Martin Van Buren Bates

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Martin Van Buren Bates
Photo of Martin Van Buren Bates (left)
Martin standing in Uniform
Born(1837-11-09)November 9, 1837
DiedJanuary 19, 1919(1919-01-19) (aged 81)
Height7 ft 9 in (2.36 m)
(m. 1871; died 1888)

Annette LaVonne Weatherby
(m. 1889)

Martin Van Buren Bates (November 9, 1837 – January 19, 1919), known as the Kentucky Giant, was an American man famed for his great height. He was 7 ft 9 in (2.36 m) tall[1][2] and weighed 475 lb (215 kg).[3]

Youth and growth[edit]

Bates' growth rate jumped at the age of six or seven. He was over 6 ft (1.83 m) tall and weighed over 200 lb (90 kg) by the time he was twelve years old.

Civil War[edit]

Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, Bates joined the 5th Kentucky Infantry Confederate States Army, as a private in 1861. His ferocity in battle and imposing figure saw him quickly promoted to the rank of captain. He was severely wounded in a battle near the Cumberland Gap and was captured and imprisoned at Camp Chase in Ohio, although he later escaped.[4]

Adulthood and first marriage[edit]

The marriage of Martin Bates to Anna Swan, 1871
Martin van Buren Bates and Anna Haining Bates

He returned to Kentucky after the war. Before the war, his first occupation was as a schoolteacher. While the circus was on tour in Halifax, Canada, the 7-foot-11-inch tall Anna Haining Swan visited.[1] She and Martin soon got to know each other, and were married in 1871. The highly publicized wedding, at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, England, drew thousands of people trying to attend, due to both the uncommonness of the spectacle and the couple's disarming good nature. Queen Victoria gave them two extra-large diamond-studded gold watches as wedding presents.[citation needed]

They moved to Ohio in 1872, settling in Seville. On 19 May 1872, Anna gave birth to a daughter, who weighed 18 lb (8.2 kg) and died at birth.[5] They built a large house to accommodate themselves comfortably. Martin described the next few years in his autobiography:

While in Ohio, I purchased a farm in Seville, Medina County. It consisted of 130 acres [0.53 km2; 53 ha] of good land. I built a house upon it designed especially for our comfort. The furniture was all built to order and to see our guests make use of it recalls most forcibly the good Dean Swift's traveler in the land of Brobdingnag.

Bates family grave, Seville, Ohio

I had determined to become a farmer, so I stocked my farm with the best breeds of cattle, most of them being short horns. My draught horses are of the Norman breed.

My rest was not to last long, for the solicitations of managers, I consented to again travel. The seasons of 1878, 1879 and 1880 found us leading attractions of the W. W. Cole circus.

While we have during these years been blessed with many things, affliction again visited us in the loss of a boy, born on the 15th day of January, 1879. He was 28 inches [71 cm] tall and weighed twenty-three pounds [10 kg] and was perfect in every respect.

Final years[edit]

Anna Bates died on August 5, 1888. Martin ordered a statue of her from Europe for her grave, sold the oversized house, and moved into the town. In 1889 he remarried, this time to a woman of normal stature, Annette LaVonne Weatherby,[6] and lived a mostly peaceful life until his death in 1919 of nephritis.[7][8] He was buried beside his first wife and their son in Seville.[9] He is currently the tallest known person to live to be at least 80 years old.

Some years after his death, a normal height family had purchased the 14-ft ceiling home built by the giant couple. However, the original house in which he and Anna lived burnt down. Later a normal house was built on that site and eventually converted into a museum for the Seville Historical Society.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tallest married couple ever". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  2. ^ His height is listed as 7'9" by Guinness World Records. Various other sources list his height as 7'2", 7'7", 7'9", or 7'11".
  3. ^ Bates, Ira J. (30 May 2017). "I Discovered my Great Uncle was a Giant". Medium. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Martin Van Buren Bates, the Kentucky River Giant | Soldiers, Politicians, & Other Men". American Civil War Forums.
  5. ^ "The Giants' Wedding".
  6. ^ "Now a Farmer". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. 5 March 1896. p. 6. Retrieved 20 September 2015 – via
  7. ^ They Live In The House The Giants Built The Cincinnati Post. April 17, 1948. Reprinted First National Bank Chronicle, Vol. 7, No. 2 – Winter 1996. Accessed 2008-7-8.
  8. ^ Vigil, Vicki Blum (2007). Cemeteries of Northeast Ohio: Stones, Symbols & Stories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59851-025-6
  9. ^ "Resting Place of the Giants - Seville OH". Retrieved 9 July 2021 – via Atlas Obscura.
  10. ^ "Seville, a giant little village: Ohio Tiny Towns". 3 June 2018.

External links[edit]