MARCH 2003

AFFAIR AT TRAVISVILLE continued from page 5

obligation to prove faithful to the United States Government, they were released.

The event of that particular Sunday, over one hundred and forty one years ago, represents the first military action in Tennessee during the Civil War. Well over two thousand different military actions occurred throughout Tennessee in the period from 1861 through 1865. Only in the past several years has Travisville been acknowledged as the official beginning of the conflict and the struggle for control in Tennessee.

Getting to Travisville

The site of the skirmish is identified by a marker located on Hwy 200, approximately 1.5 miles off Hwy 127, 10 miles from Byrdstown, Tennessee. Visit the Borderlands exhibit located in the Town Hall in Byrdstown.
For information regarding the hours that the exhibit is open to the public contact the Chamber of Commerce at (931) 864-7195.

"The Kentucky Giant"

Captain Martin VanBuren Bates was born November 9, 1837 in Kentucky, and died in January 1919 in Seville Ohio. It is said he was at one time 7 feet 11 and 1/2 inches tall and weighed 478 pounds, the second heaviest person in this family history. At his death (from inflammation of kidneys) his weight was 380 and he was 7 feet 4 inches tall.

At age 7 years, Martin was six feet tall and weighed 300 pounds. At age 12, having trouble with his size, his father made the doors to their home larger, also his bed, etc.

His first wife was Nova Scotian giantess Anna Swan. They were married June 17, 1871 at the famous church St Martin-in-the-fields in London England, as guests of the Queen, whom they met while on tour with P.T.Barnum circus. They were engaged after a shipboard romance on the cruise to perform for the Queen Victoria, who gave them as wedding gifts for Anna: a diamond ring and for Martin an enormous gold watch ($150 worth of gold) on a massive nine carat chain.

In September of 1861, Martin joined the Confederate Army as a private in the fifth Kentucky infantry. He helped

chase guerillas from Kentucky and Virginia and was made a captain on a battlefield in Virginia. In 1863 he came home to Whitesburg and found his family gone and that his brother James had been tortured and bayoneted to death slowly by a group of local men who didn't approve of James's union political views. Martin single-handedly rounded up those eight men and hanged them, forbidding their families to remove the bodies from the trees. He was captured by the Union army in Pound Gap Virginia, taken on mule with a rope around his neck, then by boat to Ohio where they put him on display in a prisoner of war camp (Camp Chase) and coined the term "Kentucky Giant". Spent the rest of the war in Camp Chase. Some battles he fought in: Morristown Tennessee, and many battles in Kentucky. He went to Knoxville Tennessee for release from prisoner status in 1865. Then he went home again, found the eight men's bodies still hanging from the trees and told their families they could bury them now.

His home burned, relatives and family members gone who knew where, Martin and nephew Sam Wright went to Cincinnati to join the Wiggins and Bennoitt Show. He was 28 years old, weighed 478 pounds, 7 feet 11 and 1/2 inches tall. Then he joined the John Robinson Circus for $400 month. His nephew got $50. Met Anna Swan in 1871 on the way to a command performance for Queen Victoria. They honeymooned in Star and Garter, Richmond, then back to Craven Street home for royal receptions. They then toured Scotland.

Martin and Anna had two children; both died shortly after birth. The first was a girl born in 1872, 27 inches long, weighing 18 pounds. She died the next day and was put in a jar of formaldehyde and exhibited by the circus at Saint James Hall and the Crystal Palace. The second, in 1879, was a boy 30 inches long, head circumference 18 inches, and weighing 23 and 3/4 pounds, feet 6 inches long. He lived only 11 hours. Anna died August 1886 of heart trouble, aged 41.
Martin later married Lavonne Weatherby, the daughter of a Baptist minister who was of normal height, in 1887. Martin is buried in Mound Hill Cemetery in Seville Ohio.


Please mail all donations, contributions and pledges to:

Dillard-Judd SCV Camp 1828
Attn: Monument Fund
P.O. Box 205
Cookeville, TN. 38503-0205