The Tracy Family History
Big Foot Wallace
“They can trace themselves back to a near kinship to the famous
Sir William Wallace"
the Big Foot Wallace Family Tree; the Big Foot Wallace Family History
... six generations of Big Foot Wallace
Michael Woods Sr., of Blair Park married Lady Mary Campbell. They had a daughter...
Martha Woods (my 6th great grandmother and sister to Magdelene) married Peter Wallace Jr. They had a son...
Samuel C. Wallace married Rebeka Anderson. They had a son...
Andrew Wallace married Jane Blair. They had a son...
Samuel, killed at Goliad, Texas, which caused his brother,
Big Foot, to go to Texas to avenge his death. His brother...
William Alexander Anderson (Big Foot)
"Who is Seth Jones?"
None of you can answer this question today. And no one could answer that question when it first appeared in 1860. This is when a promoter started peppering these words on barn walls, signboards, sidewalks and in newspapers of the Eastern Coast. This was according to the traditional advertising media of the day. It is noticed that this sentence was limited to just a few cities, apparently because the promoter had a limited advertising budget.
Within a few days a newly published book came out on the market titled Seth Jones; or, The Captives of the Frontier. The book was a dime novel, which sold well, very well. It sold 500,000 copies and would be in reprint for decades. Today, any author would be happy to have a book sell 500,000 copies. It could make their career. In 1860, to sell that many copies of a single title would be phenomenal! It was the first successful dime novel which portrayed the frontiersman as a hero.
The publisher knew it had a gold mine. They gave the author, a twenty one-year-old kid who was a schoolteacher, a contract to write four more novels.
The kid knocked off the four books in a matter of days, and then started producing more books under a variety of pseudonyms. For the next thirty years, he would spew forth millions of words about frontier heroes. The novels would be read by millions of fans across the country.
Strangely, the author lived in New Jersey. The stories, of course, were about fictitious people doing amazing fictitious deeds of daring. It would start an industry with most of the writers living in the East and telling fantastic stories of heroes living in the West. The books sold amazingly well in the towns of the East, and even the West. They were popular reading for the pioneers crossing the plains in the covered wagons.
It wasn't long before real life heroes were conscripted to be the basis for fictitious stories. So successfully were these men promoted that they are folk heroes today: Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill, to name just two.
When these manufactured stories of devil-may-do, and romances, were selling by the millions, a true-life frontier hero wrote a book of another sort. His name was John C. Duval, and in 1879, he wrote a book about his friend, titled Adventures of Big Foot Wallace, the Texas Ranger and Hunter.
The book would change publishing history.
This would be the first dime novel written about a real life hero with true stories… with a bit of embellishment. The book sold very well, went through several printings, and made Big Foot a national hero. Although he had been a bonafide hero in Texas for sometime before the book was published.
What made Duval's book stand out from the rest, and so popular, is explained in the author's own words. "…boys didn't care much for style or literary merit, that all they wanted was a truthful account of scenes and incidents that had actually occurred, not fictitious ones that had an existence except in the imagination of the author."
Other writers followed suit. No more would Kit Carson look at the cover of a dime novel depicting Kit killing seven Indians with one hand and saving a fainting maiden with the other, and have to explain, "That may have happened, but I ain't got no recollection of it."
Big Foot was born William Alexander Anderson Wallace in Lexington, Rockbridge Co., VA., on the 3rd of April, 1817. You will notice that Lexington, Virginia, has become the center for our ancestors: Woods and Wallaces. William’s middle name is Anderson. He even had two brothers with the same middle name of Anderson. The name Anderson comes up again and again in our families, including our Anderson County, Tennessee.
At birth he weighed 13 pounds and "…could kick harder and yell louder than any youngster she ever saw," so said his favorite aunt who was the midwife. The last we heard of her, in 1859, she was 102 years old. Our Wallaces, like my Proctors (chapters 22-23), lived very long lives.
In his prime he would stand 6 feet 2 inches tall "in his moccasins" and weigh 240 pounds "without surplus fat." Compared to many of the Wallace kin he was considered small. His father looked down on him and his brother Andrew was 6 feet 6. Big Foot is the one who tells us that he had an uncle 7 feet tall. (Remember, to put things into historical perspective, add another two inches because people are 2 inches taller today. Mathematically, Big Foot today would be 6' 4". Imagine adding more height to the 7 foot uncle! ) He also tells us that family tradition says that our Wallaces descend from the famed William Wallace. On his mother's side, through his grandmother, Elizabeth Bruce, she says that they also descended from the equally famous Robert Bruce, Scotland's two greatest heroes.
He is one of our people. Although, his stories are not accurate. In his own words he says that Adam Wallace, killed at Guilford Court House was his uncle. (He gets confused between Guilford Court House and Waxhaws, but says Adam was "massacred by Tarelton's cavalry.")
The writer, A. J. Sowell, in the book Life of Big Foot, states that the two family swords used at the battle of Guilford Court House were still in the family. As Sowell's book was published in 1900, we can only assume they were still in existence. They were Claymores, one more than 6 feet long and so heavy that they average man could not wield it. They still showed the nicks and marks of battle.
It is interesting to note that today, after more than 100 years, we have a better idea of his family history and ancestry than he did. Being born in Wallace country, you would think that he would get the story straight. He believed his grandfather, Samuel, was born in Scotland, and his father, Samuel, also born and died in Scotland (from the Highlands). When he speaks of his ancestry, some of his information is correct and some is not.
Nevertheless, enough of what he tells us fits into our proven history. The confusion as to one's family history and pedigree is not unusual for the time. My Proctor brothers, on their pension applications, could not remember how old they were. Our people of days gone by had to rely upon oral tradition. They did not have the benefit of computers, the Internet, or the Mormon Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City.
The father's substantial plantation adjoined that of the Governor of Virginia. We can only assume the family lived well.
On to Texas: I am not going to tell the story of the fight for Texas independence. This is the story of our famous cousin, Big Foot Wallace.
In 1821, Mexico wins its independence from Spain. They now have, on paper, the vast Texas territory (Tejas). This is a problem. There are not many Mexicans here, even fewer Mexican soldiers to establish authority and maintain control. There are a lot of Indians.
The new Mexican government desperately needs settlers to develop and establish their control over this land. They look to the Americans and offer liberal terms for land: become Mexican citizens, join the Catholic Church, learn Spanish. No big deal. Our people were used to lying.
To cinch the deal, Mexico became a democratic republic. Over the next 15 years the Americans would establish themselves in Texas not in small numbers, but in very large numbers.
Most of all, the Mexicans want the Americans to protect them from the Indians. Sounds familiar? The American settlers fight and die for Mexico under the Mexican flag.
By 1830, the Mexicans begin to realize that there are a lot more Americans in Texas than Mexicans. They feared, rightfully so, that Texas is becoming another American state. Mexico tries to restrict America immigration.
Americans immigrated, prospered on their farms, lived in the Free Republic of Mexico under the protection of the Mexican constitution, again, even fought and died under the Mexican flag. All went well for a decade. Then the ruthless dictator Santa Anna took over the government. The American immigration was ordered stopped. All of the American arms were ordered confiscated. (Imagine what the Indians thought of that.) The Americans could see the writing on the wall. Next, they would be driven from their homes. They rebelled.
To my Moon cousins, does the story sound familiar: California, Uncle Billy, and the Bear Flaggers?
Santa Anna was ruthless, a butcher, and an egomaniac. He treated his soldiers badly, then told them that it should be their great privilege to die for him. It wasn't just the Americans who revolted against Santa Anna, but many Texas Mexicans, and some Northern Mexican States.
Many young American men in the States volunteered to go to Texas and fight for independence. Among them were several of our Wallaces who "went with Fanin." Big Foot was a little too young to be allowed to go. These were not official American government troops. They were volunteers going to Texas to fight for the Texas Republic and save their fellow Americans.
The Americans were vastly outnumbered by the Mexican Army. Ours was an army of unprofessional soldiers against what some considered the best army in the world. The Mexican army was not a rag-tag organization. Many of the soldiers and officers had been trained under Spanish rule. Remember, Spain was a powerful country at this time in history.
The Texans lost battle after battle. Then the Alamo fell…fighting not under the American flag but the Mexican flag of the free republic. Less than a 100 miles away, to the southeast of the Alamo, a Texas army was encamped at Goliad. In battle they lost half their men killed and wounded.
They were offered surrender terms: They were to be treated as prisoners of war, then in a few days paroled to go home. The Americans surrendered. A few days later they were marched out of town and massacred. It was March 27, 1836, Palm Sunday. More than 300 would die. The number who escaped was few. The estimates run from only a handful to a little more than 20.
One of those who had a harrowing escape and journey home was John C. Duval, the author. Duval's brother was killed as were 3 (maybe 4) of our Wallaces. Big Foot's brother (one story says 2 brothers), his cousin, and a distant cousin were all shot down.
Everyone remembers the Alamo, but few outside of Texas have heard of Goliad. Yet, twice as many men would die here as at the Alamo. All of America was outraged. 19-year-old William Wallace left for Texas vowing to all, including the wailing Wallace women, that "I am to spend the balance of my days killing Mexicans!"
By the time he arrived in Texas, the war was over. He discovered that he was entitled to the estate of his brother Sam. A land bounty was provided for his brother, having served and dying for Texas. Big Foot's bond for administering the bounty was guaranteed by Sam Houston. Remember, our people started intermarrying with the Houston’s as far back as Timber Ridge, Augusta County, Virginia. (We know at least 3 men survived Goliad. They testified as witnesses to the death of Sam Wallace for proving the land bounty, 4 when you include Duval.)
Cousin William A. A. Wallace now began his career, which one of his biographers, A. J. Sowell, prophesied, "The name of Big Foot Wallace in after years will be to Texans what Daniel Boone's was to Kentucky." He would become Texas' greatest folk hero, the man that all Texas boys wanted to grow up to be like.
Big Foot would kill many Mexicans and Indians in his lifetime. In his first Indian fight in 1838, his companion scalped an Indian, then "took part of the skin from the body and made a razor strap from it." (The Indians had killed his entire family.)
Once his army unit was captured in Mexico. The commander ordered the 159 soldiers to be decimated (1 in 10 to be shot). 159 beans were put into a sombrero (some stories say a crock) with 17 white beans, the rest black. Those who pulled out the white beans were to be shot. Big Foot drew a gray bean. The Mexicans were so confused they let him live.
Then the prisoners were marched 800 miles to a Mexican prison. His father's neighbor, the Governor of Virginia, used his influence to get him released.
Big Foot was a true hero, protecting the settlers from the Indians, the boarder bandits, the Mexican armies, searching for lost settlers, and children. He delivered the mail. (Imagine what excitements that must have brought.) Big Foot excelled at tracking and capturing runaway slaves trying to make their way to Mexico.
In about 1846, Duval and Big Foot would serve in the Texas Rangers together. It would be the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
Big Foot died in 1899, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Devine, Texas. The man who lived his life on the edge of death would die of pneumonia. The State of Texas soon moved his body to the State Cemetery in Austin where it was given a granite monument.
If it were not for Duval, Big Foot would not be famous, and I would not be writing this chapter. At the age of 81 the unconventional author would die, two years before his friend. Duval was the last survivor of Goliad.
Just outside of Goliad is the Goliad State Park. Close by is the Fanin Battleground State Park. Here lie our cousins in a mass grave.
Let us go back to the Revolutionary War. Of the 6 brothers, only 2 would survive the war and one, Samuel, by only 3 years. That is why most of our Wallaces today descend from John Wallace, my 5th great grandfather. I have known little of Samuel’s life or descendants until making contact with our cousin Ken Prusso. (You will remember that he provided the photos for the Donegal Church and Augusta County.) Ken is a direct descendant of Samuel and has researched this line.
Samuel was Big Foot’s grandfather. It is known that Big Foot made at least one trip back to Lexington, Virginia, to visit our kin. The aristocratic cousins were quite proud of their famous cousin, but you can imagine how perplexed they were by his unsophisticated ways as a frontier Indian fighter.
While visiting Lexington, Big Foot visited the family farm. This is the one built by his grandfather, Samuel Wallace, one of the two brothers to survive the Revolutionary War.
I have shown this photo previously and told the story. The Wallace farm is still standing.
There is a town in Texas named Big Foot. Before your pride starts to swell let me tell you that nobody in Texas has ever heard of the town of Big Foot. It is located 40 miles SE of San Antonio. The population is 100. Here is housed the Big Foot museum. Nobody in Texas has ever heard of the Big Foot museum, either.
Bigfoot, Texas is located at the intersection of FM 462 and FM 472 just south of Divine, a 25-minute drive from San Antonio.
Cousins: Dorothy Clark Thomason, Dwight L. Clark, Merrill Dee Clark, at Big Foot Museum, 1992.
The Big Foot Museum is open every morning on the second Thursday and second Saturday of each month and by appointment. (830) 663-2296.
Our cousin, Jane Clark, at the Big Foot grave, Austin, Texas,
Here Lies He Who Spent His
Manhood Defending The Homes
Brave Honest and Faithful
Born April 13, 1817
Died Jan. 7, 1899
Big Foot's grave is located in the State Cemetery in Austin, Texas.
It can be found in Section: Republic Hill, Section 2, Row K, Number 1
He is not surrounded with graves of his wife and children and their children, for Big Foot never married.
There are quite a few relics of Big Foot scattered throughout museums in Texas. His sword is in possession of our cousin, Tim Martin.
The Adventures of Big-Foot Wallace, the Texas Ranger and Hunter, by John C. Duval. 1871. Reprinted by Steck-Vaughn, 1968. Published 130 years ago it is dated but might be of interest to some of you because of its historical significance.
Life of Big Foot Wallace, by A. J. Sowell. 1900. The author interviewed Big Foot personally for this book.
Big Foot Wallace, a biography, by Stanely Vestal. 1942. Publisher, Houghton-Mifflin Co. More current style of writing, but still a book published 60 years ago.
For those of you who might want to dig deeper there is a well-written little 44-page book on the life of the author John C. Duval. His is a most interesting life and his story helps you understand Big Foot and Texas at this time in history. Title: John C. Duval, First Texas Man of Letters, by John Q. Anderson. 1967. Publisher, Steck-Vaughn Co., Austin. A copy is available at the Sierra College Library in California.
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