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, 1st 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 September 21, 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 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 Comanche Trace book 4 of the Westward Sagas.
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