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Giants make impression on Lafayette County
frederick and jane chadwick

Some people have giant personalities but two local residents not only had that, they were also giant in stature.

Frederick and Jane Chadwick were originally from England and moved to Wisconsin in 1849. They were known throughout the area. Both worked for P.T. Barnum at the Barnum Circus under the stage names as The Scotch Giants, even though neither one was Scottish.

Frederick William Randall Chadwick was born April 27, 1813 in Cornwall, England. He had two sisters, Charlotte and Elizabeth and one brother Hedman, who disappeared at sea. Not much is known about his childhood and even his height is a bit distorted. Stories say he was over 8 feet tall to 7 1/2 feet. He weighed between 400 and 450 pounds. He wore a size 27 shoes that was made by a cobbler in Mineral Point. The shoe form is located at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison.

He married Jane Grey on May 23, 1842 in England. Jane was born Oct. 25, 1812. Jane’s height was between 6 1/2 to 7 feet tall. They had no children.

After their marriage, they moved to New York. There is no record of them arriving in America. Frederick was a bricklayer when P.T. Barnum discovered them. He gathered them for his Barnum American Museum as Mr. and Mrs. Randell, Giants for the Barnum Circus in 1845.

They were paired with Charles S. Stroltum, who at 28 inches tall was dubbed Tom Thumb. His short stature made their height seem grand and they were a lively comedy act. They were dressed in kilts to go along with their circus name and to make their frame look more striking.

scotch giants

While they were in New York, the museum burned. Jane fainted and had to have eight men carry her safely out. She was not seriously injured.

As the circus moved toward Wisconsin, the Chadwicks settled in Cottage Inn. It had grown into a stop for the stagecoach between Mineral Point and Platteville. They lived in a modest stone cottage.

Jane’s brother Emmett Grey came from England and settled in Cottage Inn where they started the second pottery works in Wisconsin. Frederick did some work for the pottery but most of his work was as a teamster in the area mines.

He was known for his amazing strength. His hand could span thirteen and half inches from his thumb to the end of his little finger, the width of a flour barrel lid. He could lift a 200-pound black smith anvil with ease. He could take 80 pounds of pig lead in one hand and put it anywhere he wanted. He would take their melted lead, load it on wagons and take it to Galena where he would load it on a boat. When the team of horses would get tired from pulling the wagons uphill, Frederick would take the 800-pound piece of lead, put it behind the wheel and let the team rest. From that occupation, he became a legend and collections of tales were spread commemorating his size and strength.

During the summers the Chadwicks would travel with the circus. During the summer of 1854, they were traveling with Franconi’s Hippodrome Circus in Indiana when Fred had a spell. They had stopped at the Teagarden House in La Pointe with his wife when he became overcome with the heat and dust. He asked for a glass of water and fell to the floor. He died on July 18, 1854. It is not quite known from what he died but some list it as cholera or apoplexy (stroke).

After Frederick’s death, Jane lived with her brother Emmett. Then, just a few short months after her husband, Jane died on Dec. 23, 1854.

The sprawling little town of Cottage Inn is no more and so is the cemetery where the giants once laid. When it was abandoned in 1919, the bodies were moved to the Belmont Cemetery. They rest in the Grey family lot without headstones.