Hannah Hoes Van Buren
[Martin Van Buren]
Biography: Cousins in a close-knit Dutch community, Hannah Hoes
and Martin Van Buren grew up together in Kinderhook, New York. Evidently he wanted to
establish his law practice before marrying his sweetheart--they were not
wed until 1807, when he was 24 and his bride just three months younger.
Apparently their marriage was a happy one, though little is known of
Hannah as a person.
Van Buren omitted even her name from his autobiography; a gentleman of
that day would not shame a lady by public references. A niece who
remembered "her loving, gentle disposition" emphasized "her modest, even
timid manner." Church records preserve some details of her life; she
seems to have considered formal church affiliation a matter of importance.
She bore a son in Kinderhook, three others in Hudson, where Martin served
as county surrogate; but the fourth son died in infancy. In 1816 the
family moved to the state capital in Albany. Soon the household included
Martin's law partner and three apprentices; relatives came and went
constantly, and Hannah could return their visits. Contemporary letters
indicate that she was busy, sociable, and happy. She gave birth to a
fifth boy in January 1817.
But the following winter her health was obviously failing, apparently
from tuberculosis. Not yet 36, she died on February 5, 1819. The Albany
Argus called her "an ornament of the Christian faith."
Her husband never remarried; he moved into the White House in 1837 as a
widower with four bachelor sons. Now accustomed to living in elegant
style, he immediately began to refurbish a mansion shabby from public use
under Jackson. Across Lafayette Square, Dolley Madison reigned as
matriarch of Washington society; when her young relative-by-marriage
Angelica Singleton came up from South Carolina for a visit, Dolley took
her to the White House to pay a call.
Angelica's aristocratic manners, excellent education, and
handsome face won the heart of the President's eldest son, Abraham. They
were married in November 1838; next spring a honeymoon abroad polished
experience. Thereafter, while Abraham served as the President's private
secretary, Angelica presided as the lady of the White House. The only
flaw in her pleasure in this role was the loss of a baby girl. Born at
the White House, she lived only a few hours. In later years, though
spending much time in South Carolina and in Europe, Angelica and her
husband made their home in New York City; she died there in 1878.