Van Cleave enjoys learning about area, sharing history

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 22, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; On other days, Tim Van Cleave might be giving tours, building a Web site or digging into a treasure trove of historical records.

&8220;But everybody has to do their time at the desk,&8221; he said.

Van Cleave works as a park guide at the Natchez National Historical Park, and Wednesday he was working the store at Melrose National Historic Park, just off the Melrose-Montebello Parkway.

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Originally from Indiana, Van Cleave worked at parks in Arkansas, California, Alaska and Virginia before he came to Natchez.

&8220;You get different aspects of U.S. history in different areas,&8221; he said. &8220;For example, in Alaska, they focused on the Alaskan gold rush.&8221;

With a master&8217;s degree in American history, Van Cleave went to work for the U.S. National Park Service.

&8220;It gives you a chance to travel, to live in different parts of the U.S.,&8221; he said. &8220;It&8217;s really great.&8221;

Van Cleave was interested in history since he was very small, he said.

&8220;I always loved history as a kid,&8221; he said. &8220;It was one of the things I was good at.&8221;

Van Cleave has worked in Natchez about three years, and, he wears several hats. He is in charge of, among other things, the park&8217;s Web site, the library and recycling.

&8220;We do a lot of things people don&8217;t always see,&8221; he said.

Each park guide can do their own historical research to put together tours, he said. They have a wealth of information from which to draw, but they have to curb their enthusiasm.

&8220;I can&8217;t realistically give a three-and-a-half hour tour, but I could,&8221; he said. &8220;We can&8217;t get way in-depth because we&8217;d be with one tour group forever.&8221;

One tidbit not everyone knows, he said, is that Melrose&8217;s owner, John McMurran, was shot trying to get back onto his property. The Union soldier shot McMurran in the back of the head, and the bullet came out of his eye. The soldier was court marshaled, and McMurran survived.

Visitors love stories, Van Cleave said, and he is happy to provide them.