The Giants of Seville

By | May 18, 2018

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circa 1870: Giant Captain Bates, husband of 8 ft 3 ins giantess Anna Swan. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Seville, Ohio is a little town that sits about 44 miles South of Cleveland, with an estimated population for 2018 of only 2,411.

A man by the name of Martin van Buren Bates settled there with his wife in 1873 and put Seville, Ohio on the map, so to speak.

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He was born in Kentucky to the Bates family who were all of average human height. He was the youngest in the family with six brothers and five sisters. Martin was a normal size at his birth on November 9, 1837. However, it was during the span of seven years from when he was about seven years old, that he started developing and growing more rapidly compared to other children his age. He grew to be over six feet tall and weighing almost 300 pounds by the time he was twelve or thirteen years old. Martin became known as the “Kentucky Giant”. In the real sense of the word, he was a perfectly formed giant.

Martin kept growing until he was 28 years old reaching the tallest recorded height of 7 feet, 9 inches and weighing a total of 470 pounds. The Guinness Book of World Records and Wikipedia’s List of Tallest People among list him as being 7 feet 9 inches tall and weighing around 470 pounds.

After his studies at Emma-Henry College in Virginia, he became a schoolteacher, but decided to leave teaching when the Civil War started and joined the Confederate Army as a private in the Fifth Kentucky Infantry in September 1861. Due to his stealth stature and ferocious nature in battle, it didn’t take him long to rise to the rank of Captain. His imposing figure made him famous with the Union soldiers who’d spread stories describing him as the "Confederate giant who's as big as five men and fights like fifty". He was severely wounded in a battle around the Cumberland Gap area and also captured, although he later escaped.