Cedar Park and Leander History
The Cedar Park - Leander area has a rich and colorful history - from prehistoric settlers, to Spanish explorers, Indian skirmishes, through the Civil War, and up to today. We hope everyone in Cedar Park and Leander will learn, celebrate, and preserve our rich history.
The area that we know today as Cedar Park - Leander has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. In the 1930's the Anthropology Department of the University of Texas explored several Indian kitchen middens estimated to be 9,000 years old. In 1983 TxDot archaeologists found one of the oldest and most complete prehistoric human skeletons while building RM 1431 connecting Cedar Park with Round Rock and Interstate 35. They named her the Leanderthal lady after nearby Leander (because it rhymed well with Neanderthal) even though the find was nearer to Cedar Park. This archaeological site (known as Wilson-Leonard) shows evidence of continuous habitation of the Cedar Park - Leander area since at least 5000 BC.
The Spanish, the Indians, and the Rangers
In 1716, the Spanish Ramon-St. Denis party explored this area to establish missions. They crossed the San Xavier river (which we now know as the San Gabriel) and Running Brushy Creek, its principal tributary. They called Running Brushy “Arroyo de los Benditas Animas” or Creek of the Blessed Souls.
In the early 1800s the Texas Rangers built an outpost to protect against Indian attacks in the area. After receiving his commission as a Texas Ranger in 1835 – John Tumlinson took his company of sixty men to present day Williamson County. The company of rangers was charged with protecting local settlers from Indian attacks. They built the Tumlinson Fort (or Tumlinson Blockhouse) at the headwaters of Brushy Creek in 1836. When Santa Ana invaded Texas during the War for Texas Independence, the company was forced to abandon the fort and join the fight. Years later, one of the original Rangers visited the area and found that Indians had destroyed the fort in their absence.
Webster Massacre (or Brushy Creek Massacre)
Sometime in late 1839, John Webster was leading a party of thirteen settlers to establish a settlement in West Texas. The party discovered a large force of Indians between the North and South forks of the San Gabriel River. The Webster party tried to reach the security of the settlements on the Colorado but was overtaken near Brushy Creek. In the ensuing battle all the men were killed, and Mrs. Webster and her two children were taken captive. The massacre victims were buried at Davis cemetery, one and a half miles east of present day Leander. Mrs. Webster and her daughter escaped from the Comanches when they were encamped near San Antonio to attend a council for prisoner exchange. The Webster son, who was held by another group of Indians, was ransomed after two years of captivity.
In the middle 1840's the first log cabin was built in this area by Thomas Hornsby and a community began to take shape. Thomas Huddleston, an early settler, named the little settlement Bagdad. Charles Babcock surveyed the town in 1854. In 1858 John Shaffer erected one of the first stores and housed a post office. The town continued to grow as more stores were started by John D. Speegle, John Faubion, and C.C. Mason.
George and Harriet Cluck and the Chisholm Trail
Harriet Standefer was born in Cherokee County, Alabama in 1846. Her parents moved when she was a year old to Pond Springs in Williamson County, Texas (near the current corner of 183 and 620). At age 17, Hattie met and married George W. Cluck and started their home in Pond Springs.
In the twenty years from 1867 to 1887, 10million cattle were driven from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. The trail led from South Texas through Austin, Georgetown, Round Rock, north to Abilene, Kansas. In 1871, George and Harriet Cluck, their children, trail drivers and two big herd of cattle made the journey along the Chisholm Trail. Harriet Cluck was one of the first, if not the first, women to help drive a herd of cattle up the Chisholm Trail.
After their adventures driving cattle, in 1873 George and Harriet Cluck bought 329 acres of land north of their Pond Springs home. The land was situated on the waters of Brushy Creek twelve miles southwest of Georgetown of the road from Austin to Burnet. In 1874 Harriet became postmistress of Running Brushy – as the area came to be called.
The Railroad, Bruggerhoff, and Leander “Catfish” Brown
On April 29, 1881 the Austin and Northwest Railroad company was incorporated with a charter for a narrow gage railroad connecting Austin to Burnet. The railroad company had plans to build a rail line connecting Austin with Abilene.
As the line approached Running Brushy it went through the Cluck property. When the line was completed in 1882, the Austin to Burnet railroad company insisted the community name be changed to Bruggerhoff in honor of one of their officials.
As the line approached the town of Bagdad – then a thriving town with many businesses – the merchants refused to let the railroad come through their town. The railroad bought land a mile east of Bagdad and surveyed a town. When the track was finished in 1884 and a celebration barbecue was held. At the celebration, railroad officials requested the town be named , for railroad official Leander “Catfish” Brown. Within a few years most of the merchants and residents of relocated closer to the rail line and left the town of Bagdad all but abandoned.
Bruggerhoff becomes Cedar Park
The community name of Bruggerhoff was hard to pronounce, hard to spell, and generally disliked. In 1887, Emmett Cluck, the son of George and Harriet, changed the name of the town to Cedar Park. The locals liked this name better, and it was accepted by postal officials. In 1892, a park was constructed that was approximately a half acre or less. The Park was landscaped with trees, shrubs, flowers and benches. Colored pebbles were used in some of the raised beds. Austinites, wanting an outing, would ride the train to Cedar Park and stroll around the grounds – making Cedar Park one of Austin's first Country Clubs.
Growth in Leander and Cedar Park
Little changed in the communities until the 1950s and 1960s when housing subdivisions began to be built in the area – spurred by the growth of nearby Austin. In 1970, the population of Cedar Park was only 125 residents, 24 businesses, and two churches. February 24, 1973 the citizens of Cedar Park voted to incorporate. In 1978, citizens of Leander incorporated.
By the year 2000, Leander's population reached 7,596. Leander's current population is around 15,000. In 1990 the population of Cedar Park reached 5,000 residents and then 26,000 residents in the year 2000 – making Cedar Park one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country.
Links to Other Local & Texas History Sites
Williamson County Museum - A museum in Georgetown dedicated to Williamson County History.
Texas Beyond History - An excellent "virtual" museum of Texas History - hosted by the University of Texas.