Safeguarding Col. Wallace’s Semi-Sullied Reputation


This article was published in two parts in the Shoshone News-Press in 2017.  RR

There are weighty questions in history’s halls – Why did Rome fall?  What launched the Renaissance?  Why the American Civil War?  The following doesn’t deal with one.  It merely touches on one of history’s countless minor footnotes – in this case, here in Wallace.

Author Tony Bamonte offered a long quotation from Richard Magnuson’s Coeur d’Alene Diary at page 59 of his recently published book, Historic Wallace, Idaho and My Unforeseen Ties:

In 1887, the Colonel was called to Coeur d’Alene by the U.S. Land Receiver and informed that the scrip he used to buy the land was no good.  Wallace claimed he then paid the land officer $50 “for advice” and was told the government’s letter informing the land office about the scrip would not become a part of the Land Office records.  Wallace then went to Spokane Falls to buy other land scrip so he could cover his purchase, but he found it was too expensive.  He claimed the land officer told him to sell the land and no one could injure him for it.  The land officer said he would protect him as his attorney…. Wallace contended the entry or issuance of duplicate scrip was fraudulent, and that he would fight to establish his rights.

On March 7, the town council met to consider ways to raise money to get a patent on the town land.  Colonel Wallace asked that nothing be done for 30 days, as a land officer was on the way to investigate his land problem.  His request was not complied with.

Bamonte continued on page 60:

Wallace apparently believed the land officer and had faith that that the issue could be rectified.  According to the previous quoted passage, he did not try to conceal this from the city council, and the Wallace Townsite Company continued selling lots.

Bamonte’s claim that Col. William R. Wallace “…did not try to conceal…” his GLO troubles, I suggest, sprang directly from his placement of Magnuson’s mention of “March 7” into year 1887.  And, yes, if Col. Wallace had revealed his difficulties to the town council as early as March 7, 1887, then, as Bamonte suggested, Col. Wallace could not be said to have engaged in a protracted and deceptive silence about the matter. Continue reading

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Remembering the 1910 Fire

The anniversary of the 1910 fire is coming up soon, so I wanted to share this movie Ted made. It’s 13 minutes long and has some testimonial from a local man named Arthur Fay. It’s also very high quality–check it out!

If you’re local, come visit my booth at the Huckleberry Festival today or tomorrow. I’ll have the Historic Wallace Preservation Society’s Silver Valley books for sale.

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Mary White Gordon’s memoir on sale this Saturday


With fresh shipments of the book arriving from, the online publisher, today and Friday, it now looks like I’ll have an ample supply to offer copies of Mary White Gordon’s wonderful memoir for sale at the Wallace Art’n Garden Tour this Saturday. Retail price: $6.00. Hope to see you there!


Ron Roizen


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Mary White Gordon’s Memoir Published

Local historian and sociologist Ron Roizen has been working with the Gordon family to publish the memoir of Mary White Gordon, who wrote about her childhood growing up in Wallace between about 1900 and 1910. It’s called A Child’s-Eye View, and offers a charming and innocent portrayal of life in the mining camp during that time.


This little book, only about 60 pages, discusses everyday life in a way we don’t often see, because there was really nothing “significant” that she experienced, aside from her account of the 1910 fire, which appears toward the end of the book. But don’t get me wrong on the lack of significance: this everyday quality of life in Wallace is what makes her memoir valuable. We get a vivid picture of the town in the time period that predated the arrival of the car, as seen through the eyes of a child. There are also pictures from the Barnard-Stockbridge Collection, housed at the University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives.


Mary White Gordon as a child. Photo courtesy University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives, Barnard-Stockbridge Collection.

Here’s Roizen’s description on the back cover:

“Why did Mary’s father, Henry White, send his shirts all the way to Chicago for laundering? What was it like to coast one’s bike at breakneck speed down one of the long wooden flumes that decorated the steep canyons around Wallace? Did Mrs. Hoyt’s “big gray earthen jar” of taffy never empty? And what was the town’s reaction when Mr. McCarthy left his wife at home and took his “pretty nurse” with him to Hawaii instead? These and so many more questions about life and times in the frontier mining town of Wallace, Idaho – in the decade before the Great 1910 Fire – are answered in Mary White Gordon’s wholly absorbing and warmly affectionate memoir.”

You can purchase the book for $6.00 plus $3.99 shipping through Lulu’s print on demand service by clicking here:

Go check it out. Buy a copy for yourself and/or others in your life. Roizen has done an incredible service to the history of Wallace by making this little jewel available. Apparently, you can read Kinyon Gordon’s “Introduction” and Roizen’s “Editor’s Note” on the site before deciding whether or not you’d like to purchase one. I received my copy in the mail the other day and am happy with how it turned out!

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What is the story behind that foundation?

Happy BLUESFEST! Here’s a video Ted made that discusses an old foundation near the freeway exit by the visitor’s center… It has a history many locals don’t even know about.

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Welcome COL Wallace back to Wallace: This Saturday, June 24, 2017

The story of historic Wallace’s origins and the imminent return of its notorious founder is a strange tale, and this weekend’s ceremony will memorialize it in stone at the Northern Pacific Depot Museum after a huge parade through town.

The text below is from the “Wallace Founder’s Day” website. To find out more about the event, click the link at the bottom of the excerpt.

The headstone of town founder Col. William R. Wallace was in limbo for decades, but come June 24, it will be given a place of honor in the community following a parade with marching bands, civil war re-enactors, biker escorts, military and police personnel, dignitaries and others.

“We are trying to organize the biggest parade in town since Teddy Roosevelt was here in 1903,” event organizer Jamie Baker said.

How Wallace’s misbegotten tombstone has arrived in the community bearing his name is as quirky a story as the town itself– the only city in America entirely listed on the National Register of Historic Places and home to some of the richest silver mines on the planet.

Col. William Ross Wallace purchased land where the town now sits in the 1880s. Unbeknownst to him the cash he used was counterfeit. After the funny money was discovered, the then Mayor Wallace left town under a cloud of suspicion. Fast forward to today and the community seeks to redeem Col. Wallace’s reputation in addition to his grave marker.Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 12.03.13 PM

A decorated civil war Colonel in command of the Second Kentucky Calvary, Wallace was wounded twice in action and served under noted Union General William Rosencrans. After the war Wallace sought his fortune in mining camps across the continent, including the then bustling area of 1880s North Idaho.

Wallace died in 1901 in Whittier, Calif., but he didn’t stop moving. Years after he was buried in a local cemetery, the town of Whittier turned the grounds into a city park, removing “some” of the bodies and stacking tombstones several feet deep on city property.

And there the tombstone lay for decades, forgotten until Spokane researchers Tony Bamonte and Chuck tracked it down in 2016. Sort of. Bamonte and King discovered that the town of Whittier had given the grave marker, along with four truckloads of tombstones to Acton, California collector extraordinaire Dale Bybee.

For his part Bybee had Wallace’s tombstone planted in a “memorial” cemetery, with which he was also trying to use to block state of California plans to build a high speed rail line across his Acton estate. The memorial cemetery ruse failed when CalTrans discovered the “sacred” grounds were less than a year old, and had no bodies — just markers. But Bybee’s loss was Wallace’s gain.

Bamonte and King contacted their pal — noted collector, Wallace restaurant owner and hotelier Jamie Baker. After a bit of horse-trading with Bybee, Baker and local businessman Forest Van Dorn were able to acquire the tombstone and bring it back to Wallace. It now temporarily resides outside the awning of Baker’s downtown Wallace office. That is until June’s festivities.

The parade line-up starts around noon, and festivities run until 5:00 pm. To find out more, visit the Founder’s Day website here:

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A History of Wallace, Roizen Style

Not sure if you guys know about Ron Roizen’s awesome history posts he’s been publishing to his blog lately. He writes a lot of really great content about the history of Wallace and may be too humble to post much of his work here, but there are two series of note that I want to draw your attention to:

1. The tale of the Rossi murder, which you may read about here.


Mabel Rossi. Photo from the Barnard-Stockbridge Collection, University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives

2. The tale of COL Wallace, the founder of the town and subject of a forthcoming book by Tony Bamonte of Tornado Creek Publications. I learned a lot from part 4a, which is the most recent one, found here.


In the beginning was the town of Wallace. Photo from the Historic Wallace Preservation Society Archives

Ron’s area of expertise is actually alcohol. No, not because he spends all his time drinking, but because he got a Ph.D. from a fancy school that says he knows something about the sociology of alcohol, and then he also got paid to spend his time doing research on it. Maybe in the future he will feel like writing a bit about the history of alcohol in Wallace for readers of our little History of Wallace blog… (hint, hint).


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Photo of the Historic Samuels Hotel

Picture of the week–wish I could have seen this building back in the day!

Wallace (Idaho), Samuel's Hotel, 1908

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Herman J. Rossi’s murder acquittal, 100 years later

Note:  This article, by Ron Roizen, was published in the Shoshone News-Press on October 14, 2016.  (For more on the Rossi murder, see here.)


Samuels’ lobby

Today, October 14, 2016, marks the 100th anniversary of Herman J. Rossi’s acquittal, by a jury of his peers, for the murder of his wife’s alleged lover.

Rossi - c1917

Herman J. Rossi, c. 1917

Rossi had shot Clarence “Gabe” Dahlquist three-and-a-half months earlier, on the evening of June 30, 1916.  The incident occurred in the lobby of the Samuels Hotel, in downtown Wallace, then a booming mining town.

Earlier that same day, Rossi had returned to Wallace from a politics-related trip to Boise.  He’d gone to his office to catch up on work obligations.  Then, later in the afternoon, he’d returned home to find his wife, Mabel (nee Price) Rossi, at home in a disheveled state in their bedroom.  On pressing the matter with both his wife and the maid he employed, Ruth Melville, a very angry Rossi discovered that Mabel had spent much of the past three days (and nights) partying with Clarence Dahlquist, a popular local musician.  The frame of their brass bedstead was “bent down” and Mrs. Rossi had telltale bruises on her neck.  Mabel protested that if anything had happened between Dahlquist and herself it was because she was drunk.

Herman J. Rossi was a widely respected businessman and a former mayor – incidentally, he’d be elected mayor twice again in years following the trial as well.

From home, Rossi marched down to the Samuel’s, where he shot Dahlquist a single time and then warned the wounded man to leave Wallace immediately.    Continue reading

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Richest Little City in the World Video


(Video by AuggieDog Productions available on YouTube)

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