The Incredible Life Of Martin Van Buren – America’s Forgotten 8th President

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Image: Columbia County HIstorical Society
Image: Columbia County HIstorical Society

In 1776 Abraham married Maria Hoes Van Alen, a widow who was also of Dutch heritage. She brought three children from her previous marriage to her union with Abraham and went on to have five more children with her second husband – one of whom was Martin Van Buren himself. His half-brother James I. Van Alen was also to become a politician, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Image: The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
Image: The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

With this strong Netherlands family background – and the fact that many of Kinderhook’s inhabitants spoke Dutch – Van Buren’s first language was Dutch. In fact, to this day, he is the only American president for whom English was a second language. He learned English at the village school house in Kinderhook.

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Image: John S. Hirth
Image: John S. Hirth

Being brought up in the convivial atmosphere of an inn is said to have given Van Buren a good grounding in relating to people. Indeed, these would be skills put to good use in his future career as a politician. And as well as the good folk of Kinderhook, his father’s tavern had some highly illustrious patrons indeed.

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