Big Foot is born in Lexington, Kentucky (1817)

We all know the tale of Sir William Wallace of Scotland, But do you know the tale of William Wallace of Texas? One of the most colorful and toughest of […]
April 3, 2016

We all know the tale of Sir William Wallace of Scotland, But do you know the tale of William Wallace of Texas?

One of the most colorful and toughest of Texas’ frontier characters was William Alexander Anderson “Bigfoot” Wallace. Growing up to be a backwoodsman, folk hero, soldier, and Texas Ranger, Wallace was originally from Virginia. Born in Lexington, on 03 April 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 Battle of Goliad, an early confrontation in the Texan war of independence with Mexico. Pledging to “take pay of the Mexicans” for his brother’s death, Wallace left Lexington and headed for Texas. By the time he arrived, the war was over, but Wallace found he liked the spirited independence of the new Republic of Texas and decided to stay.

Wallace first settled near LaGrange, Texas in 1837 where he tried his hand at farming and quickly joined up with the Texas Rangers under Captain 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 man.

In 1842, he finally had a chance to fight Mexicans and joined with other Texans to repulse an invasion by the Mexican General Adrian Woll. 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 before finally being released in 1844.

After returning to Texas, Wallace decided to abandon the formal Texan military force for the less rigid organization of the Texas Rangers. Part law-enforcement officers and part soldiers, the Texas Rangers fought both bandits and Indians in the vast, sparsely populated reaches of the Texan frontier. Williams served under Ranger John Coffee Hays until the start of the Civil War in 1861. Opposed to secession but unwilling to fight against his own people, Williams spent most of the war defending Texas against Indian attacks along the frontier.

During his many years in the wilds of Texas, Wallace had hundreds of adventures. Once, Indians attacked Wallace while he was working as a stage driver on the hazardous San Antonio-El Paso route. He escaped with his life but the Indians stole his mules, leaving him stranded in the Texas desert. Forced to walk to El Paso, Wallace later claimed he ate 27 eggs at the first house he encountered after his long journey, then he went into town to have a “real meal.”

In his later years, Wallace decided he had enough of life as a fighter and adventurer. In exchange for his loyal service, 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. Always happy to regale listeners with highly embellished tales of his frontier days, Wallace became a contemporary folk hero to the people of Texas. As one of his admirers concluded, Wallace was the perfect symbol of “old-timey free days, free ways, and free land.”

Wallace died on January 7, 1899, and shortly thereafter the Texas legislature appropriated money for moving his body to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

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