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Bess descended from the Gates and Wallace families. They were farmers and businessmen, and later judges and politicians. Bess' grandfather George Porterfield Gates moved from Illinois to Independence, Missouri in 1866. The affluent businessman raised his family in the home at 219 North Delaware Street, Independence. In 1886, he made a large addition to the home and updated the interior.

Epergne, HSTR 761
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Margaret [Madge], Bess' mother was the oldest of seven children. She married David Willock Wallace in 1883. They had four children, of whom Bess was the eldest. David Wallace was popular, an active church member and the youngest presiding official of the Knights Templar. He was the Deputy US Surveyor of Customs in Kansas City. Unfortunately, alcoholism, financial difficulties and depression resulted in Wallace's suicide in 1903. Out of this tragedy, Bess and her mother formed an intense, life-long bond.
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