1854: John Ward to Abby Maria (Hall) Ward

John’s older brother, William Green Ward, Jr. (1832-1901)

This letter was written by John Ward (1838-1896), the son of William Greene Ward (1802-1848) and Abby Maria Hall (1802-1887) of New York City. John graduated from Columbia College in 1858 and at the Columbia College Law School in 1860. He also received at Doctor of Medicine degree at University Medical College in 1864. During the American Civil War he served as a captain in the 12th New York Militia in 1861 and 1862. He was taken prisoner at Harper’s Ferry in September 1862 but exchanged in January 1863. After the war he was elected Colonel of the 12th New York Militia — the same regiment commanded by his brother William G. Ward during the war.

John Ward never married but worked as a lawyer in New York City and was a published author and poet.

The letter contains a great description of travels on Lake Michigan during the early 1850’s including Milwaukie and Mackinaw Island.


Addressed to Mrs. A. M. Ward, Messrs. Ward & Co., New York
Postmarked Chicago, Illinois

July 9th 1854
Steamboat Troy

Dear darling precious Mother,

There you are at the Old Grange enjoying the flowers and fruits, and here we are clear away up at Mackinaw, not staying there, but just stopping for a few hours. We left Chicago on Friday evening. The boat was advertised to leave at seven but we did not get away until long after that time. It was a great relief to get out on the beautiful lake after spending several days in hot Chicago. Oh wasn’t it hot!

The cause of our detention I related in my letter to Pressy. ¹ We stopped yesterday at Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Fort Washington, etc. Milwaukie is a very pretty place situated on a bend of the lake forming a sort of bay. A good many of the houses are built of the brick called Milwaukee. It is yellow and prettier than our staring red. The lake heaves in such a manner that they are obliged to build very long piers so that it is quite a little walk to the shore.

We stopped today early in the morning at one of the Manitou Islands. They are two in number and very pretty at a distance though very sandy and barren when you approach them. We also passed Fox and Beaver Islands. Charlie ² made a couple of sketches.

We arrived here about six o’clock and after tea, walked around the island. It is not very pretty of itself, but the views of the lake are lovely. We missed the exact path while returning and had to climb a very high stockade forming a part of the fort. We expect to reach the Sault Ste. Marie tomorrow evening but have not quite decided about seeing Lake Superior or not. I wrote to Pressy from Chicago on Thursday. I have got both series of fern leaves and we are both charmed with it. It seems to be written from the heart without any affectation. Please to write and tell them all to write frightfully long letters to Toronto. I hope to find crowds awaiting our arrival. Love to all. Your own affectionate son, — Johnny

If you do not hear by telegraph from us at Toronto. Dear mother, you are to imagine we have gone on Lake Superior. A telegraph from Toronto ought to reach you as soon as this — or within a day after.

¹ Pressy was presumably John’s younger brother, Prescott Hall Ward (1841-1870).

² John does not state who his traveling companion (“Charley”) was but I presume it was his older brother, Charles Henry Ward (1833-1905).





Griff View All →

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries.

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