(Originally visited 20 October 1999.)
The summer had slipped away like a drowsy afternoon and I had accomplished very little over the past three months. Then the first chills of autumn awakened me like the bright dawn after an restful sleep. Maybe it was just the little mammal part of my brain warning me to get busy before winter or maybe I hibernate in the summer and am reborn as the rest of the nature is preparing for the killing frost. Whatever the reason, I was up and out and on my way to Kinderhook, New York to renew my odd little hobby.
And it was a beautiful drive through the Berkshire Hills along twisty back roads under orange and yellow trees. The sky was gray with low clouds, mist and the occasional rain shower.
As I approached Kinderhook from the south, I first passed Lindenwald, the estate Van Buren occupied after his service in Washington. It being early enough in the day, I thought I’d stop in to immerse myself in Van Burenalia. This being a Wednesday morning I expected the parking lot to be empty, but I was pleasantly surprised to find several cars. As I approached a park ranger about a guided tour, I learned that I had just missed the last one for a couple of hours and, because of the age and decrepitude of the house, I was not permitted to go unescorted. Pity.
So off to the cemetery and the grave, neither of which were difficult to find and thus ends the story.
I would be remiss if I were to neglect to mention that was my third time seeing the obelisk which marks his final resting place. The first was in the summer of 1981 as a teenager just beginning this strange journey. The second time was just a few years ago with my parents again, but this time we viewed the cemetery from the basket of a hot air balloon. It was the morning of my father’s birthday and, as a gift, we took him for a balloon ride.
So, Martin Van Buren’s grave is the only one I’ve see from the air. I suppose if I run out of Presidents and Vice Presidents I could start collecting aerial shots…
Martin Van Buren was a widower the entire time he was in Washington. He lost his wife while he was the Attorney General for New York state. The image below is of the stones covering her tomb. In the topmost image, they’re visible just to the right of the large obelisk. The footstone to the left of the obelisk has the initials M.V.B. carved into it.
He lived 43 years after she died.