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The Wallace Children

Census records are wonderful tools that offer researchers all sorts of clues into a person's life within a household or community. But sometimes, they leave you with more questions than answers. Such is the case of the Wallace children in 1850. Because they moved households in the short time between when the census was recorded from one place to another, they actually appear two times, in two different households, in two different states, and under the care of different individuals.

Twins Alfred and Albert Wallace and their younger sister Jane Wallace were three children of Harlin (or Harland or Harlem) and Mary Jane Wallace. The boys were born in Wilbraham, MA; Jane was born in either Wilbraham or Connecticut. When Mary Jane, the mother, died on July 10, 1850, the family unit became strained. Census records reflect unusual changes to the family.

  • The census of Wilbraham, which was taken on August 12, included Harlim, a farmer age 31, living in a household with Albert and Alfred, age 4, and Mary J., age 1.

  • A month later, the children appear in in the Somers, CT census (taken on September 22) living in the home of Irish immigrants Edrouin (?) and Susan Wood. Their father was not part of the household. Who are the Woods? I do not know, and research did not provide an answer, but I suspect that they were kin of one of the parents.

Why was Harlim not living with his children? Certainly, it would have been a daunting task for the father to care for three young children while simultaneously running a farm, so maybe Harlim placed his children with the Woods so that he could concentrate on his work. Or, perhaps Harlim died and the record of his death has disappeared. It is possible that he became infected with "gold fever" and left to find his fortune on the gold fields of California. Research reveals that several men named “H. Wallace” who were in their early 30s travelled on the Panama route to California from 1851-1854. I have been unable to definitively trace Harlim's activities after the Wilbraham census so do not know if he ever lived with his children again.

His children, however, have left a trail that we can pick up in 1853 when the Alfred, Albert, and Jane Wallace children first appear in town records as paupers and public charges of the Town of Longmeadow.

Alfred and Albert Wallace Since they were town wards, the Town of Longmeadow was responsible for caring for the children. The boys were kept together and shuttled between several different families. Town records reflect that in 1953 Sidney Kibbe, Mrs. Mary Bliss, and Henry C. Coomes were compensated for keeping the twins at different times. A permanent housing solution was found in 1854 when both Albert and Alfred were indentured to Ebenezer McGregory until they turned age 21. They were to learn “the art of Husbandry & Stonecutting”. The town agreed to pay Mr. McGregory $200 over a two-year period for their support.

Ebenezer McGregory was a farmer and a stonecutter and, during an era when work was gendered, Albert and Alfred likely provided much needed assistance with “male” tasks both at the farm and at the quarry, help that was especially needed when Ebenezer’s only son, Ebenezer P. McGregory, entered the Union Army in 1862. Both boys show up in the McGregory household through the 1865 Massachusetts Census. Albert died at age 20, before his indenture finished, of congestion of the lungs.

After Alfred finished his indenture, he moved to Monson, married, had a son, and worked as a shoe maker, then as a house painter. When he died in 1887, he was “well known and universally respected,” according to his obituary.

Jane Wallace

Jane Wallace was known by several different names. Census records of her time in Longmeadow refer to her as Jane or Mary J. and, as a married woman, she was known as Jenny. Like her brothers, town officers placed her in several homes in 1853 (Mrs. Mary Bliss and Luther Hills). She was living in the Luther Hills house in 1855.

Apparently, Luther Hills frequently contracted with the town to house paupers for Jane was not the only town pauper living in the Hills household in 1855 – Philena Whittee (age 60) and Mrs. Mills (age 74) were also living in the Hills house. Mrs. Mills died two years later, but Philena Whittee remained a town pauper until she was 95. Town records showed that she was boarded in at least five different Longmeadow households from 1824 until her death in 1890.

Luther Hills and Ebenezer McGregory were neighbors, both located on the north side of what is now Hampden Road in East Longmeadow, so it is likely that the Wallace siblings attended school together and were able to easily keep in touch with each other. Both houses are still standing today; the Hills lived at 54 Hampden Road and the McGregorys lived at 112 Hampden Road.

In 1857, the Selectmen of Longmeadow indentured 9 year-old Jane Wallace to Luther Hills until she turned age 18. It appears that the Selectmen made an effort to get to know their charge, for they mention in the Annual Report that she "is an interesting girl". Luther Hills was paid a total of $60 for the first two years of her indenture. Jane was to be instructed “in the art of House Wifery in the several branches of business which are proper and common for a girl to be instructed in…” Jane appears in the Luther Hills household through the 1865 Massachusetts Census.

In 1868, 19 year-old Jane Wallace married Rienzi A. Clark, a roofer, in Longmeadow in a ceremony officiated by a Baptist minister. The Clarks had children and moved to West Hartford where they stayed until Jennie died in 1911.

Jane's indenture is the most recent of the thirty indentures that are in the archives of the Longmeadow Historical Society, so it is possible that the Wallace children were the last pauper children indentured by the Longmeadow Selectmen and Overseers of the Poor.


1850 U.S. Census

1855 Massachusetts Census

1860 U.S. Census

1865 Massachusetts Census

Longmeadow Historical Society archives

Springfield Republican Nov. 6, 1887

Massachusetts, U.S., Death Records, 1841-1915

Massachusetts, U.S., Marriage Records, 1840-1915

Massachusetts, U.S., Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988

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