Rodney Wallace, of Fitchburg, Mass., was born in New Ipswich, N. H.,
December 21, 1823. He is the son of David and Roxanna Wallace, who spent
the latter years of life at Rindge in the same state.
Whether the family is of English or Scotch origin is extremely difficult
to decide. If the orthography of the last century is correct, then it is
English; if not, Scotch. The point possesses more genealogical than real
importance. People are free to change their names as they list, and have
always exercised that privilege; and under either garb the name has been
borne by noble and distinguished men in the Old World.
The first of this family who came to this country settled in Ipswich,
Mass. Benoni Wallis removed from this place to Lunenburg, Mass., and
there married, on the 2d of July, 1755, Rebecca Brown, of Lynn. They
continued to reside in Lunenburg until her death, August 25, 1790. He
died March 15, 1792. David Wallis, son of Benoni, was born October 10,
1760. He married Susannah Conn, and died in Ashburnham, January 14,
1842. David Wallace, son of David and Susannah (Conn) Wallis, was born
in Ashburnham, July 14, 1797. He married, July 8, 1821, Roxanna Gowen,
of New Ipswich, and removed to Rindge in 1846, where he died May 29,
1857. She died in Fitchburg, February 27, 1876. In the exercise of his
own right and discretion, he restored what he doubtless held to be the
original spelling of his name, and always wrote it Wallace.
Rodney Wallace, when twelve years of age, went from home to work upon a
farm for the sum of forty dollars for the first year, with the privilege
of attending school eight weeks in the winter; and from this time until
arriving at the age of twenty he worked for wages, attending school from
eight to ten weeks in the winter. His education was thus acquired,
during the few winter months, in the common country schools of that
time. From the age of twenty until his removal to Fitchburg, he was
employed and intrusted with business for the late Dr. Stephen Jewett, of
Rindge, N. H.
In 1853 he removed to Fitchburg and became a member of the firm of
Shepley & Wallace, wholesale dealers in books, stationery, etc., which
firm, under this name and the name of R. Wallace & Co., became one of
the best known firms in this line of business in New England. After
several years of successful management of that business, he withdrew
from the firm, engaged in the manufacture of paper, and connected
himself with several other manufacturing interests in Fitchburg. In
whatever interest Mr. Wallace has been engaged, he has not only been
fortunate in its pecuniary issues, but also in the speedy command of the
confidence and respect of his associates. True moral principle has been
united with unquestioned probity, business tact, and liberal,
intelligent management, and he is held in high estimation, both as a
citizen and as a friend. His usefulness has been approved by long,
earnest, and efficient service; and his liberality, by unostentatious
but generous donations to the support of many laudable undertakings.
In 1865, Mr. Wallace entered into the business of manufacturing paper
with three other gentlemen, under the name of the Fitchburg Paper
Company. One by one these gentlemen sold their respective interests to
Mr. Wallace, and in 1868 he became sole owner of the entire property.
From that time until the present day he has carried on the business
under the old firm name of the Fitchburg Paper Company. He has, since he
became sole owner, made large additions of land to the property, rebuilt
the original mill and filled it with the most improved machinery,
erected a new mill with the latest improvements of every kind, and built
additional store-houses, etc., until he has increased the producing
capacity from two thousand five hundred pounds per day, to sixteen
thousand pounds of hanging, card, and glazing paper per day of
twenty-four hours. The mills, the ample store-houses, the out-buildings
and dwelling-houses make up a little village, wanting nothing but
distance from the city to claim a name of its own.
For the direction of several monetary and corporate interests his
services have been frequently sought. He has been president and director
of the Fitchburg Gas-Light Company since 1864; a director of the
Fitchburg National Bank since 1866; partner in the Fitchburg Woolen Mill
Company, with the Hon. Wm. H. Vose and Hon. Rufus S. Frost, since 1867;
a director of the Putnam Machine Company since 1864; and has just been
chosen director of the Parkhill Manufacturing Company, recently
organized for the manufacture of ginghams. For several years he has been
a trustee of the Fitchburg Savings Bank, a director of the Fitchburg
Mutual Fire Insurance Company, president of the Fitchburg Board of Trade
(four years), a director of the Fitchburg Railroad Company, and a
trustee of Smith College, Northampton, Mass.
Though thoroughly patriotic and keenly alive to the importance of
current issues, the magnitude of the private and corporate interests
committed to his care would not permit the alienation of close personal
attention from them to political matters, and whatever offices he has
held have sought him, instead of his seeking them.
He was a selectman in the years 1864, 1865, and 1867, and a
representative to the general court in 1874, but declined a re-election
the following year, on account of ill health. He was a member of the
governor's council in 1880 and 1881, and has just been re-elected to
serve in the same position the present year.
Mr. Wallace was married, on the 1st of December, 1853, to Sophia,
youngest daughter of Thomas Ingalls, Esq., of Rindge. She died June 20,
1871, leaving two sons. The eldest, Herbert I., born February 17, 1856,
is a graduate of Harvard College, class of 1877; and the younger, George
R., obtained his education in the Fitchburg high school, and a two
years' special course in the Institute of Technology, Boston. They are
both now with their father. Mr. Wallace married, for his second wife,
Sophia F. Bailey, of Woodstock, Vt., on the 28th day of December, 1876.