Since I posted the message above I think I have finally figured out the family's connection to Martin Van Buren. We are associated with Van Buren, but he's not a blood relative. It's not a coincidence that we have so many "Van Burens" in our McCombs family tree.
To find the connection you need to fully trace the Gist family tree. One of our great grandmothers was Edith Gist from Maryland who married Cpt. Benjamin Price. One of Edith's relatives (brother or uncle?) was Nathaniel Gist, a famous early American explorer who was friends with Daniel Boone. Nathaniel had a daughter named Eliza. Eliza married Francis Preston Blair. Here's where our association with Van Buren begins:
Francis P Blair and our 2nd cousin, Eliza Gist Blair, are the Blairs in "Blair House," the famous house across the street from the White House that is today the president's guest house where foreign leaders stay when they visit Washington. (This line of the family is simply amazing.) For more than 120 years the Blair family lived across the street from the White House and they were Washington insiders and behind-the-scenes power brokers.
Francis P Blair started as a newspaper editorialist in Frankfort, KY, in the 1830s. Through mutual friends Blair caught the attention of President Andrew Jackson and was invited to Washington to run Democratic Party-sponsored newspaper, The Washington Globe. Before the family bought Blair House they actually lived inside the White House with Andrew Jackson, who was very fond of the family and kept a lifelong association with them.
Martin Van Buren's political career started as Andrew Jackson's secretary of state. That's where Francis Blair met Van Buren. Later, when Van Buren ran for president Blair was one of his political advisers and campaign managers.
While searching through old newspapers in Ohio (where our McCombs family lived) I have found strange letters to the editor written by a Hugh McCombs and other McCombs, living in Archer Township, Harrison County, Ohio. These letters praise Martin Van Buren to the heavens as if he's the second coming (LOL.) In one letter Hugh McCombs also identifies himself as a leader within the Ohio Democratic Party. I don't think it is pure coincidence. Hugh and other family members were probably in contact with Francis and Eliza Blair at this time and were acting as surrogates, helping Blair to ensure an Ohio victory for Martin Van Buren.
I was blown away when I discovered this connection. If you keep tracing the Gist and Blair family trees, you will find that we're either related to or associated with some of the most important historical figures of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Another interesting factoid: The Blair's daughter, Elizabeth Blair Lee, our 3rd cousin, took care of Mary Lincoln for 3 weeks inside the White House after Abe was assassinated. Elizabeth married Adm Samuel Phillip Lee, a cousin of Gen Robert E Lee.
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