When did the Van Buren family switch from farming to tavern keeping? We’ll never know. But we know that at the very least there was a tavern in operation in 1759. At this point, Abraham Van Buren—the president’s father—would have been 22. Did he start the business or did his father, Marten Van Buren? Again, impossible to determine with certainty. We happen to know less about Marten Van Buren than many others in the family genealogy, including those who preceded him by a century. We don’t even know when he died or if he left a will. But we know this much: when the highly decorated British military engineer Col. James Montresor was traveling by sleigh from Albany to New York City, the inclement weather forced him to stop in Kinderhook.
Montresor won much acclaim for his military service at Gibraltar in 1731, where he was stationed for the next 16 years. During that period he excelled at engineering, which would land him in New York during the French and Indian War. He was based in Albany and designed numerous military forts, leading to his appointment as Chief Engineer in the Provinces, a position that earned him property as well as military plaudits: the crown granted him 10,000 acres of land near Lake Champlain.
The Journals of Col. James Montresor, published in 1882, gives an account of his grueling journey between New York’s two largest cities in December of 1759. You’d think he was in Siberia by the description of things. His journal makes frequent reference to frost, snow, wind, and “excessive cold.” His brief entry in his journal on the 18th of December: “Set out from Albany at 12 o’clock in Sleighs. Lay at Kinderhook at Van Buren’s.”
That’s all we have. One Van Buren biographer called Montresor’s journals “maddeningly laconic.” Very true.