Though no records exist detailing the cause of death, the burial of 3-year-old John L. Babcock in 1857 marks the beginning of Bagdad Cemetery in Leander.
The town of Bagdad was founded in 1855 with the opening of a post office. The first white settlers arrived in the area in the late 1840s and named the town after a hamlet near the Tennessee home of Thomas Huddleston, one of the early residents of Bagdad.
Among them was Charles Babcock of Illinois. When faced with the burial of his son, John, Charles donated 1 acre of land as a burial ground.
Col. Charles C. Mason, the first postmaster of Bagdad, died eight years later in 1865 and was buried near John. Mason's monument is still the tallest in the cemetery.
Other graves from the mid-1800s "show some of the pains borne with the Civil War," according to a report from the Williamson County Historical Commission.
"One such grave is that of John Haile. Haile was wounded in the Civil War, 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," the document reads.
Bagdad began its demise in 1882 after residents refused to allow a railroad passage through the town. Instead the tracks were built east of the town, and Leander was founded. As business owners quickly realized the advantages of being close to the railroad, more and more people moved from Bagdad to Leander.
However, the ties between the people of Leander and Bagdad Cemetery remained.
Leander families cared for the graves, and every year in November they met to clean the graveyard and have a picnic afterwards. In 1959 this tradition led to the establishment of an annual homecoming celebration and barbecue fundraiser, with donations used to help pay for a cemetery caretaker.
"We still have the homecoming each year, [on] the second Sunday in June, and it still is our major fundraiser for the upkeep of the cemetery," Bagdad Cemetery Association Director Kenneth Craven said.
There have been more than 3,500 burials at Bagdad Cemetery since 1857. The opening of a new section of the cemetery is planned within the next two years, he said.
"We will have space for the Leander area for many years in the future for over 15,000 more burials," he said.
View the Bagdad Cemetery timeline.
Bagdad Cemetery, 470 N. Bagdad Road, Leander, 512-259-4855