Yesterday's remarkable discovery and detective work has yielded one of the most interesting site articles you're ever going to read here. If you haven't read yesterdays article on the "rediscovery" of Zael Ward (1791-1864), I urge you to do so immediately!
I'll begin with a "condensed" version of yesterday's happenings. I had been doing research on a Michigan politician and businessman named Worthy Lovell Churchill (1840-1913) when I discovered a work entitled St. Clair County, Michigan: Its History and its People, written and published by William Lee Jenks in 1912. In this particular book was a roster of men native to the St. Clair County area who had served in the Michigan State House of Representatives from 1835 to the time of the book's publishing. As I perused this list looking for odd names one of them jumped out at me......Zael Ward. The list in question is shown below.
When I first saw this unusual name it struck a chord with me as if I had seen it before. After some quick thinking, I remembered where I'd seen the name.....Andrew Young's 1875 work The History of Chautauqua County. In said work was a list of Supervisors of the town of Harmony (located in Chautauqua County) and on this list is the name of Zael Ward, who served as supervisor from 1835-36. Another list shows Ward's name in regards to a meeting of the Chautauqua County Board of Supervisors in November 1835 (posted below). For comparison to the above blurb (mentioning his legislative service), one only need look at this to see that the names are indeed the same!
After making this astonishing local history discovery, I felt confident enough in my research to conclude that the Zael Ward who had been a Chautauqua County resident in the 1820s and 30s was indeed the same man who went on to serve in the Michigan legislature twenty some odd years later. However, I was now faced with a question......whatever became of this man? A few Google searches later told the whole story, which I will now relate to you, and there are a variety of twists and turns along the way! And in case you may be wondering, there is no proper biography available on Zael Ward. There are only bits and pieces of information scattered about in various histories on St. Clair County as well as Chautauqua, which made researching him a bit more difficult! I also had to contend with the rather inconsistent spelling of his first name, which is shown to have been spelled as "Zael", "Zale", "Zeal" and "Zuel".
Research has shown that Zael Ward was born in Vermont on April 7, 1791, the son of the Rev. David Ward (1761-1822) and his wife Abigail Pray Ward (1755-1817). Virtually nothing could be found on Ward's early life in Vermont or his education/schooling. It is known that Zael was the sixth child in a family of ten children, who are listed as follows: Submit (1780-1856), Eber (1782-1855), Samuel (1784-1854), Nathan (1786-1868), Keziah (1789-1864), Zael (1791-1864), Rhoda (1793-1864), John Pray (1795-1816), Charlotte (1797-1863) and David (1799-1889).
It is unknown when Zael left Vermont, but it is assumed that it was after his marriage to Susan Page, which occurred on April 26, 1812. Zael and his wife also had a large family (which also consisted of ten children) and are listed by order of birth: Phebe (born in 1813), Rhoda (1814-1909), Susan (1817-1905), Submit (died aged 9 months in 1819), Submit (1819-1902), Samuel (born 1821), Eber (born in 1823), Mary Jane (born in 1826), Zael Jr. (1827-1850) and David William (1833-1854). Zael and his large family eventually resettled in Keene Valley, located in Essex County New York and it was here that he purchased a farm located next to his brother Nathan's homestead. Most of the information thus given on Zael and his family was discovered in the Autobiography of David Ward (Zael's nephew) published in 1893, and it stands as the best available source on Zael's life and exploits. An important passage from the book (it gives a note on his removal to Chautauqua) is posted below.
Zael Ward's stay in Chautauqua County was quite short, as he and his family (with the exception of his daughter Rhoda) removed to Newport/Marine City, Michigan in "the spring of 1837." Zael's brother Samuel had emigrated to Michigan some years previously and was the founder of the aforementioned town. Samuel's brothers Eber and Nathan also relocated here during the 1820s and 30s.
Within a few years of his resettlement, Zael Ward's name became a prominent one in the St. Clair County area, and it's truly amazing how quickly this Chautauqua County resident built up his reputation in his new home state! From 1838-1840 he served as a St. Clair County commissioner and in 1842 he became a founder (and later a trustee) of the first Congregational society in Marine City. In the latter year, Ward was elected as Justice of the Peace, serving a one year term. A genealogical website mentioning the Ward family also lists Zael as being involved in shipping interests in Newport/Marine City, stating "Zael Ward also owned ships and served as captain". Sadly no other source elaborates on his involvement in the local shipping trade.
Throughout the 1840s and 50s, Zael's public profile in Michigan continued to rise and in November 1854 he was elected by the citizens of St. Clair County (or to be more precise Belle Springs) to a seat in the Michigan State House of Representatives. The History of St. Clair County gives note that Ward defeated his Democratic opponent (Alexander Gilchrist) by a vote of 553 to 347 and took his seat in January of 1855. The tally of that election is shown below.
During his legislative service (which concluded in 1856) Ward served on the Committees of Agriculture and Manufactures, and is listed in the 1855 Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Michigan as presenting "three petitions, of the inhabitants of Clay, Ira and Cottrellville, in the county of St. Clair, asking alteration of boundaries."
Very little could be found on Zael Ward's life following his service in state government. Both David Ward's Autobiography and the History of St. Clair County note that Zael moved back to Chautauqua County at some point in early 1864 and died here on July 21, 1864. It was also found that he was buried in the Blockville Union Burying Ground in Blockville, New York!!!!
All in all, it is truly fascinating that this obscure man with an incredibly interesting life story is buried right here in Chautauqua County! I'm willing to bet that absolutely no one residing here realized that we had an oddly named Michigan legislator and shipping captain buried in the tiny settlement of Blockville, and it only goes to show that there is still exciting local history to be found in this day in age......all we need to do is read, research and look!
Yesterday I made a sojourn out to Blockville to photograph Zael Ward's gravesite. After some intensive searching his stone was discovered towards the front of this fairly small cemetery.....and now for some photos from the trip!
The Blockville cemetery has some very early graves located within its borders (the earliest I could find dated from 1833) and there are even one or two Revolutionary War veterans buried here!
The writing at the bottom of Zael Ward's stone really isn't decipherable, and his date of birth and death are April 7, 1791, and July 21, 1864. There are a few sources out there that list his death year as 1861 but these are incorrect. I've also seen the date of April 6 listed as his birthday but this has also proven to be the incorrect date.
You'll also notice that Zael's gravestone is quite nondescript, and gives no indication to the interesting life and exploits of the man buried beneath it!
Zael's wife Susan is buried next to him, and her stone isn't in the greatest condition. Susan survived Zael by nine years, dying on September 11, 1873, at age 82. It is unknown whether she died in Michigan or in Chautauqua County, but I presume that she joined her husband in Chautauqua when he relocated here in 1864. Next to Zael and Susan's stones are the markers for their daughter Rhoda, who died in Blockville in 1909 at age 94. She is buried next to her husband (the wonderfully named Sardius Steward) who served as township supervisor of Harmony from 1858 to 1860.
So there you have it!! Even more obscure Chautauqua County history that you didn't know about!