Eber Brock Ward

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Eber Brock Ward
Eber B Ward.jpg
ca. 1875
Born Eber Brock Ward[1]
Dec. 25, 1811[1]
Applegaths Mills, Ontario [2]
Died January 2, 1875[1]
Detroit, Michigan
Cause of death stroke[3]
Resting place Elmwood Cemetery
Detroit, Michigan
Residence 807 Fort Street, Detroit
Nationality American
Other names E. B. Ward
Eber B. Ward
Education elementary
Occupation businessman
Known for Industrialist
Net worth $6,000,000 at death
>$133,000,000 of 2010 $$[3]
Title Captain of Industry
of the Midwest [3]
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mary McQueen (first wife)
Catharine Lyon (second wife)
Children 28 including those of two wives and adopted children
Parent(s) Eber Ward, Sr.
Sally Totten Ward[1]
E. B. Ward signature.jpg

Eber Brock Ward (December 25, 1811 – January 2, 1875) was an American iron and steel manufacturer and shipbuilder.[4] He was known as the "steamship king of the Great Lakes" and as the "first of the iron kings."[5] Ward became Detroit's first millionaire.[6] He was the wealthiest man in the Midwest, in his time, due his steel factories.[3]

Ward was into several industries in Michigan and the Midwest. He accumulated timberlands and lands that contained iron ore, copper and silver. He branched into several industries including newspapers, railroads, glass manufacturing, banking, steamships, and insurance companies.[7] He even was one of the promoters of the Soo Locks of which he was one of the first to use, as at first he hauled schooners overland around the Soo Rapids to sail Lake Superior.[8]


Early life[edit]

Roman Catholic Cathedral reconstructed of stone in Detroit 1821 after 1805 fire burned old church

Ward was born in Applegaths Mills, Waterloo County, in the Canadian province of Ontario, on December 25, 1811. He was one of four children. The eldest was Emily, who remained a spinster until her death, Sallie the second, Eber Brock the third, and Abbie the fourth. Ward was an American citizen. His parents had grown up in Vermont and soon after they were married they moved to Onondaga County, New York shortly before Ward's birth. Shortly thereafter they moved to Waterloo County, Ontario, not far from York (modern Toronto), unsuccessfully trying to avoid the pending War of 1812 in the United States.[4][9][10]

Ward's parents moved back to Vermont and their old homestead and stayed there for the next five years until he was about six years old.[11] The town they lived in was Wells, Vermont, near the city of Rutland.[10] In 1817 his parents started a move to Kentucky with the family.[12] While they were in Waterford, Pennsylvania his mother fell ill and died.[10] His father with the family then changed his plans of moving to Kentucky and went to Ohio instead.[12] Once in Ohio for only a short time his father decided to move to Detroit, which they reached by 1821 when Ward was nine to ten years old.[4][10][13] Detroit had been destroyed some sixteen years earlier and what Ward saw was a small town of 1,400 but the capital of the Michigan territory.[10]


Ward obtained a job as a cabin boy and deck hand on the Great Lakes when he was twelve or thirteen years old at Marine City, Michigan. This was on vessels that traveled to Mackinaw City and back. There were no vessels owned by any shippers in Detroit in the early 1820s. Samuel Ward, his uncle, was the leading shipbuilder of Marine City at the time. He noticed young Ward's high energy and enthusiasm for life and gave him a job in 1830 as a clerk in one of the warehouses of his shipbuilding firm. Ward came in contact with marine transactions this way and learned the industry.[4][10]

Ward worked hard and saved every amount of money he could. Eventually he invested in a vessel called the General Harrison as a twenty-five percent owner.[10] He became the Master of this vessel in 1835. He was successful as its operator but eventually became a partner with his uncle at Marine City.[10] He was successful at this interprise and continued this until 1850 when he moved to Detroit.[10] There he was involved in the ship building business and among the many steamers and sailing ships he built were the Artic, Atlantic, B. F. Wade, Detroit, General Harrison, Huron, Montgomery, Ocean, Pacific, Planet, Samuel Ward, The Caspian, The Champion, and The Pearl. [14] With his uncle he built a fleet of thirty steamships that transported supplies to various towns and cities around the Great Lakes.[5] In the mid-nineteenth century they were the largest shipowners on the Great Lakes.[15]


Starting around 1852 Ward acquired timber lands along the Pere Marquette River in Lake County, Michigan near the Ludington area. He held onto these lands until the timber had matured more. Ward was elected president of the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad Company in 1860.[13] Ward was the first to build rail tracks made out of Bessemer steel.[16]


Ward’s last venture was silver mining. He bought into a fourteen-acre island with other investors off the north shore of Lake Superior at Thunder Bay in 1870 containing the Silver Islet Mining Company. It turned out to contain a seventy-foot vein of high quality silver. The silver was so rich that in the first three weeks of mining Ward's mine extracted $100,000 worth of silver - which was more money than the Nevada Comstock Lode mine made per day.[3]


Ward carried on logging operations in Lake County through his agents and in the 1869 purchased a tract of land which consisting of 70,000 acres in the Fourth Ward of Ludington on Lake Pere Marquette which was accessible by the Pere Marquette River.[13] He then made plans to extend his railroad to Ludington to operate mills there, however James Ludington stalled the negotiatons to purchase mills in the Ludington area because he feared Ward would become too big and dominate the lumber industry in the area. Mr. Ludington favored the extending of the rail line to Ludington, however since he owned most of the sawmills in the area, he refused to sell any of them to Ward for any price. He was hoping then that since Ward would not have a sawmill in the area that he would be forced to sell some of his timer lands at a very economical depressed price. Ward never did sell off any of his timber lands of the area due to Mr. Ludington's actions.[17]

Ward had heard in Detroit, where his businesses were, that Mr. Ludington had cut down timber in his 70,000 acres he owned in Northern Michigan near the town of Ludington. He did nothing about it at the time. Eventually Mr. Ludington came to Detroit to do business. Ward had Mr. Ludington arrested for stealing his valuable timber. Mr. Ludington was thrown into the Wayne County jail. Ward then got a judgement against him for $650,000 for the theft and trespassing. Mr. Ludington then suffered a stroke. Eventually the company once owned by Mr. Ludington, the Pere Marquette Lumber Company, settled it with Ward in August 1869 with an amicable agreement.[18]

Ward built a sawmill out on Lake Pere Marquette in 1870 known as the "North" mill. It was built on fifty-five stone piers and was 50 feet by 130 feet in size. It was equipped with two circular mills and cutting edge technology. The cost of the mill was $60,000 and it had the capacity of 100,000 board feet per day. Ward purchased all the land between his mill and that of Messrs. Danaher and Melendy, which bordered on the Lake in the spring of 1871. During the summer months he built a warehouse that was 50 feet by 120 feet near his original mill. This was used for storing supplies and selling supplies to his employees. The next year Ward built another mill nearby which was called the "South" mill. This mill was considered the best sawmill in the United States.[13]

Steel Manufacturing[edit]

Eureka Iron & Steel Works 1860

Ward organized Eureka Iron and Steel Works in 1853 with a group of investors and they purchased "The Wyandotte" farm from John Biddle for $44,000 and built an iron and steel manufacturing factory. The site of this company located in Wyandotte, Michigan, was 2,200-acre (8.9 km2).[8] The factory was at an ideal location for the steel industry as iron ore from the Upper Peninsula and limestone from other parts of Michigan could easily be brought in economically through the Great Lakes down to Wyandotte through Lake Huron and up the Detroit River. Extensive beech forests were nearby to supply the charcoal needed to make steel. The Eureka furnace in 1864, with its huge steel making smelting apparatus, made the first commercial steel produced in the United States by the Bessemer process.[19] The first successful American experiments of making steel using the Bessemer conversion process in a furnace was through the Eureka Works company that Ward owned.[20]

Ward took great interest in the first experiments of the apparatus for the Bessemer process of making steel. The patent to the Bessemer process was granted in England in 1856 and in the United States in 1857 to William Kelly. In 1861 Ward and Zoheth S. Durfee of New Bedford, Massachusetts, obtained control of the patents of William Kelly, credited in Europe to Henry Bessemer. Kelly had previously successfully experimented with the pneumatic process at Eddyville, Kentucky, where he owned the Eddyville Iron Works, however went into bankruptcy caused by the panic of 1857. To pay off his debts he sold his rights to Ward and his investors.[5]

In 1861 Zoheth S. Durfee went to Europe to study the Bessemer process and to obtain the Bessemer patent rights. During his absence Ward invited William F. Durfee, a cousin of Z. S. Durfee and also of New Bedford, to erect an experimental blast furnace apparatus at Wyandotte, Michigan, for the manufacture of pneumatic steel using the Bessemer process. This experimenting took place in the latter half of 1862. In May 1863 the Kelly Pneumatic Process Company was organized by Ward with other investors with Kelly being one of the beneficiaries of profits made using the Bessemer process of making steel since he was the original patent holder. Kelly received thirty percent of the stock of the Kelly Pneumatic Process Company and Ward with his investors received the remainder seventy percent.[21]

To make the steel legally it was decided to acquire the Bessemer patent rights. Zoheth S. Durfee went to England to acquire the patent rights to the Bessemer process. He was unsuccessful at this but did observe several European steelmakers and managed to get the rights to Englishman Robert Mushet's patent use of spiegeleisen (manganese-rich pig iron) for better overall quality of steel produced this way. Meanwhile, William F. Durfee (engineer and architect), Robert Mushet, Thomas Clare and John Brown were brought in by Ward to make the procedure necessary to produce Bessemer steel, especially using spiegeleisen.[22] He succeeded in making Bessemer steel at the experimental works of the Kelly Pneumatic Process Company owned by Ward and his investors.[23] The first Bessemer steel made in the United States was at this factory in 1865.[20] In Henry Bessemer's autobiography he writes that the Bessemer process was first experimentally practised in the United States with a 3-ton converter, at the ironworks of Mr. E. B. Ward, at Wyandotte, near Detroit.[24]

Ward's Kelly Pneumatic Process Company merged with interests of a Bessemer factory of Troy, New York since an engineer there had acquired initially the Bessemer process rights for the United States. In 1866 the new formed company was called the Pneumatic Steel Association. The new formed company then licensed franchises to prospective Bessemer steelmakers who paid royalties to use the patented process for every ton of steel they made.[25] Ward created steel rails beginning in 1865 for his railroads using the Bessemer process. Detroit soon became a major center of steel production, especially for use in home heating stoves. Henry Ford of nearby Dearborn took advantage of this technology. With its capabilities to create large amounts of steel for his automobile assembly lines Ford produced his cars. Eureka Iron Works prospered through the late 19th century, but suffered a shortage of raw materials. It closed in 1892. Ward meanwhile had built another steelmill in Chicago called the Illinois Steel Company.[8] From this steelmill in 1865 Ward made the first Bessemer steel rails produced in the United States.[26]


Clara Ward, daughter of subject.

Ward married twice. His first wife was Maryell [27] and his second wife was Catherine.[28] He married Mary Margaret McQueen on July 24, 1837.[29] She is of Scottish descent and there is a lengthy McQueen genealogy at Rootsweb of her family history.[29] United States Federal Census 1850 shows his marriage to Mary (age 34) as having two children, Elizabeth (age 4) and Milton (age 2). There was also a son Henry (age 8), location then unknown. The Wards lived at 807 Fort Street in Detroit.[3]

United States Census 1860 shows his children then to be Henry (age 18), Elizabeth (age 13), Milton(age 12), Charles (age 10), Frederick (age 8), Mary (age 5).[27] Ward's wife (Maryell) divorced him in 1869 after six children on grounds of adultery. Two months later he married Catherine Lyon, Ohio Senator Benjamin Wade's niece. They had two children, Eber Jr. (b. 1870) and Clara (b. 1873) - a.k.a. Princesse de Caraman-Chimay.[3]

Ward’s children by both of his wives had many personal problems. Charles, Ward's fourth child and third son by his first wife Mary, was considered "deranged and eccentric" and went bankrupt. Ward's first-born child by his first wife was his son Henry, insane from 15, was committed to the Michigan State Hospital and wasn't recorded in the 1850 census where the Wards was living, even though he was their first child. Frederick, Ward's fourth son, committed suicide. Elizabeth was considered as mentally incompetent. His youngest child by his first wife, Mary E. Ward, was considered "eccentric."[3]

Ward's two children by his second wife also had problems. Clara married Marie Joseph Anatole Pierre Alphonse de Riquet, Prince de Caraman-Chimay in 1890 and became Princesse de Caraman-Chimay, officially a genuine European princess. She, however, later run off with a Hungarian gypsy and left her husband causing quite a scandal. Eber Jr.’s wife, Victorine, divorced him in 1900. She said he was too much captivated with his stepdaughter, her daughter from a previous marriage, Blanche Herault.[3]


Ward's Detroit home on W. Fort St

Ward died January 2, 1875. At the time of his death he was a multi-millionaire. He owned about two million dollars' worth of real estate and about $500,000 in a shipping fleet.[30] Additionally he owned about a million dollars worth' of stock in the Chicago Rolling Mill company and about half a million dollars' worth of stock of the Milwaukee Rolling Mill company which contributed much to his wealth.[13] He also had about a half a million in the Wyandotte Rolling Mill. At the time of his death it was uncertain what he was worth.[10]

Ward's immense wealth and business interests were so large at the time of his death that it is said that hardly any town of any importance in the Midwest was not affected by his death. His capital was so large and vast that it took several different accountings to figure it out. His businesses extended through several States reaching from Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. His businesses were chiefly invested in iron, silver and copper mines, pine lands, sawmills, in rolling mills, silver smelting works, railroads, farming lands, and glass works. Ward was nominally the wealthiest man in the whole Midwest at the time of his death. His capital was estimated anywhere from about $7,000,000 to about $22,000.000. Realistically about $10,000,000 was all that was obtained from his estate when it was ultimately cashed out. It was not enough to cover all the liabilities Ward entailed.[31]

At the time of his death he left five adult children by his first wife and two children (a boy, 5 years old, and a girl, 2 years old) by his second wife.[10] He wrote up a last will and testament six months prior to his death.[10] He last lived at West Fort Street and 19th Ave in Detroit. Ward is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.[32]


  1. ^ a b c d Carlisle, p. 242
  2. ^ rootsweb file
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Eber Brock Ward, Midwest captain of industry
  4. ^ a b c d White, p. 125
  5. ^ a b c Hillstrom, p. 76
  6. ^ A Detroit Time Line
  7. ^ Woodford, p. 80
  8. ^ a b c Catlin, p. 497
  9. ^ Leake, p. 1234
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Detroit News - E. B. Ward obituary January 2, 1875, published by The New York Times January 5, 1875.
  11. ^ Tuttle, p. 157
  12. ^ a b Tuttle, p. 158
  13. ^ a b c d e Page, pp. 50, 51
  14. ^ Woodford, p. 79
  15. ^ Lamar, p. 464
  16. ^ Encyclopedia of Chicago - Iron and Steel
  17. ^ Cabot, p. 16
  18. ^ Cabot, p. 17
  19. ^ Woodford, p. 80 It was in the Eureka furnace in 1864 that the first commercial steel was produced in the United States by the Bessemer process.
  20. ^ a b America's First Bessemer Steel Mill
  21. ^ William Kelly Biography
  22. ^ Fricke, p. 221
  23. ^ Sauveur, pp. 134-38
  24. ^ Bessemer, chapter 21, The Bessemer process was first experimentally practised in this country with a 3-ton converter, at the ironworks of Mr. E. B. Ward, at Wyandotte, near Detroit, under the superintendence of Mr. L. M. Hart, who had learned the Bessemer process at the works of Messrs. Jackson, in France. . . .
  25. ^ Hillstrom, p. 77
  26. ^ Catlin, p. 498
  27. ^ a b 1860 United States Federal Census, Detroit Ward 9, Wayne, Michigan
  28. ^ 1870 United States Federal Census, Detroit Ward 9, Wayne, Michigan
  29. ^ a b Descendants of Peter Mc Queen
  30. ^ Tuttle, p. 159
  31. ^ Western Historical Company, p. 310
  32. ^ Elmwood Cemetery - E.B. Ward biography


  • Bessemer, Henry, Sir Henry Bessemer, F.R.S, an autobiography with a concluding chapter, ca. 1850
  • Cabot, James L. Ludington 1830-1930, Arcadia Publishing 2005, ISBN 0-7385-3951-1
  • Carlisle, Frederick, Chronography of notable events in the history of the Northwest territory and Wayne County, O.S. Gulley, Borman & Co., Printers, 1890
  • Catlin, George B., Librarian of The Detroit News, The story of Detroit, The Detroit News, 1923
  • Fricke, Ernest B., Encyclopedia of American Business History and Biography, Iron and Steel in the Nineteenth Century, The Kelly Pneumatic Process Company and the Steel Patents Company,Bruccoli Clark Layman, Inc., 1989, ISBN 0-8160-1890-1
  • Hillstrom, The industrial revolution in America, Volume 8, ABC-CLIO, 2007, ISBN 1-85109-620-5
  • Lamar, Howard R., The Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1977, ISBN 0-690-00008-1
  • Leake, Paul, History of DETROIT, Lewis Publishing Company 1912
  • White, James T., The National Cyclopedia of American biography, J. F. Tapley Co. 1906
  • Page, H. R., History of Mason, Oceania, and Manistee Counties, Michigan, 1882
  • Tuttle, Charles Richard, General History of the state of Michigan with biographical sketches, R. D. S. Tyler & Co., Detroit Free Press Company, 1873
  • Western Historical Company, History of St. Clair County, Michigan: containing an account of its settlement, growth, development and resources, its war record, biographical sketches, the whole preceded by a history of Michigan, A.T. Andreas & Company, 1883
  • Woodford, Arthur M., This is Detroit, 1701-2001, Wayne State University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8143-2914-4

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