On Eber Ward of Marine City: A Sad but Unusually Forthright Account

Regarding the selfish and grasping cousin of Mr. Ward’s, from pages 3-6 of The Autobiography of David Ward (1912, self-published, held by the Library of Congress).  Eber eventually moved to Detroit, where he died.  David Ward made his home in Oakland County, Michigan.

My Uncle Samuel left Lake Ontario before the close of the war of 1812, residing at Salina, N. Y., and boiled salt there for a while. He married there “Aunt Betsey,” and afterwards moved to Northern Ohio at or near Conneaut, and finally moved to Michigan and settled at Newport (now Marine City) on the St. Clair River. He engaged there in farming, small merchandising, building and navigating small sail craft on the Lakes, and eventually in building, owning and navigating first-class passenger steamers, and buying much pine land from the United States. He died at Marine City at nearly seventy years of age, and willed nearly all of his property of about one million dollars to a son of Uncle Eber’s, named Eber B. Ward [1811-1875], who was my cousin. This gave E.B. Ward, in addition, practically the franchises of the steamboat lake passenger and freight routes, as he largely monopolized these routes. These monopolized lake steamboat routes, fairly managed, were worth another million or two of dollars, as the passenger traffic to the West by lakes continued immense for some fifteen or twenty years afterwards.

After Uncle Samuel’s death, his willed estate, in addition to a considerable property possessed before by Eber B. Ward, mostly given him by Uncle Samuel before his death, constituted Eber B. Ward comparatively a very wealthy man at about 1855, considering the poverty of then new West. Thus, at about 44 years of age, it came to pass, through he was largely so before that age, that E. B. Ward became an overbearing, egotistic, vainglorious, dishonest, tyrannical, vindictive, aggressive, energetic, selfish man, largely devoid of conscience. This tyrannical, envious, vain, selfish, grasping, energetic man soon spread out his then comparatively vast fortune in some legitimate investments, but mostly in illegitimate dishonest schemes, in view of showing his financial ability, power and consequence. His schemes were largely the grasping of others’ property, paying therefor little or no equivalent.

At the time of Uncle Samuel’s sickness and death E. B. Ward placed sentinels at the
outer doors of Uncle Samuel’s residence and would not permit any of Uncle Samuel’s
brothers, sisters, or any other of the relations, except his own sister, Emily Ward, to enter the house, but himself and his lawyer who drew up the will he desired giving about all of Uncle Samuel’s property to E. B. Ward. leaving out entirely the sisters, brothers and other relatives of Uncle Samuel, some of whom were poor invalids unable to obtain the necessaries of life. Ever after these poor distressed relatives, who had thus been virtually robbed by E. B. Ward’s management of Uncle Samuel’s will, were followed by E. B. Ward and persecuted while they lived. Other relatives whom E. B. Ward envied, or was jealous of, he persecuted in the same way by all the power and influence he possessed. For some twenty years after the death of Uncle Samuel, E. B. Ward continued in the career above mentioned, dishonoring himself, the name of Ward and human nature, defying the laws of common decency, and at times defying and riding over the laws of his country. He raised a family of six children, four sons and two daughters . . . .

About 1862, among other crimes, E. B. W. got up a false accusation against his wife,
who being a niece of “Aunt Betsey,” it largely assisted him in “scooping” Uncle Samuel’s property by his will, and who also raised his family of six children. By false swearing and bribery E. B. obtained a bill of divorce in order that he might marry a blooming young woman, a niece of Senator Wade’s, Kate Lyon, as she was called, with whom he lived some nine years, until his death in 1874.

A career filled with wrong doing and crime, energetically executed, usually results in
financial ruin. This proved especially so with E. B. W., considering his wealth, and the royal opportunities he had in a new undeveloped country, containing large natural resources. Had he used his large monopolizing means in legitimate investments and business devoid of immorality, dishonesty, tyranny and crime, with his good health, energy and great physical power, the financial result should have been immense.
However, the result was that E. B. Ward’s administrators (though his will proclaimed to the world that he had millions) found after his death that his estate was virtually insolvent and not sufficient to pay his debts by some two hundred thousand dollars. Thus was squandered Uncle Samuel’s large estate, of some two millions of dollars at his death, and in addition the product of E. B. W.’s opportunities, equivalent in comparative value of from fifteen to thirty millions of dollars at this date of 1893.

From:  The autobiography of David Ward http://www.loc.gov/resource/lhbum.10306

Eber Ward family documents are held by the Clarke Historical Library, CMU, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  There is also a short biography of Eber on that page, albeit free of the moral observations David noted about his cousin.

“Ward-Holland” house, built ca. 1830 by Samuel Ward,  as listed in the National Register of Historic Places, 1972. 433 N, Main Street, Marine City.  (Required attribution:  Notorious4life at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44703548.)


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