sit a spell

on the porch with me

i have fresh squeezed lemonade

and coated candy sweet for the soul

lean back in southern comfort

and listen

as i tell you

a giant of a tale

about my

great great great


Martin Van Buren Bates

born in Whitesburg, Kentucky

November 9, 1845

youngest of eleven

the baby who grew

to 7 feet 2 inches tall

full grown at 450 pounds

attending Emory and Henry College

was drafted into the great civil skirmish

military ribbons earned

fighting guerilla warfare

along the Virginia border

Seventh Confederate Calvary

now the tallest captain

what a sight he must have been

upon horseback

waging war

in 1865 he headed north

seeking Cincinnatus

decided to perform

in the circus

first for Wiggins & Bennoitt

eventually PT Barnum

the giant from Letcher County

took center stage across

the anxiously waiting world

in the spotlight

off  he went to every corner of the states

then on to

Great Britain, Canada, France, Spain, Switzerland

Austria and Russia

it was this place in time when

the well traveled giant

met his match

sailing the Atlantic

two stars

collided upon the ocean

Anna Swan

a giantess

from New Annan, Nova Scotia

who stood four inches taller

at 7 feet 6 inches

Martin had finally met a woman

he could look up to

she too had held court on all the finest stages

she had played Lady Macbeth in New York

they began to perform together

dramatic readings and theatrical shorts

twice they gave command performances

before Queen Victoria

it was here in London

where our pre Virginia tobacco plantation

family tree is rooted

my greatest of uncles

said vows before his bride

on June 17, 1871




they became

and Guinness proclaimed

the world’s tallest married couple

the queen gave him a watch and chain

my aunt a diamond ring

royal wedding presents most epic

they retired

from public life to a farm

upon 130 acres of Seville, Ohio

for his wife

Uncle Martin

who was known as

Big Man Bates


an 18 room mansion

14 foot ceilings

and custom made furniture

they had every modern comfort

the huge barn proclaiming Bates

was known for its prized cattle

and gargantuan draft horses

it was here two baby boys were

born and died

their little hearts couldn’t take the

weight of

being the largest babies born on record

ten years apart each over thirty pounds

each lived less than a day

a plaster cast of the youngest

in the Cleveland Health Museum

ten years after

Anna succumbed to the size of her grief

dead one day shy of 42

a special coffin was made

for her only the finest would do

my uncle penned an autobiography

that was published posthumously

to my delight

he was something of a writer

he told stories of his other worldly journeys

and great military coups

but it was the love for his wife

that was the largest point of the narrative


The Kentucky River Giant

in the conclusion of the book

my great great great uncle Martin

wrote the most beautiful words

ever placed into ink for a woman

“I cannot conclude without endeavoring

in some small degree

to testify

my unbounded love

for the wife who seems

to have been created for me.

To her kindness, her intelligence,

her religious and ever faithful care,

I owe a debt that even life

cannot repay.”

Martin died on January 19, 1919

He is buried beside Anna

and the baby boys in

Mound Hill Cemetery

monolithic in

Medina County Ohio

only the barn bearing the name Bates


final vestige

of the most immense

love affair

to ever


the willing


4 replies on “Saint-Martin’s-in-the-Field”

No, Sharon, the house was dismantled in 1948 and the materials were used to fashion a smaller house for the people who owned it then. Only the barn remains.

And yes, sir, it is quite a history…

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