It was August of 1889. Captain Martin Van Buren Bates, formerly of the Confederate Army, was grieving. His wife had passed away, and he had ordered her casket from a manufacturer in Cleveland, Ohio. Although Bates had provided precise dimensions for the coffin, his telegram created great consternation in the coffin maker’s office.
When the coffin arrived, Bates was furious. He informed the designers that the casket was far too small—Bates’s original request had been completely accurate. Three days later, a proper-sized coffin arrived for the remains of Anna Haining Swan Bates, who had stood close to eight feet tall. Bates, also over seven feet tall, visited the grave in the days that followed. He felt that such a great woman needed some type of great memorial, a memorial that, like his beloved Anna, would be unique and beautiful.
In 1873, the little town of Seville, Ohio, had become home to its most famous citizens. Capt. and Mrs. Bates had traveled much of the world as representatives of P. T. Barnum’s Museum, hobnobbing with the rich and famous—including Queen Victoria, who gave Anna a diamond ring as a gift for her wedding in 1871. But two years later, after giving birth to a daughter who passed away shortly after being born, the pair decided to semi-retire in Seville, where Capt. Bates, according to his memoirs, purchased “130 acres of good land” because he was “determined to become a farmer;” he subsequently “built a house upon it designed especially for our comfort. The [oversized] furniture was all built to order.”
In 1879, the couple had a second child, this time a boy. Sadly, he, too, passed away shortly after birth—but not before setting the record for “the largest human baby known to medical history,” weighing in at almost 24 pounds and 30 inches long. According to records from the time, the newborn’s feet were nearly six inches long.
Today, all three—Bates, Anna, and their son—rest beneath the grave marker that Capt. Bates decided was appropriate to memorialize his wife: a tall statue of a lovely young woman high on a pedestal.
Know Before You Go
Mound Hill Cemetery, where the tallest married couple in the world are buried alongside their son, the largest human baby ever born, is located on the north side of East Main Street/Seville Road in Seville and is open to the public.
In addition, the Seville Historical Society houses a display of the Bates family’s belongings and is open the first Sunday of each month April through December—or any time by appointment. For more information or to make an appointment, call Carol Pamer, President, at 330.769.3793. She can also help you make arrangements to visit the Bates Barn, which, unlike their oversized home, is still extant.