Harry S Truman's Mother in Law

January 22, 2020 Posted by: Harry S Truman National Historic Site
On June 28, 1919, Harry S Truman, recently returned from serving in France in the Great War, married his long-time sweetheart, Elizabeth Virginia Wallace, here in Independence at Trinity Episcopal Chuch. After their honeymoon, the newlyweds moved into Bess Wallace Truman's family's home at 219 North Delaware Street. From 1945 to 1953, 219 North Delaware would be known as the "Summer White House." But in 1919, it was often known as the Gates Mansion, or the Gates/ Wallace House.

The house we call the Truman Home today was built by George Porterfield Gates, a partner in a local flour mill. Part of the house may be from as early as 1867, while Mr. Gates built an addition, finished in 1885 at a cost of about $8,000. In this home, George and Elizabeth Gates raised a number of children, including a beautiful young lady named Margaret Elizabeth, known to most as Madge.

Madge Gates was actually born in August of 1862 in Port Byron, Illinois, and moved to Independence with her parents. In 1883, Madge Gates married David Willock Wallace. They were married for just over twenty years until tragedy struck in 1903. One day in June, 1903, David Wallace shot himself in their home, which was a bit further north on Delaware Street. His widow and four children, Elizabeth Virginia (Bess), Frank, George and Fred, retreated from Illinois for perhaps a year before moving into the Gates house at 219 North Delaware Street. David W. Wallace left relatively little for his wife and four children.

The children were very protective of Madge, and lived closeby for the rest of their lives. Madge's father died in 1918, and her mother in 1924. Madge Wallace then bought 219 North Delaware from the estate. She owned the title of 219 North Delaware until her death on December 5, 1952. Then former President Harry S Truman and his wife bought the home from that estate.

When Harry Truman moved into 219 North Delaware in 1919, it was full of inlaws. His grandmother-in-law, his mother-in-law, a brother-in-law (who eventually married and had two children while living there). But for a majority of the time that Harry S Truman lived at 219 North Delaware Street, it was owned by his in-laws!

While Truman served as United States Senator, Madge Wallace frequently lived with the Trumans in Washington, often returning to Independence in the summers. Once he became President, Madge Wallace became a resident of the White House and in fact died in the White House just weeks before Truman finished his second tern and came home.

Madge Gates Wallace's funeral, in December of 1952, was held in the parlor/ music room of 219 North Delaware Street. Following the funeral, Mrs. Wallace was buried in nearby Woodlawn Cemetery beside her parents, some siblings, and, eventually, beside her three sons and two daughters-in-law.

Madge Gates Wallace was born in the middle of the American Civil War, just days before the Battle of Antietam. She died in the midst of the Korean War, in the nuclear age. She suffered tremendous emotional loss during her life, but lived to see her daughter become First Lady and son-in-law President of the United States.

Not bad for the daughter of a flour mill owner!Madge Gates Wallace, Mother of Bess Wallace Truman

Truman, presidents



Last updated: January 22, 2020

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