William Ward Signature from the War of 1812: Founder and Frontiersman

The State of Ohio: Champaign County, To the Sheriff of said county, Greetings we command you to summons Jacob Fowler if he may be found in your bailiwick to appear before our court of common pleas at Urbana on the third Monday of January next (year) to answer unto John Huston in a plea of trover for one black horse to his damages are hundred & seventy five dollars as it is sold & have you ? there this court. Witness the Honorable Francois Dunlevy Esquire, resident of said court at Urbana this 8th day of October, 1813. (signed) William Ward.

I was able to find this original document signed by William Ward, from Champaign County, Ohio, dated October 8, 1813. I didn’t immediately recognize the name, but then I realized who this was, and what his connection was to our Greenbrier Valley, and some famous 18th century frontier exploits involving the famous frontiersman, Simon Kenton.

The other thing I realized that this was right in the middle of the War of 1812, which was raging in the Ohio country at this time. Coupled with more information I found, it seems that the “black horse” taken by Jacob Fowler likely pertained to the war effort.

A search of Jacob Fowler’s name indeed connected him to military service in the Urbana, Ohio area during that time. It seems that Fowler was in some way connected to a detachment of Ohio Militia during the War, and by order of General Harrison, dated March 27, 1813, was ordered to proceed to Fort Findly and to remain there for the protection of McArthur’s Block House. Could it be that the “black horse” from the document I found was actually “block house?”

Cincinnati, Ohio. To Jacob Fowler, Urbana, Ohio. Concerns a detachment of Ohio Militia to garrison Fort Findley and a force from new draft to defend McArthur’s Block House.
Purchased. Forest H. Sweet, dealer, Battle Creek, Michigan. 1943.
Graham, Richard, fl. 1815, Soldier

Indeed, looking through these original documents, maintained by the University of Indiana, we can see where Ohio’s first governor, Return Jonathan Meigs, writing from Chillicothe, which was Ohio’s first capitol, in 1812 actually ordered “Mr. Fowler” to proceed to Urbana, again for the protection of “block houses.”

Here in the Greenbrier Valley we have found similar court orders providing for the payment of civil damages for damage done to local forts by traveling militia units. In fact, Byrnside’s Fort is one of them. A Greenbrier Militia detachment on its way to Kentucky became the subject of an award of damages still on file at the Greenbrier County Courthouse, awarding money to James Byrnside.

Chillicothe, Ohio. To Mr. Fowler, Requests a report on arms and accoutrements.
Purchased. Forest H. Sweet, dealer, Battle Creek, Michigan. 1943.
Meigs, Return Jonathan, 1764-1825, Governor of Ohio

As it turns out, after looking through more of these records, Jacob Fowler was actually the Assistant Deputy Quartermaster of the U.S. Army in the Ohio country, then engaged in fighting the War of 1812, as evidenced by this document addressed to him:

Urbana, Ohio. Receipted bill for labor, subsistence, and forage for a horse. 
Purchased. Forest H. Sweet, dealer, Battle Creek, Michigan. 1943.
Accompanied by subsistence account
Fowler, Jacob, fl. 1812, Assistant deputy quartermaster

And how about this one? A letter to Jacob Fowler directly from Gen. William Henry Harrison, soon-to-be hero of the War of 1812 and President of the United States. Man, I’d have love to have found this one.

United States Head Quarters, Berkshire. To Jacob Fowler, Urbana. Deals with provisions for the troops. Harrison, William Henry, 1773-1841, United States President

General Harrison mentions Urbana, Ohio in the letter, which would ultimately lead to Jacob Fowler being in Urbana, which in turn resulted in the court summons to Fowler which I found. Now does it refer to a “black horse,” or a “block house?” I guess it could be either being that he was provisioning horses and block houses. The obvious conclusion either way is that it had to be related to the war effort, which never even crossed my mind until after I bought it.

An old history book of Champaign County gives a little more background on Urbana’s connection to the war:

In 1812, Urbana was a frontier town on the border of an almost unbroken wilderness – without highways to any extent, and infested with hostile Indians. Its location naturally made it a base for army operations. Return Jonathan Meigs was Governor of the State, and immediately after the declaration of war in June, designated the place as the rendezvous for troops.

Here Gen. Hull brought three regiments, under the respective commands of Cols. Duncan McArthur, Lewis Cass and James Findlay, for the purpose of being organized with other forces. These troops encamped on the grounds east of town, occupying the lots between East Water street and East Court street . . . .

This accession to Gen. Hull’s army completed the organization, and the entire force, in a short time, was ordered to Detroit, and opened the army road afterward known as Hull’s Trace. The reverses which followed in the North continued to make Urbana an objective point . . . .

During the siege of Fort Meigs (which was built by militia from what is now West Virginia – and in fact the very first muster of the “West Virginia National Guard,” including my 4th great grandfather, Robert Bryan) in May, 1813, runners were sent through the surrounding country, urging the male inhabitants to assemble immediately at this point to take measures to relieve the besieged fort. The summons resulted in a large mass-meeting, from all points south to the Ohio River, and the greater part, being armed, volunteered to march at once to the relief of the fort.

Joseph Vance, Simon Kenton and other citizens of Urbana (William Ward?) took an active and prominent part in the movement . . . . Four days’ forced march were made through the wilderness, when they were met by Col. William Oliver, John McAdams and Captain Johnny, an Indian, who had been sent as spies with the intelligence that the enemy had abandoned the siege. The force then returned to Urbana and were discharged.

The concentration of forces and supplies at this point, necessarily required the establishment of appropriate agencies . . . . Jacob Fowler, being at the head of the Quartermaster’s Department, was general agent and contractor for Government supplies.

The History of Champaign County, Ohio: Containing a History of the County, etc…., W.H. Beers & Comnpany, 1881.

So why did William Ward sign the court order from 1813? The only good reason would be that he was the Clerk of the Court, which was an important position for early frontier settlements. I was able to confirm that he became Clerk around 1809:

In the year following the death of Joseph C. Vance (Champaign County’s first Clerk), William Ward was appointed Clerk, and succeeded to all the offices held by Vance.

Id. at 320.

Some of the following is from Ward’s wikipedia page, and some I’ve inserted here and there . . . .

William Ward was born on December 14, 1752, in Augusta County, Virginia, the first son of Scotch-Irish immigrants James and Phoebe (Lockhart) Ward. His father, Captain James Ward, was born in County Donegal, Ireland and immigrated to the Colonies around 1730 as an infant with his father and two brothers.

Ward lived on the edge of the frontier his entire life. Shortly after William was born, his father moved the family from eastern Augusta County to the area now known as Greenbrier County, West Virginia. After Braddock’s Defeat, that area became too hostile so James Ward moved his family closer toward Staunton while he joined several expeditions during the French and Indian War.

The Greenbrier River at Fort Spring, Greenbrier County, WV

As a six-year-old, in 1758, Ward joined his father on horseback to travel to the family mill on the Jackson River near Fort Dinwiddie, which was located five miles west of Warm Springs in present-day Bath County, Virginia. They were unaware that William’s three-year-old brother, John, had followed them on foot. A pair of Shawnee watched from the woods and stole John. Despite efforts to track the Shawnee in the light snow, the family was unable to locate John. Years later, the family learned that John was raised by the Shawnee and adopted the name of White Wolf.

This is one of the oldest statutes in New York City’s Central Park, called the “Indian Hunter.” It was made by America’s first sculptor, John Quincy Adams Ward, who was William Ward’s grandson. I haven’t read this anywhere, but I wonder if this sculpture is actually John “White Wolf” Ward? A replica of this statute also stands in Urbana, Ohio.

“Indian Hunter” in Central Park by John Quincy Adams Ward.

In 1774, the royal governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, issued a call for volunteers to create a militia for retaliatory war against the Indian nations along the Ohio River. Ward volunteered to join his father’s company from Botetourt County under the command of Colonel William Fleming. Ward was selected to serve as a sergeant. The company of Captain James Ward only consisted of seven men so at times it was amalgamated with the company of James’s wife’s brother-in-law Captain Mathew Arbuckle. William and his father fought at the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774. When William’s father, Captain James Ward, was killed in battle, William assumed command of the company. Years later, the family discovered that long-lost family member John Ward fought in the battle with his adopted Shawnees.

William’s father, James, was buried in the magazine pit at Point Pleasant, along with other patriots, such as Col. Charles Lewis. Their bodies remain there, marked by this monument which stands today at Point Pleasant, West Virginia:

The grave marker for the men buried in the magazine hole, including Capt. James Ward, William Ward’s father, as well as Col. Charles Lewis.
The monument erected to commemorate the battle. Cornstalk is buried behind it and slightly to the right in the background.

By 1777, William had been promoted to lieutenant and was serving at Fort Randolph (the fort erected at Point Pleasant) and also the Greenbrier area with his mother’s brother-in-law Captain Matthew Arbuckle. Ward was stationed at Fort Randolph on November 10, 1777, and witnessed the events leading up to the murder of the Shawnee chief, Cornstalk.

The actual site of Fort Randolph, just north of the state park at Point Pleasant. Note the monument standing at the end of the sidewalk. There are apartment buildings built on the site, unfortunately.

In a deposition, also signed by what appears to be his future father-in-law, John Anderson, Ward describes that Cornstalk was murdered by a mob of armed men who were angry with the killing and scalping of Robert Gilmore. It is not clear if these men were militia or settlers. They entered the garrison as an mob. The previous day, Captain Matthew Arbuckle had imprisoned Cornstalk and his three companions. According to Ward, Arbuckle attempted to stop the mob but failed. Four Shawnee, including Chief Cornstalk, were murdered.

I detailed these events in my previous post, “Captain Matthew Arbuckle: a good life, but a bad death.” It was also described, from a first hand account, in part 3 of my post on the “Memoirs of Col. John Stuart (Part 3).”

I tracked down the original deposition text, which is in the Draper Manuscripts:


The deposition of Capt. John Anderson, Wm. Ward, & Richard Thomas, being first sworn on the Holy Evangelists, deposeth & saith: That they were present when Robt. Gilmore was brought over the Kanawha River killed & scalped; on which a no. of armed men appeared to be coming into the garrison in a riotous manner, on which said deponents suspected that they were determined to kill the Indians in custody in said garrison; & further say, that Capt. Matthew Arbuckle told them, that they should not be killed, as they were his prisoners, & it appeared to them that it was not in his power to stop their supposed intentions. And further say, that they proceeded into the garrison, & a number of guns was shortly fired, on which the Indians were all killed, being four in number, as they afterwards understood – & further saith not.

JNo. Anderson, Wm. Ward, RICHd. Thomas.

In 1781, Captain William Ward was the head of the militia for the Howard’s/Anthony Creek area of Greenbrier. At least one old history book states that the Ward homeplace was somewhere on Anthony Creek, circa 1769. There’s not a whole lot of space for a homestead on Anthony Creek, as much of it looks about like this, consisting of mostly a narrow gorge. This same book also states that at one point, William Ward was captured by Indians near nearby Fort Dinwiddie, but was shortly thereafter “restored.” See Annals of Bath County, by Oren Mortin, 1917, at pp. 202.

Anthony’s Creek in Greenbrier County
The mouth of Howard’s Creek, at the Greenbrier River. Greenbrier County.

After the Revolutionary War ended, Ward married Rebecca Anderson in Greenbrier. In 1782, he served as a trustee charged with the layout, establishment and organization of a town around the County Courthouse at Camp Union. The town became Lewisburg, West Virginia.

Lewisburg, West Virginia

Between 1784 and 1786, he made forays into present-day Kentucky with his uncles, William and Joseph Ward, and staked large amounts of land and redeemed military land grants. Ward and his family settled in Washington, near the river city of Limestone (later Maysville) in Mason County, Kentucky. He became a business associate with the frontier legend, Simon Kenton, and managed his store. Ward’s two younger brothers, James and Charles, also settled in the area and remained there until their deaths. Ward became an influential person in Mason County during the early 1790s and represented the county in 1792–95 in the House of Representatives in the Kentucky Legislature.

Simon Kenton and William Ward were no doubt the ‘odd couple’ of the Kentucky and Ohio frontiers. Kenton was an illiterate, buckskin-wearing, rough-talking physical giant who had lived in the frontier since he was 16. Only his contemporary Daniel Boone could possibly know the Kentucky frontier better than he. No one knew the Ohio frontier better than Simon Kenton. To sum up Ward in a phrase, he was a “Virginia gentleman”. He was well educated, well spoken, and well dressed, and had a remarkable sense for business. Despite their differences, Kenton and Ward formed a partnership which lasted well over three decades.

Kenton and Ward’s paths first crossed in 1774 at Point Pleasant as they were both involved in Lord Dunmore’s War and were probably both at the signing of the Treaty of Camp Charlotte.

In March 1780, Ward traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia, to collect a land warrant on behalf of his father. His father had served with Captain John Dickinson’s Company of Rangers in 1756–57 and as a result was entitled to 2,000 acres. Ward then traveled down the Ohio to present-day Maysville, Kentucky, and presented the warrant to Simon Kenton, who had claimed much of the land. On the warrant, Kenton’s associate wrote: “William Ward, heir to James Ward, enters 2,000 acres by virtue of a military warrant, on a branch of a North Fork of Licking, called Wells’s branch, including the mouth thereof, joining Cameron’s Settlement and a pre-emption on the West side, and Beckley on the South, to begin at the head of said branch and to run down for quantity.” The description of the 2,000 acres as described by Kenton on the warrant proved to be vague and was not fully defined until a Court of Appeals judgement in March 1801. The claim turned out be one of several suits between Ward and Kenton, and one of countless claims against Kenton regarding land in Kentucky.

Jones, A. E. [Miss]. Artist whose Landing of the Pioneers at Yeatman’s Cove, Foot of Sycamore St. December 28th—1788 was included as an illustration in Dr. Adolphus E. Jones’s Extracts from the History of Cincinnati (Cincinnati: Cohen, 1888).

In 1788, Ward, in association with Simon Kenton and Robert Renick, contracted with John Cleves Symmes for large tracts of land in the current locations of Springfield and Urbana, Ohio. Later it was determined that Symmes did not have legal rights to make such sales.

1785 map by Manasseh Cutler showing ands granted to Army companies and the proposed town of Marietta, Ohio. Includes historic notes and inset “A plan of the city to be built on the Muskingum River.”

NOTE: I wrote a post about Robert Renick’s brother, Felix. Like the Wards, the Renicks also, at least in part, moved out to Ohio from the Greenbrier Valley. Robert Renick, according to my post, was the first to import fancy English cattle into Ohio, as well as other areas. For this reason, the Greenbrier Valley today is known for high quality cattle production. See Felix Renick’s Drawings, his interesting family, and his life as a scavengeologist on the Ohio Frontier.”

Map of the state of Ohio, by Rufus Putnam, Thomas Wightman, and Thaddeus Mason Harris, ca. 1804, [G4080 1804 .P8]. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Kenton and Ward started exploring the area of the Mad River Valley of Ohio and making claims as early as 1788. Kenton first saw the area a decade before while he was held as a prisoner with the Shawnees, while Ward was keen to explore the area for signs of his brother John.

I just did a post on a double blade belt axe found at Solomon’s Town, which was one of the spots Kenton stayed in 1788.

In April 1793, his brother, John, known amongst the Shawnee as “White Wolf,” was killed by a militia group led by Kenton and Ward’s brother, Captain James Ward. James was a famous frontiersman in his own right, and had himself previously been captured by the Shawnee. This was known as the Battle of Paint Creek at “Reeves Crossing” in Ross County, Ohio.

In April 1799, Kenton and Ward led a group of families from Mason County, Kentucky to an area between present-day Springfield and Urbana. Four years earlier, the Treaty of Greenville had ended the Northwest War, resulting in a peace of sorts, and allowing for some white settlement into Ohio, such as Kenton and Ward.

This depiction of the Treaty of Greenville negotiations may have been painted by one of Anthony Wayne’s officers.
The Mad River in Ohio

Upon their arrival to the Mad River Valley, Kenton and Ward worked together to defuse a number of volatile situations where the Treaty of Greenville, which ended the Northwest Indian War in Ohio was close to collapse. Shortly after their arrival in 1799, Ward read an article in the inaugural edition of the Western Spy, a Cincinnati-based newspaper, that a group of Indians under the command of Black Snake were grouping in Detroit with the aim of breaking the treaty. Allegedly, Kenton and Ward immediately traveled to Detroit and secured a letter from Black Snake affirming they had no intention of breaking the treating. Ward wrote a letter which he and Kenton signed which was published in the August 27, 1799, issue of the Western Spy which defused the situation.

From https://www.rrcs.org/Downloads/Ohios%20historic%20Indians%2038%20pages.pdf

Years later, in 1806, the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, grouped 700 warriors, all painted and plumed for war, at the mouth of Stony Creek, near present-day De Graff in Logan County. Kenton, Ward and Colonel James McPherson rode out to meet Tecumseh to determine his plans. Kenton was spokesman and tactfully declared, “we have plenty of men to greet you.” After council with the three, Tecumseh meet with his fellow chiefs and deferred any belligerence.

By 1810, the Ward–Kenton–Renick syndicate had amassed large holdings in the Springfield vicinity alone (astride the Mad River Valley) which spanned over 25,000 acres, or 40 square miles.

The relationship between Kenton and Ward passed through a lot of scrutiny as Kenton’s fortunes disappeared in the early 1800s, while Ward’s grew. Some accused Ward of taking advantage of the illiterate frontiersman who seemed more interested in helping others out than in making financial gain. Others simply acknowledged that Kenton was totally incapable of managing any form of business and extremely careless and lost his fortune through non-payment of taxes, while Ward was shrewd and very professional. In 1818, Kenton brought suit against Ward to claim his share of certain shares of Champaign County lands. Kenton lost the case as the court could not find that he was cheated or defrauded in any way by Ward.

As an interesting sidenote, I came across some interesting business figures from the Ohio frontier in this era. In an article published by the Ohio Historical Society, the average prices of trade items, both for furs submitted by the Indians, and for the merchandise they purchased with the proceeds from the furs. You can then calculate what they were getting for the money. The dates aren’t exact, but they’re close.


So “a buck” was a buck – 100 cents, or $1.00. Doe skins were only 67 to 75 cents. Beaver pelts were more, and bears and otters were $4.00 to $5.00. In exchange, they could buy the following items:


So you could buy a plain “rifle” for $12.50. So that’s 13 buck skins, or a couple nice beaver pelts. You could get a powder horn for 75 cents or so. I pipe tomahawk for one buck skin plus one musk rat, for example.

In 1805, Colonel Ward appeared at the General Assembly in Chillicothe and successfully lobbied for the establishment of a new county to be made up of portions of Greene and Franklin Counties. Champaign County was formed on February 20, 1805 and extended on the north to Lake Erie and included all of present Clark County on the south.

Colonel Ward had the business sense and foresight to purchase 160 acres which he considered the logical and most acceptable site for Champaign’s county seat. He approached the county commissioners with a proposition to locate the seat of the new county on this tract. Ward suggested that site to divided into 212 lots and 22 out-lots, half of which, selected alternately, were to be given to the county and while Ward would retain the remainder. Ward also offered two lots for a cemetery and a tract for the public square. The county commissioners approved the proposal, and Ward, with Joseph C. Vance, entered into a written agreement on October 11, 1805. Ward named the new county seat, Urbana.

Urbana, the county seat (of Champaign County), was laid out in 1805, by Col. William Ward. He was chief owner of the land and donated many lots to the county, under condition that their proceeds be devoted to public improvements. Joseph Vance and George Fifthian were the first settlers. The Methodists built the first church in 1807. The main army of Hull concentrated at this point before setting out for Detroit. Many Indian councils were called here, and Tecmseh was located for a time near Deer Creek.

The History of Champaign County, Ohio: Containing a History of the County, etc…., W.H. Beers & Comnpany, 1881 at pp. 139.

Ward served on the inaugural board of trustees at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 1810. Colonel Ward was instrumental in developing Champaign County’s first bank and grist mill in 1814.

William Ward was a large and quite distinguished man and well known in Champaign County at the turn of the 19th century. One of his contemporaries described him as follows: He was “tall and broad-shouldered, with high cheek bones, keen eyes and dark auburn hair tied with a black ribbon in a long queue, erect in person and very neat in dress. He wore but one style of hat – a black felt, with high crown and broad brim which was not turned up. He wore a black frock coat, or surtout, and on horseback he wore green flannel wrappers or leggings tied with ferreting below the knee.”

Not long before his death, Col. Ward built a home for his son, John, as a wedding present, which still stands today:

John Quincy Adams Ward House, Urbana, Ohio, built 1820.

Colonel Ward had seven children with his first wife, Rebecca Anderson, who died in 1805. He had four more children with his second wife, Margaret Barr, who died in 1867. The renowned sculptor, John Quincy Adams Ward, and painter, Edgar Melville Ward are grandsons of Ward. Ward’s younger brother, Captain James Ward, remained near Maysville, Kentucky and served as a pallbearer at the re-interment of Daniel Boone in 1845.

It took me a while, but I found a lithograph of Col. Ward’s home, known as “Nutwood Farm.” The home was built circa 1815, and also still stands today.

Nut Wood Farm, Urbana, A lithograph (1858) after a drawing by S. Sweet.
 A detail of Map of Champaign Co. O. compiled from Armstrong’s map and recent survey’s and records by F. Hess.

This is the only photograph I was able to find of the home, which appears to have been taken from the rear, and off to the side. You can see that the front of the home is going to be out of view, to the left rear of the pic.

This is the property from the closest Google Street view. I believe that’s the driveway to the left. This would have been part of Col. Ward’s farm.

Ward died on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1822. He was initially buried with his first wife on the family homestead a few miles north of Springfield but was later re-interred at the Oak Dale Cemetery in Urbana.

3 thoughts on “William Ward Signature from the War of 1812: Founder and Frontiersman

  1. Re: the letter from Ward – The average cost of a horse in the 1800s was $10 to $50, depending on the type of animal, riding or draft. Considering the moment in which the letter was drafted, the reference must be $150 for the ‘block house’, and not for a ‘black horse”. With very deep family roots in Colonial Virginia and in
    W Va after it became ‘the State of’ in 1863, I really appreciate your site, observations and dedication to our great history.
    Best regards.

    • When in doubt, I always like to go with the more exciting and illustrious option, so I agree, block house it is. Also, good point.

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