The community of Leander
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
historic 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 trails 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 town site 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, side tracks 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 right of way. Public streets in the newly
platted town were donated by the railroad, and were
designated as Evans Street, Broade 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 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
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 raveled 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 being 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 Texas Collector of Internal Revenue. He
practiced law in Dallas 1920-1924. He died near Leander
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
Other important leaders included Charles Babcock who
surveyed Bagdad and donated land for the Masonic
building which also served as 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 Micholas 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
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.
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 of. 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
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 Dec. 17, 1908 before going to Georgetown 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 a 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.
A third epoch in history has to do with Jenks Branch. All of the
land around Leander had good water and good grass so there was
possibilities of 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 1858, Mrs. Emilie Heinatz 1866, John
D. Mason 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,
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 to.1893 married AmanIa Peylo 1833 - 1883. William
Johnson born 1804 migrated to Leander in early life Died 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 business man 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
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
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 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 was the 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 say main town Leander. In fact, main town 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
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
Leander school has grown enormously in the last two decades.
When I started teaching in Leander High School in 1948 we had 9
teachers and 300 students. In 1974, twenty six years later, we
have 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 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 class rooms, 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 holds that position at this writing in
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
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 from 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, business men, 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
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.