Family Tree Tuesday – Francis Preston Blair, Sr.
Francis Preston Blair, Sr. was an American journalist and politician. He was made editor of the Washington Globe in 1830 which was the recognized organ of the Andrew Jackson party. Blair was a member of Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet” that gave him a powerful influence. The Globe was the administration organ until 1841 and the chief Democratic organ until 1845. In 1849, Blair ceased to be its editor. He was convinced after the Mexican War that slavery should not be extended beyond where it was currently allowed even though he held slaves. In the 1860 Republican convention Blair supported the nomination of Abraham Lincoln and took it upon himself to advise Lincoln.
The city of Silver Spring, Maryland was was founded and named after Blair’s summer home. He had encountered a “mica-flecked” spring in the vicinity of Seventh Street Pike in 1840 which he liked so much that he bought the surrounding land and created a summer home for his family which he called “Silver Spring.”
Francis Preston Blair, Sr. was born on April 12, 1791 in Abingdon, Virginia to James Blair and Elizabeth Preston Smith. He was married to Elizabeth Gist and had three sons, Montgomery Blair, James Blair and Francis Preston Blair, Jr. His daughter Elizabeth Blair married Rear Admiral Samuel Phillips Lee of the United States Navy who had commanded the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron from 1862-1864 and was a cousin of Robert E. Lee.
Montgomery Blair was a politician and lawyer from Maryland. He was an abolitionist and a loyal member of the Cabinet of Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. He served as Postmaster-General in Lincoln’s Cabinet from 1861-1864. He married Mary Woodbury, she was the daughter of Levi Woodbury who was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, a U.S. Senator, Governor of New Hampshire and cabinet member in three administrations. Montgomery and Mary were the great-grandparents of actor Montgomery Clift.
Francis Preston Blair, Jr. was a politician as well and a Union Army general during the American Civil War. He represented Missouri in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and he was the Democratic Party’s nominee for Vice President in 1868. He was an accidental witness to an incident in a famous homicide case in 1870 while he was staying at the then famous Fifth Avenue Hotel. Blair had woken up to cries of help from across the street and watched from his hotel window as two men ran out of a brownstone mansion across the street. They were two of the sons of Benjamin Nathan, the Vice President of the New York Stock Exchange, who had been bludgeoned to death the previous night. The mystery of the homicide was never solved.
Benjamin Gratz Brown was the great nephew of Elizabeth Gist, but was also related to Blair through their common ancestors John Preston and Elizabeth Patton. He was a Senator, the 20th Governor of Missouri and the Liberal Republican and Democratic Party Vice presidential candidate in the presidential election of 1872. In 1856, he fought a duel on Bloody Island in the Mississippi River with Thomas C. Reynolds who was then the St. Louis District Attorney over the slavery issue. Reynolds was not hurt, but Brown was shot in the leg and limped for the rest of his life.
Did you know Blair House, the official state guest house for the President of the United States at one time belonged to Francis Preston Blair, Sr.? Blair acquired the property in 1836 during his time in Washington when he was serving Andrew Jackson, the house was purchased by the U.S. government in 1942.
Check out Francis Preston Blair, Sr.’s family tree and see how you may be related!