Born and reared on the rich alluvial soil of Indiana, and learning the art of agriculture in Illinois, and now practicing it successfully in Colorado fields made fertile and productive by his own vigorous and skillful efforts, Philip H. Van Cleave, of the Glenwood Springs region of Garfield county, has between the two sections been tried by both extremes of fortune, enjoying at times a brave and comely prosperity and at others sounding all the depths of abject and oppressive adversity. His life began on August 5, 1841, in Orange county of the Hoosier state, where his father, James Van Cleve, also was born. His mother, whose maiden name was Lucretia Holcomb, was a native of Yadkin county, North Carolina. Some time after the birth of this son the family moved to Clay county and a year later to Richland county, Illinois, and two years afterward took up their residence in Morgan county, Illinois. There they remained until 1864, then moved to Scott county in the same state. In 1885 the father joined his son in Colorado, the mother having died in 1853. He followed her to the other world on March 20, 1891. Throughout his life he was an industrious man, and down to the Fremont campaign in 1856 supported the Democratic party, but then he became a Republican and remained one to the end of his days. He and his wife were members of the Methodist church. Of their children one died in infancy, George K. was killed in 1878, as a soldier in the regular army, and Nancy J., then Mrs. Fielden Gibbins, died in 1892; Perry L., of Bluemound, Illinois, Philip H. and Mary E., wife of David Farnam, of Zenobia, Illinois, are living. Philip was educated to a limited extent at the public schools and at an early age began to make his own way in the world. At Jacksonville, Illinois, he farmed and conducted a butchering business for a number of years with good returns for his enterprise and labor. He then engaged in shelling corn and shipping it to St. Louis, with headquarters at Virden, Illinois, remaining there until 1869, when he moved to Kansas, and after devoting some time to farming in that state, went to Indian Territory. From here he made a trip to Texas from whence he returned to Illinois and settled in Macon county. Here he served as clerk for his brother and Mr. Claypool, who were carrying on a general country store under the firm name of Van Cleve & Claypool, and at the end of six months bought Mr. Claypool’s interest, the firm name then becoming Van Cleve Brothers. In 1879 he sold out to his brother and came to Colorado, buying an outfit at St. Louis and making the journey overland to Pueblo, where he arrived on May 8th. After his arrival in this state, he did various kinds of work, mining, wood-chopping and prospecting, for a few months. The net result of his labor in November was the sum of twenty cents; so he quit prospecting and went to Leadville where he found work in the smelter and afterward in the mines for a compensation of three dollars and fifty cents a day. In 1880 he trapped and hunted on Cattle creek in Garfield county, a short time, then moved to Aspen where he served as a cook in a saw-mill camp belonging to Andrew M. McFarland, and received for his work sixty dollars a month and his board. In the summer of 1881 he formed a partnership with Gus Carlson and took a contract to furnish wood for the smelter owned by Shepard & DeWolf. The profits in this undertaking were good, and the work, although hard, was not otherwise unpleasant. In the spring of 1882 he located one hundred and sixty acres of his present ranch as a pre-emption claim, to which he has since purchased additions until he now owns six hundred and forty acres. On April 15, 1882, when he located on this land all he owned was comprised in a pony, a bridle and saddle, some blankets, a batching outfit and an order on Mr. Cowenhagen for the sum of fifteen dollars. He has prospered here and made extensive improvements on his land, is sole owner of the ditch which irrigates it, and raises good crops of the usual farm products of this section. He has also a flourishing cattle and dairy industry, from which the returns are large and steadily on the increase. The ranch is nine miles southeast of Glenwood Springs, in a fine agricultural region and a delightful climate. In politics Mr. Van Cleve is a Republican and in fraternal life belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic, having served over three years in Company I, Fourteenth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, during the Civil war and participating in several important battles. In addition to his ranch he owns real estate at Glenwood Springs.
Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.