The Horatio and Charlotte Van Cleve House

  • December 1, 2015

On March 22, 1836, Charlotte Ouisconsin Clark married Horatio Phillips Van Cleve, a graduate of West Point Military Academy and Second Lieutenant with the United States Fifth Infantry Regiment. Horatio had been serving frontier duty at Fort Howard and Fort Winnebago in the territory that is now Wisconsin, and Charlotte lived with her parents at Fort Snelling. After their wedding, the couple moved to Davis Prairie, Missouri and later to Michigan. In 1856, they moved to Long Prairie, Minnesota where they stayed until 1861 when Horatio received an appointment as a colonel of the Second Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Horatio and Charlotte then moved to St. Anthony Falls (Minneapolis).

Horatio Van Cleve was born in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, on November 24, 1809. He was fifty-one years old when he received his appointment as colonel of the Second Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He served throughout the Civil War, and beginning in 1863, he was in charge of Union forces at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. After mustering out in 1865, he returned home to Minnesota and served as Adjutant General.

Charlotte Ouisconsin Clark was born on July 1, 1819, at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien as her father’s regiment was moving from Detroit to Fort Snelling. Charlotte was the first white child to be born in the territory that would later become Wisconsin. In fact, her middle name, Ouisconsin, is a French spelling of Wisconsin. Once married and settled in St. Anthony Falls with Horatio, Charlotte became the first woman elected to the Minneapolis Board of Education and served from 1876 to 1878. She also founded the Sisterhood of Bethany and was instrumental in the incorporation and operation of Bethany Home in 1879. Bethany Home helped women that were disregarded by society, such as prostitutes and unwed pregnant girls, to better their lives. Later, Charlotte became an active voice in women’s suffrage activities and authored numerous books and articles on topics related to Minnesota history.

While Horatio was at war, Charlotte purchased a two-story, Greek Revival home on Fifth Street SE that included two, one-quarter acre lots and a barn, for twenty-six hundred dollars. In a letter from Charlotte to Horatio dated May 4, 1862, Charlotte described the new house for her husband: “I wish you could know what a nice home we have. Upstairs there are two nice large bedrooms. Lizzie and Mary [their daughters] occupy one and the boys the other. Besides these, there is a nice room for the girls and a large airy attic overhead. On the next floor is a nice large hall, a fine parlor sitting room, library, and our room which is the most pleasant nursery we have ever had, with two nice large closets, one of which I use for a wash closet and the other for a store closet besides leaving plenty of room for hanging up clothes, etc. In the basement is a beautiful dining room, kitchen cellar, pantry and washroom. All the rooms except the sitting room have fine closets. There is a good cistern in the washroom and a good well in the shed. The shed is very large and convenient, containing a privy which is used in summer. There is one for winter use in the washroom. There is a wagon shed connecting the woodshed with the barn which enables one to go to the barn without being exposed to the weather. The barn is very roomy and comfortable and there is a fine henhouse and yard connected to it.”

VanCleveSchool1950_MH5.9 MP5.2 p107

Horatio and Charlotte lived in their home at 603 Fifth Street SE until their deaths—Horatio in 1891 and Charlotte in 1907. The home only remained in the Van Cleve family until the 1920s, but Horatio and Charlotte’s legacy lingers throughout the east side of Minneapolis. Because only minor alterations had been made to their home, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Van Cleve Park at Fifteenth and Rollins Avenue SE was named after Horatio in 1891, and the Charlotte O. Van Cleve school, built in 1895, once stood at 2420 Madison Street NE.

During the 1862 Battle of Stone River in Tennessee, Horatio was wounded in the knee and his beloved horse, Bessie, received a shoulder wound from the same bullet. Both recovered from their injuries and Bessie carried Horatio through the rest of the war. After the war, Bessie traveled home to Minneapolis with Horatio and became Charlotte’s carriage horse and a favorite among the children. When Bessie died at age twenty, she was buried near the barn behind the Van Cleve house. In remembrance, it’s said that the grieving Van Cleve children decorated her grave with wreaths and carrots on each anniversary of her passing.

Horatio and Charlotte Van Cleve House. Placeography.
Horatio P. Van Cleve and family papers. Minnesota Historical Society. 
National Register of Historic Places, Van Cleve, Horatio P., House, Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, National Register #76001064.
Historic photos courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society (MH5.9 MP3.2h p60 and MH5.9 MP5.2 p107).
Color photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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