Bio- Sawyers

            Hon. Joseph S. Wallis, of Mayfield, has been associated with the Bar of Santa Clara County for upward of thirty years; and while most of his contemporaries of the ‘50’s have passed away or retired from the active practice of the law, he stands to-day among the most active and able men in the ranks of the profession.  Judge Wallis is a native of Massachusetts, born at Salem, on the twenty-fourth of October, 1825.  The Wallis family was established in this country generations back, when the brothers, Aaron and Joseph Wallis, came from England, among the early settlers of the old colony of Massachusetts.  His father, Joseph Hutchinson, was a merchant, and conducted a large furniture business.  His mother’s maiden name was Sarah D. Hutchinson. She was also of English ancestry, and sprang from the Governor Hutchinson family, of Massachusetts.

            The subject was reared at Salem, and received his scholastic training there at the English High School and Latin Grammar School, where young men were prepared for college.  His eagerness to advance, his progress and standing in his classes, caused the breakdown of his health from overstudy, so that he was compelled to withdraw from school.  At the breaking out of the California gold excitement, he decided to go to the new El Dorado, thinking thereby to regain his health and perhaps to eventually associate himself with the profession he had already been making preparations to enter – the law.

            Going to Boston, he took passage, January 24, 1849, on the ship Capital, bound for California.  Stops were made at Rio de Janeiro and at Valparaiso; storms were encountered off Cape Horn and elsewhere, and when they came into the harbor of San Francisco, it was the nineteenth of July.  Mr. Wallis, who was at the head of the party which had come out on the Capital, took his company as far as Sacramento, where they disbanded, and a few of them accompanied him into the Middle Yuba River country, where they opened up the early mines in that vicinity.  In December, 1850, he returned to San Francisco, and there engaged in clerking.  In 1852 he resumed the reading of law, in the office of William H. Rhodes.  He was admitted to the Bar at Sacramento, before the Supreme Court of California, on the fifteenth of August, 1855, though he had previously assisted Mr. Rhodes in his practice.  He was associated with that noted lawyer until the fall of 1857.

            On the seventh of November of that year, he came to Santa Clara County, and, locating at Mayfield, has even since been a citizen of that place.  In 1859 and 1860 he was associate judge with John Moore, in the Court of Sessions of Santa Clara County, and in 1862 was chosen by the electors of this district to a seat in the Senate of California, serving in the sessions of that year and 1863.  His legal standing commanded a position for him on the important Committee on Judiciary, of which he was one of the earnest working members.  The arduous duties thus entailed allowed little time for other committee work, though he also assisted in the labors of the Engrossment and other committees.  On the eighteenth of February, 1870, he was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.

            He was married July 25, 1854, to Miss Sarah Green, a native of Ohio.  She came to California in 1844, with the Martin Murphy party, which is treated of in extended mention elsewhere in this volume.  She owned the land where Sutter built his mill, and it was on property of which she had been the former possessor that gold was discovered in 1846.  Mr. and Mrs. Wallis were the parents of five children, viz.:  Talbot H., State Librarian at Sacramento; Eva (Hess), of San Jose; Josephine (Ingalls), of San Jose; William A., who is in the employ of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and resides at Oakland; and Joseph, who died at the age of twenty-three years, at Sacramento, where he was a practicing lawyer.

            Judge Wallis has always taken an active interest in public affairs – local, State, and national.  He has the honor of having been a member of the Free-soil Convention that nominated Van Buren and Adams.


Pen Pictures From The Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, Illustrated. - Edited by H. S. Foote.- Chicago:  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1888. p. 91-92

Transcribed by Kathy Sedler