Leander, Texas History est. 1882

“Leanderthal Lady,” the prehistoric woman whose burial site was discovered in 1982 during construction. Carbon dating suggests “LeAnn” lived over 10,000-13,000 years ago. At the time of the discovery, her site was one of the earliest intact burial sites in the United States.

Courtesy of Ronald Kricnke

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Leander_Marker-2

 

Marker Text: 

Leander grew from the once thriving town of Bagdad, founded in 1854 (1 mi. W). When the Austin & Northwestern Railroad bypassed Bagdad in 1882, a new town was surveyed and named for railroad official Leander Brown (1817-89). Homes and businesses from the older community quickly moved to the new site along the rail line. The post office was brought here from Bagdad in 1882. The school started here in 1893 has grown into the largest school district in Williamson County. Originally in a rural area, Leander has boomed in recent years due to Highland Lakes development. (1975)

 

Google Map of Marker

GPS coordinates
Latitude: 30.576807 Longitude: -97.852199

Address: 209 S Hwy 183

Historical Markers

See below

Historical Narrative by Clara Scarbrough

The community of Leander was created in 1882 by the coming of a railroad and land speculation and was settled largely at first by people of nearby communities, already established, who sought the convenience of railroad facilities.

Leander was located quite near several places of historical significance: four miles to the south was Tumlinson Fort Block House, built by one of the three first Ranger companies in Texas, in January 1836; one mile to the west was Bagdad, established in 1854 and a thriving town long before Leander was established and furnishing most of the businesses and residents for Leander. Leander is between and not far from two branches of Brushy Creek. Early trials and roads which ran through Bagdad were, of course, just a mile from the new town of Leander. The Central National Road, which ran from Austin northward through Bagdad and on toward Lampasas, was a stage route in the 1850s, bringing mail to Bagdad post office in 1855 and to other places of the area. The Central National Road was popularly called the "mountain road," and, after a string of forts was established along the frontier in 1851, it was also called the "military road," because of the military traffic over it, headed for Fort Croghan (present Burnet). Army units camped under a grove of trees near Bagdad, and Robert E. Lee often rode this route, sometimes staying at a wayside inn at Bagdad. Feeder cattle trails of the western part of the county led through the Bagdad area, headed, as a rule, for the fabled Chisholm Trail. The narrow-gauge rails built-in 1882 were soon to haul granite through Leander for building the new State Capitol.

Among the first settlers in the Leander-Bagdad area were Thomas Hornsby, born 1805, 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.

The townsite of Leander was platted and recorded by the Austin and Northwestern Railroad Company on June 16, 1882) out of the Elijah D. Harmon League.

Thomas S. Evans and his wife, Lavinia E. Evans, upon agreement with the "Austin and forth Western Rail Road company," completed a deed requiring the railroad to establish and maintain a depot, sidetracks, and switches in the town of Leander. The railroad was granted a strip of land 300 feet wide, north to south along the railroad tracks, as the right of way. Public streets in the newly platted town were donated by the railroad and were designated as Evans Street, Broad Street, Willis Street, East Street, and West Street. These were indicated on the plat of 1882.

Bagdad post office opened May 8, 1855, with Thomas Huddleston, postmaster.

The office continued under the name of Bagdad until October 6, 1882, when it was transferred to Leander. Leander is not incorporated but operates as a county unit.

Most of the early businesses in Leander moved from nearby Bagdad. Tom S. Evans of Bagdad moved his house to Leander and operated it as a hotel while the new railroad was being completed. John F. Heinatz and John Speegle moved stores from Bagdad to Leander within a short time after the opening of the town. Jesse Humble and L. Chapman erected a large general store. Magill & Evans, Emmett and Coon, and Wells & Mason were other early stores. The Methodist Church was moved from Bagdad, and the Presbyterians erected a new church at Leander. Two of the first lawyers were A. S. Walker and John W. Parks. Dr. Sam Woolsey was a practicing physician. The Norton Moses Masonic Lodge No. 336, which was chartered in Bagdad in 1871, was also moved to Leander after the town was founded. The Leander mill and gin was also an early installation in the new town.

The economic base for Bagdad and early Leander was agricultural, with a fair mix of cotton, sheep and cattle.

Several quarries are located near Leander, and the harvesting of cedar posts has also brought some economic benefit. The economy remained agricultural until the mid-twentieth century when developments from the lake areas brought additional students to the Leander Independent School District and new residents to town. In the 1960s and 1970s, the area has undergone considerable development by real estate firms, and the population has increased rapidly.

In a rural community such as Leander, it is difficult to name community leaders, for many of the substantial farmers contribute to the community as much as leading businessmen. One businessman-leader served both the early town of Bagdad and its successor, Leander.

He was John A. Heinatz, born in Prussia in 1822, who came to Galveston in 1848 and traveled extensively over the country before settling first in Austin, and at Bagdad in June 1853. Heinatz had learned the blacksmith trade in Germany and was a well-educated man. At Bagdad, he set up his blacksmith shop and, after a short while, was also engaged in merchandising. In his general store, he installed a small grain mill. As an energetic, informed young: man, he was called upon in the community for the role of banker, lawyer, as well as merchant, miller, postmaster, church trustee (the Methodist Church which he helped to found), and Sunday School superintendent. He married Emilie Krohn of Austin in 1863. Having served as postmaster of Bagdad 1858-1866, his wife, Emilie, became postmistress in 1866. He returned to that office in 1876 and was still postmaster in 1882 when the name of the office was changed to Leander; the new office is located a short distance east of the 3agdad one. Heinatz continued in that position until his death in 1891, when his son, Charles, became Postmaster (1891-1894). John F. Heinatz was also a charter member of the Masonic Lodge, established at Bagdad in 1871, and moved to Leander in 1899.

Alexander Stuart Walker I (1826-1896) was a landowner in the Leander area, and although he never lived there, he ke4ouch with the community when his many duties as an attorney and judge allowed.

His son, Alexander Stuart Walker II, born in Georgetown in 1865, educated at Southwestern University and receiving his law degree in 1886, did eventually live on the family farm and ranch south of Leander. He, too, had a distinguished law career, serving as county judge of Travis County 1896-1900. In 1900 he moved to the Leander ranch to manage it, maintaining active participation in state affairs and in politics. In December 1908, he and Mrs. Walker entertained William Jennings Bryan. From 1913 to 1920, Walker was the Texas Collector of Internal Revenue. He practiced law in Dallas 1920-1924. He died near Leander in 1933.

Another man of the Leander area who distinguished himself outside his own home was Judge Greenleaf Fisk (1811-1887) who was County Judge (then called Chief Justice) of three counties in Texas--Bastrop (1841-1346); Williamson (1848); and Brown counties. After serving as Williamson County's first County Judge, he moved to Brown County, where he owned property granted him for his service in the Texas Revolution, and there became the patron of the town of Brownwood. He gave land for the cemetery there, soon named Greenleaf Cemetery for him, and gave land on which Daniel Baker College was established.

Other important leaders included Charles Babcock, who surveyed Bagdad and donated land for the Masonic building, which also served as a church and school, Harmon Smilser, Charles Harris, Fielding Dawson, Burkett Bowmer, Wm. M. Davis, Thomas Huddleston, James Williamson, George Craven, Robert Marley, John Faubion, Andrew Hamilton, Eli Hamilton, James and Nicholas Branch, Thomas Hornsby, all of whom arrived in the area in the early 1850s. J. Wells and Henderson Upchurch, both veterans of San Jacinto, came in 1855, and Colonel C. C. Mason, Wm. N. Carothers, John Schooley, E. A. Walker, W. R. Walker, and Tom Cashion about the same time.

Since Leander's heritage reaches back into the history of Bagdad, one of the oldest communities in the county, and since Leander itself was established in 1882, the community wishes to commemorate its founding with a historic marker. Many descendants of early settlers still live in the community and throughout the county.

Bibliography

MORE HISTORY

History of Leander
Historical narrative by Malcolm Maumann

It would be impossible to write the history of Leander without mentioning five important landmarks and incidents from which Leander grew out. The Pioneers who moved to Williamson County came almost exclusively from the Appalachian area of the United States. Most of their parents had come from Germany and England.

The earliest date I could find was the building of Tum­linson's Fort, or Block House, in 1836. This fort was built as a buffer between the settlers and the Indians. Tumlinson's Fort was one of the first forts built in Central Texas. The Indians who inhabited this area were the Tankawas, Comanches, a few Cherokee, and Choctaw.

Judge Alexander Stuart Walker acquired Tumlinson's Fort property as a law fee after the Civil War. Old Timers tell us that William Jennings Bryan and Mrs. Bryan spent the night at Stuart Walker's home on Dec. 17, 1908, before going to Georgetown to make an address at Southwestern University. A Historical Marker now stands on Highway #183 near Tumlinson's Fort.

The Webster Massacre occurred in June 1839 a few miles east of Leander.

A roving band of Comanche Indians took the lives of fourteen men who were traveling west to new land development in Burnet County. Mrs. Webster and her two children were taken prisoners by the Indians and were later released. The Webster Massacre victims are buried in Davis Cemetery, 3 miles east of Leander on Ranch Road #2243. A marker is located near the cemetery on Highway #183 in Leander.

The third epoch in history has to do with Jenks Branch. All of the land around Leander had good water and good grass, so there were possibilities for farming. Most of the settlers came here to farm; therefore, they brought their slaves with them. Soon after the war between the states, three negro brothers (now freed slaves) Milas, Richard, and Nelson Miller bought the property now known as Jenks Branch. These brothers helped other freed slaves to buy small acreages and build homes. For many years this community was known as Miller's Community.

The freed slaves who settled in Jenks Branch had belonged to land owners around Leander, then Bagdad, and many of them took their owners' names.

Many slaves are buried in the cemetery at Jenks Branch, which derives its name from John Jenks, the man who surveyed the territory.

Pleasant Hill was an early settlement between Tumlinson's Fort and Bagdad. John Roy Bowmer was the first settler in Pleasant Hill. He was one of Williamson County's first school teachers. In the late eighteenth century, Pleasant Hill was one of the largest schools in Williamson County, and it was one of the first schools to consolidate with Leander in 1928.

In 1854 the town of Bagdad was surveyed by Charles Babcock. It was one mile west of Leander. John H. Shaffer was the first merchant, and James B. Knight ran the store for Shaffer. Later, Mr. Heinatz opened a store blacksmith's shop and ran the Post Office. The first Postmaster, however, was Thomas Huddleston in 1855, then John F. Heinatz in 1858, Mrs. Emilie Heinatz in 1866, John D. Mason in 1876, and John F. Heinatz in 1882. After which, the Post Office was transferred to Leander.

Bagdad was a halfway station between Fort Croghan and Austin.

The road was an Indian trail, then a cattle drovers trail, and at the time Bagdad was settled in 1854, it was a military road. Charles Babcock kept the "Wayside Inn," where the military spent the night. It is said that Robert E. Lee frequently spent the night at Bagdad while checking on military forts near Austin. Voting was held at Bagdad until the box was moved to Leander, 1882.

Some of the early Pioneers to Bagdad were: Babcock, Huddleston, James Williamson, George Craven, Robert Marley, Eli, and Andrew Hamilton, John Faubion, Heinatz, C.C. Mason, W.N. Carothers, John Schooly, E.A., and W.R. Walker, Tom Cashion, James and Nicholas Branch, R.W. Insall moved to Leander in 1873. M. J. Wells, 1819 to1893, married AmanIa Peylo 1833 - 1883. William Johnson, born in 1804, migrated to Leander in early life Died in 1888.

Many of Leander's citizens of today can trace their ancestors back to these original pioneers who settled in this ­part of Williamson County, and that is why we have to start Leander with Bagdad, Jenks Branch, Tumlinson's Fort, Pleasant Hill, and the folklore which preceded Leander.

The townsite of Leander was surveyed in 1882.

The merchants of Bagdad, then a thriving town with many businesses, refused to let the railroad come through their town. The railroad com­pany offered the men of Bagdad $1000, but they turned them down.

The land for Leander was bought by the railroad company and sold to individuals. The company was known then as the Austin and Northwestern Railroad Co. The track was finished in 1882 to Burnet and at the celebration Ind barbecue) the railroad company requested that the town be called Leander for Leander "Catfish" Brown, who worked for the railroad company. Some say he was the first depot agent in Leander.

Tom Evens was the first Bagdad businessman to move to Leander. He ran a hotel. Very soon, John Heinatz, Speegel, Migell, Emmitt and Coon Wells, Mason, Jesse Humble, John Chapman, Fisk, Upchurch, Walker bought lots and moved to Leander. Dr. Jennings moved his two-story drugstore and office to Leander with yolks of oxen and rollers.

The above names are very common around Leander to this day, and these people are direct heirs of the early pioneers who settled in this part of Williamson County.

The Methodist Church was moved from Bagdad to Leander in or around 1884, and it is still in use today. The Presbyterians built a new church. Then came many churches, and today Leander has the above mentioned plus a Church of Christ, Assembly of God, Church of God, Baptist, and a Catholic Church.

Leander had two lawyers in 1884.

A.S. Walker and John W. Parket. The first doctor was Doctor Sam Woolsey. His heirs still own property in this area. We have had many good doctors in Leander. Dr. Woolsey, Jennings, Lauck, Hazlewood, Coker, Robinson, Stevenson, Gardner, Alford, Osbern, and Doctor Miller.

Today we have no country doctor. We have grown with the times and taken advantage of the hospitals, physicians, and professional people in the larger towns which are near.

The Norton Moses, Masonic, Lodge No. 336 was started in 1871 in Bagdad, and it was moved to Leander in 1899.

Leander has had three published newspapers. The Leander Times 1897, The Leander Record Nov. 13, 1901, and the Leander Light in 1925. At the present time, we do not have a newspaper in Leander; however, one of the ladies of the Garden Club, Miss Leona Williamson, writes a weekly article in the Williamson County Sun.

Leander has several cemeteries near. White Stone, Davis, and Bagdad; however, the town of Leander has no cemetery by its name but prefers to use the three cemeteries which were already established.

Mr. and Mrs. Mood Wiley and Mr. Fred Henry worked up a beautiful history of Bagdad Cemetery in memory of their two sons who are buried there. The Wiley family restored the 100-year-old well at Bagdad and had a Historical Marker placed there on August 27, 1972.

The first person to be buried at Bagdad was Babcock's four-year-old son. Born 1854 - Died 1858. The Babcock's do­nated the land for the cemetery.

Davis Cemetery, just three miles east of Leander, is over 100 years old, and quite a number of important people are buried there. Blackstone Harden Davis, who was a member of the Legislature, is buried there - also the fourteen pioneer men who died in the Webster Massacre are buried in the Davis Cemetery on Ranch Road #2243.

The oldest grave around Leander seems to be that of Mary Fisk, wife of Greenleaf Fisk 30.

She died in 1848 at the age of 30. She was the mother of Mrs. Tom Cashion Sr.

Moses R. Minnick was also an early settler, and his grave shows 1874 - 1933.

The community of Leander is scattered. There are stores, shops, restaurants, filling stations, beauty parlors in many directions from, saying the main town, Leander. In fact, the main town of Leander is not building. The lumber yard is not being used. The bank burned and was not replaced. The Red & White General Store burned and was not replaced.

December 5, 1893, Leander opened the first free school. The school is now and has always been the one nucleus for Leander. Leander claims the largest school district in William­son County.

Leander school has grown enormously in the last two decades. When I started teaching at Leander High School in 1948, we had 9 teachers and 300 students. In 1974, twenty-six years later, we had 88 teachers and eighteen hundred thirty-one students.

Leander has such a big school because all the little schools around consolidated with Leander. Pleasant Hill was first in 1928. Then June 24, 1938, the Leander School burned. We built a new school, and Round Mountain and Volente schools consolidated in 1938.

In 1947 Leander built a new elementary school.

In 1952 White Stone School consolidated with Leander; as I have stated before, Leander school has grown steadily and increased in every way. Now it is one of Williamson County's most modern high schools with all the modern classrooms, gymnasiums, Ag shops, homemaking department, Cosmetology building, Vocational Ag building, band hall, and athletic departments.

The citizens of Leander organized a fire department in 1967. Mr. Bob Hall was the first fire chief. In 1969 E.E. McFarland was elected fire chief and held that position at this writing in 1974.

When I was young and traveled through Leander, I thought of it as a dark place by night and the Windmill Town by day. Every house seemed to have a private windmill, but Rural Electri­fication about 1936 changed all that. Leander residences in­stalled electric lights and pumps, and the town was lighted. In 1949 we got street lights. April 1, 1970, Leander citizens signed up for city water.

Leander has never incorporated. It was a county unit in the beginning, and so it remains. The school is the only part of Leander, which is independent of Williamson County.

Leander has long been a dry community, but in 1973 an election was held to sell beer in Leander. It carried, and we have one store that sells beer to go.

Leander is no longer the home of farmers, ranchers and stone workers alone.

The territory is inhabited by many pro­fessional people as well. We have Doctors, lawyers, businessmen, realtors, and members of the Senate and Legislature. A lot of these people in and around Leander can trace their Grandparents to the early days of Bagdad, Pleasant Hill, Jenks Branch, and the communities near Leander.

Most of the people in Leander work in Austin, Round Rock, Georgetown, and other towns in Central Texas.

Leander's Garden Club is made up of some seventeen members, most of whom can trace their ancestry to Bagdad's early days. We are all very proud of the history of Leander, and we want this marker on Highway #183 as a constant reminder to all who pass. We feel that we are rich in history because of the won­derful pioneers who endured the hardships of the early days.

We also want to preserve this bit of history for our future generations. We realize this history will become richer and more valuable as the years go by.

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