Question: What special service did Melford Acel Wallace provide for the Elders of the Church in Kentucky in 1896?
Answer: Melford Acel Wallace was born in Cloverdale, Barren, Kentucky on December 16, 1849 to George Washington and Rutha Clark Wallace. He grew up on his father's farm.
On July 11, 1872 Wallace married Mary Ann Henderson, who was the daughter of Ambrose Brockman and Sedelia Williams Henderson. Together they had six children. They lived on a farm and raised corn and tobacco, and the children helped with these tasks.
The Wallace family were not a religious people, but Wallace’s son, Albert, later wrote: “The Bible was always on a little center table in the living room. My Father was always reading it, and this book was his text book. We had no newspaper, although a passerby would occasionally give father a copy of the Louisville Courier Journal. Father was a well read man, but was not educated in the general understanding of the day.
“My Father was a very hospitable man. Any person coming to our home asking for a meal or a place to sleep was always taken care of, as long as he acted and deported himself a gentleman and showed no signs of drunkenness. This kind of treatment of strangers was traditional in our home for many years.
“I can remember very well the fall of 1895, on a foggy and rainy day, a knock came at the door, and when Father opened the door, two young men stood there. They wore long tailed coats, derby hats, and each had an umbrella and a grip. They introduced themselves as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the ‘Mormons.’ They started talking, and it continued all afternoon and well into the evening. After spending the night, they departed the next morning.
“The next spring two other Elders of the Church came into the district. Their names were William King and Thomas Martin. They had scheduled a cottage meeting on a Thursday night at the home of Mrs. Mary Scott, who owned the farm adjoining our place. That night my father, mother and myself attended the meeting...The Elders held their meeting and sang the closing song. Then Elder King told about the mob coming the night before and ordering them out of the County by midnight. He asked if there was anyone who would like to give them shelter for the night, that they were there in the work of the Lord and did not feel that they should run away.
“I was sitting between my parents, and while Elder King was talking, father reached over and put his hand on mother's knee and said, ‘Mary Ann, I am going to ask those boys to go home with us.’ She replied, ‘Mel (for Melford) you know best.’ Then Elder Martin dismissed the meeting. The crucial moment had arrived. My father was the first to move. He arose and went to the Elders and introduced himself to them and asked them to go home with him. This is what the mobocrats wanted to know, and they slipped out to notify the others while we walked home with our company.
“As soon as we reached home, father told mother to 'show these boys to their bed at once.’ While we were at the meeting, my two brothers, James and George, and a friend of theirs had come home, they being employed away from home. Father told them what was up, and that he was expecting the mob to come any minute, and he wanted their pistols. He requested them to get to bed and all lights out...Each turned his pistol over to father. He took the pistols, put them in a sack and took two shotguns and a rifle that were in the house and carried them to the barn and hid them. Then he came back into the house and told them what he had done with the guns, and said he wouldn't want any shooting as someone in their excitement might let one go off and then shooting would start and maybe mother or one of the girls would get hurt. He then made everyone go to bed, put out the lights, and left the house.
“He went out and took up his vigil by the front gate. Our home sets back in the yard about 75 feet from the fence and on each side of the walk just beside the gate, father was standing when about 11:30 o'clock the mob rode up to the gate, and the leader started to get off his horse when father spoke and said: 'Underwood, what do you want?’ The man stopped getting off the horse and was dumbfounded at being called by his name. He finally answered: ‘You have got those Mormon Elders in there and we have come after them.’
“Father replied, ‘Men, I have lived here in the neighborhood for several years. I have always tried to behave myself and tend to my own business. I have never interfered in any of your affairs. Any one you have seen fit to take into your home was strictly your own affair and none of my business; likewise any persons who have come to my home and asked to stay all night--as long as they behaved themselves and acted the part of a gentleman--I have taken care of and that was none of your business. Yes those boys are in my house and asleep, and as I see it they are going to stay as long as they want to as long as they behave themselves. My advice to you is to go home and mind your own business. There are about fifty of you, and I think I can call everyone of you by name. Now if you think you still want to go in and get them, then it is up to you.’ Father stepped back and opened the gate and stood by the honeysuckle vine and said no more. The leader of the mob turned to his brother and said, ‘John, I am going home; I don't believe Mr. Wallace would like it if we went in there.’ He turned his horse and rode away, followed by the other members of the mob, and in a few minutes all had gone.
“We never knew for a long time just what had transpired that night. Only father stayed up all night to see that no one slipped back and tried to start something...
“These Elders stayed in our district for several weeks. A number of people were baptized, among them some of my people. On July 19,1896, the Junction Branch of the church was organized with my uncle Benjamin Bruce Wallace as presiding officer. After the organization of the branch many of my people, including my mother and three sisters joined the church and many of the Elders came to our place to stay.”
Although Melford never joined the Church during his life time, he was always a strong supporter of the Elders and assisted them in any way he could. Many times the Elders were housed and fed in their home. It was reported that after the Elders started coming to their place, Melford’s crops were better than they had been before, and he was always able to meet his obligations. Their cow always seemed to give enough milk, and his wife always seemed to have enough food to feed as many Elders as they took in.
In the spring of 1900 Melford suggested they sell the homestead and go to Utah, to which the family heartily agreed. They arrived in Ogden, Utah on November 25, 1900 and were met at the station by Joseph Later, a former Elder in Kentucky and visited in his home in Harrisville for a few days, and then went to Plain City, to the home of Franklin D Richard (also a former Elder in Kentucky) to make their new home.
Later they moved to Coyoto where their two daughters, Dora and Martha, were living. Mary died there in Coyoto. After that, Melford visited around with his children. Melford was hit by a train in Tremonton and died on October 12, 1917. He was buried in the Garland Cemetery.
Source: “History of Melford Acel Wallace” by his son, Albert Parson Wallace, Family Search.org; Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines by Marlene Bateman Sullivan, p. 51; FindAgrave.com