Two American presidents with connections to Roscrea. by Joe Coughlan
Elizabeth ( Bess ) Truman nee Wallace wife of President Harry Truman has her ancestry rooted deep in Roscrea. She was born in Missouri in 1885 , her father Robert Wallace emigrated from Courganeen in the mid 1800s . Elizabeth went on to be educated in the local public school in Independence Missouri and was in the same class as Harry Truman . They got engaged in 1917 but waited until he had finished his army service in WW1 before marrying in 1919.
Bess Truman moved with her daughter and husband to Washington, D.C. in 1934, following his election to the U.S. Senate. They lived in a series of small apartments. Bess Truman preferred her life back home in Missouri and when Congressional sessions were over, returned with her daughter to Independence for lengthy stretches. During World War II, with her daughter now a teenager in school in Virginia, Bess Truman largely remained in Washington, D.C. She became more active outside of her family. She joined the Senate Wives Club efforts to aid the Red Cross.
When Senator Truman became the chairman of the Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, he hired Bess Truman to work as an office clerk, and she answered constituent mail and helped to edit his committee reports. She was federally salaried at $4,500 a year. After Truman's 1944 nomination as the Democratic vice-
In attendance at the 1944 Democratic National Convention with her husband and daughter, Bess Truman was angry when she learned that her husband had accepted the offer of President Franklin Roosevelt to run as his vice-
When Harry Truman ran for re-
Greatly preferring the relative peace of her own Missouri home, Bess Truman spent as much time as possible there, including the summer months and holiday season. Whenever they were apart, Harry Truman wrote detailed and affectionate letters to his wife, giving her inside observations and political assessments of figures such as England's Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. When they were both in residence in Washington, Bess Truman spent about two hours every evening with the president, reviewing his speeches, schedule and policy decisions.
Elizabeth Truman died on 19th October 1982 aged 97. She is the longest living first lady ever.
Below are transcripts from newspapers in 1945 after Harry Truman was elected president coincidentally the Benn family mentioned in the papers are connected to Barack Obama. So Roscrea has two Whitehouse connections
Irish Independent 10 May 1945
This week the Roscrea district where Mrs Truman’s father Robert Wallace was born is overrun by American photographers in search of the old family home. Robert emigrated to America about 60 years ago but he never lost touch with the old place and kept up a regular correspondence with his family for forty years. He had four brothers Richard, Henry, John and Charles who was the last to survive died only a few months ago. The farm went to the eldest son John and his son William is at present busy tilling his land in Tipperary.
Mrs Truman visited Roscrea as a young girl and has several other relations there and scattered throughout the country. One of her first telegrams of congratulation came from her first cousin Mrs William Benn of Rembroke Vale in Bray whose husband also a Roscrea man owns a drapery business in Bray.
If Mrs Benn’s attractive personality and soft Tipperary charm of manner are family traits then Mrs Truman must be well endowed with qualities invaluable to America’s first lady. Other first cousins in Roscrea are Mr Charles Wallace, Mrs Shackleton and Mrs Dart Mrs Frank Benn and Mrs Fitzell are also relations.
Irish Examiner 8 of May 1945
From many parts of the United Kingdom and America have being received by the Wallace family , extending good wishes to Mrs o dart who resides at Inane House, the quarter million pound mansion built by the late American millionaire Mr Jackson on his visit to Tipperary. Mrs Dart is a cousin of Mrs Bessie Truman. When I reported this story some three weeks ago to this newspaper a letter had been posted in Washington from the Wallace family home which has now arrived at Roscrea. It states that they are proud that a daughter of a Tipperary emigrant who sailed from England in 1850 to seek a fortune in the new world was married to the leader of the USA President Truman. It was learned at Roscrea tonight that Mrs Truman may visit Tipperary when her husband comes to London at an early date. Mr Bob Wallace of Barn Roscrea is a first cousin of Mrs Truman.
Nenagh Guardian 8th July 1945
DISTINGUISHED VISITOR EXPECTED
It is expected that Mrs Elisabeth Truman Wife of the president of the USA will visit Roscrea in the near future. Relatives expect that she will call on a number of cousins who live in the district and will also pay a visit to the College Courganeen Roscrea where her father was born. Mrs Truman’s first visit to Roscrea took place over 30 years ago. One Roscrea relative still treasures a photograph of the President’s wife as a small child. On the back of the photo is written Bessie Wallace who visited Tipperary the land of her father’s birth.
It is understood that there is no foundation in the report in the cross channel newspapers that the president may visit Ireland this year. Mrs Truman’s Roscrea relatives know nothing of the Roscrea visit.