The year was 1840 when one of the most faithful Texans joined the Texas Rangers and began a decade’s long service to the great state of Texas. William A. A. Wallace, more often known as “Big Foot” Wallace, was born in Virginia in 1817. He moved to Texas in 1837 after hearing that a brother and a cousin were killed by the Mexican Army during the Texas Revolution. Not long after he would join the Texas rangers and spent the better part of his life defending Texas.
Though there are many legends about the emergence of his nickname, Wallace contended that the nickname derived from an incident with a Comanche. During the time he lived in Austin before he joined the Texas Rangers, a Comanche with large feet stole property in the area and was tracked by Wallace. When the Comanche raided the kitchen of man in town, the man followed the Comanche’s tracks to Wallace’s House and thus accused Wallace of the raid. But a quick thinking Wallace pointed out that the tracks were much larger than his. It was this case of mistaken identity that led Wallace to assume the name “Big Foot.”
Wallace is a descendent of the Scottish legend William Wallace, immortalized in the film Braveheart, who led a rebellion against King Edward I of England during the Wars of Scottish Independence. Like his ancestor who fought courageously and for a cause he wholeheartedly believed in, “Big Foot” Wallace spend decades fighting faithfully for a cause he believed in, the defense of Texas. As a side note, Mr. Speaker, I too have a connection to William Wallace. My family is decedents of the Weems Clan (Wemyss) of Scotland. The Wemyss fought on the side of Robert Bruce and Wallace during the Scottish war of Independence. When the war was over and their side lost, the English crown confiscated much of their inherited land.
In 1840, Wallace joined the Texas Rangers and subsequently fought various skirmishes with Texas Indians and Mexicans. Two years later when fighting an invading Mexican Army during the Somervell and Mier expeditions, Wallace was among 150 men captured by Mexican forces. During this time in a Mexican prison 1 in 10 men was to be executed. Their fate was determined by drawing either a white or black bean from a jar. Those who drew the black bean were executed. Luckily, Wallace drew a white bean and spared, and eventually released. The executions would later become known to all those who study Texas history as the “Black Bean Episode”.
His time in the Mexican prison must have furthered his resolve because he once again volunteered to serve with the Texas Rangers and during the Mexican War he served in a company of Mounted Volunteers in the United States Army. Following the Mexican War and through the Civil War, this Loyal Texan once again served with the Texas rangers fighting to protect the Texas frontier from bandits, Indians, deserters and Union soldiers.
As a testament to his loyal service to Texas, Wallace was given a tract of land in Frio County, in South Texas, where he lived until his death in 1899. He was ultimately buried at the Texas State Cemetery at the feet of Stephen F. Austin. He has become a folk legend for those in Texas and beyond. The words at his final resting place say it all, “Here lies he who spent his manhood defending the homes of Texas. Brave, honest, and faithful.”
And that’s just the way it is.