Select Wallace Miscellany

Here are some Wallace stories and accounts over the years:

William Wallace and the Wallace Oak and Yew

At Elderslie in Renfrewshire two famous trees once stood, the Wallace oak and the Wallace yew.  The yew alone remains.  Some doubt has recently been cast on the antiquity of this tree.  But parish records from the 1700's refer to it as "the ancient tree."

As the oldest tree in Europe is a yew which stands in Fortingall in Perthshire and is over 3,000 years of age, it is interesting to think that this tree is named the Wallace yew because of its association with Wallace.

The famous Wallace oak which is claimed to have afforded shelter to William and his followers from an English patrol fell in a storm in the 1800's.  This ancient tree had been measured some years before its fall when it was found that its branches covered 495 square yards!

When Bonnie Prince Charlie's army began its march south in 1745, they used the words "Wallace oak" as a camp password.  The story of this tree must have been well known to the highland soldiers to have understood its meaning.

Sundrum and Carnell Castles

Sundrum Castle is amongst the oldest inhabited castles in Scotland, dating back to the war of Scottish independence when it was declared forfeit to the crown.  Sir Robert Wallace, a relative of Sir William Wallace the Scottish freedom fighter, was appointed Sheriff of Ayr in 1342, succeeded by his son Duncan in 1359 who commissioned the building of the present castle in the 1360's.

The Tower, which has been recently refurbished, re-equipped and redecorated to a very high standard, makes excellent accommodation and is a perfect choice for keen golfers, anglers, horse riders, and racegoers.

The tower of Carnell was built in the 16th century for the Wallaces.  Carnell was extended to what can be seen today by the architect William Burn in the 1840's.  Set in a 2,000 acre estate, Carnell offers accommodation, weddings, falconry, archery, and shooting (clays, pheasant, and grouse). 

Wallace in the Canadian Wilderness

Mary McKerley nee Wallace was interviewed for the Granby Leader in 1898.  These are some extracts from the article.

"Mary McKerley of Abbotsford, widow of the late William McKerley, is now 83 years of age and has resided at Abbotsford since early childhood.  She is a native of Alston Moor, Cumberland.  Her father's name was William Wallace and when they came to this country they had quite a large family of which she was the youngest.  Some of them went to Upper Canada.

Those best known in this vicinity were: Job Wallace, father-in-law of the late James Irwin of Granby; Joseph Wallace, father of William Wallace of Granby who settled in Canaan; and Thomas Wallace who recently died at Waterloo at an advanced age.

The family sailed from Liverpool in 1820.  At the same time came Isaac and Jacob Wallace, the survivors of triplets.

The Wallace family located at the east end of Yamaska Mountain, on a place where there was an old rude cabin.  As they had masons in the family they built a stone house as soon as they could.  Her brothers went to Granby to mill, a distance of eight miles, with a bushel of corn on a hand sled and blazed trees to guide them.  At times they had to come back without their grist, the mill being so full.  Mr. Wallace had to pay 25 cents per day for the use of a plough and he had the first pair of cartwheels in the place that had iron tiers or bands around them.

When he commenced to farm in Canada, he had only six shillings in his pocket and he owed his brother the amount of his passage money.  He was a miner in England and consequently did not know much about farming.  When he began land clearing he chopped all around the tree to his own great danger.  Then he sat down and shed tears at the hard prospect before him.  Plucking up courage, he tried again until success rewarded his efforts."

Big Foot Wallace

At his birth he weighed 13 pounds and "could kick harder and yell harder than any youngster I ever saw," so said his favorite aunt who was his midwife.

But why Big Foot?  A name as long as William Alexander Anderson Wallace demands a nickname.  The reason for Mr. Wallace's peculiar nickname is easy to explain.  He simply had big feet.  They measured 11 and 3/4 inches.  That doesn't seem so large today.  But Wallace at 6'2" and 240 pounds was considered quite large by early 19th century standards. 

He arrived in Texas from Virginia in 1837 and joined the Texas Rangers.  Many are the stories that have been told about his adventures there.

He was part of a splinter group that mutinied and headed off to Mexico, determined to make it worth their time and trouble.  However, they were surrounded and captured by a larger force.  They were rounded up and made to participate in what became known as the "black bean incident."  There was a lottery in which 159 white and 17 black beans were drawn from a crock to determine which men (one in ten) would be executed.  A black bean meant execution; a white bean meant prison.  Wallace, always a non-conformist, drew a grey bean.  The Mexican officer in charge determined the bean to be white and he was thereby spared death.

Once Wallace went without water for six days and then drank an entire gallon at once.  His fellow prisoners attempted to stop him, but he fought them off.  He collapsed in sleep and everyone, including his captors, never expected him to awaken.  He awoke the next day completely refreshed.

Since the captives were allowed free access to quills and ink, many letters and memoirs were published about their captivity and it remains one of the most written-about incidents in Texas history.

Over the years his willingness to recount his adventures insured he would become a genuine Texas legend. He never told a story he couldn't later improve upon.  In 1870 The Adventures of Big Foot Wallace, The Texas Ranger was published and later went into multiple printings, becoming perhaps the first best-selling book on a Texas personality.

Lew Wallace

Lew Wallace grew up in Indiana.  At the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted and a year later was a Major General.  He had an up-and-down war.  He was known as "the man who arrived too late at Shiloh."  But he fought later at Monocacy which became known as "the battle that saved Washington."

He became even more well known after President Lincoln was assassinated, being second in command of the military court that convicted and hanged the conspirators.  Later he became Governor of New Mexico and then US Minister to Turkey.

But he is not remembered for these accomplishments.  On retiremant back in Indiana, he sat down and wrote a book which was published in 1880.  The title was Ben Hur.  It became the biggest selling novel of the nineteenth century.  

Mike Wallace and Jewishness

In 2005, Wallace talked about his Jewish background to author Abigail Pogrebin.  He recounted how he grew up in a moderately observant home and said he still recites the Sh'ma prayer every night before retiring. However, he has not been a practicing Jew in his adulthood and only his first wife was Jewish.

Wallace said that he was hurt by charges that he was a "self-hating Jew" because of some hard-hitting pieces he did on Israel and he defined himself in general terms as a supporter of Israel.

He told Pogrebin that he has to remind his son, Fox cable newsman Chris Wallace, that Chris is in fact Jewish.  Wallace explained that Chris was raised by a non-Jewish stepfather, is married to a non-Jewish woman, and barely acknowledges being Jewish.  Why a Jewish couple should name their son Chris was a question Pogrebin didn't ask. 

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