Michigan’s All-Time Tallest Man? ‘Big Louie’ Moilanen of Hancock, 1886-1913
One of Michigan's tallest men – 8 feet, 3 inches – is memorialized in the town of Hancock in Houghton County. He is also considered a folk hero in his native land of Finland. What did he do to earn such honors?
He was tall.
He was known as “Big Louie” Moilanen, the Copper Country Giant. He was born on January 5, 1886 in Puolanka, Finland and came to America with his family when he was four years old, in 1890. They ended up in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula in the Hancock area.
According to the City of Hancock, When Louie was nine, he was as tall as a full-grown man; at 18, he was already over eight feet tall. Farming was the family's way of means and Louie worked the farm throughout his childhood. Tired of always hitting his head, Louie took it upon himself to build a tall enough granary that he could enter without hurting himself.
Upon leaving farm work, Louie found work elsewhere: as a Justice of the Peace, miner, and saloon keeper. He took advantage of his stature and did a stint in a circus as the world's tallest man, but the attention he received from gawkers who just stared and made comments did not make him happy. So after his father passed away, Louie figured two years in the circus was enough - he quit and returned home.
Aside from the circus, this was mostly Louie's life, living as any normal human being...but his height would be his downfall. He contracted meningitis of the brain, thought to have been caused by the weakened immune system cause by his height. He died at the age of 27 on September 16, 1913 in Hancock. He was eight foot, three inches tall.
Louie was buried in the Hancock Lakeside Cemetery with a simple stone that just had his name, height, and weight. No date of birth or death at all. He was basically a poor man when he passed, and was buried by the county. But years later, that simple headstone was remedied elsewhere.
Because of Louie's height, he became a local folk hero after his death. Thanks to the Houghton County Historical Society and the Finnish American Heritage Center, there is now a monument in his honor – an 8 foot, 3 inch (Louie's final height) black granite 'monolith' that sits in Hancock. He was not just memorialized in the U.P. but also in his old hometown in Finland where he is considered a folk hero. In his birth town of Puolanka there is a memorial for Louie and his family,
There are still remnants of the Moilanen family farm, if you can find 'em. The old farmhouse sits dilapidated somewhere between Hancock and Salo, and the granary Louie constructed was moved to the Houghton County Historical Society in Lake Linden.
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