Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Giants of Seville

The likeness of Anna stands over
Her and Martin's graves
Mound Hill Cemetery, Seville, Ohio
The sun was barely over the eastern horizon as I pulled through the gates of Mound Hill Cemetery on the outskirts of Seville, Ohio. I immediately turned left inside the gate and parked in the roadway. I noted that the grounds crew was busy trimming trees and mowing the grass as I flipped through my notes about the famous couple buried within the borders of the cemetery.

I stepped out of the vehicle and took in my surroundings. As I was scanning the cemetery grounds one of the men walked over to where I stood.

“They’re buried over there,” he said as he pointed towards a large monument in the midst of the field of stone. I merely stared at him unsure what to say. “You are searching for the graves of Martin and Anna Bates, aren’t you?”

“You’re right,” I admitted. “How’d you know?”

“I noticed your license plate,” he spoke. “I see you’re from out of state and most out-of-staters are looking for the Bates grave.”

Walking towards the large monument I noticed that the statue of a lady stood guard atop the marble column. The statue is a likeness of Anna Bates, one of the two giants buried here. She, along with her husband Martin, and their two children rest within the borders of the Mound Hill Cemetery.

The likeness of Anna
On top the Bates Family Stone
Martin Bates, who was known as “The Kentucky Giant,” was born November 9, 1837, in Letcher County, Kentucky, the last of twelve children. His growth spurt began when he was six or seven years old and by the age of fourteen he stood over seven feet tall.

Martin served as a school teacher who joined the Fifth Kentucky Infantry at the start of the Civil War.  I want to add a little: There seems to be a debate about Martin’s rank in the Civil War. Most sources list that he rose to the rank of Captain, but other sources state that the title Captain was an informal title. I have not been able to determine which of these is correct, but most sources do state he obtained the rank of Captain..

At the end of the Civil War, Martin returned to Kentucky. Finding that his home state was in turmoil with Union and Confederate supporters still fighting, Martin sold his property and left. He moved to Cincinnati and soon joined a circus. While the circus was in Halifax, Canada, he met Anna Swan who was visiting the circus.

A simple stone marks Martin's resting place in the shadow
Of the monument
Anna Swan Bates was born August 6, 1846 in Mill Brook, New Annan (Nova Scotia), Canada. Unlike Martin, who was of “normal” baby size when he was born, Anna weighed sixteen pounds at birth. She was the third child of thirteen and all of the others were of average height and weight. From the moment of her birth Anna grew quickly. By her fifth birthday she was four and a half feet tall and by her fifteenth birthday she was six feet tall. Anna would eventually reach the height of seven and a half feet.

Anna had a passion for literature and music and was extremely intelligent. She was noted for her singing and her ability to play the piano.

After meeting Martin, Anna began touring with the circus and the two eventually fell in love. They married June 18, 1871, while the circus was in London, England. The spectacle of their wedding drew thousands of curious Londoners who wanted to witness the ceremony. Anna would tire of traveling and would often appear at P.T. Barnum’s museum or in the homes of notable people to have tea parties.

In 1872, Martin purchased one hundred and thirty acres near the community of Seville, Ohio, where they became active members of the community. There they had a a house constructed with fourteen foot tall ceilings and doors that were eight and a half feet high. The back portion of the house had normal sized rooms for their servants and guests.

Though Anna's likeness may stand on top the memorial
Her actual resting place is a simple marker
The giant couple would have no heirs, though Anna conceived twice. The first was a stillborn girl on May 19, 1872, while they were in England. The second child was a baby boy born January 15, 1879, but sadly survived only eleven hours. The large child was twenty-three pounds, seven ounces and was shy of thirty inches long, with feet that were six inches long. His stone merely states “Babe,” on it.

To deal with their tragedy, the Bates returned to touring. They would tour for two more years before permanently retiring from the circus to the farm they owned near Seville. The two were often seen riding around town on their large carriage that was drawn by Clydesdales.

Anna would die unexpectedly in her sleep on August 5, 1888, the day before her birthday. Martin had a life-sized statue of Anna created and placed on top her grave..

He would eventually remarry in 1897 to Annette Weatherby, who was "normal" sized. Martin would pass in 1919 of nephritis (an inflammation of the kidneys) and was buried with his wife and children in Mound Hill Cemetery.

Bates Family Historical Marker
Stanhope Park, Seville
I finished paying my respects to Martin and Anna and waved my thanks to the groundskeeper as I returned to my vehicle. Exiting the cemetery, I headed towards the opposite side of town for a brief stop at Stanhope Park. Located on the western edge of town, at the intersection of West Main and Pleasant Streets, the park is what one would expect to see in small town America with some playground equipment and a pavilion. At the corner of the intersection stands an Ohio State Historical Marker that provided insight about the giant couple. After reading the information on the marker I headed out of town, leaving Martin, Anna, and family resting in the quiet of the early morning.

Finding the Bates’ grave is very easy. Enter Mound Hill Cemetery through the eastern entrance on East Main Street (this is the second entrance when coming from town). Drive straight ahead and their grave is on the left. If you choose to visit, please do so with respect.

Martin and Anna Bates
Picture from the historical marker in Seville
A note about Martin and Anna’s daughter: I do not want to sound insensitive or morbid about the subject of children dying, but there was a lot of information I searched through for facts about the Bates family. I discovered that, while the information about the son of Martin and Anna is the same in all sources, information about their first born varies.

The version that I believe to be correct is that their daughter was born May 19, 1872, in England and passed on shortly after birth. She weighed more than eighteen pounds and was a little over twenty-seven inches long.

However, there is a lot of misinformation that has been reported time and time again to be the truth. Their daughter died at birth, not months or years later. Their daughter was not a "normal" sized baby like numerous accounts have reported.

While many sources maintain that their daughter was buried in the Mound Hill Cemetery, I’m not one hundred percent sure this is correct, though a stone stating “Sister” does exist in the family plot. Some sources state she was buried in England, while others state that she was brought back to America and buried in Seville. Yet another source states that her body was donated to a museum in London. Even the Ohio Historical Marker fails to mention their daughter, instead stating that Martin, Anna, and their son are buried in Mound Hill Cemetery, so the stone may be a cenotaph.

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