North American Giants

1965 Kentucky, Holly Creek

Kenneth White dug a “perfectly preserved skeleton” from under a large rock ledge along Holly Creek which measured 8 feet, 9 inches in length when reassembled. He states, “the arms were extremely long and the hands were large. The skull was “30 inches in circumference. The eye and nose sockets were slits rather than cavities, and the area where the jawbone hinges to the skull was solid bone.



William B. Taylor 1969 An Indian burial site in North Middleboro-The Middleboro Antiquarian Volume 10 (2-4)

“During April of 1958, while excavating the foundation for my house by bulldozer, ten more graves were uncovered bringing the total to sixteen skeletons from the same era of contact burials. All bones were gathered together from the backfill and re-interned. One interesting observation was the size of one skeleton. Both arm and leg bones were over two inches longer than my own. This Indian must have been an exceptionally large man – well over 6’6″ in height.” (Taylor 1969).


1947 California, Death Valley

The skeletons of nine foot tall humans were found.


August 5, 1947

edition of the San Diego Union.

According to the clipping, explorers had unearthed, near the Arizona-Nevada-California line, the mummified remains of strangely costumed giants which the discoverers dated to around 80,000 years ago.


The Union reported that a Howard E. Hill of Los Angeles was recounting the work of Dr. F. Bruce Russell, a retired Cincinnati physician who had originally located the first of several tunnels near Death Valley in 1931, but had not been able to return to the area until 1947. With the help of Dr. Daniel S. Bovee, who with Hill’s father had once helped open up New Mexico’s cliff dwellings, Russell had recovered the remains of several men of 8 to 9 feet in height.


“These giants,” said Hill, “are clothed in garments consisting of a medium length jacket and trouser extending slightly below the knees. The texture of the material is said to resemble gray dyed sheepskin, but obviously it was taken from an animal unknown today.”


Hill also said, according to the Union, that in another cavern was found the ritual hall of the ancient people, together with devices and markings similar to those now used by the Masonic order. In a long tunnel were well-preserved remains of animals, including elephants and tigers. So far, Hill added, no women have been found.


He said the explorers believe that what they found was the burial place of the tribe’s hierarchy. Hieroglyphics, he added, bear a resemblance to what is known of those from the lost continent of Atlantis. They are chiseled, he added, on carefully polished granite.


LOS ANGELES, Aug 4. (AP)– A retired Ohio doctor has discovered relics of an ancient civilization, whose men were 8 or 9 feet tall in the Colorado desert near the Arizona-Nevada-California line, an associate said today.


Howard E. Hill. of Los Angeles speaking before the Transportation Club, disclosed that several well-preserved mummies were taken yesterday from caverns in an area roughly 180 miles square, extending through much of southern Nevada from Death Valley, Calif. across the Colorado River into Arizona.


Hill said the discoverer is Dr. F. Bruce Russell, retired Cincinnati physician, who stumbled on the first of several tunnels in 1931, soon after coming West and deciding to try mining for his health.




Not until this year, however, did Dr. Russell go into the situation thoroughly, Hill told the luncheon. With Dr. Daniel S. Bovee, of Los Angeles — who with his father helped open up New Mexico’s cliff dwellings — Dr. Russell has found mummified remains together with implements of the civilization, which Dr. Bovee had tentatively placed at about 80,000 years old.


“These giants are clothed in garments consisting of a medium length jacket and trouser extending slightly below the knees.” said Hill. “The texture of the material is said to resemble gray dyed sheepskin, but obviously it was taken from an animal unknown today.”




Hill said that in another cavern was found the ritual hall of the ancient people, together with devices and markings similar to those now used by the Masonic order. In a long tunnel were well-preserved remains of animals including elephants and tigers. So far, Hill added, no women have been found.


He said the explorers believe that what they found was the burial place of the tribe’s hierarchy. Hieroglyphics, he added, bear a resemblance to what is known of those from the lost continent of Atlantis. They are chiseled, he added, on carefully-polished granite.


He said Dr. Viola V. Pettit, of London, who made excavations around Petra, on the Arabian desert, soon will begin an inspection of the remains.


1939 Nevada, Lovelock

A 7-foot 7-inch skeleton was found.


1932 New Mexico, White Sands


Supervisor of the Lincoln National Park, Ellis Wright, found human tracks in the gypsum rock 22 inches long and from 8 to 10 inches wide. The prints were human in origin due to the outline of the perfect prints coupled with a readily apparent instep.



California Giants
In 1833, some soldiers digging a pit at Lompock Rancho, California, unearthed a twelve-foot giant with a double row of teeth, both uppers and lowers.7 The Lompock giant’s teeth, while unusual, were not unique. For another ancient skeleton later found on Santa Rosa Island off the California coast showed the same dental peculiarity. Also, in 1888, in a burial mound near Clearwater, Minnesota, seven skeletons, with skulls containing double rows of teeth, were dug up, but they were not giants.


1931 Nevada, Lovelock


Large skeletons were found in the Humboldt lake bed. One measured 8 1/2 feet tall and appeared to have been wrapped in a gum-covered fabric similar to Egyptian mummies. Another skeleton was almost 10 feet long.

1930 – Historical North American Giants, Charleston Gazette, June 15, 1930
Salem Professor Discovers Huge Skeletons in Mounds

“Dr. Sutton Believes Tribe of Giants Once Inhabited Doddridge County Section; Data on Exploration Will Go to Smithsonian Institution. SALEM, June 14-Excavation of two mounds near Morganville, in Doddridge county, about 11 miles west of here revealed what Prof. Ernest Sutton, head of the history department of Salem college, believes is valuable evidence of a race of giants who inhabited this section of West Virginia more than 1,000 years ago. Professor Sutton revealed tonight that he had been excavating the two mounds for the past several months. Skeletons of four mound builders indicating they were from seven to nine feet tall have been uncovered. Professor Sutton believes they were members of a race known in anthropology as Siouan Indians.

The best preserved skeleton was found enclosed in a casting of clay. All the vertebrae and other bones excepting the skull were intact. Careful measurement of this specimen indicated it was a man seven and a half feet tall.”



1925, several amateurs digging in an Indian mound at Walkerton, Indiana, uncovered the skeletons of eight very ancient humans measuring in height from eight to almost nine feet. All eight giants had been buried in “substantial copper armor.”


1923 Arizona, Grand Canyon

The bodies of two petrified human beings 15 and 18 feet in height were discovered.


1918 Alton, Illinois

Robert Pershing Wadlow was born, educated and buried in Alton, Illinois. His height of 8′ 11.1″ qualifies him as the tallest person in history, as recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. At the time of his death he weighed 490 pounds. Robert was born on February 22, 1918, and weighed a normal eight pounds, six ounces. He drew attention to himself when at six months old, he weighed 30 pounds. A year later at 18 months, he weighed 62 pounds. He continued to grow at an astounding rate, reaching six feet, two inches and 195 pounds by the time he was eight years old.



Evening News, (Ada, Oklahoma) November 8, 1912
Eleven skeletons of primitive men, with foreheads sloping directly back from the eyes, and two rows of teeth in the front of the upper jaw, have been uncovered at Craigshill, at Ellensburg, Wash. They were found about twenty feet below the surface, twenty feet back from the face of the slope, in a cement rock formation, over which was a layer of shale.




Eric Johns, offered an example from 1911, where researchers named Pugh and Hart had found the remains of large, red haired humans at Sunset Cave close to Lovelock, Nevada. The remains
found there were said to be between 6.5 and just over seven feet tall, and some of the remains were shipped to the Smithsonian Institute by L.L. Loud, an archaeologist with the University of California, one year later.”These notes are still on digital file at the Hearst Museum of Anthropology,” Johns shared, “listed under reference number 544,

An Anthropological Expedition of 1913.” But interestingly, Pugh and Hart, while releasing the majority of the remains to the Smithsonian, also managed to keep a number of the strange artifacts and bones they found,  including several skulls, which Johns says remain today at the
Humboldt Museum in Winnemucca, Nevada. The boxes obtained by the Smithsonian, however, cannot be accounted for so easily.

[The University of California] seems to have misplaced the skeletons, yet the other material is still there and on display in their exhibits. The same can be said of the Smithsonian, who still use some of Loud’s artifacts for their Southwest exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian. Again, no giant skeletons to be found in their exhibits or catalog.


However, debating whether the size of these specimens fits the criteria for being “giants” or not is an exercise that misses the greater point entirely: that an independent museum managed to maintain record of the remains discovered at Sunset Cave, while the Smithsonian and University of California apparently did not. Had the folks on the receiving end of this odd shipment to the Smithsonian simply been exercising extreme incompetence, or was there some other reason for the “loss” of certain parts of the shipment? This case wouldn’t have to involve human remains of large stature in order call into question why the Smithsonian would misplace portions of the batch shipment, while maintaining others for display. In other words, the mystery has as much to do with the misplacement of a discovery as it does the claims of “giant” bodies being what were actually uncovered.

In the Twelfth Annual Report from the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian, published in 1894, Cyrus Thomas and Thomas Powell of the Bureau of Ethnology wrote of several discoveries where large, seemingly human skeletal remains were found. The first we’ll examine here was discovered in Roane County, Tennessee:


“Underneath [a] layer of shells the earth was very dark and appeared to be mixed with vegetable mold to the depth of 1 foot. At the bottom of this, resting on the original surface of the ground, was a very large skeleton lying horizontally at full length. Although very soft, the bones were sufficiently distinct to allow of careful measurement before attempting to remove them. The length from the base of the skull to the bones of the toes was found to be 7 feet 3 inches. It is probable, therefore, that this individual when living was fully 7½ feet high.”


Another instance occurs in the same report, this time at presumed Indian burial mounds at Dunlieth, Illinois:


“Near the original surface, 10 or 12 feet from the center, on the lower side, lying at full length on its back, was one of the largest skeletons discovered by the Bureau agents, the length as proved by actual measurement being between 7 and 8 feet. It was clearly traceable, but crumbled to pieces immediately after removal from the hard earth in which it was encased….”

Page 115 of the printed report features the relevant text:


skeleton II

Indeed, it seems that the Smithsonian at one time did discover and document what could only be called “giants,” during the same period that many of the American newspapers were reporting similar stories. Whether this bolsters the legitimacy of those reports may still be questionable; however, few would argue that trained scientists the likes of Powell and Thomas–despite the allegations of cover-ups and conspiracies–likely knew what they were talking about when they took these measurements, and reported on the existence of humans that, when alive, would easily have stood taller than seven feet. Also, it should be noted that in the latter of the two cases, it states that the skeleton “crumbled to pieces” when attempts were made to remove portions of the body. Hence, the reason in this instance for why the Smithsonian would possess no remains in their record seems clear: they weren’t able to retrieve a skeleton at all, since the discovery was too fragile to remove from the site. In other words, while the Smithsonian has actually acknowledged finding such large skeletons, there may be legitimate reasons as to why no bones were ever recovered in some instances.


1911 California, Lovelock Cave

An 8-foot tall, red-haired mummy discovered. This mummy eventually went to a fraternal lodge where it was used for “initiation purposes.


1910 – History of Montague 1910 Pg.61

“Indian skeletons were exhumed on L street near the falls in 1873. And on the opposite shore Mr. Smith dug out seven skeletons buried in a sitting posture, each about seven feet in stature.”


1908 – The Story Of Martha’s Vineyard
Charles Gilbert Hine 1908 pg. 136

“Some 15 years ago the skeleton of an Indian Giant in almost perfect preservation was dug up in the same locality (cedar neck): the bones indicated a man easily six feet and a half possibly seven feet high. An unusual feature was a complete double row of teeth on both the upper and lower jaws.”


1907 – History of the town of Rockingham Vermont

1907 Lyman Simpson Hayes pg. 338
“When the earth was removed from the top of the ledges east of the falls, a remarkable human skeleton, unmistakably that of an Indian was found. Those who saw it tell the writer the jaw bone was of such size that a large man could easily slip it over his face, and the teeth, which were all double, were perfect.”


1906 – History of the Town of Middleboro, Mass.

Thomas Weston 1906 pg. 400
“A few years ago when the highway was straightened and repaired, remains were found. When his skeleton was measured by Dr. Morill Robinson and others, it was found that the thigh bone was four inches longer than that bone in an ordinary man, and that he had a double row of teeth in each jaw. His height must have been at least seven feet and eight inches.”


Buffalo Bill Cody spoke of Sioux Indians who told about giants that ran down the buffalo.


Some time in the late 19th century, giants with double rows of teeth, red hair, and skulls 3 to 6 times the size of normal humans were discovered on Catalina Island in California.


The Algonquin have stories of giant, bearded men who first occupied their native lands.


The Cherokee speak of giants who were twice as tall as the Cherokee and also about a great hunter of giant stature named Tsul´ kalu.



Montana’s Giants
In 1903, on an archaeological outing at Fish Creek, Montana, Professor S. Farr and his group of Princeton University students came across several burial mounds. Choosing one to dig in, they unearthed the skeleton of a man about nine feet long. Next to him lay the bones of a woman, who had been almost as tall.37


1898 Ohio, Lake Erie Islands

Eight skeletons were found near the United States Coast Guard lighthouse, one measuring over seven feet in height.


1898 – A History of Swan’s Island, Maine
by H.W. Small, M.D.,
published 1898
“At that part of the island called the “North” when the first settlers came there were five different places plainly seen where the Indians that their “set-downs” or villages. There was another at the Middle Head, one in the Reed field near the eastern shore, and several around Old Harbor. In these ancient shell heaps have been found, by men of our present day, flint arrow heads and hatchets which must have taken much skill and patience in making. These must have been their implements used in hunting and perhaps in warfare. The promontory where the light-house stands, near the entrance to Old Harbor, is called Hocomock, a name given to it by the Indians long before the white men came. It may have been their name for this locality. Near to Hocomock Head is appoint of land extending into the harbor, called Burying Point. A large number of Indian skeletons were unearthed by the plow. They were found most plenty near the Middle Head and near the “Carrying-Place”, which places were their burying-grounds. The skeletons were found just beneath the turf and were of large size, showing a race of much larger stature than the Indian of today. This tribe made irregular visits to the island for many years after the white settlers came, but of late, since their number has so decreased, they have ceased altogether.”


1897 Ohio, Jackson

A mound on a farm contained a giant skeleton.


1897 – The New England Magazine

Vol 16 1897 pg. 546
“At the time of the first settlement upon this island, at Great Harbor, Martha’s Vineyard as it was then called the Indians were very numerous. The original settlement was half a mile or more south of the present courthouse. The spot where the village of Edgartown stands today was at that time an ancient Indian burial ground. In later years, when cellars have been dug, human bones were found in great quantities. Occasionally the skeleton of a giant would be exhumed. In one case, a huge jawbone of a man was dug up out from the ground, larger than that of any man at the present time, so large that it could be placed against the face of an ordinary man and entirely surround his jaw.”


1896 Minnesota, Lake Koronis

The skeleton of a huge man was uncovered. At Moose Island and Pine City, bones of other giants were found.


1895 – Friends Intelligencer

Volume 52 1895 Pg. 751
“The skeleton of an Indian warrior at least six feet six inches was found in Musgongus, Maine, a few days ago by two men digging a cellar. The body had been buried in a sitting posture, facing east, and about it were found iron implements and spear and arrow heads, while around the arms were copper bands, covered with curious carvings.”


1895 Ohio, Toledo

A mound held 20 skeletons, seated and facing east “twice as large as those of present day people.”


1894 Illinois, Pike County

In a conical shaped mound a skeleton over 7 feet tall

was found.


1894 – History of Monmouth and Wales Maine,

Harry Hayman Cochrane 1894 pg. 9
“Not many years ago, a massive Indian skeleton was exhumed at East Monmouth about halfway between the house now owned by Frank Jones and the schoolhouse, James Nichols was the fortunate discoverer. He was shoveling sand from a bank beside the road when the blade of his shovel struck the collar bone of the skeleton. By proceeding carefully, the entire frame was unearthed. It proved to be that of a giant, measuring almost seven and a half feet in height. The skull is said to be as large as a common iron tea kettle.”


1892 Ohio Proctorville

From the Ironton Register

“Where Proctorville now stands was one day part of a well paved city, but I think the greater part of it is now in the Ohio river [sic]. Only a few mounds, there; one of which was near the C. Wilgus mansion and contained a skeleton of a very large person, all double teeth, and sound, in a jaw bone that would go over the jaw with the flesh on.”


,1892 – The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac

1892 Pg. 52

“The Long Island Indians” Richard M. Bayless

“So much for the Indians as they were found by the white settlers. But there are a few evidences that a different race of Indians had at some time occupied the soil. A remarkable discovery of Indian remains was made near Aqueboque, in 1879. A great number of graves were found, the bones within them being so far decayed as to fall to dust almost as soon as they were exposed to the air. The geological changes that have taken place since the graves were made suggest that perhaps, thousands of years have passed since that time. The remains exhumed show a singular phenomenon in the construction of the jaws and teeth, there being no molars or grinding teeth, and the existing teeth being fitted with interlocking points, which would give the jaws the fierce character of an alligator or shark. The fragments of skeleton indicate a powerful race. The remains of a temple or structure of some kind, unlike anything associated with historic Indians, was also found. It had clay walls and was 9 by 10 feet in size, with a dividing wall down the middle. It was found beneath three feet or more of solid soil. For what purpose it was constructed, and who were the race of people associated with it remains a mystery.”


1892 – The Magazine of American history with notes and queries,

Vol. 28 1892 pg. 270

“About the middle of the present century, Mr. William P. Renssalerr, bought Manussing, Island NY. When laborers were excavating the earth for gardens an Indian skeleton of extraordinary size was found, which had been buried in a sitting posture.”



Ohio Giants

Nature, in its December 17,1891, issue, reported that at a depth of fourteen feet in a large Ohio burial mound excavators found the skeleton of a massive man in copper armor. He wore a copper cap, while copper moldings encased his jaws. Copper armor also protected his arms, chest, and stomach. A necklace made of bear’s teeth and inlaid with pearls decorated his neck. At his side lay the skeleton of a woman, probably his wife.38


In the 1860s, some excavators digging in a hill in Marion, Ohio, uncovered thirty skeletons who also ranged in height from seven to eight feet.


1891 Arizona, Crittenden

A giant was unearthed and a huge stone coffin that had evidently once held the body of a man 12 feet tall. A carving on the granite case indicated that he had six toes.


1891 – A Giant Skeleton unearthed at Buzzard’s Bay Massachusetts

New York Times July 5, 1891.

“Buzzard’s Bay Mass, July 4th- Joseph Jefferson, the actor, has made an astonishing discovery on the Summer place that he purchased from ex-president Cleveland. In laying out the grounds and making alterations it became necessary to remove a sand hill of large size. The workmen, while doing this, found the skeleton that filled them with astonishment from its great size. When an attempt to lift up the skeleton was made it crumbled away, all except the skull. A workman lay down beside it however, and it was estimated that it must have belonged to a man at least 6 foot 5 or 6 inches.”


1891 Illinois, Dunleith

Members of the Bureau of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution discovered a large skeleton between 7 and 8 feet tall.


1890 Tennessee, Roane County

A giant skeleton was discovered measuring over 7 feet tall.


1888 Minnesota, St. Paul

The remains of seven skeletons 7 to 8 feet tall were discovered.


1888 Ohio, Toledo

20 skeletons were discovered with jaws and teeth twice as large as those of normal humans


1887 Wisconsin, Le Crescent

Bones of giant humans were discovered in burial mounds.


1886 Illinois

A number of large skeletons were found in Logan County and artifacts showing a degree of advancement much higher that the native population had attained.


1886 New York

Dozens of human skeletons were discovered with oddly shaped skulls averaging 7 feet in height


1886 Pennsylvania, Ellisburg

An 8 foot skeleton was discovered.


1884 West Virginia, Kanawha County

A skeleton 7 feet 6 inches long was found in a massive stone structure that was likened to a temple chamber within a mound. 


1884 – The History of Middlesex County 1635-1885

J. H. Beers & Co., 36 Vesey Street, New York 1884

Pages 229-241 ,Town of Clinton , By Hon. William H. Buell ,[transcribed by Janece Streig]

“Years ago, when the roads were worked, the school children sometimes picked up a pint of these beads at a time. It is conjectured that the point must have been the scene of an Indian battle, so many arrows have been found here. Their burial place was further east, near where Mr. John LEWIS’s house stands, under the chimney of which, it is said, is the skeleton of a gigantic Indian, whose bones were not disturbed, though exposed. Indian Hill no doubt has many other graves. Indian arrows, etc., are frequently picked up. Mr. C. NEFF has a fine collection, made within the last two years.”


1883 Ohio, Brown County

In ancient settlement sites remains of giant humans among the former residents of normal stature.


1883 – Annual report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1883 pg. 896
“On Indian Neck in South Welfleet, Mr. Theophilus Rich, a few years since, while digging, found the skeleton of an Indian which was apparently, when first discovered, well preserved, but soon crumbled all away excepting the jaw bone and teeth. The teeth were worn down at the base, or were, as the discoverer affirmed, “double all the way around”.

1883 Ohio, Marion County

During general construction projects in the area giant human skeletons were unearthed.


1883 – Smithsonian Institution- Misc. papers relating to Anthropology 1883 pg. 112

“On the west shore of Oyster Island, in Cotuit Harbor Mass. Was found part of the skeleton of a large Indian buried in a sitting posture.”


1883 North Dakota, Mandan

A cemetery of over 100 acres filled with bones of a giant race was discovered.


1883 Minnesota, Warren

“Ten skeletons of both sexes and of gigantic size were found.”


1882 West Virginia, Brewersville

“The remains of a giant human in a sitting position with artifacts of stone and flint were discovered near White Day Creek.”


1881 Ohio, Medina County

“A jawbone of great size belonging to a human being was discovered, which contained eight jaw-teeth in each side, of enormous size; and the teeth stood transversely in the jawbone. It would pass over any man’s face with entire ease.”


1880 Minnesota, Clearwater

“Several giant skeletons were found with double rows of teeth.”


1880 Ohio, Zanesville

“A skeleton was reported to have been of enormous dimensions found in a clay coffin, with a sandstone slab containing hieroglyphics.”


1880 – History of Middlesex County Mass 1880

pg. 243

“Baptist Church Newton Mass. Five Indian skeletons and several ancient copper coins were turned up by laborers digging the cellar for the building. The jaw of one, which was in perfect preservation, with the full number of teeth, and double all around, was placed in the box which was sealed and deposited under the corner stone.”


1879 Indiana, Brewersville

“A skeleton almost ten feet tall was excavated from a mound.”



Indiana Giants
1879, some Indiana archaeologists dug into an ancient burial mound at Brewersville, Indiana, and unearthed a human skeleton that measured nine feet eight inches in length. A mica necklace still hung around the giant’s neck. The bones, which were stored in a grain mill, were swept away in the 1937 flood.



History of Jefferson County, N.Y., 1878
One of the most conclusive evidences of ancient military occupation and conflict, occurs in Rutland, near the residence of Abner Tamblin, one mile from the western line of the town, and two miles from the river. It is on the summit of the Trenton limestone terrace, which forms a bold escarpment, extending down the river, and passing across the southern part of Watertown. There here occurs a slight embankment, and ditch irregularly oval, with several gateways; and along the ditch, in several places, have been found great numbers of skeletons, almost entirely of males and lying in great confusion, as if they had been slain in defending it. Among these bones were those of a man of colossal size, and like nine-tenths of the others, furnished with a row of double teeth in each jaw. This singular peculiarity, with that of broad flat jaws, retreating forehead, and great prominence of the occiput, which was common to most of these skulls, may hereafter afford some clue to their history.



American Antiquarian, April 1878
Lake County Illinois
Mr. W.B. Gray, of Highland Park, also mentions the discovery of a skull in a mound near Fox Lake, in Lake County, Illinois. This skull is certainly very remarkable; the frontal lobe or arch seems to be entirely wanting; the large projecting eye-brows, deep set eye sockets, the low, receding forehead, and the long, narrow and flat shape of the crown rendered it a very animal-looking skull. If it was not a posthumous deformation it certainly is a remarkable skull and might well pass for the “missing link.”
Oakland Tribune, August 24, 1896


A Remarkable Discovery Made at Shell Mound Park

An interesting discovery has been made at Shell Mound Park, where the skeleton of a A prehistoric race of Indians was excavated. These skeletons are of a race unknown at present and are undoubtedly of great antiquity.


1878 Ohio, Ashtabula County

“While excavating the ground for graves, bones were exhumed, which seemed to have belonged to a race of giants. A skull and jaw were found, which were of such size that the skull would fit easily over a large man’s head like a loose fitting helmet, even with the jaw in place. The number of these graves has been estimated to be between two and three thousand.”



Dr. Peet’s 1878 Account of the Giants

In late 1878 or early 1879 William W. Williams’ History of Ashtabula Co., Ohio appeared — the first major publication devoted exclusively to the past years of that corner of northeastern Ohio. In that volume various accounts of the first eastern settlers and their encounters with the remains of the “Conneaut Giants” are described in some detail. For example, on page 17 can be found the following description by the local (and later widely known) antiquarian, Stephen D. Peet:


… an impenetrable mystery still hangs over… a race preceding the various tribes of Indians which history has come in contact with, and may be regarded as strictly pre-historic…. Ohio gives numerous evidences of such. a race. Here, it would seem, was the chief seat of the ancient empire… in this State two classes of works have been discovered… [in] the southern counties the works are much more massive and distinct. They are also much more complicated and mysterious in their design… the works at the north, on the other hand, are much simpler in their character, and are mainly indicative of a military race.


Ashtabula County abounds in earthworks… These works are generally situated on the banks of streams, or in such locations as to have attracted attention… [some] are works of defense, and are well chosen for this purpose…. That at Conneaut is situated on the summit of a lofty hill… which has been left by some former change of the bed of the stream… A steep ascent protects it on all sides. The only approach is up a gradual slope to the eastward, formed by the narrow strip which has been left by the wash of the waters. The height of the eminence is… about seventy-five feet… The only mark of artificial defense is found on the summit. This consists of a simple earth-wall built on the very edge of the bluff, and following closely the very line of the bluff. A ditch was on the inside of the wall, and the height of the wall may have been at one time five feet. Possibly a stockade may have surmounted it, making the inclosure doubly secure both from the natural and artificial defense. The work has been described by those who visited it at an early date. The land thus inclosed was perfectly level, and embraced an area of about two acres, triangular in shape…


A single opening to the inclosure existed, and this was approached only from the level of the stream below by a narrow pathway… The work might have served for a defense to the various tribes of Indians which inhabited the region, or it may have been the residence of the ancient people called the mound-builders. There is on the bank opposite this work, but farther down the stream, a large burial-mound, which might indicate that the occupants of this spot were of the more ancient race of original mound-builders.


This mound is beautifully situated on the very summit of the point of land where the river turns to the northward… The location of this mound was favorable as a lookout, and connected with the defense. The defense itself might have served as a signal-station, to warn against the approach of an enemy from the lake below. There are also other mounds in this neighborhood, though they are of comparatively small size. They were situated in the eastern part of the village. It is not improbable that the Book of Mormon has some connection with these mounds, and possibly may have been suggested by them. Its author, Rev. Mr. Spalding, lived in Conneaut, and the story is based on the common sentiment that the descendants of the lost tribes buried their dead in large heaps, which caused the mounds so common in this country. Their arts and sciences and civilization account for all the curious antiquities found in North and South America. This theory of the lost tribes has long since been exploded.


Dr. Peet goes on to say a little about the “ancient burying-ground” which “was situated a little west of the village” and repeats the story that it was “examined as early as 1800” by settlers like Aaron Wright. Peet only mentions in passing that these earthworks and burial ground “were found to contain human bones, some of which were of a large size.” He provides no possible explanation for this necrological oddity, nor have the scientists of later years, who have described these ancient people and their “Whittlesey Culture” in some detail, provided the necessary explanations. It is obvious that the giantism evidenced in the “Whittlesey Culture” human remains was not an isolated phenomenon, occurring in a few, scattered individuals and then disappearing. This was an aspect of physical anthropology that appeared among several different late pre-Columbian “mound-builder” populations inhabiting the southern shores of lake Erie. The large boned trait continued through many generations — probably for several hundred years — among certain segments of those populations, at a rate seemingly far higher than what might be expected through natural, random processes. Nevertheless, there appears to be no firm evidence that the individuals who bore this strange physical trait were treated any differently in their own societies than other, less robust and tall members of their groups. The burials of these very large persons occurred among those of the less robust individuals without any recorded distinguishing features, as though they were all of a social status more or less equal.


On pages 18-19 of this history, Dr. Peet continues his article, telling a little about similar earthworks reported in neighboring Ashtabula by “Rev. Mr. Hall, the former, rector of St. Peter’s church” in that town. Peet relays the following information: “In cultivating the soil in the vicinity implements have been found, and in excavating the ground for graves it is said that bones have been exhumed which seemed to have belonged to a race of giants… Mr. Peleg Sweet, who was a man of large size and full features… in digging, came upon a skull and jaw which were of such size that the skull would cover his head and the jaw could be easily slipped over his face, as though the head of a giant were enveloping his.” Dr. Peet also examines the view of Charles Whittlesley, that a forgotten “white race” inhabited the region “long before the advent of the white settlers” in 1798 and thereafter. As an evidence for this theory he tells of “the discovery of an inscribed stone… near the burying-place upon the east side of the Ashtabula creek… found by the son of Peleg Sweet” in 1808, or perhaps shortly thereafter. “On turning it over it was discovered that its surface was covered with marks of inscribed letters… Roman capital letters,” etc. Peet says, “It was too deeply planted in the ground to have belonged to any of the white settlers, as the discovery was within four or five years of the occupation” of Ashtabula by the pioneers.


In the 1878 history Dr. Peet also provides a lengthy and detailed account of the “Destruction of the Eries,” the ancient foes of the Iroquois, who inhabited the southern shore of Lake Erie prior to the first settlement there by the Europeans. Although the writer does not specifically link the extinct Eries to their “Whittlesley Culture” predecessors, he tells of the later Indians’ extermination in a romantic narrative reminiscent of some published conjectures regarding the fate of the “mound-builders” — “A great battle was fought… in which the Eries were again defeated, and slain to a man. Their bones lie bleaching in the sun to the present day.”


The 1878 history also provides some specific information on the first settlement of towns in Ashtabula county, partly contributed by the prolific pen of Stephen D. Peet. On page 131, in discussing the early days of Ashtabula town, the writer again speaks of prehistoric “burying-places” and reports of “the bones of a gigantic people” having been “exhumed from these ancient sepulchres,” adding, “of the people history knows nothing.” In the section on Conneaut (beginning on page 154), the historian again takes up the subject of the ancient inhabitants of the area, providing the following interesting observations:


The banks of this river [Conneaut Creek] had long been the favorite resort of not only the red man of the forest butof a prehistoric people, who, without doubt, dwelt here in the remote past. The number and character of the mounds and burying-places, the exhumation of bodies from their ancient cemeteries, disclosing the fact that their bones belonged to a race of larger size than any known Indian tribe, are proofs of the fact that here in this delightful locality there lived, in the unknown past, a numerous people, and different from any Indian tribes of which the white man possesses any knowledge. There is no other spot in the county, and probably but few others anywhere, that abounds in such striking proofs of the existence of a powerful and populous people…. The ancient people disappeared, leaving no written record which might serve to enlighten us as to who they were, whence they came, and whither they have gone. Nevertheless they have left abundant proof in their burial-place, situated a little west of the site of the old brick church, and in the character of “Fort Hill” as it is called, located on the southeastern bank of the creek and opposite to the present village cemetery, that they did once exist, and that they were a numerous and powerful people. The ancient burying-grounds occupy an area of about four acres… Aaron Wright, Esq., in 1800, made a careful examination… and found… human bones blackened with time… Some of these bones were of unusual size, and evidently belonged to a race allied to giants. Skulls were taken from these mounds, the cavities of which were of sufficient capacity to admit the head of an ordinary man, and jaw-bones that might be fitted over the face with equal facility. The bones of the upper and lower extremities were of corresponding size.


On page 157 the writer relates how, on “the night of August 11, 1812,” practically the entire population of Conneaut (then called New Salem) fled from a suspected invasion of British, Canadians, and their Indian allies, and “sought refuge on Fort Hill, where amidst its ancient ruins, then covered with a dense forest, they hoped to find a place of temporary security.” How land owner Nehemiah King accomodated these unexpected guests, the historian does not relate; he only says that “Within the dilapidated walls of the old fort, hid among the bushes, they passed a most uncomfortable and tedious night, momentarily expecting to hear, the yells of the savages, or to witness from the hill the conflagration of their dwellings.”

Finally, on page 159 the historian gives an account of New Salem resident Solomon Spalding and his being inspired to write a precursor to the Book of Mormon, in which he attempted “to show that the American Indians are the descendants of the Jews or lost tribes,” and that “They buried their dead in large heaps, which caused the mounds so common in this country. Their arts, sciences, and civilization were brought into view in order to account for all the curious antiquities found in various parts of North America.” Exactly how “the Book of Mormon has some connection with these mounds,” (as reported by Dr. Peet on page 17) the 1878 history does not say. The account of Spalding on page 159 appears to have been largely taken from Henry Howe’s 1847 history, and may have been inserted into the later publication without any special input from Dr. Peet. Peet, it will be recalled, said that the topic of Spalding’s writings “may have been suggested” by the Conneaut Creek earthworks and their strange contents, and that the “Rev. Mr. Spalding, lived in Conneaut, and the story [found in the Book of Mormon] is based on the common sentiment that the descendants of the lost tribes buried their dead in large heaps, which caused the mounds so common in this country.”


1877 Nevada, Eureka

“Prospectors found a human leg bone and kneecap sticking out of solid rock. Doctors examined the remains and determined they were from a human being, and one that stood over 12 feet tall. The rock in which the bones were found was dated geologically to the Jurassic Period, over 185 million years old.”


1877 Missouri, Kansas City

“A giant skull was unearthed when mounds wore opened and giant man tracks belonging to humans 25 to 30 feet tall were discovered.”


1876 Wisconsin

“Mounds were excavated containing a giant skull and vertebrae.”


1875 West Virginia, Rivesville

“Workmen constructing a bridge near the mouth of Paw Paw Creek uncovered three giant skeletons with strands of reddish hair clinging to the skulls. The skeletons had supported people approximately 8 feet tall.”


1875 – History of the town of Northfield, Massachusetts 1875

Pg. 44

“About 80 rods below this cluster of mounds, is another wigwam site. When the railroad was constructed a few years since, as the workmen were excavating a cut, the earth caved in, and disclosed 13 skeletons lying close together. One of them indicated a man 6 1/2 feet in height.”


1873 Washington DC

“The objects here collected which have not been given, or acquired by exchange, have been purchased for the use of the museum by order of the surgeon-general… There is a skeleton of a giant, who, in life, measured seven feet, prepared by Auzoux and mounted by Blanchêne’s method, which, if I may use that term, is really a beauty. It is as white and clean as new fallen snow, and the brass joints and screws which keep it together are bright, and of the latest style and finish.” From the article “The Army Medical Museum in Washington” by Louis Bagger, Appletons’ Journal: A Magazine Of General LiteratureVolume 9, Issue 206


1873 Ohio, Seville

“An Ohio Bicentennial Commission historical marker serves as a reminder that the Giants of Seville, Captain Martin Van Buren Bates and his wife, Anna Swan Bates, lived in the village of Seville in Medina County. Anna
stood 7 feet 11 1/2 inches tall and weighed 413 pounds. Martin was 7 feet 9 inches tall and weighed 480 pounds.”


1872 Ohio, Seneca Township

“When the “Bates” mound was opened the remains of three skeletons, whose size would indicate they measured in life, at least, eight feet in height, were found. A remarkable feature of these remains was they had double teeth in front as well as in back of mouth and in both upper and lower jaws.”


1870 Ohio

In Brush Creek Township a large mound contained skeletal remains of several humans up to nine feet tall. A large stone tablet with unknown inscriptions similar to Greek writing was also found.


1870 – History from the 1870s Quincy Massachusetts
“The Indian title to the land was extinguished by a deed from Wampatuck, son of Chikataubut, to Samuel Bass, Thomas Faxon, and others, in 1665. The second schoolhouse in the town was erected on Penn’s Hill in 1697; and the first Episcopal church was built about 1725. In 1725 there were standing near the farmhouse of Mr. George W. Beale the remains of an old fort; and in 1819 the skeletons of two Indians, one of which was of great size, were exhumed near Squantum. The granite quarries were not much worked before to 1800.”


1869 – 42 History of Nortbfield.

“August 17, 1869, as Mr. George M. Lee was digging up stumps and leveling the land on his farm, about four rods from the steep bank and west of the brook, he had occasion to plow two furrows deep, and struck a loose flat stone. As it evidently did not belong there, his curiosity was excited, and on lifting it up he found others under it. With the aid of a shovel he dug up 3 or 4 bushels of small flattish stones laid round in regular order in a circle 18 inches or 2 feet in diameter. Beneath the stones, at the depth of 4.V feet, he found the remains of a large skeleton in a sitting posture, facing the north. 1 The grave had evidently been dug perpendicular for its full depth on the south end, against which the back was placed, as the prints on the earth indicated; but from the bottom an excavation was made horizontally in which the feet and legs were thrust. The large bones were entire, but crumbled soon on being exposed to the air.” [Letter of John Stebbins). This was probably the grave of a high chieftain.”


1866 – History of Norwhich, Ct. 1866

pg. 535.

“In preparing for the foundation of this house, a Gigantic Indian skeleton was exhumed and many rude stone tools and arrow heads thrown up.”


 December 16, 1865
No. 277 Vol 22.

An Indian skeleton of extraordinary size was found in making an excavation in Hartford, Tuesday.
pg 2 col 3


1864 – Gleason’s literary companion Volume 5 1864

“An Indian skeleton of immense size was recently discovered three feet underground near Fort River Hadley, Massachusetts. The bones were so far decomposed that most of them crumbled upon exposure to the air. Some of the doctors think that the Indian was not less than seven feet high and one hundred years old when he died.


History of Western Massachusetts.
The Counties of Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin & Berkshire
Holland, Josiah Gilbert
Vol. II, Part III. pages 363 – 367
“The plough of the farmer often turns up from their long rest the crumbling bones of the hunter and warrior; and many Indian relics are found along the river districts, and the course of the brook which winds its way through the center of the town. These relics are arrow heads, stone pestles, fragments of rude pottery, pipes, stone hoes, beads, fish-spears, tomahawks, stones worn into grooves in dressing bow strings, &c., &c. Mr. J. D. CANNING has in his possession a broken pipe and a copper tomahawk, which were unearthed, together with the gigantic skeleton of an Indian, by Mr. Horace BURROWS and others, a few years since, while repairing the highway in the river district, doubtless belonged to a warrior renowned in his day and race, and was probably brought from the region of Lake Superior.”


1858 Ohio, Vermillion Township

Skeletons of a race of beings much larger than the local inhabitants were discovered.


1856 – Boston Medical and Surgical Journal,

Vol 53 1856 pg. 456

Indian graves in Concord New Hampshire

“In excavating recently says the Congregational Journal, for a cellar of a new house, a few rods west of this dwelling of Richard Bradley Esq. At the north end of the city, nine skeletons of Indians have been exhumed in a space about ten feet square. Among these were one very large measuring six feet and three inches. The bones of this Giant were of remarkable preservation. The skull is very thick, the teeth in both jaws are entire, and all of them double. The skeletons were found enclosed in bark, in a sitting posture with some of their long black hair still preserved. Dr. William Prescott of this city, has preserved the largest skeleton, which may be seen in his cabinet.” New York Observer.


1856 West Virginia, Wheeling

A human skeleton was discovered by laborers while ploughing a vineyard measuring almost 11 feet tall.


1851 New York

A skull rib bone, and shinbone were found that indicated the height to be over 8 feet tall.


1850 – A History of Swan’s Island, Maine
by H.W. Small, M.D.,
published 1898

“At that part of the island called the “North” when the first settlers came there were five different places plainly seen where the Indians that their “set-downs” or villages. There was another at the Middle Head, one in the Reed field near the eastern shore, and several around Old Harbor. In these ancient shell heaps have been found, by men of our present day, flint arrow heads and hatchets which must have taken much skill and patience in making. These must have been their implements used in hunting and perhaps in warfare. The promontory where the light-house stands, near the entrance to Old Harbor, is called Hocomock, a name given to it by the Indians long before the white men came. It may have been their name for this locality. Near to Hocomock Head is appoint of land extending into the harbor, called Burying Point. A large number of Indian skeletons were unearthed by the plow. They were found most plenty near the Middle Head and near the “Carrying-Place”, which places were their burying-grounds. The skeletons were found just beneath the turf and were of large size, showing a race of much larger stature than the Indian of today. This tribe made irregular visits to the island for many years after the white settlers came, but of late, since their number has so decreased, they have ceased altogether.”


1850 New York

From the History of Allegany County in 1879 a report that very large human bones were uncovered during excavation for the railroad.


1850 – History of Chemsford

By Wilson Waters
“Within the bounds of the Lowell cemetery, during the progress of improvements, there have been exhumed, in past years, a large number of human bones, which should indicate that this was a burying place of the Indians. Near the Concord River a large skeleton, presumably that of an Indian chief, was found buried in what appeared to be charcoal. It was in a sitting posture, facing the east, and the skull seemed to have been broken by the blow of a tomahawk. Another skeleton seemed to indicate that the chief’s squaw had been buried near him. A number of Indian fireplaces, constructed with stones, and of circular form have been discovered in this vicinity, at a depth of four or five feet below the surface of the ground, indicating great antiquity.”


1849 New York

From “Illustrations of the Ancient Monuments of Western New York” comes the report that an elliptical mound above near the Conewango Valley held eight big skeletons. A thigh bone was found to be 28” long. Exquisite stone points, enamelwork, and jewelry were found. Also discovered in the area were a number of other large skeletons one almost 9 feet in height.



Bates, Captain Martin Van Buren

When the War Between the States broke out, Martin Van Buren Bates left Emma Henry College in Virginia to enlist as a private in the Fifth Kentucky Infantry. Although only sixteen at the time, he already stood a little above six-feet tall. Apparently the youngster conducted himself well on the battlefield, for over the next couple years he received several promotions, the last as a captain in the Seventh Confederate Cavalry.

CAPTAIN MARTIN BATES and ANNA SWAN, the world’s tallest couple of record, posed for this picture with friend Lei McFarland.
(Courtesy Medina County Historical Society)4But all through the war, and for several years afterward, Captain Bates kept growing. By his own account, he finally stopped in his twenty-eighth year, after having reached a height of seven feet and eight inches and a weight of four hundred and seventy pounds.3


After the war, the Whitesburg, Kentucky, giant earned his living by exhibiting himself in the United States and Canada. In 1870, Judge H. P. Ingalls, a well-known promoter, asked him to come to Elizabeth, New Jersey, and join a company he was organizing to tour Europe. There his eyes beheld Anna Haining Swan, a seven-foot, eleven-inch Scottish lass from Nova Scotia, and a courtship began.


In April, 1871, Judge Ingalls’ company sailed for England. The two enormous sweethearts became an instant hit with the British public, and on June 2, Queen Victoria commanded their appearance at Buckingham Palace. Two weeks later, on June 17, the former Confederate captain and his fiancee, attired in her white satin gown with orange blossoms, spoke their vows before a large crowd in London’s historic St.-Martin-in-the-Fields church. Wedding presents from Queen Victoria included a cluster diamond ring for the bride and a watch and chain for the groom. The wedding made world headlines and put the Bates in the record books as history’s tallest known married couple.


After a brief honeymoon, the couple returned to London where they gave a private reception for the Prince of Wales, who invited them to be his guests at Marlborough House. They appeared a second time before the Queen, at Windsor, then set out on a tour of the provincial towns in England and Scotland.


Upon their return to the States, the Bates decided to take a vacation tour of the West and Midwest, then buy a farm and settle down. While in Ohio, they passed through Seville. That country appealed to them, so Captain Bates purchased one hundred and thirty acres of good farm land near the town and drew plans for a house big enough to accommodate giants. “The house he built on that farm… astounded visitors of ordinary size for 70 years,” writes Lee Cavin. “It had 14-foot ceilings in the principal wing. The doors were 8 feet high. The furniture was built to order. Captain Bates delighted in seeing normal-size people dwarfed in his house, saying, ‘Seeing our guests make use of it recalls most forcibly the good Dean Swift’s traveler in the land of Brobdingnag.


“In 1878,1879, and 1880,” continues Cavin, “the giant couple returned to the road as members of the W. W. Cole Circus. This circus, founded in 1871, was noted because it was the first to play many western towns. Its special train was close on the heels of railroad construction throughout the area. The reasons for the return to the road of the couple should be familiar ones to anyone who has built a new home. According to Seville contemporaries, the cost of the giant house exceeded expectations.”


Mrs. Bates bore the Captain two children. During the second year of their British tour, an eighteen-pound daughter died at birth. In the winter of 1879, after a difficult delivery, she gave birth to a twenty-three pound boy that measured thirty inches in length. How-ever, the child died the next day. In 1888, after years of declining health, Anna Swan Bates also died. The Seville Times devoted three columns to her obituary.


About a dozen years later, Captain Bates married Lavonne Weatherby, a daughter of the pastor of the Seville Baptist Church, which he and his first wife had long attended. The new Mrs. Bates stood just over five feet tall.


Seville’s most famous resident lived seventy-four years, but in January, 1919, he finally yielded to a lingering illness

1845 Virginia

A human jaw bone of great size was uncovered in a burial mound on which the teeth stood transversely in the jawbone.



The Discoveries of Aaron Wright in 1800

Perhaps it was because he was a single young man with plenty of energy, or perhaps it was because his choice for a homestead included a large “mound-builder” burial ground — whatever the reasons may have been, Aaron Wright has gone down in the history books as the discoverer of the “Conneaut Giants,” the unusually large-boned ancient inhabitants of Ashtabula Co., Ohio. In an 1844 account, writer Harvey Nettleton reported that this “ancient burying grounds” of “about four acres” was situated in what soon became the village of New Salem (later renamed Conneaut), “extending northward from the bank of the creek… to Main street, in an oblong square” tract that “appeared to have been accurately surveyed into lots, running from the north to the south.” Nettleton also said that the ancient “graves were distinguished by slight depressions in the surface of the earth disposed in straight rows, with the intervening spaces, or alleys, cover[ing] the whole area… estimated to contain from two to three thousand graves. These depressions, on a thorough examination made by Esq. Aaron Wright, as early as 1800, were found invariably to contain human bones, blackened with time, which on exposure to the air soon crumbled to dust.”


The prehistoric cemetery on Aaron’s Wright’s land was remarkable enough, just in its size and the configuration of the graves — but it was what was in those graves and in the adjacent burial mounds that captured Nettleton’s attention:


The mounds that were situated in the eastern part of what is now the village of Conneaut and the extensive burying ground near the Presbyterian Church, appear to have had no connection with the burying places of the Indians. They doubtless refer to a more remote period and are the relics of an extinct race, of whom the Indians had no knowledge. These mounds were of comparatively small size, and of the same general character of those that are widely scattered over the country. What is most remarkable concerning them is that among the quantity of human bones they contain, there are found specimens belonging to men of large stature, and who must have been nearly allied to a race of giants. Skulls were taken from these mounds, the cavities of which were of sufficient capacity to admit the head of an ordinary man, and jaw-bones that might be fitted on over the face with equal facility. The bones of the arms and lower limbs were of the same proportions, exhibiting ocular proof of the degeneracy of the human race since the period in which these men occupied the soil which we now inhabit.


Circleville, Ohio antiquarian Caleb Atwater was the known first person to comment upon the earthworks at Conneaut (then New Salem) in a published text. In his 1820 report, Description of the Antiquities Discovered in the State of Ohio… Atwater describes the “work at Salem… on a hill near Coneaught river… having two parallel circular walls, and a ditch between them.” Atwater says practically nothing about the burial mounds in the vicinity of this pre-Columbian fort “on a hill,” but he does provide the following information on page 125 of his report: “My informant says, within this work are sometimes found skeletons of a people of small stature, which, if true, sufficiently identifies it to have belonged to that race of men who erected our tumuli.” Thus, it was Caleb Atwater’s opinion that the builders of the ancient mounds were a “people of small stature,” and that reports of larger skeletons uncovered among their ruins were the exception, not the rule. To the above summary of Atwater’s investigations it might also be added that many of the earthworks he described he never saw himself, relying upon information supplied by untrained observers living in the vicinity of these ancient remains.



Freeman, Charles
Michigan-born Charles Freeman could lift fifteen hundred-weight, and “could throw an astounding number of somersaults in succession and run and jump like a deer.”21 But he knew almost nothing about professional boxing. After gazing upon his seven-foot, six-inch frame and witnessing his feats of great strength and agility, one-time British prize-fighter champion Ben Caunt decided that did not matter. He envisioned great things for Freeman in the ring and persuaded the young man to return with him to London.


Before leaving, Caunt tipped the New York press. The writers, of course, pounced on the story. They built Freeman up, giving him a fictitious record, while the editors caught their readers’ attention with headlines proclaiming that the huge American was crossing the Atlantic to lay claim to the “Championship of the World.”


On December 14,1842, near Sawbridgeworth, Freeman fought seventy rounds with William Perry, known as “The Tipton Slasher,” but the bout “was adjourned due to darkness falling.” Six days later they resumed the match, “but Perry fell before receiving a blow and was disqualified.”


Freeman gave up boxing for the stage. In early 1843, he appeared at the Olympia Theatre in The Son of the Desert and Demon Changeling, a piece written expressly for him. He also did a stint with the circus. “His great circus performance,” according to a Hunterian Museum report, “was to ride two horses at a time, galloping around the arena, with his arms above his head balancing a man.”23 Perhaps to make ends meet, he later became a barman at the Lion and Ball tavern in Red Lion Street, Holborn.


The giant barman excited the Lion and Ball’s regular crowd and attracted many new patrons, who got to see him for only the price of a whiskey. Either Freeman or one of his promoters penned the following poetic invitation to the British public to visit him:


You need not unto Hyde Park go,
For without imposition,
Smith’s Bar Man is, and no mistake,
The true Great Exhibition.
The proudest noble in the land,
Despite caprice and whim,
Though looking down on all the world,
Must fain look up to him. His rest can never be disturbed
By chanticleer in song, For though he early goes to bed,
He sleeps so very long. Though you may boast a many friends,
Look in and stand a pot; You’ll make a new acquaintanceship,
The longest you have got. Then come and see the Giant Youth,
Give Edward Smith a call, Remember in Red Lion-street,
The Lion and the Ball.
Liquors of a Giant’s Strength.


1835 Illinois, Lake County

In the numerous mounds in the county, skeletons ranging between 7 and 8 feet are discovered.


1833 California, Lompock Rancho

“Soldiers digging at Giant Lompock Rancho, California, discovered a male skeleton 12 feet tall. Carved shells, stone axes, and other artifacts surrounded the skeleton. The skeleton had double rows of upper and lower teeth. Unfortunately, this body was secretly buried when local Indians became upset about the remains.”


1829 Ohio, Chesterville

“In digging away a mound where a hotel was to be built, a large human skeleton was found, but no measurements were made. It is related that the jawbone was found to fit easily over that of a citizen of the village. The local physicians examined the cranium and found it proportionately large, with more teeth than the white race of today. The skeleton was taken to Mansfield, and has been lost sight of entirely.”



What Nehemiah King Found in 1829

Nettleton’s account was widely circulated when it was summarized in 1847 by historian Henry Howe in his Historical Collections of Ohio. Howe speaks of “Thomas Montgomery and Aron Wright” coming to Ohio “in the spring of 1798,” and of the subsequent discovery of the “extensive burying ground” and of “the human bones found in the mounds” nearby. Howe repeats the report, that among these uncovered bones, “were some belonging to men of gigantic structure.” He also tells how, in 1829, a tree was cut down next to the ancient “Fort Hill in Conneaut” and that the local land owner, “The Hon. Nehemiah King, with a magnifying glass, counted 350 annualer rings” beyond some cut marks near the tree’s center. Howe concludes: “Deducting 350 from 1829, leaves 1479, which must have been the year when these cuts were made. This was 13 years before the discovery of America, by Columbus. It perhaps was done by the race of the mounds, with an axe of copper, as that people had the art of hardening that metal so as to cut like steel.”


The same year that Henry Howe’s history of Ohio appeared another interesting book was published by the Smithsonian Institution, entitled, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. On page 38 of that seminal report by E. G. Squier and E. H. Davis appears the first known published description of “Fort Hill,” that strange pre-Columbian landmark situated on the property of Aaron Wright’s neighbor, Nehemiah King.


1825 Ohio Valley

David Cusick, a Tuscorora by birth, wrote that among the legends of the ancient people of the stock, there was a powerful tribe called Ronnongwetowanca. They were giants, and had a “considerable habitation.” When the Great Spirit made the people, some of them became giants. After a time, and having endured the outrages of these giants, it is said that the people banded together, and through the final force of about 800 warriors, successfully annihilated the abhorrent Ronnongwetowanca. After that, it was said that there were no giants anywhere. This was supposed to have happened around 2,500 winters before Columbus discovered America, around 1000 BC.


1847 sketch of Fort Hill –

Number 2. Ancient Work near Conneaut, Ashtabula county, Ohio. — “This work is at present very slight, but distinctly traceable. The sketch is a mere coup d’aeil, without measurements. The elevation on the bluff upon which it stands is about seventy feet; and the banks of the aluminous state are, upon the north, very precipitous… Upon the south side… the wall which skirts the brow of the hill is accompanied by an outer ditch, while upon the north there is a simple embankment. The ascent (marked C-C in the cut), is gradual and easy. Within the enclosure the earth is very black and rich; outside of the wall it is a stiff clay. The adjacent bottoms are very fertile, and the creek is everywhere fordable. There can be no doubt that this was a fortified position.” Near the village of Conneaut are a number of mounds, and other traces of an ancient population, among which is an aboriginal cemetery regularly laid out, and of great extent.


The antiquarian who contributed the survey of “ancient works in Northern Ohio” to Squier and Davis was Charles Whittlesey (1808-1886) of Cleveland, Ohio, who had been sketching the ancient earthworks of his region since the mid 1830s. The archeology and paleoanthropology pioneered by investigators like Squier, Davis and Whittlesey eventually revealed the fact that the builders of the mounds were, in fact, ancestors of some of the eastern woodland Indians. Whittlesey is remembered today in the application of his name to the “Whittlesey Culture” of late pre-Columbian Indians who inhabited northern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania at the time the “Fort Hill” and other Conneaut earthworks were constructed (c. 1000-1400 CE).


For a much more recent description of archaeological finds at this site, see David S. Brose et al., “Conneaut Fort: A Prehistoric Whittlesey Focus Village in Ashtabula County, Ohio” inPennsylvania Archaeologist 46:4 (1976) pp. 29-77. Brose’s 1971 excavations at Fort Hill were just one part of a wider archaeological survey conducted by Case Western Reserve University — and his published report is merely a summary of a much more detailed “site plan.” Brose found little of interest in his dig and concludes that “Conneaut Fort” was not so much a Mound-Builder fortification as it was “a base camp” from which migratory “hunting parties” went out into the surrounding woodlands to obtain food. Although he includes some brief comments regarding 19th century reports about the place, Brose says little about the other prehistoric earthworks in the area, and nothing at all about accounts of giant skeletons being found in the ancient cemetery just across the creek from the hill. However, his simply giving Whittlesey’s name to a “focus” of these ancient Americans does not even begin to account for or explain the early discoveries of gigantic skeletons found along the banks of Conneaut Creek. It is obvious that the modern scientists, in their narrow investigations, have missed seeing the larger picture of the enigma the early settlers encountered at Conneaut — the strange burial places, odd relics, and inexplicable remains of the previous inhabitants. To gain a useful perspective on these people the modern reader must turn the historical pages back to reports from the previous century.


1822 – Indian Burials in East Haven

“The great burying place of the Indian tribes in this town and vicinity, is on the
North end of the hill on which the fort stands, which, anciently, in allusion to this place, was called Grave Hill. Some of the graves have been leveled by the plow, but many of them are yet visible. In the year 1822, I examined three of these graves. At the depth of about three feet and a half the sandstone appears, on which the bodies are laid, without any appearance of a wrapper or enclosure. They all lay in the direction of southwest and northeast – the head towards the west. Of two of them, the arms lay by the side; the other had the arms across the body, after the manner of the white people. The large bones and teeth were in a sound state. The thighbones of one measured 19 inches in length, the leg bone 18, and the arm from the elbow to the shoulder 13. By measuring the skeleton as it lay, it was concluded to be of a man six and a half feet high. No article of any description appeared with the bones. It is said that about fifty or sixty years ago [1760-1770] some of these graves were opened and a number of Indian implements, of the kitchen and of war, were found in them. Few Indians have been buried there within a century past.” This was taken from Connecticut Historical Collections, History and Antiquities of Every Connecticut Town by John Warner Barber, New Haven, 1836.


1821 Tennessee, White County

“An ancient fortification contained skeletons of gigantic stature averaging at least 7 feet in length.”


1820 – Guide to the White Mountains and the lake of New Hanpshire, Tripp and Osgood 1850

pg. 17

“A skeleton was exhumed in this town (Moltonborough) some 30 years ago, of almost fabulous proportions. It was buried in a sandy soil, on the shore of the lake, near the mouth of a small river. It was apparently the skeleton of a man some seven feet high- the jaw bones passing easily over the face of a large man. The Ossipee tribe of Indians resided here formerly; and not long since was standing a tree rudely sculptured with Hieroglphics of their history, adventures and expeditions.”


1800 Ohio, Conneaut

“ Among the normal size skeletons found in the remains of mounds were found gigantic bones. Some of the skulls and jaws were large enough to fit over the head and face of a normal man.”



From the scrapbook of George Sheldon Deerfield, Mass. Historian
“Indian remains at “Indian Hill” Hadley, Ma. Immense skeleton found buried in a sitting posture. The seven foot skeleton has double rows of teeth and the skull is of remarkable thickness. Thigh bones measured 18 ½ inches long, 4 ½ inches in circumference and the skull was 8 inches long.”



“During the construction of the Cheshire Railroad several human Skeletons were exhumed, supposed to be Indians, and among them was one, buried under a flat stone, answering, by its huge proportions, the description formerly given to Philip [one of the known local Indians, reportedly involved in the attack on Kilburn]. These bones were procured and wired together by one Dr. RObbins, of Bellows Falls, and are now in the possession of his family.”


1800 – The History of Burrillville.

“It is said, that some years ago a mammoth skeleton was exhumed by one Captain Samuel White, while excavating a cellar, and that the proportions of this human relic excited the wonderment of all the surrounding neighborhood. The bones were carefully preserved and put together, when it was found to be of extraordinary height and proportions. Tradition is silent so far as furnishing any record of this human relic. Imagination can only conjecture him as some giant of the forest that roamed the rude wilds, long, perhaps, before the Pilgrim Fathers landed at Plymouth. A chief, perchance, that ruled ages ago over the Nipmuck tribe, and had fallen in some in some fierce combat with a hostile foe, while bravely urging on his gallant warriors to renewed exertions, and a final victory.”


1800 – The History Of Deerfield Massachusetts Volume 1

Pg. 78-79 George Sheldon

“At the foot of bars long hill, just where the meadow fence crossed the road, and the bars were placed that gave the village it’s name, many skeletons were exposed while plowing down a bank, and weapons and implements were found in abundance. One of these skeletons was described to me by Henry Mather who saw it, as being of monstrous size -”the head as big as a peck basket, with double teeth all round.” Mather, who was about six feet tall, made the comparison, and says the thigh bones were about three inches longer than his own. The skeleton was examined by Dr. Stephen W. Williams, who said the owner must have been nearly eight feet high. In all the cases noted in this paragraph, the bodies were placed in a sitting posture, facing the east.”



Horned Giants
Pursuit, in its July, 1973, issue, reported that in the 1880s, while digging in a mound at Sayre in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, a reputable group of antiquarians found skeletons of humans measuring not only above seven feet tall but having skulls with horns.25 The diggers, which included two professors and Pennsylvania’s state historian, turned what they found over to the American Investigating Museum in Philadelphia, but the bones were afterward misplaced, stolen, or lost. A story about the horned skulls appeared in a Reader’s Digest book, Mysteries of the Unexplained.


1792 New York, Buffalo

Turner’s History of the Holland Purchase reports that 7 and 8 foot skeletons were found at an earthen fort in Orleans County with broad flat topped skulls.


1720 – Nawelet’s Land.

North of Coassock up to Wanasquatok ( Broadbrook), the country belonged to the chieftain Nawelet. From the size of his possessions and the plain testimony of remains, it is evident that this tract was inhabited by a numerous and powerful tribe. Some were of gigantic stature — a skeleton measuring 6£ feet having been disinterred. They were enterprising and warlike, as is shown by their extensive planting fields, and the strength and resources of their main fort. Their utensils indicate considerable traffic with the whites. And they were undoubtedly the last of the native clans to leave the valley. Indeed they are found here in considerable numbers as late as 1720, and were then of a character to command the respect of the English settlers


1700 – History of Lynn, Essex county, Mass. 1629-1864

pg. 388

“As some workmen were this year digging a cellar, In Liberty Street, they found the skeleton of an Indian. It was more than six feet in length, and the skull was of uncommon thickness.”




San Francisco Giants
When Sir Francis Drake dropped anchor in a small bay just north of modern San Francisco, the Indian natives, who had never seen a white man before, took the Englishmen to be gods. Francis Fletcher, Drake’s chronicler of the voyage, says the king, “a man of large body and good aspect,” even set his own crown–a headdress of feathers–on Drake’s head and pleaded with him to exercise dominion over the land. He also describes these Indians as a tall people with herculean strength. “Yet are the men commonly so strong of body,” he writes, “that that which two or three of our men could hardly bear, one of them would take upon his back, and without grudging carry it easily away, up hill and down hill an English mile together.”


When Sir Francis Drake dropped anchor in a small bay just north of modern San Francisco, the Indian natives, who had never seen a white man before, took the Englishmen to be gods. Francis Fletcher, Drake’s chronicler of the voyage, says the king, “a man of large body and good aspect,” even set his own crown–a headdress of feathers–on Drake’s head and pleaded with him to exercise dominion over the land. He also describes these Indians as a tall people with herculean strength. “Yet are the men commonly so strong of body,” he writes, “that that which two or three of our men could hardly bear, one of them would take upon his back, and without grudging carry it easily away, up hill and down hill an English mile together.”



Giant Discoveries
Across the continent, at the same time that De Soto was blazing his famous trail, an expedition led by Coronado searched for the fabulously rich “Seven Cities of Cibola.” Near Mexico’s present-day border with California and Arizona they ran into several tribes of Indian giants. Starting out from Mexico City with some three hundred Spaniards and eight hundred native Indians, the Coronado expedition marched west to the Pacific Ocean. Then turning north-ward, they ascended the coast through regions that later became known as Sinaloa and Sonora. While this march was underway, Hemando de Alarcon set sail with two ships up the coast, transporting the baggage and supplies for the soldiers. The original plan called for Alarcon and the army to keep in frequent touch and to rendezvous at suitable harbors along the coast. So when the army reached the province of Senora, a force under Don Rodrigo Maldonado set out to find the harbor and scan the horizon for Alarcon’s ships. Maldonado sighted no ships, but he did return with an Indian who stood so tall as to astonish the Spaniards. Pedro de Castaneda, who accompanied Coronado and later wrote the most complete and factual history of the expedition, records this unusual event as follows: “Don Rodrigo Maldonado, who was captain of those who went in search of the ships, did not find them, but he brought back with him an Indian so large and tall that the best man in the army reached only to his chest. It was said that other Indians were even taller on the coast.” This giant evidently belonged to the Seri. This great Indian tribe occupied the island of Tiburon and the adjacent Sonora coast on the Gulf of California. Historians testify to their tall stature.


Soon after this, while still trying to establish contact with Alarcon, Captain Melchior Diaz came across another tribe of giants. Taking twenty-five of his “most efficient men” and some guides, Diaz struck out toward the north and west in search of the seacoast and the ships. “After going about 150 leagues,” reports Castaneda, “they came to a province of exceedingly tall and strong men–like giants ” Evidently, these were the Cocopa, a Yuman tribe. According to Castaneda, these huge Indians went about mostly naked. “They . . . live,” he adds, “in large straw cabins built underground like smoke houses, with only the straw roof above ground. They enter these at one end and come out at the other. More than a hundred persons, old and young, sleep in one cabin. When they carry anything, they can take a load of more than three or four hundredweight on their heads. Once when our men wished to fetch a log for the fire, and six men were unable to carry it, one of these Indians is reported to have come and raised it in his arms, put it on his head alone, and carried it very easily.”


While among these Cocopas, the captain learned that ships had been seen at a point three days down toward the sea. But when Diaz’ finally reached this place, he saw no sign of a sail, even to the distant horizon. On a tree near the shore, however, his party found this written message: “Alarcon reached this place; there are letters at the foot of this tree.” Diaz dug up the letters and learned from them how long Alarcon had waited for news of the army and that he had gone back with the ships to New Spain, i.e., Mexico.

But on his way back Alarcon changed his mind–and thus became the discoverer of the Colorado River giants. Sailing into the port of Culiacan, he came unexpectedly upon the San Gabriel, loaded with provisions for Coronado. This chance meeting with the San Gabriel probably figured in Alarc6n’s decision to resume efforts to locate the explorer’s party. At any rate, he added this third ship to his fleet and continued up the coast. They sailed the Gulf of California until they entered the shallows near the head of the gulf. After hazarding the murky shoals there and almost losing all three ships, he and his crew reached the mouth of the Colorado River. Dropping anchor here, Alarcon and his exploratory party launched two boats against the river’s furious current. “Thus began,” writes historian Herbert Eugene Bolton, “the historic first voyage by Europeans up the Colorado River among the tall Yuman peoples who lived along its banks on either side.”


A piece up the river Alarcon and his men came upon their first settlement. About two hundred and fifty giant Cocopa warriors stood on the banks, ready to attack them. But the captain, by making signs of peace and offering gifts, won them over. Further upstream more than a thousand giant Indians appeared with bows and arrows, but Alarcon knew they intended them no harm because their women and children accompanied them. These Cocopas he described as “large and well formed, without being corpulent. Some have their noses pierced, and from them hang pendants, while others wear shells. . . . All of them, big and little, wear a multi-colored sash about the waist; and tied in the middle, a round bundle of feathers hanging down like a tail…. Their bodies are branded by fire; their hair is banged in front, but in the back it hangs to the waist.” The women, meanwhile, “go about naked, except that, tied in front and behind, they wear large bunches of feathers.”



Mexico’s Giants
About 1542, within months of De Soto’s and Coronado’s expeditions, five-year-old Fray Diego Duran moved with his family to Mexico. He thus grew up among the central Mexican Indians and later served as a missionary to them. While living here, he several times came in contact with giant Indians. Of these encounters, he later wrote: “It cannot be denied that there have been giants in this country. I can affirm this as an eyewitness, for I have met men of monstrous stature here. I believe that there are many in Mexico who will remember, as I do, a giant Indian who appeared in a procession of the feast of Corpus Christi. He appeared dressed in yellow silk and a halberd at his shoulder and a helmet on his head. And he was all of three feet taller than the others.”


Spending his childhood in Texcoco gave Duran a unique opportunity to learn firsthand a great deal about the Aztecs and to become acquainted with early Mexican culture. Fortunately for us, he made the most of it. Because of his long and close association with these Indians, he became a recognized authority on their language, customs, and preColumbian history. For that reason, most scholars regard Duran’s work as of “extraordinary importance.” In his seventy-eight chapters, he details the history of Mexico from its origins down to the conquest and complete subjection of the country by the Spaniards. In gathering his information, Duran used a great number of pre-Hispanic, picture-writing manuscripts, which had to be explained to him by Indians well-trained in interpreting native hieroglyphics. During his thirty-two years among the Aztecs, he also interviewed many old Indians knowledgeable in the ancient ways and traditions of their people. From all these sources he learned about the giants. Bernardino de Sahagun and Joseph de Acosta, two other notable historians of about the same period, also knew about a tribe of giants who once occupied central Mexico, but Duran’s book offers us the best and most complete account.


Duran writes that, according to the Aztecs, the giants and a bestial people of average size once had this land all to themselves. Then, in A.D. 902, six tribes of people from Teocolhuacan (also called Aztlan, i.e., “Land of Herons”), which “is found toward the north and near the region of La Florida,” began arriving in Mexico. They soon took possession of the country. These six kindred tribes included the Xochimilca, the Chalca, the Tecpanec, the Colhua, the Tlalhuica, and the Tlaxcalans. A seventh tribe, the Aztecs, were brothers to these people, but they “came to live here three hundred and one years after the arrival of the others.”


When these six tribes had settled, Duran continues, “they recorded in their painted books the type of land and kind of people they found here. These books show two types of people, one from the west of the snow-covered mountains toward Mexico, and the other on the east, where Puebla and Cholula are found. Those from the first region were Chichimecs and the people from Puebla and Cholula were ‘The Giants,’ the Quiname, which means ‘men of great stature.’


“The few Chichimecs on the side of Mexico were brutal, savage men, and they were called Chichimecs because they were hunters. They lived among the peaks and in the harshest places of the mountain where they led a bestial existence. They had no human organization but hunted food like the beasts of the same mountain, and went stark naked without any covering on their private parts….


When the new nations came, these savage people showed no resistance or anger, but rather awe. They fled towards the hills, hiding themselves there…. The newly arrived people seeing, then, that the land was left unoccupied, chose at will the best places to live in.


“The other people who were found in Tlaxcala and Cholula and Huexotzinco are said to have been ‘Giants.’ These were enraged at the coming of the invaders and tried to defend their land. I do not have a very true account of this, and therefore will not attempt to tell the story that the natives told me even though it was long and worth hearing, of the battles that the Cholultecs fought with the Giants until they killed them or drove them from the country.


“These Giants lived no less bestially than the Chichimecs, as they had abominable customs and ate raw meat from the hunt. In certain places of that region enormous bones of the Giants have been found, which I myself have seen dug up at the foot of cliffs many times. These Giants flung themselves from precipices while fleeing from the Cholultecs and were killed. The Cholultecs had been extremely cruel to the Giants, harassing them, pursuing them from hill to hill, from valley to valley, until they were destroyed.

“Even if we detain the reader a little, I should like to tell the manner in which the people of Cholula and Tlaxcala annihilated that evil nation. This was done by treason and deceit. They pretended to want peace with the Giants, and after having assured them of their good will they invited them to a great banquet. An ambush was then prepared. Some men slyly robbed the guests of their shields, clubs, and swords. The Cholultecs then appeared and attacked. The Giants tried to defend themselves, and, as they could not find their weapons, it is said that they tore branches from the trees with the same ease as one cuts a turnip, and in this way defended themselves valiantly. But finally all were killed.”


Bernardino de Sahagun, who arrived in the Americas in 1523 and became the foremost authority in his time on the pre-conquest Aztec culture, mentions in his twelve-volume history on central Mexico that the “giants” of Quinametin were Toltecs and that they built both Teotihuacan and Cholula.


In his History of the Indies, Joseph de Acosta tells a story of the giants very similar to Duran’s, but he also adds this eyewitness account: “When I was in Mexico, in the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred eighty six, they found one of those giants buried in one of our farms, which we call Jesus del Monte, of whom they brought a tooth to be seen, which (without augmenting) was as big as the fist of a man; and, according to this, all the rest was proportionable, which I saw and admired at his deformed greatness.”



Yuman Giants
Upon reaching the mouth of the Colorado River, Hernando de Alarcon’s three ships dropped anchor, while his exploratory party launched two boats against the river’s furious current. On this historic first voyage up the Colorado River the Europeans came across the giant-like Yuman peoples who lived along its banks. Pedro de Castaneda, who accompanied Coronado on this expedition and wrote the most complete and factual history of it, described them as “large and well formed, without being corpulent. Some have their noses pierced, and from them hang pendants, while others wear shells. . . . All of them, big and little, wear a multi-colored sash about the waist; and tied in the middle, a round bundle of feathers hanging down like a tail…. Their bodies are branded by fire; their hair is banged in front, but in the back it hangs to the waist.”


De Soto’s Encounters with Giants
In 1539, probably while the survivors of Narvaez’ crew were making their way across the country, another Spanish explorer, Hernando De Soto, sailed nine ships into Tampa Bay. There he put ashore six hundred lancers, targeteers, cross-bowmen, and harque-busiers, along with two hundred and thirteen horses. As they ventured inland, the first Indians they encountered were friendly Timucuans. While some of their leaders were giants, most of these people stood, on average, only a foot taller than the explorers. Their vast territory extended from Tampa Bay north to the present Jacksonville area and west to the Aucilla River, which runs along the eastern border of modern Jefferson County and empties into the gulf.


As De Soto marched through the various Indian provinces, he met with their caciques. It was his custom after these conferences to courteously “detain” the cacique and some of his nobles–as a precaution against attack. He also required them to furnish him with porters. The Indians’ reaction to this policy varied. After some reluctance, the cacique of Ocala, “an Indian of enormous size and amazing strength,”12 finally agreed to become De Soto’s “guest.” Vitacucho, the cacique in the neighboring province of Caliquin (present-day Alachua County), consented only after his daughter chanced to fell into De Soto’s hands. But even while being detained, Vitacucho and his tall warriors secretly managed two serious uprisings. Copafi, the cacique of the Apalachee around Tallahassee, described as “a man of monstrous proportions,”13 refused even to meet with De Soto, but a party led by the governor himself finally captured the giant and brought him in.


After wintering at Ambaica Apalachee, the Spanish explorers crossed over into Georgia. But there they received a kindly reception, with the nation of the Creeks greeting them everywhere in a warm, friendly manner. The several other caciques who guided them through the Carolinas and into Tennessee were, for the most part, also friendly, and even those who may have been offended by the governor’s invitation to accompany him offered no serious objection. So all went well–until De Soto’s company reached the borders of the giant cacique Tuscaloosa. As suzerain over many caciques, he ruled a wide territory that included most of modern Alabama and Mississippi. Though proud and haughty, Tuscaloosa sent an embassy headed by his huge son to greet and welcome De Soto and his men.


Tuscaloosa’s heir apparent, who, at eighteen years, already stood as tall as his father, came to De Soto while he stayed at Tallise, a large Indian town located on the bank of a great river. The young giant delivered to the governor the following communication from Tuscaloosa: “The grand cacique of Tuscaloosa, my master, sends me to salute you. He bids me say, that he is told how all, not without reason, are led captive by your perfection and power; that wheresoever lies your path you receive gifts and obedience, which he knows are all your due; and that he longs to see you as much as he could desire for the continuance of life. Thus, he sends me to offer you his person, his lands, his subjects; to say, that wheresoever it shall please you to go through his territories, you will find service and obedience, friendship and peace. In requital of this wish to serve you, he asks that you so far favor him as to say when you will come; for that the sooner you do so, the greater will be the obligation, and to him the earlier pleasure.”


Dismissing the cacique of Coca, who had accompanied him to Tuscaloosa’s borders, De Soto set out to meet with Tuscaloosa. Early on the morning of the third day, the governor, his master of the camp, and fifteen cavalrymen entered the village where he was quartered. Having heard daily reports from his scouts on De Soto’s progress, the Indian chieftain was prepared to receive them in state. As they rode in, they saw Tuscaloosa stationed on a high place, seated on a mat. Around him stood one hundred of his noblemen, all dressed in richly colored mantles and plumes. Tuscaloosa appeared to be about forty years old. His physical measurements, writes Garcilaso de la Vega, who accompanied De Soto, “were like those of his son, for both were more than a half-yard taller than all the others. He appeared to be a giant, or rather was one, and his limbs and face were in proportion to the height of his body. His countenance was handsome, and he wore a look of severity, yet a look which well revealed his ferocity and grandeur of spirit. His shoulders conformed to his height, and his waistline measured just a little more than two-thirds of a yard. His arms and legs were straight and well formed and were in proper proportion to the rest of his body. In sum he was the tallest and most handsomely shaped Indian that the Castilians saw during all their travels.”


As the cavaliers and officers of the camp who preceded De Soto rode forward and arranged themselves in his presence, Tuscaloosa took not the slightest notice of them, even as they made their horses curvet and caracole as they passed. Determined to excite his at ten-ti on, some spurred their horses up to his very feet, to which “he, with great gravity, and seemingly with indifference, now and then would raise his eyes, and look on as in contempt.”16 He made no move to rise even when De Soto approached. So the governor took him by the hand, and they walked together to the piazza. There they sat on a bench and talked for several minutes.


Two days later De Soto decided to resume his journey toward Mobile.17 He also decided to take Tuscaloosa with him. On these marches the cacique in custody always rode alongside the governor. So De Soto ordered a horse for Tuscaloosa. But owing to the cacique’s huge size and great weight, not even the largest horse they brought forward was able to bear him. At last, a pack horse accustomed to heavy burdens proved strong enough to carry the chief. But when he mounted Tuscaloosa’s feet almost touched the ground. This description accords with Garcilaso de la Vega’s statement that the chief stood a half-yard taller than the tallest men around him. Though no one recorded Tuscaloosa’s actual size, these two measurements give us some idea of his height. If these descriptions are accurate, then we cannot err too much in estimating his stature at about eight feet.

Even while they were on the trail to Mobile, De Soto’s party encountered an ominous sign of what awaited them. Two soldiers turned up missing. The Spaniards suspected that the Indians caught the two men some distance from camp and killed them. When De Soto questioned Tuscaloosa about their whereabouts, the cacique testily replied that the Indians were not the white men’s keepers. Vigilance was now increased, and the governor dispatched two of his best men to Mobile under the pretext of making arrangements for provisions. Four days later, as the Spaniards approached the town, the scouts rode out to De Soto and reported that many Indians had gathered inside and that some preparations had been made. They then suggested the army camp in the woods nearby. Unfortunately, the doughty De Soto refused to heed his scouts’ advice.


While the army waited, the governor with his small party approached the town and its high walls. Just then a welcoming committee of painted warriors, clad in robes of skins and head-pieces with many feathers of very brilliant colors, came out to greet them. A group of young Indian maidens followed, dancing and singing to music played on rude instruments. The governor entered the town with Tuscaloosa, his son, and the cacique’s entourage. Seven or eight men of his own guard plus four cavalrymen also accompanied him. They seated themselves in a piazza. From here, De Soto saw that there were only about eighty houses, but several of them large enough to hold one thousand to fifteen hundred people. Unknown to him, more than two thousand Indian warriors now stood in concealment behind these walls, waiting.


After some of the chief men from the town joined him, Tuscaloosa withdrew a short distance from De Soto. With a severe look, he warned the governor and his party to leave at once. In attempting to regain custody of the chief, a tussle between a Spaniard and an Indian ignited an all-out war. Under a hail of arrows, De Soto and most of his men retreated from the village. The governor then ordered the town besieged. After a time, the Spaniards gained entry, set fire to the buildings, and conducted a massacre. According to Alvaro Fernandez, about two thousand five hundred Indians died that day, while only eighteen Spaniards fell. Among the Indian dead was Tuscaloosa’s giant son and heir apparent. Tuscaloosa himself escaped. At the start of the battle, some of his chiefs, wanting to protect his life for the good of their nation, persuaded him to flee Mobile. Tuscaloosa reluctantly agreed, departing with twenty brave bodyguards soon after the battle began.



Florida Giants
In 1528, or almost ten years after Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda’s discovery of giants on the Mississippi River, the ill-fated explorer Panfilo de Narvaez put three hundred men ashore at Tampa Bay. His mission was to search the Florida mainland for its riches, while his five ships sailed just off the coast. Only Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and three companions survived this expedition. Afterward they crossed the North American continent from shore to shore, becoming the first white men to do so. In his history, Cabeza de Vaca mentions some giant Florida Indians who attacked the Narvaez party. “When we came in view of Apalachen,” he writes, “the Governor ordered that I should take nine cavalry with fifty infantry and enter the town. Accordingly the assessor and I assailed it; and having got in, we found only women and boys there, the men being absent; however these returned to its support, after a little time, while we were walking about, and began discharging arrows at us. They killed the horse of the assessor, and at last taking to flight, they left us…. The town consisted of forty small houses, made low, and set up in sheltered places because of the frequent storms. The material was thatch. They were surrounded by very dense woods, large groves and many bodies of fresh water. . . Two hours after our arrival at Apalachen, the Indians who had fled from there came in peace to us, asking for their women and children, whom we released; but the detention of a cacique [the Indians’ chief] by the Governor produced great excitement, in consequence of which they returned for battle early the next day, and attacked us with such promptness and alacrity that they succeeded in setting fire to the houses in which we were.”


After twenty-five days, Narvaez’ army departed Apalachen. But a short while later, as they attempted to cross a large lake, they came under heavy attack from many giant Indians concealed behind trees. “Some of our men were wounded in this conflict, for whom the good armor they wore did not avail,” continues Cabeza de Vaca. ‘There were those this day who swore that they had seen two red oaks, each the thickness of the lower part of the leg, pierced through from side to side by arrows; and this is not so much to be wondered at, considering the power and skill with which the Indians are able to project them. I myself saw an arrow that had entered the butt of an elm to the depth of a span…. The Indians we had so far seen in Florida are all archers. They go naked, are large of body, and appear at a distance like giants. They are of admirable proportions, very spare and of great activity and strength. The bows they use are as thick as the arm, of eleven or twelve palms in length, which will discharge at two hundred paces with so great precision that they miss nothing.”


Harassments by these Indian giants continued. So Narvaez decided to head south for the gulf coast and escape by the sea. Arriving there after much hardship, he and his men constructed five crude boats, in order to search along the coast for a Spanish settlement. Unfortunately, a sudden, fierce storm caught them some distance from land. The high winds drove all the boats, with all their men aboard, far out to sea. All were subsequently lost except Cabeza de Vaca and three companions who managed to reach the shore. They walked across Texas and northern Mexico, finally reaching the Pacific coast where they linked up with Francisco Vazquez de Coronado in 1541.



Mississippi and Texas Giants
In 1519, a year before Magellan discovered the Patagonians, Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda encountered some giants on the banks of the Mississippi River, not far from where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Sent to search for a strait across Florida, Pineda came first upon the northern gulf coast, reconnoitered it, then sailed south, coasting the western shore of Florida until he reached its southern tip. Finding the peninsula offered no strait, he then retraced his course. Landing at strategic places along the coasts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and even down to Tampico in Mexico, Pineda made maps and notes of the rivers and bays, established landmarks, and took possession of all these lands in his king’s name. That done, he sailed back to the mouth of the Mississippi River. There he “found a large town, and on both sides of its banks, for a distance of six leagues up its course, some forty native villages.” These Indians proved friendly, so he remained here forty days while his crew careened their four ships and made necessary repairs. In his report on the country, Pineda noted that it provided the natives with an abundance of food, that many of its rivers contained so much gold that they commonly wore it as ornaments in their ears and noses, around their necks, and over other parts of the body, and that there lived on the banks of this river “a race of giants from ten to eleven palms in height.”


On his return from Tampico to the Mississippi, Pineda also, unknowingly, sailed right past a tribe of equally huge Texas Indians. For historian Woodbury Lowery, along with several others, places “the giant Karankawas” nation around Matagorda Bay at that time.


In a report on the Karankawas, John R. Swanton, of the Bureau of American Ethnology, describes the men as being “very tall and well formed…. Their hair was unusually coarse, and worn so long by many of the men that it reached to the waist. Agriculture was not practised by these Indians, their food supply being obtained from the waters, the chase, and wild plants, and, to a limited extent, human flesh; for, like most of the tribes of the Texas coast, they were cannibals. Travel among them was almost wholly by the canoe, or dugout, for they seldom left the coast. Head-flattening and tattooing were practised to a considerable extent. Little is known in regard to their tribal government, further than that they had civil and war chiefs, the former being hereditary in the male line.”


The first positive notice of them, adds Swanton, is found in the accounts of La Salle’s disastrous visit to this area.35 They also later engaged in a fierce battle with Lafitte and his band of pirates, who had abducted one of their women. But the Karankawas proved no match for the buccaneers, who, having superior arms and firepower, inflicted heavy casualties upon them and forced them to retreat. When Stephen Austin built his settlement on the Brazos in 1823, the tribe began to decline. “Conflicts between the settlers and the Indians were frequent,” says the ethnologist, “and finally a battle was fought in which about half the tribe were slain, the other portion fleeing for refuge to La Bahia.” By 1840, the Karankawas had been reduced to about one hundred souls living on Lavaca Bay.



Tlaxcala’s Giants
Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who served in the army of Hernan Cortes during his conquest of Mexico and later wrote an “exceptionally accurate and reliable” narrative of that brilliant campaign, recounts that in 1519, after the Spaniards defeated the Mexican city-state of Tlaxcala, the Tlaxcatecs became Cortes’ most faithfulally. While relating to the Latins something about their history, the Tlaxcatecs mentioned that a race of enormous size had once inhabited their land. “They said their ancestors had told them that very tall men and women with huge bones had once dwelt among them,” continues Diaz, “but because they were a very bad people with wicked customs they had fought against them and killed them, and those of them who remained had died off. And to show us how big these giants had been they brought us the leg-bone of one, which was very thick and the height of an ordinary-sized man, and that was a leg-bone from the hip to the knee. I measured myself against it, and it was as tall as I am, though I am of a reasonable height. They brought other pieces of bone of the same kind, but they were all rotten and eaten away by the soil. We were all astonished by the sight of these bones and felt certain there must have been giants in that land.”