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Austin’s First Cabinet Maker

Lorenzo Van Cleve arrived in the spring of 1839, months before the town of

Austin was founded. Newly elected President Mirabeau Lamar had summoned

Lorenzo to finish out and furnish the new federal office buildings for the Republic

of Texas. Lorenzo had apprenticed under a master craftsman of fine furniture in

Louisville, Kentucky before volunteering to join the Texas Army. He enlisted in

Company D, 1 st  Regiment Cavalry of Texas during the fall of 1836. When Sam

Houston learned of his skills, Lorenzo was put in charge of building pilot boats

for the Texas Navy at Camp Independence in Jackson County. On the 21 st  of

September 1838, the Treasurer of the Republic of Texas issued a pay voucher to

Lorenzo Van Cleve on draft #9723 for $120.80, pay for serving in the Texas Army

during the Texas Revolution. He additionally received a bounty of 1,280 acres in

Robertson Colony (now Dallas County).

He purchased property adjoining the Angelina Eberly boarding house on Pecan

Street. Lorenzo and A.W. Leach formed a partnership to make fine furniture in

Austin. President Lamar commissioned Leach and Van Cleve to craft a large table

for his Cabinet Meetings in 1841. That table served three Presidents of the

Republic of Texas and seventeen Governors of the State of Texas before being

destroyed by fire when the state capitol burned in 1881.

He married Margaret Smith on July 21, 1840, the third marriage recorded in

Travis County. They had the first baby born in Austin, Elnora Van Cleve on April

14, 1841. Followed by Courteous, Wesley, Affondy, Harvey and Comely. On

January 22, 1841, Lorenzo joined a posse to search for his nine-year-old nephew

Fayette Smith. In 1842, Lorenzo volunteered to ride with General Edward

Burleson in the Vasquez Campaign to save San Antonio from a Mexican invasion.

His wife Margaret Smith died of cholera in 1849. He raised the children, never

remarrying. Lorenzo died in 1858.

Only a few pieces of Lorenzo’s furniture exist, a chair made for President Anson

Jones is on display at the Grand Lodge of Texas Museum in Waco. The bed and

bassinet that Lorenzo built for his wife and first-born child, is on display at the

Anson Jones home (Barrington Farm) Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park.

Learn more about Lorenzo Van Cleve in the award-winning Comanche

Trace, Book 4 of the Westward Sagas series or

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