Henry Wallace was born in 1836 on a farm in Pennsylvania. A Presbyterian minister, Wallace's first church was in Monroe County, Iowa, in 1862. The following year he married Nancy Cantwell, and they moved to Rock Island, Illinois, where he had congregations on both sides of the Mississippi River. His next two pastorates were in Morning Sun and Winterset, Iowa. Having contracted tuberculosis, Wallace (or Uncle Henry, as he was commonly known) retired from the ministry and began farming full-time in Winterset. Wallace had three sons, Henry C., John, and Daniel.
He began to write about farm subjects, including livestock breeding, soil conservation, and crop rotation. As his health improved, he began making speeches about farm issues. He was invited to become a columnist and farm-editor for the Winterset Madisonian and later for the Chronicle. In 1883, he began writing for the Iowa Homestead, a Des Moines paper. He quit in 1895, after having some of his editorials censored. In 1896, he founded Wallace's Farm and Dairy with his two sons, Henry C. and John. The publication changed its name to Wallaces' Farmer in 1899. Working with his sons and grandson, Uncle Henry remained editor until his death in 1916.
Despite the success of Wallaces' Farmer, Henry Wallace is probably best known as the father of Henry Cantwell Wallace (Secretary of Agriculture under President Warren G. Harding) and as the grandfather of Vice-President Henry A. Wallace (who also served as Secretary of Agriculture under President Franklin D. Roosevelt).