The recorded history of the Cleveland area began in 1836 when the Texas General Land Office began giving land grants in exchange for service in the Army. A community formed after 1878 when Charles Lander Cleveland, a local judge, deeded 63.6 acres of land in the John S. Boothe survey, to the Houston, East and West Texas Railway for the establishment of a railway station and a town site. Charles sold the land for one dollar with the request that a station bear his name. Emerging from “The Big Thicket” forest, the town of Cleveland grew up around the railroad due to the timber industry. In 1900 the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad appeared so Cleveland served as a junction for these major railways.
The railroad brought new industry to the newly founded town of Cleveland. Cotton, vegetables, and cattle could now be shipped from Cleveland. People came to work here and build new businesses and homes. The Cleveland area was finally incorporated into a city in 1935. Although now most of the sawmills are gone, Cleveland remains a vial shipping point for lumber products and serves as a hub for surrounding areas.