When you walk around and inside the Leander Public Library, visitors would be hard-pressed to find a placard or sign commemorating the land donation from the Mason family. But without that massive donation from a Leander family that has lived in the area for centuries, the library might not exist at all in its current location.
Outside the library, at an inconspicuous nearby building, those interested can find a marker acknowledging the many acres of land donated to the city of Leander for free by Christine Mason in 2008. The land Mason gave the city was the site of her family's farmhouse — the Mason Homestead.
Though the requirements of the deal were not immediately available, volunteers and Leander Parks and Recreations staff mentioned only two: that part of the land be used in some way to help children, and that the city keep the old farmhouse building up.
The farmhouse first began to be built in its current location by Colonel Charles C. Mason, who brought a wagon train to Leander from his hometown of North Carolina in 1851 to 1852, decades before Leander was first established in 1882. Though Colonel Mason started work on the house, he died in 1865 and the job of completing the building was taken up by his son Charles C Mason.
The building was eventually completed, though Karen Thomson, a member of the Mason family and chairman of the Leander Historical Preservation Commission, said that no one knows for sure when the building was completed. However, it is assumed to have been finished in 1865 by the younger Charles Mason.
He married Sarah Jane Wells, a woman of a prominent family, and had 8 children. When Charles Mason died in 1910, his son Ernest D. Mason inherited the house and raised his two daughters there. When he died, the house and its surrounding acres were divided among his two daughters.
Over the centuries, the homestead not only housed the various generations of the Mason family but was used to cultivate a variety of livestock and crops like sheep, cattle, corn and cotton.
Christine Mason, one of Ernest D Mason’s two daughters, took her portion and decided in 2005 to donate it to the city, with the requirement that the homestead stay up. “She said she wasn’t going to give it to them if they didn’t take care of it,” Thomson said.
Ten of those acres were subsequently used by the city to build the Leander Public Library, though nothing on the property mentions the donation.
“I thought she should have said they should name it the Mason Memorial Library, but she said ‘no, just name it Leander Public Library’,” Thompson said.
Christine Mason also gave a portion of land to build a Presbyterian church nearby that the surviving Mason family still attends. She died in 2008.
Renovation and restoration of the house included installation of a new foundation, roof, windows, cabinets and more, though Tyler Bybee, Leander Parks and Recreation Manager, said they tried to keep as much as they could in its original form.
According to the Austin American Statesman, the renovations totaled $120,000 to complete. The city opened the house to the public on December 6, 2012 and it’s now used as a rental space for weddings and a meeting space for city officials. The Leader Parks and Recreation Department, for instance, meets in the building often.
But for Thomson, what the homestead really showcases the history of Leander. “They have an actual representation of this history that they can have kids and people there and tell the history and show what it meant.”