Tweet Follow @PlanetSlade

Giants' wedding: continued

Page: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
View as single page
Secret London
Murder Ballads

Here's how Bruce Bates describes what followed: “At the sight of the dangling ropes, the women began to wail. The giant appeared on his giant horse, his giant sword and pistols gleaming, his black eyes shining with contempt and hatred. His men appeared out of the gloomy mists herding the prisoners before them, each man's hands bound behind his back.
“The prisoners were placed on the log, and a noose was dropped around each shrinking neck, the men pleading for their lives. [...] Then the giant raised his hand in a signal. Two men gave the log a shove and it rolled down the hill. The eight bound figures dropped a few inches and choked slowly to death. With swords and cocked pistols the women and children were kept at bay. None could render aid” (8).

'The bodies turned to skeletons before the giant came back. Only bones were left for burial'

But Martin had left the best till last. “The giant told the people not to touch the dead or take them down from the gallows,” Bruce says. “They were to hang there and rot by the road, their corruption warning all passers-by of the consequence of killing a Bates. If anyone violated his order, they would die in the same way. Absolutely no mercy would be shown. In addition, his family would be destroyed, his house burned, his stock killed. 'Take warning,' the giant said. 'Because no other warning will be given!' Then he and his men rode away, leaving the dead to twist in the wind and their kin to mourn them.”
It was only when Martin returned briefly to Whitesburg at war's end in 1865 and gave his express permission for the bodies to removed that anyone dared touch them. “The bodies turned to skeletons before the giant came back,” Bruce tells us. “Only rattling bones were left for burial.”
Martin refused to stay in Kentucky after the war, saying he wanted no part of the local feuds that continued there as old Civil War resentments played themselves out. He may also have feared that the families of the men he'd lynched would one day come in large enough numbers to extract a revenge of their own. “I've seen enough bloodshed,” he told his nephew John Wright. “I don't want any more.”
Instead, Martin and John travelled to Cincinnati together, where they began working in Robinson's Circus. John performed as a trick rider and a sharpshooter there, while Martin exhibited himself and read poetry to show off his education. It was around this time that he reached his peak height of 7' 11” and his settled weight of 525lbs. He was about 28 years old.
Four years later, Martin met Anna for the first time, while visiting the New Jersey home of General Winfield Scott for what seems to have been a social occasion. Anna, who was touring the US with PT Barnum's Circus, had been brought to the great impresario by HP Ingalls, who clearly never forgot her. In 1871, he signed Martin, Anna and Millie-Christine to individual contracts for the Barnum show he planned to take to Europe. Martin and Anna boarded the City of Brussels in New York Harbour for the trip to Liverpool on April 22, 1871. Less than two months later, they'd be married.

Martin and Anna's neighbours made them welcome in Craven Street, but the couple had little chance to settle there for the next six months. First came their honeymoon in Richmond, Surrey, where they stayed at an inn called the Star & Garter. Martin was so amazed at the exorbitant bill presented to them when they left - 17 - that he took it home with him and framed it.
They had a few weeks in London before embarking on their first UK tour, and used this time to squeeze in three more Royal Command appearances. First, they met the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) at the Masonic Hall, where Grand Duke Vladimir from Russia and Prince John of Luxembourg also attended. Then came another performance for Victoria, and finally an encore for the Prince of Wales at Marlborough House. Less elevated Londoners got a chance to see them too, thanks to appearances at both St James's Hall and the Crystal Palace.
The UK tour billed Martin and Anna as “The Largest Married Couple in the World” and took them as far north as Edinburgh. It was nearly Christmas when the couple returned to Craven Street. In April 1872, they took part in a gala benefit show at Astley's Amphitheatre in London, where they shared a bill with Millie-Christine, Tom Thumb and Blondin, the famous tightrope walker. The show was arranged to raise funds for a popular English showman, whose sudden death had left his widow and children facing destitution.
Anna must have been heavily pregnant during the Astley's show, because she gave birth just a month later. On May 19, 1872, she produced an 18lb baby girl, who died at birth and was never named. Her gravestone identifies her only as “Sister”.
Martin describes the birth in his autobiography The Kentucky River Giant. “Doctors Cross and Buckland were the physicians in charge,” he writes. “It was a girl weighing 18lbs and being 27” tall. This loss affected us both and by the advice of the doctors I took my wife upon the continent. There, we travelled for pleasure, only giving receptions when requested to do so by Royal Command” (11).
It's thought that Martin allowed Sister's body to go to the London Hospital, where it could be studied for research into the causes of gigantism. The London Hospital Museum exhibited a giant baby's remains a few years later, but we don't know whether these were Sister's or not.
After their trip to Europe, Martin and Anna briefly visited Ireland, and then returned to London. But Sister's death had left Craven Street full of unhappy memories, and neither of them had much stomach for remaining in the city. By June 1874, they were making plans to return to America.

Page: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Conjoined twins: continued

Smith and his wife set about educating the girls, teaching them to read, write, sing, play piano and speak five languages. Simply by teaching slaves to read and write, they were breaking the law, and the girls never forgot Joseph's great kindness. "He seemed to us a father," they wrote in an 1868 promotional booklet. "He was urbane, generous, patient-bearing and beloved by all" (20). They were equally fond of Joseph's wife. "We can trust her," they said. "And, what is more, we feel grateful to her and regard her with true filial affection."
      In 1862, Joseph died, willing Millie-Christine and Monemia to his son, Joseph Jr. His father's death meant the family needed to start earning money again, so Joseph resumed the girls' showbiz career, this time ensuring they received a fair share of all the money they made.
      When the end of the Civil War made them free women in 1865, Millie and Christine began sending money back to Jacob, their birth father, who used it to buy Welches Creek land. By 1871, HP Ingalls' British promotional literature was claiming Jacob now owned the plantation where he and his daughters were born.
      It was also during their UK tour with Martin and Anna that Ingalls first coined the twins' "Two-headed Nightingale" billing. This was designed to capitalise on the popularity of Jenny Lind, a recently-retired soprano known as "The Swedish Nightingale". Lind was still remembered very fondly in England, and any link with her - however vague - could only boost the box office receipts.

continues >>>