Saturday, September 13, 2008

Martin Van Buren Bates Part 1

When I first discovered Martin Van Buren Bates, the Kentucky Giant, I knew he had traveled with P. T. Barnum as one of the world's tallest men.  I wanted to find out what happened to him after he left the circus.  Uncle Jesse told me that he had settled in northern Ohio near Cleveland.  He had been to a small city up that way called Seville, Ohio.  He said in the drugstore there he had talked to a man who told him about Martin living in their little city. Back in 1983 and maybe 1984 Jason and I attended these festivals.

The first year we watched a huge parade.  Seville was very good to the families who were related to the Bates.  They set aside a family area where you could meet with other Bates relatives.

Martin and Anna are outlined on the barn so that you can stand by them when visting the farm on their guided tour.
 Seville had papier mache statues made of Anna and Martin so that you could get a feel for how big they actually were.  Jason stood beside them and let me take his picture.  That first year I think we picked up a flyer which had the events spelled out.  In it the grand marshall of the parade was listed as Alice Lemons, the "niece" of Martin Van Buren Bates. I wanted to meet her.  I went to the area marked for the Bates family and found out that she lived in Lodi, a small community not far away.  She was in her 80s and had not come to the festival itself after her ride in the parade. 

I got a phone book, looked her up and called.  I found out she was my grandmother, Cora Wright's, half sister.  I went to her home and visited her.  We talked about all kinds of things in the family.  She also told me that the Bates house had been rebuilt for "normal" sized people and gave me the address of another house to go look at which she said was exactly like the Bates house had been except for the size.  I went out and took a picture of that house.

The second year we attended, we rode on the family float in the parade.

We ended up moving to Medina which is about ten miles from Seville.  I don't remember if they had the festivals while we lived up there or if we just went home to Dayton when we had the fourth of July holiday.  It seems like it stopped for a while.

Last year I was googling and found the Giant Fest.  Unfortunately it was held on the same weekend as my nephew, Danny's wedding so I didn't get to go to that one.  They had also changed it from July to September.

I am scheduled to attend this year's festival this weekend.  On Frday night there is a dinner for members of the Bates family hosted by one of the churches in town.  On Saturday and Sunday there are activities all day including plays, civil war enactments, contests, walks in daylight and by lantern to the cemetery.  The whole schedule can be seen at

I am not writing from home so I don't have access to Alice's picture.  I will post it later on with another story.  I will also write what I know about Martin and Anna and their lives together.  I am going to attend the dinner Friday night and the festival on Saturday.  I am meeting at least one of my Bentley cousins on Saturday.  We will see what all we can see until the fireworks display on Saturday night.  I will tell you several stories about the Bates and things I learned in Medina couty.

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