noted by Jerry Ueckert, Publisher/Editor, The Advocate, Edgewood, New Mexico:
Ben Hur was first released on November 12th, 1880, while Wallace was Territorial Governor of New Mexico.
In a May 11th 1879 letter, Susan E. Wallace, wrote to her son, Henry, from Fort Stanton, New Mexico, concerning the threat from William
Bonney, aka Billy the Kid:
he would, "ride into the plaza at Santa
Fe, hitch my horse in front of the palace, and put a bullet through Lew Wallace.” Susan was concerned, saying to her son, "One of my friends
warned me to close the shutters at evening so the bright light of the students lamp might not make such a shining mark of the governor writing
till late on Ben Hur.”
*Patricia B. Smith (author
of the "Lew Wallace History") notes:
One feature of the Lew Wallace Library grounds in Crawfordsville, Indiana
is "The Famous Ben Hur Beech".
The Home of Ben Hur, a book of photographs by T.B. Nicholson published by Lacey
and Nicholson of Crawfordsville, Indiana in 1900,
includes a picture of the "Ben Hur Beech". (Ben Hur Beech)
The book includes a photograph of a July 4, 1999 letter granting permission to
Thomas B. Nicholson for the book. (Lew Wallace letter)
The caption under the picture of the "Ben Hur Beech" reads: "THE FAMOUS BEN HUR
BEECH UNDER WHICH THE GREATER PORTION OF BEN HUR WAS WRITTEN"
Lew Wallace moved to Crawfordsville, Indiana in 1853, and lived in the same
house until his death in 1905.
Mrs. Smith concurs: Ben Hur was probably completed (1880) while Lew
Wallace was Governor of the New Mexico Territory (1878 - 1881).
Lew Wallace Autobiography relates on page 895: "As soon
as the success of The Fair God was assured, the author began to
shape the "'Jewish story'". [The Fair God was
published in the fall of 1873.]
On page 927: Lew Wallace establishes 1875 as the date he wrote "the conceptions which I had long carried in my mind of the Wise
Men". He intended these "conceptions" as a magazine
Page 929: "It is possible to fix the hour and place of the first
thought of a book precisely enough; that was a night in 1876." At
this point, a manuscript of the possible magazine serial about the Wise Men
This would indicate that Ben Hur was started between 1873 and
1875. It was published on November 12, 1880.