(Mar. 16, 1814-Jan. 9, 1894). William J. Wallace was born in County Donegal, Ireland, and his family immigrated to the United States when he was four years old. As a young man, he moved to Madison, Indiana, and served as a deputy sheriff in Jefferson County. In the following years, he moved to Switzerland County and then to Indianapolis ca. 1848. He operated a grocery store at the corner of Washington and Delaware Streets. An active Whig, Wallace embraced the Republicans after the breakup of the Whig party.

Wallace became mayor in 1856 as the result of a special election upon the death of Henry F. West. He has the distinction of being the first Republican mayor of Indianapolis. He won reelection in May 1857 and then resigned the office just days before the end of his term to become the sheriff of Marion County. He served two terms as sheriff, 1858 -1862.

During the Civil War, Wallace was a draft commissioner and, as a member of the Indianapolis Sanitary Commission, made several trips to visit Indiana soldiers in Tennessee. He was a member of the City Council, 1863-1865, and county clerk, 1870-1874. Wallace lost a great deal of money in the Panic of 1873 and never recovered financially. He died virtually penniless in Indianapolis in 1894 at the beginning of another depression. He was the father of Harry R. Wallace, who served as mayor of the city from 1913 to 1914.

Revised April 2021

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