On October 7, 1799, Mills Darden, a true giant among men of his time, was born in Northampton County. In his lifetime, and for some 100 years afterward, Darden was considered the world’s largest man. By today’s standards he is neither the heaviest nor the tallest, but he is the heaviest tall man and the tallest heavy man. At the time of his death, Darden was 7 feet, 6 inches tall and weighed a little more than 1,000 pounds.
Though a native North Carolinian, Darden moved to Tennessee when he as a young adult. Self-conscious about his appearance, the giant posed for no portraits. In 1839, a tailor who made a coat for Darden had three 200-plus-pound men button themselves inside the coat and parade about the court square in Lexington, Tenn. Another source reported trousers with a 76-inch waist and a size 8 1/2.
Remarkably, Darden worked as a farmer for much of his life. When the work became too strenuous for a man of his stature, he opened a tavern, where his moderate fame was an advantage. Married twice, he had numerous children. Upon his death in 1857, it took 17 men to place Darden in his 8-foot long coffin.
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