Front View of Thomas House

Ward-Thomas Museum

Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums

Five images of buildings and grounds

Early Ward Family History

Ward — Thomas Museum
Home of the Niles Historical Society
503 Brown Street Niles, Ohio 44446

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Early Ward Family History Display

Portrait of Mrs. W.H.B Ward

Early Ward Family History

Shortly after the house at 503 Brown Street was to become a museum, a large portrait of Mrs. W.H.B. Ward arrived. Few of us had any idea who Mrs. W.H.B. Ward was, at the time, except she looked like a pleasant looking lady in a light blue dress. She hung in the museum for several years and was the only item we had from the Ward family except for a small picture of James Ward. It was the only connection we knew about the Ward name other than the fact that we knew James Ward was the one that built the house at 503 Brown Street, and his name was mentioned in the Niles history books.

Then one day in 1996 I received a telephone call from a man from Arizona. He wanted to know if we would like some items from the Ward family. I was stunned, for I just couldn’t imagine how there was anything of the families left after all these years. After all they had moved out of the house in 1884 some 100 years ago. It seemed that Dean Mathews had been working on his family history and no longer needed the documents he had been using for his research. Dean’s wife, Betty was a direct descendant of James Ward family. We were so thrilled when Mr. Mathews sent the box of items to us. It took some time to go through the letters, documents and leases from the Ward family, just trying to get a time line established in order to digest the information was a job.

One of the oldest documents he sent was a letter, written on July 27, 1830 that James Ward’s mother, Sarah, wrote to her husband, William, telling about her arrival in New York to visit their son and his wife. The letter was all folded several times and there was a wax seal on it, with the simple address “Mr. William Ward, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania” on the outside. The letter explained that she had arrived in New York under situations with weather and 6 days of travel, but she was informing her husband that she had arrived at her destination safely. That letter is one of the oldest items in the museum today. A copy of it is in the glass case along with many other items Mr. and Mrs. Mathews have sent to us through the years. There are linens, several engraved pieces of silver, along with the hankie of hand made bobbin lace that belonged to Lizzie Brown dated 1863, the year she married James Ward II.

There is so much history in those items in the Ward case. For whatever reason, Dean Mathews decided to seek us out and send the item to us; we are forever indebted to him. We also can appreciate the portrait of Mrs. W.H. B. Ward more, now that we know the family history behind it. She was the former Earlie Hice who married William H. B. Ward, son of James II and Lizzie Brown Ward in 1898. W.H.B. Ward was in business with Jonathan Warner in the manufacturing of steel until 1925. Pictures of their family home, located at 329 Brown Street are in the Ward display also. So for 14 years she probably visited the home at 503 Brown many times before the family moved.

Mr. Mathews also sent a copy of his genealogical “History of the Mathews and Clark Families in America” for our library. It contains detailed information about the James Ward family and the families that followed. I am sure he would not mind if I shared the postscript he wrote to his family for it is so meaningful today. “Comparing the lives of these ancestors with those of the living generation presents a startling picture of change… Stand up to those who would destroy your heritage with the same fortitude, commitment and indomitable spirit which your ancestors have faced similar conflict… In reading this book, remember the counsel of Winston Churchill…”
“THE FARTHER BACKWARD YOU CAN LOOK, THE FARTHER FORWARD YOU ARE LIKELY TO SEE”


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