcock and his family moved to Burnet after the Civil War, but he gave one more acre in 1904.
The graves in the older part of the cemetery show some of the pains borne by the Civil War. One such grave is that of John Haile. Mr. Haile was wounded in the Civil War and was tied to his horse and sent home. He went from camp to camp and finally arrived home in February 1864. He died a few days later, on February 21, 1864. He was buried near the grave of John Babcock.
Colonel Mason died on March 2, 1865, shortly before the end of the Civil War.
His monument, which is the tallest in the cemetery, is also only a short distance from the first grave.
In 1882 the Austin and Northwestern narrow-gauge railroad was built to haul granite for the new state capitol. The railroad offered to come by Bagdad for a bonus of $1000 dollars, but this was refused by the businessmen of the town. The railroad survey had placed the railroad one mile east of Bagdad. When the railroad was completed, the town of Leander was founded on the railroad line one mile to the east of Bagdad. All of the businesses moved there.
The close ties between the people who settled Leander and Bagdad Cemetery can be illustrated in the fact that to this day, there is no Leander Cemetery by name even though one was started. It seems that everyone wanted to be buried at Bagdad.
It was only ten years after Leander had been founded that one of Bagdad's earliest settlers, John Heinatz, was buried on May 4, 1891.
His wife Emilie lived until 1935 to see many of the changes in this area.
Sometime early in the 1900s, a wooden shed was built to replace the brush arbor. In the 1930s, this shed was rocked, and a cement floor Baas poured. Mason Chapman paid for the new tin roof, and the east end was closed up by doors donated by Mrs. Maud Moley.
As late as 1930, the cemetery still had a hearse, which was drawn by two horses.
Lee Nobles and Mrs. Martha Craven each had a white horse that was used to pull the hearse. Roscoe Craven had two black horses, which were also used. Later on, it was mounted on a Model-T truck.
The graves were cared for by individual families as late as 1959. On each November 11, the people would bring picnic baskets to the cemetery and clean graves. However, this proved to be inadequate for keeping the whole cemetery clean as many of the relatives of people buried at Bagdad had moved away. The directors during this time were Roscoe Craven, Frank Faubion, Leslie Mason, and E.M. Williamson.
In May 1959, a group of concerned men met with the directors of the cemetery to discuss the fate of Bagdad Cemetery.
The cemetery had more requests for gravesites, and it was very difficult to keep the cemetery clean. The decision was made to make a new charter, and this was done on May 28, 1959. The new directors were A. L. Alley, Edwin Barho, Ed Fulkes, Bob Faubion, Pat Mason, and Perry Moore. An additional 3.55 acres on the south side were bought from Burt Reynolds. Chris Hamilton had willed the payments on a house he had sold in Georgetown to the cemetery, and this was used to help set up a permanent fund for the care and upkeep of the cemetery. Also, the directors set the last Sunday in August for homecoming with a barbeque lunch and donations being taken to help hire a caretaker. The first homecoming proved to be very successful, as have all the others due to the tremendous response from all the people who have relatives buried at Bagdad Cemetery.
In 1966, the McDaniels gave two acres of land that joined the cemetery on the west side.
It was on this acreage that a shed was built in 1968 to help with the annual homecoming. Also, it was in 1963 that the chain link fence was completed. During the ten years following the forming of the new charter, all the graves have been cleaned up, and the cemetery now has a very neat appearance.
The present directors are John Chapman, Lois Giddens, Mr. and Mrs. Buster Fulkes, Mrs. Edwin Barho, Taylor Wade, Flack Bonnet, Kenneth Faubion, and H. K. Wiley.
Part of the material used in this report was based on an article written by M. James Faubion, which was written for the Sun ( the Williamson County Sun) in June 1921.
Mrs. T. M. Wiley Fred Henry