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Joseph Marion Wallace, the second child and oldest son of William J. and Nancy Brown Wallace, was born on August 11, 1854, in Alabama. A mid-wife the family called Aunt Caroline, an ex-slave, delivered Joe into this world. Joe grew up on his father’s farm in Cleburne County, Alabama, and spent the first 41 years of his life in East Central Alabama. They later lived in the Rome, Georgia, area. Being the oldest boy in the family, he shouldered much of the farming responsibility with his dad. While living in Alabama, Joe met Sarah Jane Pollard who lived on a neighboring farm. In 1867, when Joe was thirteen years of age his friendship with Sarah Jane was interrupted when the Wallace family moved a few miles east to the Cave Spring, Georgia, area. As a young man, Joe began courting Sarah who still lived in Alabama. The only transportation he had was a mule. It would be interesting to know how many miles Joe put on that mule before he married Sarah Jane Pollard on January 9, 1876. Sarah Jane was born on March 27, 1857. The Pollard family lived in the same area as the Wallace family in Cleburne County, Alabama.
After they married, they moved to a farm near Forney, Alabama. Census records indicate Joe and Sarah lived in Alabama in 1880, the same year their first child, Emma, was born on December 6. Their other children also born in Alabama were Foney in 1882, Cleveland in 1885, and Nancy Ophelia in 1887. Joe moved the family back to Georgia in 1887. While living near Cave Spring, three more children were born. Newman was born in 1889, Melvin in 1891, and Vena Loraine in 1893.
In the early to middle 1890s, two of Joe’s brothers moved from Georgia to McLennan County, Texas. The reports from Texas sounded promising so Joe began to consider a move to Texas. In 1895, Joe’s house burned down. That event prompted him to make the move to Texas and start over again. Joe's brother, Will, also decided to move to Texas. In 1895, both families gathered up what little possessions they had (mostly kids) and caught a train in Rome, Georgia, headed for Texas. Joe and Sarah had seven children and Will and Jo Ella also had seven children.
I had the opportunity to interview Joe's son Newman, Will's daughter Ella, and Joe's daughter Loraine—three of the children who made the journey from Georgia to Texas. Newman shared his story.
I can remember getting on the train in Georgia with all those kids. I remember seeing the Mississippi River when we crossed it at New Orleans. We made a stop in New Orleans before getting to Texas. The train took us to Waco, then let us off at McGregor. We still had to get out to Uncle Ike's place which was a few miles out of town. Papa hired a man that had a stagecoach to take us to Ike's. The coach had wooden plank seats with a luggage rack on top and was pulled by four horses. We had people in every seat, luggage stored on top and kids were stuck on top, on the sides and every where you could stick kids. I remember us driving up to Uncle Ike's place and how glad he was to see ALL of us. I have wondered since what he probably really thought when he saw all eighteen of us unload at his house.
JOSEPH MARION "JOE" WALLACE FAMILY c. 1916
Some of the kids who made the train trip had vivid recollections, in their later years, of the move from Georgia to Texas in 1895. The Wallace family first lived with Joe’s brother Ike on the Caufield Ranch near McGregor. They later lived in the nearby Camp Verde area where they farmed. While living in this area Rosa Mae was born in 1896. In 1889, their last child, Virgil, was born. Soon Joe’s oldest children begin to marry and start families.
In 1902, Joe moved the family to Indian Territory where he heard there was plenty of fertile farmland. His oldest son, Foney, who had recently married, made the move to Indian Territory with him. They settled near the Washita River in today’s Garvin County near Pauls Valley. They worked the rich, red bottomland for three years. The land they worked belonged to Doc Howell, a friend and neighbor. They raised good crops and made many friends during the three-year stay.
While Foney and Norah were in Indian Territory, their first two children, Velma and Everett, were born. In 1906, Joe and his family returned to Texas where they settled along the Bosque River near Clifton. Joe bought a place on the east side of the river near Bosque Switch. He later moved down river about a mile from the old iron bridge. He had a large white frame house which family and locals of that time called the “Wallace Place.” The house burned down in 1935 when his grandson Everett and wife Sadie were living there.
Joe was a rather large man who spent most of his working years in farming. His wife, Sarah Jane, was a small, friendly, active woman. She suffered a stroke in 1915 and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Family members remember that she took shock treatments to help her paralysis, but to no avail. Many of her grandchildren and other older nieces such as Ella Wallace Wright of McGregor, remembered her well.
We really did love Aunt Sis (Sarah) and Uncle Joe. Sis was always full of life and so much fun to be around. Where we lived you could see down the road for a long way. I remember sometimes Papa saying, ‘Looks like Joe and Sis coming up the road!’ That’s all it would take. Us kids would work ourselves silly trying to get our chores or what work we were doing finished before they got there. We knew we were really going to have fun when they got there. Aunt Sis was a good fiddle-player; she would play and dance all around the room. Us kids would sing along and dance with her. I can still see her swinging her dress around as she danced. We would really have a great time. We always loved to be around Joe and Sis. Papa (Will) and Joe were closer to each other than the rest of the brothers. They were best friends and they did a lot of things together. I can also remember going to visit them near Clifton up river from the old iron bridge. It was always fun to be around them.
Sarah Jane died on May 13, 1926, at the age of 69. She is buried in the Oswald Cemetery, which is near the Wallace home place. Joe spent the remaining years of his life hunting, fishing and visiting his children and relatives. Visiting his children was pretty much a full time job since he had so much family in the county. He would spend a few days with one of his children and family, and then move on to another. This way if the kids got on his nerves he would just move on.
Joe Wallace was a friend and neighbor to many people in the Clifton area. He was an honest, hard-working man who instilled the same qualities in his children. He loved children and he enjoyed life to the fullest. Children enjoyed being around him because he kidded, teased, and paid attention to them. Joe Wallace suffered a stroke and shortly afterwards died on March 16, 1932. He is buried beside his wife Sarah in the Oswald Cemetery. He was 78 years old.
Most of Joe and Sarah’s children resided in Bosque County throughout their adult lives. Emma Stapp, Foney, Cleve, Melvin, Loraine Ryan, Rosa Turner lived in or near the Clifton community. Other children lived in other parts of Texas. Nancy Ferguson lived in Chillicothe; Newman lived in Clifton and later in Waco; Virgil spent years in Travis, Clifton, and Rosebud. Many direct descendents of Joe and Sarah Wallace remain in Clifton and the surrounding area.
I remember Grandpa coming to stay with us ever so often. He usually carried a double barrel shotgun with him and he hunted squirrels along the way. I recall seeing him coming up from the Bosque river bottom carrying his gun and a mess of squirrels. He’d take a small stick and run it thru the tendons of the squirrel’s hind legs, which made a handle. This way he could carry several squirrels without any problem. He wore a gold watch with a chain and fob in his vest pocket. He would stay a few days and then move on to visit others. After a few months he’d come back to visit us again, and it seems he would always bring a mess of freshly killed squirrels which momma would fix with gravy.
Joe and Sarah on their front porch c.1925