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Photo Credit: W. A. Smith


The town of Ward, West Virginia, was once a bustling coal mining community in eastern Kanawha County. Ward was home to the employees and families of the Kelly's Creek Colliery Company, later known as the Valley Camp Coal Company. The coal company leased the land for their mining operations, but built and owned the houses and rented them to the coal miners and their families so that they could live near the mines. The coal company also built a company store, movie theater, clubhouse, and other community establishments. Coal camps were once very common in West Virginia. Like most coal camps, Ward was once a community filled with people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, and religions. Many of the headstones and monuments in Ward Cemetery are reflective of these diverse cultures.

According to the records held in the office of the West Virginia Secretary of State, Kelly's Creek Colliery Company was incorporated by J. W. Dawson and G. E. Price on May 9, 1903. The Black Diamond, a coal trade periodical once published by the National Coal Exchange in Chicago, Illinois, reported in Volume 32, Number 21, dated May 21, 1904, that the town of Ward was built by the Kelly's Creek Colliery Company in four months. The colliery was later purchased by the Cleveland, Ohio, based Valley Camp Coal Company in April, 1917, but for many years the mines continued to operate under the name of Kelly's Creek Colliery Company.  

The coal company leased the land for their Ward mining operations from the landowner, Dr. David Ward, and his heirs. Therefore, the town was presumably named for the Ward family who owned the property. In the early years, Dr. Ward's son, Charles Willis Ward served as vice president of Kelly's Creek Colliery. Dr. David Ward was a medical doctor and a surveyor and became known as one of the great lumber barons of the West. Dr. Ward was born in Keene, New York, on September 15, 1822, to Nathan and Charlotte Beech Ward. He and his family moved to Michigan in 1836. During his lifetime, he acquired extensive redwood and pine lands in California, Michigan, and Vancouver, and substantial coal lands in West Virginia. In the 1880's, one of his major purchases in the Kanawha Valley was for land along the northwest side of Kelly's Creek in eastern Kanawha County. Dr. Ward continued to purchase land in the Kanawha Valley until he owned many of the rich coal fields surrounding Kelly's Creek and Hughes Creek. Dr. Ward describes his Kelly's Creek land purchases in detail in his autobiography.

In the Autobiography of David Ward, published in 1912, Dr. Ward states, " In the Spring of 1881 I went up Cabin and Winifred Creeks, small branches of the Kanawha river with Wm. T. Thayer to examine some coal and timber land. In June of the same year I devoted some three weeks to making a coal-land trade on Kelley's Creek, in Kanawha County, West Virginia, with J. G. W. and H. P. Thompkins to no purpose. ... At this time I purchased my C. C. Lewis coal land tract on Kelley's Creek. In the fall of the same year, through the assistance of O. A. and W. T. Thayer, and William A. Quarrier,

I purchased what is called the Walker Coal Property, with some adjoining properties on Hugh's Creek, and many small pieces of land bordering in their rear on the Walker property, and fronting on the Kanawha River.

In the summer of 1882, Messrs. Quarrier, with the assistance of the Thayers, purchased for me, from J. G. W. and H. P. Thompkins, nearly fourteen hundred acres of mostly coal land, situated on Kelley's Creek, including a sixty foot wide strip of land for railroad tracks to the Kanawha River, and four acres of land, and some two thousand feet of moorage bordering on said river. In the following winter I purchased some three hundred acres more of coal land located in the midst of and near the front of the Walker tract. Lately I have purchased some eight acres from one Smith, lying on the opposite side of the Kanawha River from the Walker coal property, which adjoins and extend above Dego for moorage purposes. All the tracts above mentioned on Kelley's and Hugh's Creeks, and bounded in part in front by Kanawha River, aggregate some eight thousand acres, costing me some two hundred and fifty thousand dollars."


The Ward family legacy continues today, and the David Ward Estate and the Ward heirs still own land on Kelly's Creek including approximately three thousand acres surrounding Ward Cemetery.



There are those that believe that the town of Ward was named for Walter Warder Hudnall, one of the early settlers of the Kelly's Creek area. Walter Warder "Ward" Hudnall was born near Mays Lick, Kentucky, and was the son of Benjamin and Nancy Riley Hudnall. When "Ward" was a small boy, his family moved to the Paint Creek area of Kanawha County where he spent his childhood years. On August 28, 1835, he married Cynthia Hudnall, and according to family, shortly thereafter he settled on Kelly's Creek near the mouth of Big Hollow and lived there until his death in 1911. Following the traditional naming conventions of the time, we find that many towns and geographical features were named after first settlers, wealthy landowners, and business operators using that person's surname as the name of the town or geographical feature. A few examples are Kelly's Creek, named for early settler Walter Kelly; Hughes Creek, named after Robert Hughes, a local pioneer who was kidnapped by Indians; Shrewsbury, WV, named for early settler Samuel Shrewsbury; Montgomery, WV, named for early settler James C. Montgomery; Marmet, WV, named for the proprietors of the Marmet Coal Company, Edwin and William Marmet; and Pratt, WV, named for Charles Pratt, proprietor of the Charles Pratt Coal Company. Following traditional naming patterns, if the town was named for Walter Warder "Ward" Hudnall, it is probable that the town would have been named Hudnall, WV, instead of Ward, WV. Most historians agree that the town of Ward, WV, was more than likely named for wealthy landowner, Dr. David Ward, and the story of Walter Warder Hudnall, although interesting, appears to be an urban legend.


The Black Diamond, a coal trade periodical once published by the National Coal Exchange in Chicago, Illinois, reported in Volume 32, Number 21, dated May 21, 1904, that the town of Ward was built by the Kelly's Creek Colliery Company in four months. Pictured is Charles Willis Ward, Vice President of the Kelly's Creek Colliery Company, and son of Dr. David Ward.


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