This house rests in an area that was considered, at the time it was built, as the outskirts of the city of New Philadelphia. Today, however, it sits at one of the busiest intersections on the west end of the city and is seen by countless passersby. This is one of its stories.
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.
The Wallace family traced its roots back to Scotland and, from there, to Ireland and ultimately to Ohio with the arrival of the family of David Wallace (1777-1874) and his wife Jane Burkley (1797-1870) in 1828. The family eventually grew to include nine children; five daughters and four sons. At least three of the couples’ sons made Tuscarawas County their home and settled in, and around, the city of New Philadelphia in Goshen Township. Among those sons was James B. Wallace (1829-1905) born in Tuscarawas County, Ohio around 1829. James’ birth year, sometimes recorded as late as 1836, is recorded differently on a number of historical records.
When the Civil War began in 1861, James volunteered to serve in Company B of the 80th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment recruited throughout Tuscarawas County. Company B was recruited predominately from around New Philadelphia and James would have noticed many of his neighbors and acquaintances in the company. The 80th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment saw service primarily in the western theater of the war, taking part in campaigns in Mississippi and Tennesee before joining General Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Following the war, James Wallace returned to his father’s Tuscarawas County farm where he began dealing in livestock and fruit-trees.
James eventually purchased property on the fringes of New Philadelphia where he farmed fruit-trees and continued to deal in livestock. Shortly after he was recorded as single in the 1870 census, James married the widow of fellow Civil War veteran William Swihart (1841-1869), Matilda Helmick Swihart (1845-1921) in the spring of 1871. Matilda brought with her three young children, a daughter and two sons, when she moved into James’ home. These would be the only children that would ever grace the Wallace home as James and Matilda had no children of their own.
After their marriage, and the immediate family it created, James and Matilda purchased the recently constructed home of New Philadelphia plasterer George Dunn (1835-1913) when he made it available in 1873. The house sat catty-corner from property owned by the Wallace family at the west end of Front Street in New Philadelphia on lots number 33 and 34. The house has been stripped over the years of many of its architectural elements, leaving just the core shape of the house as a guide. Given that, the house was likely constructed as a gable-front-and-wing version of the National folk style common from about 1850 to 1880. It also appears that, likely during the Wallace’s ownership, the house was modified to include elements popular with the Queen Anne style including the projecting bays and gable ornamentations (now gone).
There are a handful of newspaper articles about the Wallace family that affords us some insight into other features of the Wallace home and lot on West Front Street. A couple of those articles mention the presence of fruit bearing trees on the property, including plum trees and grape vines. One of the articles published in 1902 stated that the home had a large bake oven attached to it and that, while he attempted to dig out some old roots, the bake oven’s chimney collapsed on top of James. Luckily, he was spared any serious injury.
James Wallace lived just three more years beyond the chimney accident, dying in March 1905. Matilda continued to live in the house after James’ death, and the newspapers reported on numerous subsequent birthday parties held in her honor at the home. Following her death in 1921, the house was briefly occupied by one of her sons and, after him her grandson, until the home eventually left the family sometime after 1940. James and Matilda Wallace are buried in the Fair Street Cemetery in New Philadelphia.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.