This document was dictated by William Wallace during the summer of 1938. Several copies were typewritten and given to different family members. I have one copy which was originally used for this web site. I was subsequently contacted by William Wallace's grandson, William D. (Bill) Wallace, who still has the original document, signed by his grandfather, as well as the working draft of the document. As these copies were typed separately, there are some inconsistencies between them. The text below is a transcription of Bill Wallace's original copy of William Wallace's Life Story. Any parentheses ( ) are those included in the original. I have retained the spelling, punctuation and format of the original document. Any ambiguities and inconsistencies are as they are in the original.
Where my copy of the Life Story significantly differs from the signed copy, I have included that information in [red brackets]. Any explanations or clarifications in the text are offset in italics within [blue brackets] and are not part of the original document. Lastly, I have added footnotes to furnish lengthier explanations and clarifications at the conclusion of the document rather than break the continuity for the reader. These are linked to each other so you may jump to the footnote and then return to the same place in the text.
Bill Wallace has done much more research on the Wallace line than I. He has graciously furnished information from his research and this is included following the Life Story.
This narration gives the family background of William Wallace beginning with his father in North Carolina in 1814 and his father's move to Alabama. The story also narrates the family's 1873 migration from Mobile, Alabama to Clearwater, Florida, describes early Clearwater and names many of the early settlers.
If you want to search the document for names, use the "Control F" or "Find" function of your browser. Some of the more recognizable Clearwater names include Drew, Jeffords and Pierce.
Please remember that when "current" times or equivalent locations are given, "current" is 1938. Mr. Wallace died in February 1941.
Finally, many thanks to Bill Wallace for furnishing me copies of his various copies of the Life Story and for his input, suggestions and research into the details given in the story. His goal, as is mine, is to reproduce here the most accurate version of this document for the benefit of other researchers.
MY LIFE STORY
by William Wallace
My father, Robert Wallace, was born in Newbern, North Carolina in 1814. In his youth he acted as cabin boy on a sailing vessel from Newbern, North Carolina, to New York City, New York, then was light ship tender at Cape Hatteras for six months. He moved from Newbern to Choctaw County1, Alabama in 1832 at the age of eighteen years. Here he was an overseer for several years on a big plantation that worked slaves. There he married Madeline Hall, his first wife, and they had three children: Hannah, Elizabeth and Madeline. His first wife died at the birth of the third child and he later married Mary Eliza Wallace2, who was born in Choctaw County in 1832, the mother of us nine children: Robert, James, William, Fannie, Ralph and four children who died in babyhood.
They moved to Baldwin County before the Civil War, and at that time he built a big sailing barge on which he carried cord wood from Baldwin County to Mobile. Later he built a seventy-five ton schooner, called the "Alexander", in which he ran salt as freight from Mobile to New Orleans. Just before the second trip he became ill and the boat was turned over to another captain, and on that trip this captain sold the boat and cargo to Pirates and ran away to California with the money. After my father was well he moved to Mobile, where I was born in 1862 [ on July 20, 1862 ]. My father was on the police force during the Civil War and acted in that capacity for thirty years, going from patrolman to chief of police3. Captain Pierce came to Clearwater on a small schooner as a trader. Here we [ he ] met and became great friends with Mr. Jeffords [John William Jeffords], staying with him during the time he was in Clearwater. While here he bought ten acres of property, where the Ft. Harrison Hotel and adjoining property is today. After buying the property he went back to Mobile and married4 my half sister, Elizabeth. After his marriage he persuaded my father to come back to Florida with him.
My father resigned his position as chief of police to come to Florida when I was ten and a half years of age. Robert Wallace, Jr., and Mr. [ J. W. ] Drew came by land in a Jersey Spring Wagon sometime in January, taking twenty-one days to make this trip. There were practically no bridges over the streams and rivers during that time, therefore, they had to ford and ferry them. They also stayed with Mr. Jeffords5 until the arrival of the rest of the families, who were coming by schooner. We left Mobile on the 10th day of March, 1873 in a small schooner or sailing vessel named the "Mary Gleason", and reached Clearwater on the 15th. On the schooner were my Mother, Father, myself, Lizzie Pierce, Hannah Drew and children; Madeline, Higley, Wallace, Eva and Lizzie, Captain Pierce and a cousin of mine named Billy Wallace. My other brothers and sister died before we left Mobile. We brought with us on the schooner all of our household goods and a year's supply of groceries. We landed at what is now known as the entrance to the causeway at the foot of Cleveland Street6.
In Mobile at that time flour was bought for six to eight dollars a barrel, meal and grits for four to six dollars a barrel. Flour sold in Clearwater for twelve to fifteen dollars a barrel, and the meal and grits for nine to twelve dollars. We paid twenty-one cents a pound for pickled pork in Mobile; it was not known in Clearwater when we first came here. Kerosene or coal oil sold for fifty cents a gallon.
The first year in Clearwater we lived in a four room house where the Calvary Baptist Church is now.6a Living in what is now Clearwater, Florida, then known as Clear Water Harbor, were: I. E. Nicholson's father, who lived at the foot of Georgia Street; Mrs. Turner, A. C. Turner's mother, lived at the foot of Turner where the Cass place is now; William Campbell lived where Mrs. Robert Markley's home is7; Mr. J. W. Jeffords, my future father-in-law, lived in Harbor Oaks where the Lyons home is today8; C. S. Reynolds lived in Willadel near the Davidge home; A. C. Turner lived a block east of Ft. Harrison on what is now Wildwood Way. Our nearest neighbor, living east of Clearwater in what is now known as Coachman [ now within Clearwater ], was Mr. Jim McMullen, father of Bethel McMullen. The log house which they built and lived in still stands today9.
The second year my father took up a homestead from the government consisting of One Hundred and Twenty Acres, located west of Ft. Harrison Avenue, and south of the A. C. L. [ Atlantic Coast Line Railroad ] spur to the Belleview [ Hotel ]. Our house stood where Orange Avenue and Wildwood Way intersect. We made our living by growing Sea Island Cotton. The first year we planted our cotton crop on the Nicholson property near the North Ward School. We shipped our cotton lint from here to Charleston, South Carolina, where it sold for seventy-five cents per pound. Year by year prices kept dropping until it sold for only twenty-one cents per pound. The first steam cotton gin in this section was located Mill's Sunoco Filling Station is today,10 and was operated by my brother Robert and myself. We stopped growing cotton then and grew vegetables, principally tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers, until our fruit groves began to bear fruit. It took nearly ten years to make a fruit grove as we had to begin by planting seeds, not knowing anything about budding the trees. All our produce had to be shipped by sail boats to Cedar Keys, then by rail through Jacksonville to the Northern Markets, which included Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York City. There were no railroads in Florida south of Cedar Keys.
At the time we came to Florida there were no public schools in this section of Hillsborough County, but in about two years11 Mr. C. S. Reynolds' sister, Mrs. Jennie Plumb, who was a widow in New York, was asked to come down and teach the children of this vicinity, and was paid by the parents. Her son and daughter, Ralph and Detta, came down with her, but were too young to attend the school at that time. Mrs. Plumb taught three of the twelve months for about two or three years. Then Mrs. R. D. Hoyt, who was then Miss Agnes Dennie, came to Florida and took the position of Mrs. Plumb, who had gone to Anona to teach. The old school, a log house used for school and church purposes, was situated on the east side of the old north entrance to the cemetery. During cold weather we moved the benches outside and built a big log fire and held school around it. Our drinking water for school was carried by the pupils from what is now known as Belleair Lake. Some of the pupils who attended school at that time were: Emma Nicholson, who later became Mrs. William Hart; Ira and Mary Nicholson; Frank Rogers; Ed and John Jeffords; Mary Manning Jeffords, who later became my wife; and Sally Jeffords; Jennie Reynolds, later Mrs. T. J. Sheridan; Sumner Reynolds; Belle Reynolds, later Mrs. Leroy Brandon; Robert and Will Allen; Annie, Sally and Lizzie Allen; Madeline, Lizzie, Higley and Wallace Drew; George and Lottie Johnson, son and daughter of C. W. Johnson, former owner of the property of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel; Sam, Lucy and Lillie Harris, and myself.12
The Baptist and Methodist members both used this building for worship. Mr. C. S. Reynolds was the Baptist Minister and a Reverend Wells was the Methodist Minister, and lived among his congregation, but mostly at my father's home. He rode a fine white horse on his circuit. Although my father was not Methodist, they were great friends and enjoyed being together.
Fish and game, consisting of turkey, wild deer, quail, and wild dove, and all kinds of water fowls were plentiful at the time of our arrival in Clearwater. It was not unusual to go out and kill several deer on the beach and wild turkey, dove or other game on what is now Ft. Harrison Avenue. The first turkey I killed was where the Presbyterian gymnasium is now located.13
The cotton gin was later moved to the east side of Belleair [ or Belleview ] Lake and was combined with a grist and saw mill, where I worked and later operated the three departments, having as my helpers Higley Drew, Lee and Luke Nash, and Albert Nelson. Part of the lumber for my first home was cut at this mill and was done mostly by myself. The balance of the lumber was brought from Cedar Keys on the schooner "Asa Lowe", owned by Captain Lowe of Anona, father of Jeff and Wesley Lowe. The carpenters who built my home were Albert Nelson and Lee Nash.
By this time some new families had moved into Clearwater, a few of whom were: W. F. Spurling, Dr. Tennie, surgeon of the Northern Army; Dr. Edgar, Dr. T. F. Philips, Dr. Haven, Dr. Faye, Mr. Mason Dwight, Hiram Bauchman, Mr. Kaminsky, Mr. Tate, and Reverend Diffenweirth, Mrs. George Kerney's father.
Up to this time Dunedin was the regular trading post, although it was settled after Clearwater; St. Petersburg was not known until sometime later. Some of the people living in the Dunedin section at this time were: Mr. Moffet McClung, father of John N. McClung, Mr. Garrison and family; Mr. Moore, father of M. W. Moore [ N. W. Moore ], Mr. Beckett, grandfather of Ed. Beckett; Mr. Matchett, father of Dr. Jake and Elec Matchett; Mr. John Douglas, Mr. Jim Summerville, and Mr. Will Douglas, father of Lovette Douglas, former City Manager of Dunedin. Living in the Anona section were Captain John T. Lowe, Mr. Richard Meares, William Meares and their families, Captain Gus Archer, Robert Whitehurst, Mr. George Hammock, and Reverend Jimmie Kilgore.
At the time we came to Clearwater there was no Post Office, so the various people going to Tampa would bring the mail back with them and leave it at Mr. A. C. Turner's general mercantile store located at the foot of Turner Street, and he would distribute it to the people as they came in to trade. Our first established Post Office was in a log house connected with a general mercantile business, built by Mr. A. C. Turner, [son of David B Turner] acting as postmaster, in Willadel14, about 1876. Later the Post Office was moved from there to the foot of Cleveland Street, on the South side and Mr. Turner was still the postmaster. Another one of our early Post Offices was located on West Turner Street and the building is now being used as a garage [no longer exists ].
Our recreation consisted of games of all kinds, parties, fishing, hunting, old country square dances, and on every May Day a community picnic was held over on the island. We went over by boat, either the "Mary M", owned by Mr. Arthur Turner of Clearwater, or the "Falcon" owned by Douglas and Summerville of Dunedin. The Methodist Church had a very large Brush Arbor on the Northeast corner of Bird Lake and held quarterly meetings where people went in their wagons and camped for three or four weeks at a time. The younger set enjoyed fox and deer hunting. One time after wounding a deer the dogs chased the deer across Little Pass to Indian Rocks Island and my brother Robert and Frank Myers from Anclote took off their clothes and swam Little Pass to take the deer away from the dogs, as the Pass was the only a small inlet but very, very deep from shore to shore.
Soon afterward my brother, Robert, married Miss Nellie Perkins of Anclote. They had two daughters, Rubie and Robert15 [ Roberta ]. He died in the fall of 1881 of an internal hemorrhage.
On the 9th day of October, 1883, I married Mary Manning Jeffords16, who, with her family, had moved to Ocala, Florida. I built my first home on what is now known as the Morgan property on the Indian Rocks Road, which was part of my father's original homestead, and planted a citrus grove. While living here there were seven children born, although we lost our first child in infancy. The children were:  Robert Royal,  William,  Sallie,  Elizabeth,  Floyd,  Gladys and  Harold.
My father and I partly fertilized our grove with refuse from Bunten's fish camp on Indian Rocks Island. Bunten's shipped their fish from Indian Rocks to Cedar Keys. Another fish company owned by Mr. McAlvaine, who had moved his fish business from Cedar Keys to the south end of Clearwater Beach Island, built a large concrete ice storage house and had natural ice shipped from Maine by three masted schooners. They shipped their fish in this ice from Clearwater to Cedar Keys on small sailing vessels, and from there to Northern markets by rail. This was the first ice that came into Clearwater. This ice house was there about three years, then was washed away by a storm and never rebuilt.
Soon after I married I made a bid with the government for a mail contract from Clearwater to John's Pass and Seminole through Anona and was accepted. I carried the mail on this route for four years, the extent of the contract, although part of this time I had rheumatism so badly I had to have a substitute to take the route, so my father and a friend of mine did this for me. This was the first star mail route in this section of Hillsborough County, now known as Pinellas County.
About this time the first railroad, known as the Sanford and St. Petersburg17, came into Clearwater. This was a narrow gauge road built by a man named Demon. This was really the beginning of St. Petersburg, and it being the terminal it built up very fast. St. Petersburg was named by Mr. Demon after St. Petersburg, Russia, but was known until that time as Paul's Landing. This railroad brought more tourists to the West Coast of Florida, and, on the trips from Jacksonville to St. Petersburg, it would stop so that the tourists could see the alligators lying on the banks of the railroad and streams sunning themselves. This train was a wood burner, and often they would have to stop and pick up lightwood to carry them on to the next station. This railroad was later sold to Mr. Plant, who changed it to a standard gauge from Trilby to St. Petersburg. It was then operated under the Plant system until it was changed to the Atlantic Coast Line.
After the expiration of the mail contract my brother-in-law, John R. Jeffords, and I went into the mercantile business in Clearwater on Cleveland Street where Wells Drug Store is now located18. Soon after we went into business my father died (1893). We were successful in our business until the freeze of 1894 and 1895, which froze all the citrus fruit in the country, and as fruit growers could not pay their bills, we had to close our business, first paying off our creditors. This was known as the big freeze of the State of Florida. Later in the winter of 1898, for the only time in my memory, it snowed in Clearwater. Of course, it was very light but in the shade of the big oaks, between Turner Street and Court Street where the leaves and grass formed a carpet on the ground, it was very noticeable and remained there for the better part of two days. After closing [ the store ] I took the contract to clear off the ground where the Belleview Hotel proper stands today at their own figure after they would not accept mine. After finishing the work they claimed I made too much money and therefore would not give me any more employment.
As my property joined the Belleview property and contained a valuable spring, Mr. Plant, through his employee, wanted to buy my property for developing purposes as well as the spring, but they offered me such a small price I would not accept. So they built negro houses on two sides of my place and dumped the garbage from the Hotel directly in front of my home in order to depreciate my property to make me sell at their price. I still refused to sell, so they sent a man to kill me on my own property and he way-laid me at night and held me up, but being partially drunk and a friend of mine, I was able to talk to him and take the gun away. I could not live under these conditions so I sold my place to another party at a greater price than they had offered. I came to Clearwater, bought twenty acres of land, and built my home on the corner of Druid Road and Ft. Harrison Avenue. While my house was under construction we lived in the house where Mrs. Sweat lives today19, [ (Corner Ft. Harrison and Jeffords) ] and during that time my mother died (1905). Before and after moving into our new home I took the occupation of field foreman with the Jefford's and Smoyer Packing Company and worked for them for thirty years. At the end of that time I resigned to accept the position as Street Superintendent for the City of Clearwater, which I held for three years.
At the end of the World War [ WW 1 ] I sold my home on Ft. Harrison Avenue and Druid Road and built a home on part of my twenty acres on East Turner Street, where I now live and have been contented to stay at home and grow flowers for a living except for two years, during which time I acted as school policeman for the South Ward School.
- end -
Footnotes and additional data based on information provided by Bill Wallace.
1 Choctaw Country, Alabama was not created until 1847. The area referred to may have been the part of Sumter County which later became Choctaw County. However, it is likely that Wallaces were in what is today Sumter County.(Return)
2 Mary Eliza Wallace, second wife of Robert Wallace, was born 12 December 1832 in North Carolina and died in Clearwater, Florida in 1905. She was the daughter of David Hall Wallace and Hannah Eliza Jones. David Wallace may have been the son of James Wallace and Louisa Wallace. (Other researchers have shown that David Wallace, the father of Mary Eliza and husband of Hannah E Jones, was the son of Joseph Wallace, Jr 1760-1800 who descends from our Robert Wallis, III of coastal NC. This Joseph Wallace, Jr. married Mary Hall, a sister of Rebecca Hall. Rebecca was the wife of John Wallace of “Shell Castle”.) Louisa Wallace was the daughter of John Wallace and Rebecca Hall. Hannah Jones Wallace later married Horatio N. Chapin after the death of her first husband, David Hall Wallace, and died in Choctaw or Sumter County, Alabama in 1874. (Return)
3 The 30 years service on the Mobile police force for Robert Wallace is likely an error in the original transcription of William Wallace's dictation. It is more probably thirteen (13) years. The 30 years would have required him to begin with the police department in 1840. Marriage records place Robert Wallace in Sumter County, Alabama, in 1840 and he was there for the birth of his daughters (Hannah Hall and Ann Elizabeth) in in 1841 and 1843. The 1850 census places him in Baldwin County, Alabama. The earliest Mobile City Directory found to list this family is 1859. Finally, the highest rank Robert Wallace achieved, according to police department records, is sergeant of the jail. Payroll records of the 1870's give his rank as patrolman. Others are listed in the city directories as being Chiefs of Police. (Return)
6a The church was built in mid 1920's on the bluff at Cleveland Street near the bay and has been torn down and replaced by a tall condo called (in 2020) Waters Edge. The church has moved east to a large campus off of Drew Street near Old Tampa Bay. This church that was used as a school was originally started by Cooley Sumner Reynolds in 1866 at the present location of Clearwater Memorial Cemetery. Reynolds was married to the aunt of Mary M. Jeffords, wife of William Wallace. (Return)
12 This entire paragraph is taken from the working draft of the document rather than any subsequently prepared copies. It contains one line of text that was apparently inadvertently omitted from all copies prepared from the draft. The omitted line reads "T. J. Sheridan; Sumner Reynolds; Belle Reynolds, later Mrs." immediately following "Jennie Reynolds, later Mrs." The now included line corrects the misidentification of Jennie Reynolds' spouse as Leroy Brandon (instead of T. J. Sheridan), includes the new names of Sumner Reynolds and Belle Reynolds, and finally correctly identifies Belle Reynolds' husband as Leroy Brandon. Research has shown that Jennie (Geneva Gertrude) Reynolds married Thomas J. Sheridan, Belle (Mary Isabel) Reynolds married John Leroy Brandon and that Jennie and Belle Reynolds were the daughters of Cooley Sumner Reynolds and wife Judith R. Alexander. (Return)
14 Now west of Druid Road South and south of Morton Plant Hospital. Actually, the first post office in Clearwater was on the bay bluff at west end of Turner Street with David B. Turner as Postmaster. Monument placed there at 100 anniversary in 1959. This first post office was discontinued during Civil War., (Return)
16 Mary Manning Jeffords was born in the Ocala, Florida area 13 February 1863 and had moved to the Clearwater area when she was about 6 years old. After her father died in the Clearwater area in 1877, the remaining family moved back to Ocala. (Return)
Mary E. Wallace (Robert Sr.'s wife) was born in North Carolina and not in Alabama as stated by William Wallace in his story.
Information regarding the five surviving children of Robert Wallace, Sr. and Mary E. Wallace (as reported by William Wallace) is as follows:
- Robert - born about May 1850 in Alabama and appears on 1850, 1860 and 1880 censuses. Died 1881.
- James - born about 1852 or 1853 in Alabama and appears on 1860 and 1870 censuses. According to Death and/or Burial Records for Mobile County 1871-1880, and the Mobile newspaper, James David Wallace, male, age 19, died about 31 December 1872 in Mobile, Alabama.
- William (the author) - born 20 July 1862 in Alabama and appears on 1870 though 1930 censuses. Died February 1941 in Pinellas County, Florida.
- Fannie - Fannie was born in Mobile, Alabama, about November 1868. According to Mobile County Burial Records 1857-1870, Vol. 2, Fannie Wallace, female, age 1 year and 7 months, died about 6 May 1870.
- Ralph - According to Mobile County Burials 1857-1870, Vol. 2, Ralph Wallace, male, age 15 months, son of Robert Wallace, died about 24 June 1866.
- Another possible son of Robert and Mary Wallace is Henry Wallace, listed in the above Mobile Burial Records as having died 15 July 1859, age 18 days, and son of "R. Wallace."
Children of William Wallace (the author) and Mary Jeffords:
- Robert Royall, born 31 October 1884, died 6 January 1885,
- William Jeffords, born 17 February 1886, died July 1968. Married Winifred D. Newman in March 1913.
- Sallie May/Mae (erronously listed as "Charley" on the 1900 census), born 6 February 1888 and died in 1925. She married Loomis T. Hogan about 1903.
- Eleanor Elizabeth, born 12 July 1890, died 8 January 1984. Married Jesse S. Eubanks on 13 January 1913.
- Floyd Rudd, born 26 March 1894, died 2 January 1943. Never married.
- Gladys Gale, born 28 January 1899, died 12 March 1986. Married Francis T. Clayton.
- Harold Sidney, born 11 April 1903, died 1 August 1995. Married Hazel M. Dean on 10 December 1930.