The charcoal ovens are associated with the silver mining ghost town of Ward, Nevada, established in 1876. The town at its peak had a population of 1500, two newspapers, a school, fire department, two smelters and a stamp mill. The town declined after 1880, with a fire in 1883 destroying a third of the town. The post office closed in 1876. Mining revived briefly in the 1930s and 1960s. The town has been mostly destroyed by repeated flash flooding in its low-lying site. Only the smelter, mill foundations and a cemetery are left. 
The charcoal ovens are two miles to the south of the townsite. Six large ovens remain in excellent repair, 30 feet (9.1 m) high, 27 feet (8.2 m) in diameter, with walls 2 feet (0.61 m) thick at the base. The ovens were built in 1876 by itinerant Italian masons who specialized in the ovens, who were known as carbonari. The charcoal ovens prepared charcoal from locally-harvested timber for use in the smelters at Ward, using 30 to 60 bushels of charcoal per ton of ore, for 16,000 bushels a day. The Ward ovens are the best-preserved of their kind in Nevada.