Local

Footprints of Fayette

A Historical Column From The Fayette County
Historical Commission and Fayette County Judge’s Office

1860s Photographers Part II
By Rox Ann Johnson

J.J. Wallace’s brother, Mathew Stephenson Blakely Wallace, born in 1838, was four years younger. He had worked as a peddler before serving in the Confederacy’s 47th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry Company K, alongside another brother, Thomas. According to family, Thomas was killed, and Mat was taken prisoner in the Second Battle of Murfreesboro, which began on Dec. 31, 1862.
Around 1867, Mat Wallace came to Texas looking for opportunities, but was in the state for about a year before he relocated to Fayette County. J.J. Wallace and Anna Hooben fled La Grange during the yellow fever epidemic that fall, though not early enough to save James. It’s unclear whether Mat had already joined them in La Grange or whether the decision to go to La Grange was made after his brother’s death. We do know that in the Jan. 3, 1868 issue of The State Rights Democrat, Wallace and Hooben announced that they had reopened their photographic gallery on the north side of the La Grange square and were hoping to increase the number of their patrons to justify them making this their permanent location. They had altered and improved their rooms and “Sky light” to make the best pictures at all times of day. They were referring to the slow shutter speeds that could blur images of that era when they added, “the light at noon being the strongest is always preferred for little ones.” Another line from this notice referred to La Grange’s recent tragedy:
“In consideration of the many deceased during the late epidemic, we have made especial efforts to offer you our new style of Copied Pictures which are so completely retouched in India-ink, that time cannot effect them ... In looking over our old Negatives we find many old familiar faces we shall see among us no more – all have been carefully preserved and duplicates can be made of them at any time.”
 Anna Hooben married another photographer from Tennessee, John R. Martin, in Fayette County on May 3, 1868, and a month later, Wallace & Hooben announced the dissolution of their partnership. In the same issue of The State Rights Democrat, Mat Wallace mentioned that he was working as a photographer over Nicholson and Holloway’s store, and he was also running the livery stable attached to the La Grange Hotel. On June 18 of that year, he married Margaret Chandler, a stepdaughter of R.F. Day, who owned a jewelry store in La Grange for many years.
John and Anna Martin, along with a 2-month-old baby boy, were in La Grange at the time of the 1870 census. They both gave their occupations as “photographist” and operated as Martin’s Photographic Gallery or simply as Martin’s. We believe that Mat Wallace gave up his photography business in early 1870 and was only operating his livery stable by the time the census was taken that year.
The Martins left La Grange within a short period, but Mat Wallace and his family were still nearby 10 years later, making a living by farming. Three of Matt’s sisters had arrived in Fayette County in the late 1870s: Cynthia “Jane,” who married Bill Flippin; Maria, who arrived with her husband, J.F. Helton; and Mary, who married J.F. “Tennessee” Thompson. Jane and Maria spent the remainder of their lives here, but Mat S. Wallace and Mary Wallace Thompson moved on to other states.
Knowing when the various photographers were here can sometimes assist in dating old photos. Other photographers known to have been in La Grange during the 1860s are V.P. Seargeant and H.H. (or W.H.) Gilliam, both there in 1866. Widening the scope to all of Fayette County, others known to have practiced their craft during that decade were P. Vivier in 1860, W.B. Clark at Winchester in 1866, Nicholas B. Gorsuch at High Hill in 1869, R.J. Zimmermann at Fayetteville in 1869, W.F.E.C. Henausin and also Joseph D. Sloan, both at Oso in 1869. Of these men, Zimmermann is the only photographer who made a permanent home in Fayette County, later settling at Schulenburg.
Sources:
Wallace file, photograph collection, and marriage index at the Fayette Heritage Museum & Archives
Haynes, David. Catching Shadows: A Directory of 19th Century Texas Photographers. Austin, TX: Texas State Historical Association, 1993.
Helton, Billie. The Helton Family History with Related Families, Volume I. Andrews, TX: self-published, 1985.
The States Right Democrat, various issues published in La Grange from 1866 through 1870
E-mail correspondence with John and Dee Cunningham. Mrs. Cunningham is a descendant of Mat and Margaret Chandler Wallace.
Federal census records
1867 Voter Registration records for Fayette County

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