Martin Van Buren Bates

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Martin Van Buren Bates
Photo of Martin Van Buren Bates (left)
Born(1837-11-09)November 9, 1837
Letcher County, Kentucky
DiedJanuary 19, 1919(1919-01-19) (aged 81)
Anna Haining Bates
(m. 1871; died 1888)

Annette LaVonne Weatherby (m. 1897)

Martin Bates (November 9, 1837 – January 19, 1919), known as the "Kentucky Giant" was an American man famed for his great height. The Guinness Book of World Records and other reputable sources have him listed at being 7 feet 7.5 inches (2.324 m) tall and weighing 328 pounds (149 kg).[citation needed]

Youth and growth[edit]

He began a big growth spurt at some time around the age of six or seven, and was over six feet (1.8 m) tall and weighed over 200 pounds (91 kg) by the time he was twelve years old. His first occupation was as a schoolteacher.

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. Bates was severely wounded in a battle around the Cumberland Gap area and captured and imprisoned at Camp Chase in Ohio, although he later escaped. [1]

Adulthood and marriage[edit]

The marriage of Martin van Buren to Anna Swan, 1871

He returned to Kentucky after the war. While the circus was on tour in Halifax, Canada, the 7 foot 11 inch (2.42 m) tall Anna Haining Swan visited. She and Martin soon got to know each other, and were married in 1871. The wedding, at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, was abuzz with publicity, and thousands of people, drawn both by the uncommonness of the spectacle and the disarming good nature of the pair, tried to attend. Queen Victoria herself gave them two extra-large diamond-studded gold watches as wedding presents.

Martin and his wife returned to Ohio in 1872 and settled in Seville. In 19 May 1872 Anna gave birth to a daughter, who weighed 18 pounds and died at birth.[2] In Seville, the couple built a large house to accommodate themselves comfortably. He explains the next few years in his autobiography:

While in Ohio, I purchased a farm in Seville, Medina County. It consisted of 130 acres [0.5 km²] 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 [711 mm] 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 1897 he remarried, this time to a woman of normal stature, Annette LaVonne Weatherby[3] and lived a mostly peaceful life until his death in 1919 of nephritis.[4][5]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Now a Farmer". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. 5 March 1896. p. 6. Retrieved 20 September 2015 – via
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Vigil, Vicki Blum (2007). Cemeteries of Northeast Ohio: Stones, Symbols & Stories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59851-025-6

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