The Ossian Giant
Submitted by Marilyn Weidman, Town Historian, Grove
Fred Decker, otherwise known as the Ossian Giant, was born in Geneseo in 1836, one of ten children. Fred, at the age of 19, was 7 foot 6 inches tall, weighing 385 pounds, with a chest measuring 57 inches. Decker’s hands were huge – he could hold thirteen eggs in one hand! Decker came to our area as a lumberman. He was very strong, and became known for lifting wagons out of ditches. There was never a stronger man in Allegany County.
Decker was also known as “Bud” or the “Ossian Baby.” He was the only person from this area to appear with the PT Barnum Shows. He traveled to New York City with Barnums. They hired him for $80 per month, liking him in contrast with Tom Thumb. When Barnum’s museum burned, the result of the fire was so costly that it made Decker withdraw temporarily from show business. He returned to our area (Ossian and Swain) and resumed his duties as a lumberman. He also appeared in many small towns in the area, and people would pay twenty five cents to see him.
The famous Ossian Giant passed away in the winter of 1886 at the age of 50. A Mr. Bacon from Canaseraga knew the Ossian Giant, and also helped carry him to his grave. His coffin was three feet longer than ordinary and had to be special ordered. They had to remove the door casings in order to get his coffin through to the outside. The coffin was carried by sled from Canaseraga to Swain, where he is buried. There were eight pallbearers. For one week, the grave was watched to prevent the body from being taken.
Fred Decker is buried in our cemetery on Swain Hill Road.