Leander Presbyterian Church celebrates 160 years


On Feb. 14, 1857, several families gathered in the town of Bagdad to hear the first sermon at the Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church. Today, new families and the descendants of the original members celebrate 160 years.

The congregation moved to Leander in 1882, and a member donated the land on which the church was constructed in 1884. Local historian and church member Karen Thompson said the church, now named Leander Presbyterian Church, is the smallest and the oldest in the city, and she said over the years it has largely stayed the same.

“Presbyterians operate on a slower scale,” she said. “They aren’t flamboyant—we do things as they’re needed.”

Female members of the congregation were the driving force for most of the changes that did occur, Pastor Robert McElwaine said. The main entrance to Leander Presbyterian Church used to have one door for women and another for men. McElwaine said a female member hated the separate entrances and one day donated the entire cost for a central door.

“There’s a very strong Texas women presence,” he said. “Women have always been the support of the church.”

Thompson said her mother-in-law, Frances Mason Thompson, was one such member. Mason Thompson was a Sunday school teacher and was the granddaughter of C. C. Mason, one of the church’s original founding members.

Thompson’s deceased husband, David, was a fourth-generation member of Leander Presbyterian Church, and he and Thompson raised their children in the church as well.

McElwaine said older generations of members introduce children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to the church, and the growth of Leander has brought in new members as well.

“Even after 160 years, there’s life here,” he said.

Leander Presbyterian Church

101 N. West St., Leander

Leander Presbyterian Church

The red cross above the entrance is believed to be the first one erected at the church. (via Anna Daugherty/Community Impact Newspaper)

Leander Presbyterian Church

Pastor Robert McElwaine said the first thing he realized about the congregation was its generosity. “Not just money,” he said. “When I first joined a lady had just given a kidney to a neighbor.” (via Anna Daugherty/Community Impact Newspaper)

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