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.
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: https://www.wallacefoundersday.com/