Born: Thursday, July 21, 1814, in London, England
Died: Friday, October 27, 1893, in Chicago
Profession: Real-Estate Developer
While living in Toronto, Charles Cleaver heard of the growth of the city of Chicago. The eldest son of Charles Cleaver and Jane Barker, Charles came to Chicago in 1833, where he sold his soap factory to James S. Kirk & Co., located at the junction of Kinzie Street and the Chicago River's North Branch in 1836. And, as the business expanded, he built several other factories on the Chicago River, including one on the main branch roughly at the site of old Fort Dearborn.
In 1851, he moved his operation outside the city limits to a new factory at the eastern terminus of S. 38th Street. He bought up land in that area and built housing for his workers; he called the development Cleaverville, which was eventually renamed Oakland. In 1857, he got out of the soap-making business and concentrated on buying and selling real estate.
Brother William Cleaver joined Charles the next year and entered into the business. They also started a general store on what is now South Water Street. They soon moved the soap works to Division Street and the Chicago River.
In 1854, the brothers purchased property along the lake shore, by what is now Cottage Grove Avenue on the West, 43rd Street on the South and 35th Street on the North. Near the lake shore they erected a large shop, at the foot of Pier Street, which is now 38th Street. Lake Street was, at that time, the main highway and stage coach road between Detroit and Chicago and on this street was the business of Cleaverville, which was laid out and platted within the above lines. They erected a very substantial pier, which extended out into the lake. At this time, there was a quarter mile of beach East of where the Illinois Central Railroad tracks were once. They conducted the general merchandise store, post office and other industries at the corner of Lake Street and Pier Street.
In 1857, panic practically destroyed the business of the brothers, and they discontinued the soap business. William continued to operate the general store and Charles entered the real estate business.
A few years after sons, William and Charles, had become established in business, their father Charles, moved to his family to Waukegan, Illinois, where he became the owner of a large tract of land.
Chicago Tribune Sunday, October 29, 1893, page 13, Obituary
Charles Cleaver, for many years one of the leading real-estate men in the city and also one of Chicago's earliest settlers died at the home of his son Charles S. Cleaver, No. 4741 Kenwood Avenue, on Friday, October 27, 1893. Mr. Cleaver had lived in Chicago since October 1833. His widow, Mary, two sons, and four daughters survive him. The funeral arrangements have not yet been completed.
When Charles Cleaver came to Chicago he became immediately identified with the commercial interests of the town and subsequently founded Cleaverville, now (1893) Oakland. This he did by building a house in 1853 on the property lying between Oakwood Avenue and Brook Street (so called by Mr. Cleaver because of a brook that ran there), Cedar Street, and Elm Street. The house since then has been enlarged and divided, but its integral part remains at the residence, No. 3938 Ellis Avenue. This house was built subsequent to Mr. Cleaver's removal from the house he occupied where Standard Hall is now situated--13th Street and Michigan Avenue--and was built there because of its contiguity to the soap and rendering works which Mr. Cleaver erected in 1851 near the foot of 38th Street. This house was the nucleus around which clustered the settlement of Cleaverville and the germ out of which sprang one of the favorite suburban residence regions of Chicago.
At that time, 1851, there were only a few fishermen and woodchoppers there, and there were but four or five houses south of 12th Street. Mr. Cleaver bought 22-1/2 acres from Samuel Ellis, who at that time lived at Lake Avenue and 35th Street, and kept tavern near the site of the Douglas Monument, and then bought 71 acres of Henry and Loring Graves, this property forming Cleaverville. There Mr. Cleaver erected numerous houses, spending $60,000 in one year in building purposes. In 1854 he built a meeting-house, which was also the first church in Hyde Park. To the Illinois Central Mr. Cleaver paid $8,800 a year to get it to run trains to his settlement. Hundreds of trains pass and repass the same property daily now.
When Dearborn Seminary was organized, January 1854, Mr. Cleaver was one of the trustees. He also belonged to the old Volunteer Hook and Ladder Company No. 1, along with S.B. Cobb, P.F.W. Peck, McCord, Sherwood, and others. A letter written by Mr. Cleaver in 1833 in regard to the lumber interests of Chicago says the stock of lumber at that time in the town did not exceed 10,000 feet, and that prices ranged from $60 to $70 a thousand. Two sawmills, some six miles up the North Branch of the Chicago River, cut such timber as grew in the vicinity. It was generally of small growth and of the varieties not valuable for building purposes--mostly oak, elm, poplar, and white ash. Mr. Cleaver was authority for the statement that the first bridge across the North Branch of the Chicago River was built in the winter of 1831-32, and that the first bridge over the South Branch of the Chicago River was built in winter of 1832-33. The abutments were built of heavy logs in the shallow water near the banks. These bridges were 10 feet wide. Mr. Cleaver remembered driving across the first bridge over the North Branch.
Charles Cleaver was born at Kensington Common, London, England on Thursday, July 21, 1814. He attended the semi-military academy of H.O. Stone at Bexley for seven years. Leaving London January 18, 1833, and arriving in New York City, March 13, 1833, he had to wait until April 23, 1833, for the Erie Canal to open. He left Buffalo, New York August 26, 1833, and arrived in Chicago October 23, 1833. In 1857, he sold his soap factory to Kirk and engaged in the real estate business. In 1866 Cleaver Hall was built. This was used as a general meeting place for a number of years and is now (1893) used as a dwelling at 14th Street and Grand Boulevard. His home was called "Oakwood Hall", and thence was derived the name for the boulevard. Mr. Cleaver married March 6, 1838 to Miss Mary Brooks whose father was one of the first Justices of the Peace of Hyde Park. Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver had six children all of whom are living: Charles S. Cleaver; Frederick W. Cleaver; Louisa Cleaver, now Mrs. John Barwick; Myra Cleaver; Emily Cleaver; and Fanny Cleaver.
Mr. Cleaver witnessed the growth of Chicago and largely contributed to the prosperity of the new town. Until within the last two years, he lived on Ellis Avenue, but of late resided with his son, Charles S. Cleaver at No. 4741 Kenwood Avenue. He was a member of St. John's Episcopal Church, and his religious beliefs entered into the daily duties of his life.