Charles L. Cleveland, judge and Texas legislator, was born in Breckenridge County, Kentucky, on August 25, 1824, son of Jesse Alexander Harrison and Sarah (Lander) Cleveland. Following the death of Sarah Cleveland, Jesse Cleveland and his children moved to the future Brazoria County, Texas, in 1833 where Jesse made a reputation and a fortune for himself by inventing a reputedly successful treatment for yellow fever despite his lack of medical training.
Charles went to work at the age of thirteen for one of the first newspapers in Texas, the Texas Republican. Later he worked for the Telegraph and Texas Register, published in Columbia (now known as West Columbia), which was then the seat of the Republic of Texas. Cleveland attended Rutersville College in Fayette County, Texas, and graduated with a Master of Arts degree in 1842. Upon graduation Charles Lander Cleveland moved to Galveston where his father was living and studied law with Judge Benjamin Cromwell Franklin. In 1845 or 1846 Cleveland was admitted to the bar at Liberty, Texas, where he maintained a practice for the next twenty-five years. Cleveland married Mary Ann Booker (Hardin) in 1849; the couple had nine children.
In 1856 Cleveland was elected to the state legislature from Liberty County and served in the Sixth Legislature. Cleveland was a delegate to the Secession Convention from Liberty and Polk counties, and a signer of the ordinance of secession. Cleveland was elected judge of the First Judicial District in 1861and served on that bench until 1866 when he was removed as an impediment to Reconstruction. Judge Cleveland was also active in the Democratic party and was a delegate to the 1854 Democratic state convention from Liberty County and a Galveston delegate in 1873 and 1876. In 1871 Judge Cleveland left his practice in Liberty and moved permanently to Galveston where he formed a new partnership with Judge Asa Hoxie Willie. In 1886 Cleveland was appointed a federal judge for the special criminal district of Galveston and Harris counties, a position he would fill until his death.
In addition to his legal career Judge Cleveland was a practicing Methodist and a high-ranking member of the Masons. He was a stockholder or sat on the board of directors for several Texas businesses including the Texas Banking and Insurance Corporation, Gulf Loan and Homestead Company, Southern Cotton Compress Company, Texas Cotton Press and Manufacturing Company, and the Galveston Gas Company. Cleveland was also Chairman of the Board of the Island City Protestant Orphans Home, later know as the Galveston Children's Home. Cleveland owned more than 50,000 unimproved acres of land in several central and west Texas counties. He donated the land on which a station for the Houston East and West Texas Railway was built on the condition that the station bear his name, and when the town, Cleveland, Texas, grew around the station, it adopted his name as well. Judge Charles Lander Cleveland died on February 9, 1892.