One of the most colorful
and toughest of
frontier characters was William Alexander Anderson "Bigfoot” Wallace.
Growing up to be a backwoodsman, folk hero,
Wallace was originally from Virginia. Born in Lexington, on April 3, 1817 to Andrew and Jane Ann (Blair) Wallace, he grew up to work
in his father’s fruit orchard until he heard that his older brother and a
cousin, who had moved to Texas, had been killed in the Goliad Massacre in
the spring of 1836. He then set out for Texas
himself, in order to "take pay out of the Mexicans."
Wallace first settled near LaGrange,
1837 where he tried his hand at farming and quickly joined up with the
John Coffee Hays. In 1840, he moved to
Austin, where he helped to layout the new town. While there, was
misidentified as an Indian named "Bigfoot,” who had ransacked a settler’s
home. Though Wallace was soon cleared, the name "Bigfoot” stuck – an
appropriate nickname for the six feet two inch tall, 240 pound muscled
In 1840, Wallace participated in the Battle of Plum Creek,
and in the Spring of 1842, fought against Mexican General Adrian
Woll's invasion of Texas.
Later that year, he volunteered for the Somervell Raid across the Rio
Grande River and afterwards, joined a splinter group that was later
called the Mier Expedition, to further penetrate into Mexico. However,
the group was surrounded and captured by a force ten times their size.
Forced into central Mexico, the men were able to escape, but were
quickly recaptured and forced to participate in what became known as
the "Black Bean Incident.” This was a "lottery,” in which black and
white beans were placed in a crock, in a 1 to 10 ratio. Those who drew
a black bean were executed, while a white bean meant prison. Wallace
was one of the "lucky” ones, drawing a white bean and soon found
himself on an 800 mile forced march to the Perote Prison in Vera Cruz.
After a petition was signed by a number of U.S. Congressmen, he was
released and after his return to Texas,
joined in the Mexican-American War. After the war, he commanded a
company of Texas Rangers fighting border bandits and Indians on the
frontier. When the Civil War erupted, he was still helping to guard
the frontier against the Comanche Indians
Somewhere along the
line, Wallace was granted a piece of land by the State of Texas, where
he ranched along the Medina River. However, in his later years, he was
living in Frio County,
and when a small village was formed, it was named "Bigfoot,” after
Wallace, who had made a legend of himself during his lifetime.
humorous, mellow, and honest, he became a teller of tales, which
though sometimes embellished, were extremely popular among his
visitors. In 1870, some of these tales were told by biographer, John
Duval, in a best selling book called The Adventures of Big Foot
Wallace, The Texas Ranger, which further contributed to his
reputation as a Texas folk hero.
Wallace died on
January 7, 1899, and shortly thereafter the Texas legislature appropriated
money for moving his body to the State Cemetery
in Austin, Texas.
of America, updated March, 2017.
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