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Mason County Memories


"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus" ~ Mark Twain


History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



david k petersen

History Column By David K. Petersen Last week we left off with E.B. Ward leaving his father and the lighthouse at Bois Blanc Island in 1833 and moving to Newport to work for his Uncle Samuel Ward. Samuel Ward had come to Michigan with about 3,000.00 in savings; adjusted for purchasing power to 2005 he had about 41,000.00 in assets from which to launch what would become the Ward empire. Samuel is considered the first official settler of Newport known now as Marine City and established it as a shipbuilding center. In 1824 he built the St. Clair, a 30-ton schooner and she was the first ship to make the trip from the Great Lakes through the Erie Canal to the Ocean. When E.B. came to work for his uncle, Samuel was already a well established businessman and shipbuilder in Newport. Samuel recognized and rewarded Eber Brock Wards business mind and enthusiasm early on and young E.B. Ward jumped at the opportunities to improve his lot in life, but at what cost? There are several places where we can get some glimpses into young E.B. Ward's personality and drive and apparent desire to not live his life out poor and struggling but to rather have the finer things in life. This also may shed some light on the events leading up to the 1869 suit against James Ludington and E.B Brock's impact on the tiny village of Ludington. E.B. Ward married a niece of Samuel's wife Betsey and by the account laid forth in David Ward's Autobiography this marriage assisted young E.B.W. in positioning himself to manage and scoop his Uncle Samuel's property through his will some years later. Huron, the first steamship built by Samuel Ward's shipyard was launched in the spring of 1840 and captained by EB Ward, he had invested about a thousand dollars of his own money in the ship. At 29 years of age he was investing his earnings and reaping some of the rewards and profits. One thing is certain beyond the accusations against him is that he seemed to have a good eye for the future and could position himself to take advantage of it as Michigan grew and prospered. Travel aboard these early schooners and ships in general could be termed treacherous. There were no regulations regarding safety, lifeboats, flotation devices, or training for Captains of the ships. Losses at the docks and in the Lakes were common from many factors, overloaded boats, unsecured cargoes, throwing the stove ashes against the wind and setting the boat afire by mistake, and of course the weather. The Ward Lines had their share of mishaps and disasters. Some of the early losses included the St. Louis built in 1844 capsized and sank in 1852. The Ocean, built in 1850 by Ward as a side-wheel steamer and rebuilt into a barge in 1862, lost in October of 1873 near Pt. Aux Barques Michigan. The Ocean had another claim to fame in that the first bar of iron to be smelted from the Upper Peninsula on February 10th 1848 was bought by E.B. Ward and used in the walking beam of the Steamer Ocean. The "Artic" built in 1851 for 75,000.00 by J.L. Wolverton for E.B Ward and his Uncle Samuel. The Artic was sold in 1856 to the Clement Steamship Company and lost in 1860 when she ran aground on the western Shore of the Huron Island. The following year the Ward Company Salvagers secured the engines of the Artic and another ship called the Gazelle. Ward owned and was instrumental in building a wide variety of ships that included "The Traveler" built in 1852 at Newport for Ward by J. Bushnell and sunk as the result of a fire discovered when she made a stop at Eagle harbor in Wisconsin in August of 1865 The E.K. Collins built in 1852 was lost to fire in October of 1854 with the loss of 21 lives. Samuel and Eber Brock Ward were in the enviable position of being in the right place at the right time building their lake boats to capitalize on the westward movement of the populace through the Great Lakes and the routes that they established and ran monopolized travel and freight in the years prior to the Railroad coming to Michigan. Their business and trade routes generated Millions of dollars. What to do with all of that wealth? In the early 1850's prior to Samuel's death Ward was pursuing a hobby of purchasing large tracts of pineland for the lumber. E.B. Ward had large holdings in Forestville and constructed a mill, docks, warehouse and supply store at that place in 1854. Before the new town had been officially named in 1855 (and coinciding with Samuel's death) he sold all of his holdings there and moved to Detroit. He did however keep his timber holdings in Mason County. By 1855 with the death of Samuel Ward, E.B. Ward's inheritance in combination with his own holdings in Shipping, Lumber, Mining and Steel propelled him into the title of Detroit's first millionaire. If you have any stories or other items to share with our readers please contact me at davep@blackcreekpress.com End of part 2

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