Bio Sketch: Benjamin Van Cleve (1773-1821), early settler and county clerk in Dayton, Ohio

Benjamin Van Cleve (1773-1821) was one of the earliest European settlers of what would later become the city of Dayton, Ohio.

Benjamin Van Cleve

Benjamin Van Cleve

He was born February 24, 1773, to John Van Cleve and Catherine Benham Van Cleve inMonmouth County, New Jersey. In December of 1789, John and Catherine Van Cleve headed west with their family, including 16-year-old Benjamin, and arrived at present-day Cincinnati on January 3, 1790. Less than two years later, on June 1, 1791, John Van Cleve was murdered by Native Americans while tending his fields. For a number of years after his father’s death, Benjamin carried the burden of supporting his mother and siblings.

Benjamin Van Cleve was one of the first settlers of Dayton,Ohio, when he arrived with a small group of others at the present site of downtown Dayton on April 1, 1796. Benjamin Van Cleve’s other important roles in Dayton history include teaching at the first school in the city, being the first postmaster of Dayton, and serving as the clerk of courts for Montgomery County. He was also a surveyor.

In 1805, Benjamin Van Cleve was among the founders of the first library incorporated in the state of Ohio; the library was located in Van Cleve’s log house in Dayton. Benjamin himself wrote down his memoirs in his Memoranda, which contains, among other things, the most accurate and detailed description of General Arthur St. Clair’s defeat and the only reliable account of the settlement of Dayton in 1796.

On August 28, 1800, in Dayton, Benjamin married Mary Whitten, who was born February 17, 1782. Benjamin Van Cleve had five children with his first wife, Mary Whitten Van Cleve; she died on December 28, 1810. On March 10, 1812, Benjamin married Mary Tamplin, by whom he had no children. Benjamin died on November 29, 1821; his second wife Mary died in 1825 or 1826. The remains of Benjamin Van Cleve and both of his wives were interred in their final resting place in Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, on February 29, 1844.

Tombstone of Benjamin Van Cleve

Tombstone of Benjamin Van Cleve in Woodland Cemetery

The five children of Benjamin Van Cleve and Mary Whitten Van Cleve were: John Whitten Van Cleve (1801-1858), who was unmarried; William James Van Cleve (1803-1808); Henrietta Maria Van Cleve (1805-1879), who married Samuel Best Dover and later married Joseph Bond; Mary Cornelia Van Cleve (1807-1878), who married James Andrews; and Sarah Sophie Van Cleve (1809-1839), who married David C. Baker.


This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey and Jared Baldwin in April 2010 for the Van Cleve-Dover Collection (MS-006) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654. Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection and in the citations below. Please contact the library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.



Bond, Beverley W., Jr., editor. “Memoirs of Benjamin Van Cleve.” In Quarterly publication of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio. vol. XVII, no. 1-2, January-June [1922]. Cincinnati: The Abingdon press, [1922]. [Dayton B V222BO]

Conger, William R., compiler. Benjamin Van Cleve (1773-1821). Fort Worth,TX: American Reference Publishers, 1968. [Dayton B V222AAB]

Conover, Charlotte Reeve. Dayton, Ohio: An Intimate History. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1932. Pp. 21-22; 52; 53; 57; 58. [Dayton 977.173 C753DAY 1932]

Conover, Frank. Centennial Portrait and Biographical Record of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio. Chicago: A. W. Bowen, 1897. Pp. 176, 177, 862, 1277. [Dayton 977.172 C753C 1897]

Drury, Augustus Waldo. History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio. Chicago; Dayton: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1909. Vol. 1, pp. 40; 66-70; 93-94. Vol. 2, pp. 871; 272. [Dayton 977.173 D796]

Edgar, John F. Pioneer Life in Dayton and Vicinity, 1796-1840. Evansville,IN: Unigraphic, 1976. Pp. 29-32. [Dayton 977.173 E23P 1976]

Fillers, Mildred, compiler. Extracts from Benjamin Van Cleve’s memoirs, Colonel Robert Patterson’s memoranda and Colonel J. F. Hamtranck’s letters, 1775-1804 / [copied by Dayton Public Library]; maps copied by Mildred Fillers. Dayton,OH: Dayton Public Library, 1951. [Dayton 977 E969 1951]

History of Dayton, Ohio.Dayton: United Brethren Publishing House, 1889. Pp. 36-44. [Dayton 977.173 H673]

The History of Montgomery County, Ohio. Chicago: W. H. Beers & Co., 1882. Book 2, pp. 272-273. [Dayton 977.172 H673]

Jillson, Willard Rouse, compiler. Harrod’s Old Fort, 1791, as described and platted in Benjamin Van Cleve’s manuscript biographical memorandum dating from the year 1773. Frankfort, KY: KentuckyState Historical Society, 1929. [Dayton 976.9 V222h]

Starr, Christine. What They Wrote in Their Diaries. New York: [n.d.]. [Dayton B V222S]

Steele, Robert W., and Mary Davies Steele. Early Dayton. Dayton: W. J. Shuey, 1896. Pp. 34-50; 57-58. [Dayton 977.173 S814E 1896]

Van Cleve, Benjamin. The Memoirs of Benjamin Van Cleve. [S.l.: s.n., 1778-1819]. [DaytonB V222AA]

Van Cleve, Benjamin. Memoirs of Benjamin Van Cleve. [S.l.: s.n., 18–?]. [Dayton B V222AB]


6 responses to “Bio Sketch: Benjamin Van Cleve (1773-1821), early settler and county clerk in Dayton, Ohio

  1. Pingback: Be the change you want to see on the web | Glancing Backwards

  2. Pingback: Bio Sketch: Cooper and Greene families, pioneers in Dayton, Ohio | Glancing Backwards

  3. Pingback: Van Cleve at St. Clair’s defeat | Glancing Backwards

  4. We have traced my family ancestry back to the Van Cleves. He is one of my distant relatives. It is so wonderful to be able to learn about my family history.

  5. Hello! Did you happen to come across this ancestor of mine? Thanks! 🙂

    Margaret Ann Van Cleve
    BIRTH 27 MAR 1827 • Montgomery County, Ohio
    DEATH 13 MAR 1881 • Newport, Jackson, Arkansas

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