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How Names Change

I mentioned in my last post that Van Cleave Drive in South Dallas was named for my

great great Grandfather Lorenzo Van Cleve. He received 1,280 acres on the southside

of the Trinity River for his service to the Republic of Texas. The land now includes

Cedar Crest Golf and the area around the Dallas Zoo. Van Cleave Drive intersects with

Southerland Avenue. How, could they have miss-spelled his name you ask?

It happened often back when a scribe wrote legal documents. A scribe was a (man

usually) with good penmanship, a feather quill. All documents were written this way,

before the printing press. The scribe would ask the name and start making pretty

markings and fancy cursive writing, dipping his quill in the ink well for every letter. It was a necessary but slow and tedious task to write one page and then let the ink dry. Should an error occur there was no white-out or eraser to correct. If it was close enough, let it be. When Lorenzo Van Cleve signed up in Louisville, Kentucky to fight for Texas Independence, the clerk put an “a” between the first “e” and the “v”. From that day on every document in Texas with Lorenzo’s name was penned Van Cleave rather than Van Cleve. Every Van Cleave I have met says Lorenzo Van Cleve is spelled with the “a”.

This I know! His parents and grandparents spelled their name without the “a”.

I have examined all the Republic of Texas and State of Texas documents of Lorenzo

Van Cleve. Personal letters from and to friends and family were always signed Van

Cleve. I have the Van Cleve Bible in my possession and every entry for every Van

Cleve was spelled without an “a.” His legal documents, including land grants and

military documents are with an “a”. The Republic of Texas and the State of Texas only

knew him as Lorenzo Van Cleave. Every document including his $120 warrant from the

Treasurer of the Republic of Texas for his military service was endorsed on the back

Lorenzo Van Cleve in his perfect penmanship.

It seems Lorenzo just let the misspelling go and signed all his documents as his name

was supposed to be. I guess I would have done the same if it allowed me to own 1,280

acres on the Trinity River in what is now downtown Dallas.

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