The History of the City of Leander
The History of Leander High School
|Did you know?
- The first school in Leander was created in 1855.
- In 1871, the citizens of Bagdad constructed a two-story rock building. The bottom floor was a school, and the second floor served as the Masonic Hall.
- The first public school was founded in December 5, 1893.
- In 1899, the citizens of Leander formed a voluntary association to create a new school district.
- School was held in one building in one year and in the other building the next, with the same teachers traveling to each. This was done so that the same students did not have to travel long distances every year.
- The new Bagdad school burned on June 24, 1938.
- In 1907, Leander provided an 8-month school term in 10 grades.
- Many students could attend only when they were not needed in the fields to help with the farm work, but attendance was stressed whenever possible.
- Students had to go to Georgetown or Liberty Hill to complete state graduation requirements.
- Examinations were to be spontaneous whenever possible, and students should be prepared whenever called on.
- A new school was built and completed on November 16, 1938.
The City of Leander, originally called Bagdad, was established on July 17, 1882. The first settlers arrived in the area around 1845, receiving bounty land grants in exchange for service in the Texas Revolution. These settlers lived in log cabins and were frequently subjected to being attacked by Indians that also called this area of central Texas their home. If it had not been for the many Indian attacks, the area of Bagdad would probably have been settled earlier. Although, because of these frequent attacks, the Texas Rangers were called in to protect the settlers and they constructed a building that would house up to sixty men. This was one of the first buildings of what is now Williamson County.
During the 1850's, the town of Bagdad was surveyed and many businesses began opening. One of the first stores was a blacksmith shop. The first post office was opened in 1858. Although the location was isolated the abundance of water and timber attracted many settlers. Farming became the mainstay of the area, with the settlers growing much of their own food and making most of their own clothing.
During the Civil war many men left to join the Southern forces. At the end of the war most of the men returned to the local community, as well as many of the freed slaves. Bagdad Cemetery was established in 1857 with the burial of three-year-old John Babcock whose father gave the tract of land where the cemetery now exists, to the community. Other earlier burials were Civil War veterans. The United Methodist church was established in 1860.
Bagdad was also a stop on the stage line from Austin to Lampasas; the settlers were now able to have goods delivered to them from Austin. By the 1870’s, Bagdad had a hotel, school, several general stores, two blacksmith shops, and several churches. In 1871, the first school was started in Bagdad by the Masonic Lodge; it was the only free school in the area. Church socials played a very important role in the lives of the settlers and were the main entertainment for the early residents of Bagdad.
The Railroad Comes Through
By the 1880’s many changes were on the way. The railroad industry expanded to Texas with plans to build tracks through Bagdad’s downtown area. The citizens opposed the railroad and the Austin & Northwestern Railroad officials decided instead to build the tracks one mile east of town. Soon after the railroad was completed the townspeople realized they had made a mistake and it could be of great benefit to their businesses to be located near the railroad. The original Bagdad settlers started moving their businesses and homes nearer to the railroad tracks.
The area was surveyed, lots were sold by the railroad and the new town of Leander was established in 1882. The town of Leander was named after Leander “Catfish” Brown, who was one of the men who was responsible for 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. In 1883, the Leander Presbyterian Church was established. The cedar post business was prospering, with most of the posts being shipped out by railway. Ranching and farming were increasing. Cotton was the main crop and soon Wesley Craven and J.Sampley built cotton gins.
The population of Leander in the early 1890's was estimated to be around 329 people. In 1893, the first public schools were opened both in Leander and Bagdad. On June 7, 1899, the Leander High School Association incorporated under Texas law. The school was formed without profit for a period of fifty years.
The population of Leander in the 1900's had dropped to 283. Mules moved the Leander Methodist Church to its present location in 1901. Farming was still the main activity and life had become centered on the schools and churches. Baseball teams were quite popular at this time, as well as community theatre. School only went to the 10th grade and if you wanted to go any higher, you had to go to Liberty Hill or Georgetown. In 1919 A. K. Davis went to Mexico to bring workers to the Leander area. He brought back many families, some of which became American citizens and also Williamson County’s earliest Hispanic settlers.
The Depression Hits Leander
When the depression hit, the population dropped to 200. The schools continued to grow and were consolidated with Pleasant Hill in 1928. After the school burned down in 1938 the district continued growing, consolidating with Round Mountain and Volente in 1938, and then with Nameless. Whitestone joined the district in 1952. The school was still the most important part of the community. Churches provided the social life where many community gatherings were held.
Many young men left to join the war effort during World War Two. The local citizens had to adjust to such things as sugar rationing. They also organized watch groups to report any sightings of enemy aircraft to authorities. During this time traveling shows would set up at Brushy and Willis streets for entertaining the townspeople. Three more churches were established during the 1940's, St. Mary Margaret Catholic Church, Leander Church of Christ, and First Baptist Church of Leander. Many citizens banked at the 1st State Bank of Leander and Barnes & Jones Lumber Company was a well-established business. During the 1950’s the population had risen back up to around 300 people. There were three stores that provided the community with groceries and goods, MacFarland Grocery, The Red and White Store, and Hub Powell’s. Housing subdivisions began to develop in the area in the late 1950's and early 1960's. A new high school was built in 1969, but at this time the population was still around 300 people. Many citizens worked in the Austin area with Highway 183 being a major thoroughfare to assist in their commute in to the Austin area. Shopping trips to Austin were common for residents of Leander by this time.
On January 21, 1978 the City of Leander was incorporated and Joe Bates was its first mayor. The City was continuing to grow more rapidly. Subdivisions were being developed west of the city where the water and sewer system was available. As the city continued to grow into the 1980's additional schools were being built in the Cedar Park area. The Leander School district was experiencing tremendous growth. A new city hall was established along with some new additions in the old downtown area. With all of this growth, Leander still continued to be mostly a rural community.
With more homes being built in the west part of Leander, the population by the 1990's was 3,398. The school district was growing rapidly and built its second High School in Cedar Park. Many businesses such as service shops and fast food establishments began to locate to the Leander area. The Crystal Falls Municipal Golf Course was built and has proven to be one of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses in the area.
Leander, presently, has a population estimated at over 30,000. The Leander Independent School District has grown into the largest school district in Williamson County and the fastest growing district in the state of Texas. It presently has a total of five high schools, eight middle schools and twenty-three elementary schools. It encompasses the cities of Leander, Cedar Park, Jonestown, and parts of Northwest Austin. New businesses are on their way and the residential growth that has been experienced over the past few years is phenomenal. The long-term water supply is now secure for the city’s residents and a newly expanded wastewater treatment plant is on-line. The city continues to expand its roadway network to assist the residents of Leander in traveling into the Austin area.
Many changes have occurred since the little town of Bagdad opposed the building of the railroad and the unwanted disruption of their peaceful lives. The City of Leander continues to grow and prosper and we invite everyone to come and experience our extraordinary hill-country city.