Mr. & Mrs. George Ward, founders

George Ward, Founder of Wardsville

The following is reprinted by permission of the author, Mrs. Phyllis Moorhouse, great-great-granddaughter of George and Margaret Ward.  Excerpted from the History of Wardsville, Volume 1 by Ken Willis, 1993.

George Ward, the founder of Wardsville, was born in Ireland in 1743.  He had a career in the British army and it was this that brought him to Canada.  He entered the British army in the 58th Reg’t. (now known as the Wiltshire Reg’t.) and it was with this regiment that he first came to Canada after serving several years in Ireland.  He came to Quebec with his regiment in 1776, the same year that the Declaration of Independence was signed (July 4).

Letters preserved in the National Archives in Ottawa and in the Provincial Archives give an account of his career and among other things, something about the battles in which he fought in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

The Regiment arrived in Quebec on May 29, 1776.  The Americans were anxious to deliver Canada from the British yoke.  They came up to Quebec and a battle was fought at Three Rivers in which the British were victorious and during which the 62nd Regiment played a major part.  They wintered in Quebec.

The following year he was chosen, with a group of good marksmen, to be an advance party to go down to Fort Ticonderoga at the south end of Lake Champlain.  The British captured the fort.  There was a hill about a mile from the fort which seemed a strategic place from which to launch the attack.  Goats could be seen on the hill.  The commander said “Wherever a goat can go, a man can go.”  So they took the cannon to the top of the hill.

At the end, the Americans fled.  However, the Battle of Saratoga came next and in this important battle, the British were defeated.  Ward, with the other prisoners, was marched to Boston and then to Rutland.  His grandfather’s brother was a general in the enemy’s army and he offered him a majority if he would go over to their side.  He refused.  Ward escaped with the others and went to New York where he joined the Volunteers of Ireland (which later became the 105th Reg’t.)  They fought in the battle for Charlestown and the Battle of Camden, and both were successful.  At the Battle of Camden, Ward received a medal for Bravery.  His father wanted him to leave his medal with him in Ireland but it has not been found.

Ward was a drill sergeant for most of his career and for a time was adjutant with the Volunteers of Ireland.  At the close of the war, he was offered Officers Lands in Nova Scotia but declined the offer.  Instead, he returned to Ireland and then to England, taking with him 24 “young men of good character” at his own expense and joined the 24th Regiment (the South Wales Borderers).

He had duty in Scotland, followed by several years in Ireland and then the Regiment was ordered back to Quebec.  The Regiment was in Quebec in 1791 which was the year that John Graves Simcoe came to be the first Governor of Upper Canada.

The Canada Act creating Upper and Lower Canada came into effect on December 26, 1791.  Colonel (then Lieutenant) Talbot was also in the 24th Regiment and it is believed that at this time Ward became acquainted with Col. Talbot. Talbot was then about 20 years of age and Ward nearly 50.  They became lifelong friends and Col. Talbot became Gov. Simcoe’s assistant private secretary and aide and, of course, came with him to Niagara on the Lake.

From Quebec, Ward with his Regiment, had a tour of duty to Detroit.  He was there until it was handed over to the U.S. Here he was left in charge of the Block House and some gun boats.

In 1796, he was discharged from the army.  He obtained a grant of land in Camden Township in Kent and settled down on the banks of the Thames.  The grant is dated 1797.  His children: William (1794), James (1795), Alex Daniel (1802), Talbot St. John (1804) and Mary Ann (1805).

In one letter, he states that he has two grown sons in Ireland and that they are coming here.  Nothing else has been found about them.

After living in Camden for several years, the government asked him to establish a stopping place for travellers where Wardsville now stands.  He came to the area in about 1810.  He apparently liked the location, because it is believed that he had originally purchased the land from the Indians but the government forbade this and he had to give it up.

Little is known of Margaret Show, his wife.  One census shows that Ward’s brother-in-law, by the name of Shaw, had a business in Wardsville.  It is likely that she came from the area.  At least one letter dealing with claims for losses in the war of 1812 is signed by her.  In another letter she tells about sending soldiers carrying dispatches to the British army being hurried out one door while American soldiers were at hand.  One can feel the nerve-wracking experience of being caught in the war for, of course, both armies passed by their door.

George Ward seems to have worked hard as a settler.  In one letter he claims that “there is no better garden between York and Amherstburg” than his and he also had an orchard.

When the War of 1812-14 came, he again became active in the British forces.  He was entrusted with provisions for the army. Also he ran dispatches and had to keep three horses ready at all times for this work.  Both armies passed his door and he suffered many losses from the enemy.  There are many letters about this which were sent to the government.

At one time the enemy came to his house, drove his wife and children into the forest and, as he continues, “the enemy caught me, put a rope around my neck and hanged me three times till life was almost extinct.”

Two of his sons, William and James, served in the Militia.  William was captured and placed in irons for seven months at Detroit but he escaped, made his way to join his company which was that of Capt. John McGregor of the Kent Militia.  William also led a company in the Battle of the Longwoods.

James was in the First Middlesex Militia under Capt. Daniel Springer.  He was on duty at Turkey Point in 1812 and from there went with a party to Fort Erie, where he died while on service.

George Ward was accused of treason in connection with the Battle of the Longwoods in 1814.  This has never been proved.  The records of the trial were never made available and the case was dropped, presumably for lack of proof.  When one reads his life story it seems clear that he was always loyal to his country.

Fred Coyne Hamil, writing in the London Free Press in 1950 quotes John Matthews of Logo Township who wrote on Ward’s behalf in 1824. “I believe him to be a truly good and faithful subject and soldier; and that he had been vilified by a set of dishonest and depraved characters, who combined together, systematically to hunt down every honest and independent man that dares oppose them.”

John Townend, a member of the Ward family, has recently made a study of this matter and believes George Ward to be innocent.  He is publishing a book which will be available soon.

The matter caused a great deal of distress to George Ward but he never gave up trying to clear his name.  Among his letters is even one from an American officer who confirms George Ward’s loyalty to England.

He lived until 1837, dying at 93 years of age.  The Wards were staunch Anglicans.  There is a memorial Communion table in the Glencoe Anglican Church in memory of George Ward and his wife Margaret, Alexander Daniel and his wife Mary Ann and Martha Ward and her husband Malcom G. Munroe.

Some married into other denominations and, for the Talbot St. John family, it is said that Mrs. Talbot St. John went into the Anglican church one Sunday and, finding her pew taken, walked across to the Methodist church and there they stayed.  At the present generation, some have become Anglican, and one is an Anglican minister.

On a map showing the land owned by the Wards, it is evident that the village is build at least half on Ward land.

George Ward was interested in his church and a story that has been passed down in the family is that when the village was laid out, he set aside one street for the various churches.  The history of the United Church (then Methodist) says that Talbot St. John gave the land.  However, some of the land was owned jointly by the father and sons.

The first Ward family reunion was in 1984 which coincided with the bicentennial year of Ontario and the Village of Wardsville erected a plaque in honour of George Ward.  It stands on the land which is believed to be the location of his house.

Although no Wards presently live in Wardsille, there are a substantial number in this area: Strathroy, St. Thomas, Blenheim, Dorchester, and Kingsville.

Written by Phyllis Moorhouse, great-great-granddaughter of George and Margaret Ward.

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