man of Prominence
Benjamin Wallace was born February 16, 1817, in Epsom, Merrimack County,
New Hampshire, the son of John Wallace and Mary True.
They had a family of 12 children, 7 girls and 5 boys.
His mother died when he was about eleven years of age.
George worked hard and helped on the farm, and also learned
the trade of carpentry. Later on, when John Wallace became
ill, he requested George to remain at home offering him
one-half of his possessions if he would help him manage
the farm. His decision was in the negative, as he was
planning marriage with a distant relative and a very different
career. When he was twenty-three years old he married
Mary C. McMurphy who was born April 27, 1818, at Boston,
Massachusetts. This marriage was performed either the
13th or 14th of February, 1840, in Boston, where they
resided for some time, George becoming a building contractor.
They were affiliated with the First Baptist Church.
Mormonism was brought to the attention of George by Elder
Freeman Nickerson and "after conversing with him
for about fifteen minutes, I was convinced I was building
upon a sandy foundation. I invited him to go home with
me and we spent the time from about 10 a.m. until evening,
conversing in the parlor. I was convinced he was a servant
of the living God. I purchased the only Book of Mormon
he had." George was baptized in December 1842 by
The following is taken from the journal of George Benjamin
March 5th, 1845. Church meeting. I laid before the Saints
the necessity of gathering to Nauvoo immediately to help
build the House of the Lord and to prepare for their endowments,
stating to them that I had been called to go to Nauvoo
by Elder Ezra Taft Benson, leaving my wife and children
until I can return; stating to them that I had one dollar
to assist me in getting there; stating to the Saints that
if they thought it was the will of God that they should
help me to obtain money to go with, for them to come forward
and do so; and they immediately raised money to take me
to Nauvoo, and I blessed them in the name of the Lord.
I ordained Brother Rogers to preside over them and he
was received by unanimous vote, after which I received
a vote of thanks for my past services and a letter of
recommendation by unanimous vote.
March 7th, Friday. Left New Bedford with family for Boston
to start from there on the 11th in company with others.
March 18th, Monday. Saw my wife and the children aboard
the cars for New Hampshire and bid them farewell. Oh!
May the Angel of the Lord protect them.
April 8th, Tuesday morning. Arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois.
In good health after four weeks in company with about
forty Saints. The yearly Conference was in session.
May 24th, Saturday morning at Nauvoo. 6 o'clock. The apostles,
bishops, elders and Saints of God of the last days gathered
around the Temple to witness the last cornerstone placed
on the southeast corner of the Temple by Brigham Young,
president of the entire church. A band played two tunes,
after which the stone was laid in place. Then they prayed
to God to protect and deliver us from the hand of our
enemies, that we might be permitted to finish the Temple
and receive our endowments. The whole multitude shouted,
'Hosannah, Amen' until the Heavens, as it were, said Amen.
Then the people dispersed to hallow the day. (End of journal.)
Later, George returned to Boston as a missionary for the
Church. It is not known whether his wife, Mary, joined
the Church. He endeavored to persuade her to return to
Nauvoo with him but she and her people were now very bitter
against the principles of the Church, particularly polygamy.
They did not want her to have anything whatever to do
with it. This condition culminated in a separation between
them, after a marriage of four years. She took their three
children, Emma A., James Barnay and Sarah Ellen and returned
to her parents. George returned to Nauvoo saying, "I
feel I have done my full duty toward my wife Mary, and
toward my God." He could not deny the faith; he had
joined the Church completely, but it was tremendously
difficult for him to give up his family.
There was previously, under date of January 29, 1844,
a political meeting held in Nauvoo, at which time Joseph
Smith was nominated for the President of the United States
and on the 17th of the following May, at a state convention
held there, the nomination was sustained. Mr. Wallace
compaigned for Joseph Smith and delivered a political
speech in Faneuil Hall in Boston. He was ordained a high
priest October 18, 1844, and was given a patriarchial
blessing by John Smith April 10, 1845, in the Nauvoo Temple.
He acted as undertaker during some of the terrifying times
in Nauvoo. While George Wallace was presiding
elder of the Boston Branch of the Church, Howes Crowell
and his wife, Melissa Mandana King Crowell, requested
a recommend transferring their membership from Boston
Branch to Nauvoo. Later, when George went to Nauvoo, he
again met Melissa who was heartbroken with grief at the
death of her husband and their two children. Their friendship
ripened into love and they were married June 4, 1845,
in Nauvoo. When the Saints were leaving this ill-fated
city, the Wallaces fitted themselves out for the long
journey west and left for Winter Quarters where they spent
the winter of 1846â€“47. Their first child, Mary Melissa,
was born January 8, 1847, and a few months later they
started their trek to Utah.
George Benjamin Wallace was appointed captain over fifty
in Abraham O. Smoot's company of one hundred, which was
organized June 17, 1847, on the west bank of the Horn
River. They arrived in Salt Lake Valley September 26,
1847, and camped in the Old Fort. Their baby girl, Mary
Melissa, died September 27, 1847, the day after their
arrival. She was buried on a hillside in the northeastern
part of the Valley. George Crowell Wallace was born June
12, 1848, died August 14, 1848, and is also buried there.
The little girl, Mary Melissa, was the first person buried
in that area.
George and Melissa built a log cabin inside the Old Fort.
In this cabin four persons were set apart and ordained
apostles, in a meeting held by the First Presidency of
the Church. They were Charles C. Rich, Lorenzo Snow, Erastus
Snow and Franklin D. Richards. On February 22, 1849, in
this home, when the Valley was divided into two wards,
bishops of Salt Lake Valley wards were ordained under
the direction of President Young, with President Heber
C. Kimball, the Twelve Apostles and others. The next day
another meeting was held in this log cabin home and Reynolds
Cahoon and George Wallace were set apart as counselors
to John W. Young in the High Priests Quorum; and Daniel
Spencer was set apart as president of Salt Lake Stake.
The corner of First North and Second West Street was chosen
by George Wallace as his property. It was then thought
that this would be the future business street. The Union
Hotel was built on the opposite corner and John Squires
built a barber shop on the Wallace corner. The hotel was
eventually used for a first class school known as the
Union Academy, and still later the building was used as
a temporary headquarters for the University of Deseret,
Deseret Hospital and finally as a warehouse for the Salt
Lake Knitting Works. George built a one-room adobe house
near the corner. The bricks were made from a mixture of
red clay and fine gravel; the roof was covered with boards
and the cracks filled with rags. After it was completed,
he moved the little log room, their first home in the
Old Fort, to their new homesite.
On September 20, 1849, another child was born to George
and Melissa whom they named Louisa King. She was one month
old when George was called as one of the first missionaries
to be sent from Utah, leaving for Great Britain, October
18, 1849. He gave a neighbor a yoke of oxen and several
acres of land to look after Melissa and her little girl
and to furnish fuel and other meagre necessities. She
was given a dress by Vilate, wife of Heber C. Kimball,
who advised her to reverse the material to the other side
and Melissa made a fine dress for herself. Melissa learned
to do work she had never done before, such as milking
cows, growing a garden, raising livestock, taking in boarders,
sharing her little dwelling with another family in exchange
for fuel. She had a great faith and an undaunted spirit.
Before George left for his mission she was concerned about
a timepiece as the only one they owned was a silver watch
he had brought from Boston. She asked him what she would
do if he took the watch. President Young said, "Brother
Wallace, if you will leave that watch with your wife,
I will promise you that you will come home with a gold
one." This promise was fulfilled for he did come
home with a gold watch and chain, a gift from the Saints
while on his mission. Before he left Salt Lake City, a
little elderly lady at the depot pressed his hand in 'God
speed' and left enough money in it to pay his fare and
a few cents over. The Lord blessed him so he was able
to send a little money home to Melissa and was able to
bring back a parasol for her, the only thing she requested
from him in the way of a gift.
Mr. Wallace, highly respected and loved by the Saints,
remained in Great Britain nearly three years as first
counselor to President Franklin D. Richards. He had issued
a small circular among the Saints and friends with whom
he labored to help pay his expenses home, and as a result
had a purse of $800 in cash, also many other presents
given to him by the Saints. He boarded the steamer Canada
for the trip home, leaving Liverpool March 20, 1852,
arriving in Boston approximately May 31, 1852. He went
directly to Epsom,
Merrimack County, New Hampshire, in an endeavor to see
his estranged wife, Mary C. McMurphy. She was not at home
and he was unable to locate her, so he reluctantly left
Epsom for his home in the Salt Lake Valley.
In obedience to the law of plural marriage, George Benjamin
Wallace under date of October 15, 1852, married the three
Davis sisters, Lydia, Hannah and Martha, whom he had converted
to the Church when in England. The parents, Edward and
Sarah Drabble Davis of London, Middlesex, England, were
also baptized. Lydia Davis, born June 15, 1830, died March
8, 1869, Salt Lake City, Utah; Hannah Davis, born May
4, 1832, died February 5, 1896, Granger, Salt Lake County,
Utah; Martha Davis, born January 9, 1836, died October
7, 1913, Salt Lake City.
Three or four more rooms were added to the original red
brick room and the family increased at a rapid rate. For
Melissa it was quite a period of adjustment. Years later,
on one occasion, Mr. Wallace received complimentary tickets
from a circus manager for himself and family. Imagine
the look of dismay on the manager's face when he saw George,
his four wives and twenty or more children march past
In 1860 Mr. Wallace was chosen to act as second counselor
to President Daniel Spencer of the Salt Lake Stake. In
1866 he was first counselor, and in 1874 was called to
preside over the Salt Lake Stake, which position he held
for about two years. In 1867 he was instrumental, with
others, in organizing Brighton Ward on the west side of
Jordan River. In October 1869 he filled another mission
to the Eastern States. He left home in a wagon, accompanied
by Nathan Eldredge. This mission was short as he returned
the following April. He had charge of the territorial
farm located where the Fairgrounds now stand, receiving
this appointment from President Brigham Young. From 1877
until his death in 1900 he was president of the High Priests
Quorum in Salt Lake Stake.
In 1875 George homesteaded 120 acres of land in Granger,
where his wife, Hannah, lived. Martha and her sister Lydia
resided at the home located at 168 North 2nd West, Salt
Lake City. Melissa lived there for awhile, until her son
Howes built her a home on Second Avenue in Salt Lake.
Mr. Wallace planted the first trees in the community of
Granger and his first nursery business stood where West
High School now stands. During the years of
hardship the large Wallace families experienced, George
was loving, patient and kind. He never aspired to any
public office, either ecclesiastical or civil. He was
not particularly shy, but never put himself forward. If
his services were required, he was always ready and willing
to respond. The last twenty-five years of his life were
spent on his homestead; most of his family were now married,
leaving him almost free from worry. During his residence
on the farm, raids were made on many known polygamists
but he seemed unafraid, traveling back and forth from
the city home to the farm, visiting his wives with utmost
concern. He was arrested and imprisoned for a term.
George Benjamin Wallace died January 30, 1900, at his
home in Granger, Salt Lake County, Utah. Funeral services
were held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square, when
high tribute was paid him. Article by Geneva Watson Graham
Pioneer ”Our Pioneer Heritage, vol.
9, pp. 315-319
For more detailed information, visit the website The
George Benjamin Wallace Family Organization by Jeff