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CHAPTER XXII

THE CARDIFF GIANT


GEORGE HULL SEEKS GEOLOGICAL SPECIMENS—DIFFICULTIES OF TRANSPORTATION— DISCOVERY OF THE GIANT—THE DOCTORS BELIEVE—SKEPTICISM BEGINS—THE GIANT IS SOLD—EXPOSURE OF THE HOAX—HELD FOR STORAGE—HULL IN HIS OLD AGE TELLS HOW THE GIANT CAME TO BE.

It was in the early part of the month of Julv, 1868, that two young men came to Fort Dodge, and took up their residence for a few days at the Old Saint Charles hotel. They registered as George Hull of Syracuse, N. Y., and Mr. Martin of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They pretended to be here on the mission of studying the geological formations in the vicinity of Fort Dodge. After making some inquiries as to the location of ledges of out-cropping rock they finally selected a tract where there was a ledge of gypsum rock, and purchased an acre of the land. It was their intention to do their own quarrying and work. After several attempts to secure a block of gypsum of the desired shape and size, with a failure added each time, they were informed that there was a man living in the vicinity, who could probably do the job. At that time Michael Foley, a resident of Fort Dodge, was engaged in taking out rock for the railroad, and to him they disclosed their desire for a slab of gypsum rock of a certain size. No satisfactory explanation was given Mr. Foley at that time as to what use was to be made of the stone. The contract, however, was let to Mr. Foley, and he furnished them a stone about twenty feet long, three feet wide, and eighteen inches in thickness. The weight of the rock made the matter of transporting it a difficult problem on account of the lack of roads at that early period. It had to be hauled to Boone, Iowa, forty-five miles distant, at that time the nearest railroad station to Fort Dodge.

The rock was loaded upon a wagon to which was hitched six teams of oxen. The original contractor became discouraged with the progress that he was making, and gave up the job, after hauling the stone as far as a point somewhere between Brushy Creek and Homer. A second man tried the task, and in turn failed. Arrangements were then made with two brothers, living at Border Plains, Joel and Jerid Wilson, who after some deliberation with the principals, chipped ofif some twelve hundred pounds of the stone, and having thus lightened the load finally reached the railroad station at Boone with the remainder. In hauling it the contractors had followed the stage route between Des Moines, Boone and Fort Dodge, and the passengers saw the strange load, both in transit, and also as it lay beside the road when abandoned by the first party, who had agreed to transport it to Boone. Among the passengers of that early day was

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Mr. A. N. Botsford, now the dean in the practice of law in Fort Dodge, and who says that during the month of August in that year as he was coming to Fort Dodge, he saw the men taking the chips from the stone. The stage passed the load four times a week for three weeks while the rock was on the way to Boone. The job cost Mr. Hull $200.00, and had it not been for his indomitable will, that again and again overcame difficulties, it would have remained on the road.

The stone was loaded upon a flat car at Boone and billed to Chicago. It was then taken to the stone yard of a man named Burghart on North Clark street. Here it was placed in the hands of two German stone cutters, Saile and Menkham, who carved it into the form of a giant, pricked it with a leaden mallet faced with needles to give it the resemblance of the human skin, and applied a solution of sulphuric acid to give it the appearance of age. Because the rock had been shortened in order to lighten the weight when hauling, the sculptors in giving it final shape, had to shorten the limbs, and in so doing were compelled to draw up the lower limbs, giving them a strikingly contracted and agonized appearance. Under one side there was a grooved and channeled appearance, as though it had been washed away during the ages that it had passed through.

After the applications had been made to give it the appearance of great age, it w-as placed in an iron case, and shipped to George Olds, Union, N. Y. It arrived there upon the 13th day of October, 1868, and upon the 4th day of November, it was receipted for and taken away. Its shipping weight was about 4,000 pounds, the giant itself weighing about 3,000 pounds.

From Union it was taken to a farm owned by a party b}' the name of Newell, who proved to be the brother-in-law of Hull. The party who hauled the case from Union station down the valley drove across the country in order that no questions should be asked when passing the toll gates. The distance was about sixteen miles. They reached the Newell farm at midnight in a pouring rain. The box was first placed back of the barn and covered with hay and straw. Two weeks later it was buried in a grave five foot deep. Here it remained until October i6th, 1869, nearly a year from the date of its burial.

It was while pretending to dig a well upon his farm that Newell struck this strange piece of stone, and at once created such interest as to arouse the whole country for the time. The seriousness with which some people took the discovery will be more interesting by reporting some of the authorities of the day concerning the genuineness and worth to science of this great find. Dr. James Hall, professor of geology of the University of New York said: "To all appearances the- statue lay upon the gravel when the decomposition of the fine silt or soil began, upon which the forest has grown for the succeeding generations. Altogether it is the most remarkable object brought to light in this country. Although not dating back to the stone age, it is nevertheless, deserving of the attention of the archaeologist."

A pastor of one of the leading churches of Syracuse, said: "It is not strange that any human being, after seeing this wonderfully preserved figure, can deny the evidence of his senses and refuse to believe what is so evidently the fact, that we have here a fossilized human being, perhaps one of the giants."

A lady, who was looking at the giant, remarked : "Nothing in the world can ever make me believe that he was not once a living being."


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Another prominent clergyman voiced his opinion as follows : "This is not a thing contrived by man, but is the face of one that once lived upon the earth, "the very image, and child of God."

Dr. Boynton, a local scientific lecturer, in an address, said, that "he attributed it to the early Jesuits." Another lecturer added to this as follows: "It is the work of a trained sculptor, who had noble original powers ; for none but such could have formed and wrought out the conception of that stately head, with its calm smile so full of mingled sweetness and strength." A prominent editor of the vicinity wrote in his editorial : "It is not unsafe to affirm that ninety-nine out of every hundred person that have seen this wonder have become immediately and instantly impressed that they were in the presence of an object not made with human hands. No piece of sculpture could produce the awe inspired by this blackened form. I venture to affirm that no living sculptor can be produced, who will say that the figure was conceived and executed by any human being." As an actual fact it was defective in proportion and features, and simply a poor job of stone cutting.

Alexander AlcWorter, a resident student and graduate of Yale, took the pains to make closer observations of the remains than others had, and succeeded, as he presumed, in finding an inscription consisting of thirteen letters, "introduced," as he said, "by a large cross, the Assyrian index of the Deity." Before the last word, he thought that he perceived a flower, which he regarded as consecrated to the particular deity Tammuz, and at both ends of the inscription a serpent monogram and symbol of Baal. This inscription he assumed as an evident fact, though no other human being had been able to see it. Even Professor White, M. D., of the Yale Medical school, with the best of intentions to see it, was unable to find it. White examined the pinholes that covered the body, and expressed himself finally, thus : "Though I saw no recent marks of tools, I saw evidences of design and form in the arrangement of the markings, which suggested the idea of an inscription, and though not fully decided, I incline to the opinion, that the Onondaga statue is of ancient origin." Against such authority and publicity it was very difficult to create any feeling of doubt. In the minds of many thoughtful people the giant was a fact, a reality; and so many persons had become interested in it, that this belief was constantly increasing.

One of the first ones to oppose the idea of the reality of the giant was Hon. Andrew D. White. Upon his first visit he proclaimed it a hoax, "because," as he said, "there was no reason for digging a well at this place, as upon the farm was a spring, and also a running stream convenient both to the barn and house." He gives a description of his first visit as follows :

"And as we drove through the peaceful Onondaga valley, we saw more and more on every side, the evidence of the popular interest. The roads were crowded with buggies, carriages and wagons from the city and farms. When we arrived at the Newell farm, we found a gathering, that reminded us of the gathering at a county fair. In the midst was a tent, and a crowd was pressing for admission. Entering, we saw a large pit, or grave, and at the bottom of it, perhaps five feet below the surface, an enormous figure, apparently of the Onondaga limestone. It was a stout giant with massive features, the


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whole body nude, and the limbs contracted as if in agony. Lying there in the grave, the subdued light from the roof of the tent falling upon it, and with its limbs contorted, as if in the death struggle, it produced a most weird effect. An air of great solemnity pervaded the place. Visitors hardly spoke above a whisper."

There was one thing about the figure, however, which puzzled Mr. White, as he says, "and that was the grooving of the under side apparently by currents of water, which as the statue appeared to be of Onondaga gray limestone, would require very many years."

One day one of the cool-headed skeptics of the valley (an old school mate of Mr. White's), came to him and with an air of great solemnity, took from his pocket an object which he carefully unrolled from its wrappings, and said: "This is a piece of the giant. Careful guard has been kept from the first in order to prevent people touching it, but I have managed to get a piece of it, and here it is." 'T took it in my hand," says Mr. White, "and the matter was clear in an instant. The stone was not our hard Onondaga gray limestone, but soft easily marked with the finger-nail, and on testing it with an acid, I found it not hard carbonate of lime, but a friable sulphate of lime, a sort of gypsum, which must have been brought from some other part of the country."

Against the opinion that the figure was a hoax various argvmients were used. It was insisted, first, that the farmer had not the ability to devise such a fraud ; second, that he had not the means to execute it ; third, that his family had lived there steadily for many years, and were ready to declare, under oath, that they had never seen the figure, and had known nothing of it, until it was accidentally discovered; fourth, that the neighbors had never seen or heard of it; fifth, that it was preposterous to suppose that such an enormous mass of stone could have been brought and buried in the place without some one finding it out ; sixth, that the deep grooves and channels worn in it by the surface water proved its vast antiquity.

To these considerations others were soon added. Especially interesting was it to observe the evolution of myth and legend. Within a week after the discovery, full-blown statements appeared to the efl:'ect that the neighboring Indians had abundant traditions of giants, who formerly roamed over the hills of Onondaga ; and finally the circumstantial story was evolved that an Onondaga squaw had declared, "in an impressive manner," that the statue was, "undoubtedly the petrified body of a gigantic Indian prophet, who flourished many centuries ago and foretold the coming of the pale-faces, and who, just before his own death, said to those about him that their descendants would see him again." To these were added the reflections of many good people who found in it all an edifying confirmation of the biblical text, "There were giants in those days." There was indeed, an undercurrent of skepticism among the harder heads in the valley, but the prevailing opinion in the region at large was more and more in favor of the idea that the object was a fossilized human being, a giant of "those days." Such was the rush to see the figure that the admission receipts were very large ;—it was e\en stated that they amounted to five per cent upon three millions of dollars. And soon came active men from the neighboring regions, who proposed to purchase the figure and exhibit it throughout the country.


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Various suspicious circumstances presently became known. It was found that Farmer Newell had just remitted to a man named Hull at some place in the west, several thousand dollars, the result of admission fees to the booth containing the figure, and that nothing had come in return. Thinking men in the neighborhood reasoned that as Newell had never been in condition to owe anyhuman being such an amount of money, and had received nothing in return for it, his correspondent had not unlikely something to do with the statue. These suspicions were soon confirmed. The neighboring farmers, who in their quiet way kept their eyes open, noted a tall, lank person who frequently visited the place, and who seemed to exercise a complete control over Farmer Newell. Soon it was learned that this stranger was the man Hull, Newell's brother-inlaw, the same to whom the latter had made the large remittance of admission money. One day two or three farmers from a distance visiting the place for the first time, and seeing Hull said : "Why that is the man who brought the big box down the valley.'' On being asked what they meant, they said that, being one evening in a tavern on the valley turnpike, some miles above Cardiff, they had noticed under the tavern shed, a wagon bearing an enormous box, and when they met Hull in the bar-room and asked about it, he said that it was some tobacco-cutting machinery which he was bringing to Syracuse. Other farmers, who had seen the box and talked with Hull at different places on the road between Binghamton and Cardiff', made similar statements. It was then ascertained that no such box had passed the toll-gates between Cardiff and Syracuse, and proofs of the swindle began to mature.

Before the whole affair became exposed considerable time had passed. During this time Mr. Newell had the giant on exhibition, and was charging the curious ones fifty cents admission fee. Years afterward, Mr. Hull made the statement that they realized about seven thousand dollars before the giant was taken from its grave.

Spencer of Utica, and Higgins, Gillett and Westcott of Syracuse, saw that the secret would soon leak out, offered Newell $30,000 for three-fourths interest in the giant, leaving Newell one-fourth. Hull was still in the background and very much disgusted. He says that Newell became so puffed up with the importance of the secret, that he could not contain himself, and told it to several of his relatives and friends. Hull decided to realize at once and quit. He told Newell to close the bargain, which he did, and Newell paid Hull $20,000 as his share.

After Hull and Newell had disposed of the giant, it was taken about the country, and in spite of the exposure, still drew large crowds. It had many imitators, but none proved to be the attraction that the original had been. Finally the giant became no longer a drawing card, and was stranded at Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where it was held for storage charges until the Pan- American Exposition at Buffalo, when it was again exhibited.

After the exposition was over, it was returned to Fitchburg, where it still remains as part of the assets of an estate. The story of the giant formed a part of the novel, "Your Uncle Lew" by' C. R. Sherlock.

Mr. Alfred Higgins, one of the original purchasers, from Newell and Hull, is still living at Syracuse, New York. Cicorge Hull died at the home of his daughter in Binghamton, New York, at the age of eighty-one years. Although


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he has twice been a rich man, yet he died in poverty. Some time before 4iis death in an interview for the "Sunday Times" of his home city, he told the story of the giant. In answer to the question as to how the idea happened to come to him, he said :

"It was at Ackley, Iowa, that I first conceived the idea of fooling the world with the big stone man. I had some relatives at Ackley, and sent my sister's husband 10,000 cigars to sell. He couldn't pay me and I went out there to see about it. At that time a -Methodist revivalist was in Ackley, and prayed all over the settlement. The people were too poor to pay him anything, and he boarded around. One night he was at my sister's house, and after supper we had a long discussion and a hot one. I was then and am now an atheist. At midnight we went to bed, and as I lay awake wondering why people would believe those remarkable stories in the Bible about giants, when suddenly I thought of making a stone giant and passing it off as a petrified man. I returned to Binghampton and sold out my business, went to Wisconsin, where the idea continued to haunt me, and went back to New York state with my family and finally returned to Iowa. But I didn't go near my folks at Ackley."

Mr. Hull in the remainder of the interview tells of how he carried out his idea, how he realized a goodly sum for it, how he refused Barnum, who offered a large amount for it, and how, although beaten in argument, he had still made a laughing stock of the world.


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