John McKee Ward

Photo added by Dianne McGregor Taylor

John McKee Ward

Pennsylvania, USA
Death 16 Feb 1920 (aged 87)
Livermore, Alameda County, California, USA
Burial Oroville, Butte County, California, USA
Memorial ID 45841275 · View Source
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John's brother Alvah is buried in Phoenix. John was married to Amanda around 1865.

HON. JOHN McKEE WARD - A man who from personal experience can tell the thrilling adventures and the romance of the range, and who through his extensive banking operations in Arizona knows the ins and outs of financing a country while in its development, is the Hon. John McKee Ward, who was born near Orangeville, on the Mahoning River, in Pennsylvania, June 10, 1832, and came to California two years after the admission of this state to the Union. His father was James R. Ward, a farmer, who was born in Chenango County, N.Y., and his mother was Mary McKee before her marriage. Both parents died in Pennsylvania. Six children (five boys and one girl) grew up, but only one is living--the fourth eldest and the subject of our sketch. A brother, James, was in a Pennsylvania Regiment in the Civil War, and afterward came to California. Two others, Alva A. and Charles, came to west Colorado, but both are dead.

Brought up on a farm, John Ward attended the public school of his neighborhood, and when his father died while he was only sixteen years old, he bought fifty acres of land and set to work to improve it. He had to toil day and night to master the task, and the fact of the matter is that the task mastered him, unless one takes a philosophic view of the situation and finds in his temporary difficulty the beginning of his success. The work of clearing the ground covered with stumps and stones proved so great that, at the end of four years, when he had cut a big linwood tree, he threw the axe on the stump and said that was the last lick he would hit on that farm, after which he said goodbye to Mercer County and left for the West.

He started for Missouri, but by the time he reached the Middle West, he took the California fever and joined a company then fitting out at St. Joe. The emigrants had plenty of horse and ox-teams, and John drove a yoke of oxen, or a half dozen of them, part of the way, and also had a mule and a horse at his disposal, both of which he sold when he reached California. As has been said, this trip, on which John came through all right, was made in 1852, but the party had its share of adventures. On the Humboldt River, the Indians had stolen some of the cattle, and John and a man named Jackson Hart started after them. Arriving at the Humboldt, they found that some of the cattle had been killed. These he rolled over into the river. The Indians proved again very numerous, and the young fellows started to get away. Hart went to the left into the bushes, and there lost his horse and provisions, and was left in a sad plight, but Ward had a good horse and started to the left up over the mountains and so attained the level. It was too dark, however, to find his way down the other side, and he picketed his horse and lay down as best he could to sleep. In the morning he found the camp about eight miles away. On his arrival he immediately sent a relief party to Hart, which rescued him and saved his life. In later years Hart lived near Visalia.

After a trip of four and a half months the party arrived in California, reaching Hangtown, now Placerville, about November 1. There Mr. Ward remained two or three months, and in the fall of 1852 pushed on to Colusa County, and wintered near the Stone Corral. There he engaged in stock-raising and cattle-raising on unsurveyed government land, with wild horses everywhere about; but primitive as were the conditions, and considerable as were the hardships, the experience proved of the greatest possible value in developing the young man, who was destined, in turn, to help develop the country, with which he was casting his lot.

About 1859, Mr. Ward came to Butte County, and established headquarters near Central House. He sold beef cattle to Benedict and McGee, and sold them cattle for their meat market in Oroville. He continued at Central House, riding about and buying up cattle, and established meat markets in mining camps. He had eight shops, and he furnished meat to others. His own butcher shops were in Whiskey Diggings, Onion Valley, Poor Man's Creek, Saw Pitt Flat, Gibsonville, Allen Flat, Port Wine, St. Louis, and La Porte. He bought most of his stock in Colusa, what is now Glenn County; also much in Butte and Tehama counties. He purchased a good deal of old John Boggs, who delivered to him thousands of cattle, and their dealings lasted many years. He also bought in Honey Lake Valley and Modoc County. He drove the cattle over the mountains to mining camps in this vicinity; and when the camps went down he quit and started stock-raising.

He made a trip to Oregon with his family, and while there bought thirteen hundred head of cattle, which he gradually brought through to California. He also engaged in cattle-raising on the Humboldt River, in Nevada, about fifteen miles from Winnemucca, raising hay for several years as well as cattle, and finally selling out. His brother, Alva, had also been in the stock business in Nevada, and when they sold their interests they went to Arizona and together embarked in the cattle trade there.

In Maricopa County, Ariz., they bought the Sunflower Ranch near Tonto Basin, and there they raised thousands of cattle. This partnership lasted until Mr. Ward's brother died, when he continued to manage the business alone. At one time he had six thousand or more head, and on another occasion sold two thousand five hundred at one time, delivering them, with seventy head of saddle horses, at El Paso, Texas.

Largely as a result of these extensive operations in live-stock, Mr. Ward became interested from its inception in the National Bank of Arizona at Phoenix, and since then has continued a stockholder until now he is the second largest stockholder in that flourishing institution. He was in the cattle business in Arizona from 1874 until 1906, and yet all this time he was in the stock-raising business in Butte County, and made his residence in Oroville.

There, too, on September 22, 1863, he was married, the gracious lady being Miss Amanda G. Helms, a native of Enterprise, McDonald County, Mo., and the daughter of Houston and Elizabeth (Lane) Helms, natives of Indiana and Tennessee respectively. In 1857, Mr. Helms brought his family by ox-teams across the plains to California, and for three years settled in Yuba County; and in 1860 he came to Butte County where he was a farmer at Central House. For many years he, too, was in the stock business, and he came to have extensive dealings with Mr. Ward. He died May 3, 1917, in his ninety-third year, his good wife having died in 1914. Three children--two girls and a boy--were born to this pioneer couple, and Mrs. Ward was the oldest, having been in her tenth year when she crossed the plains. She went to school in 1857 at Central House, and after she was married she and her husband established a home in Oroville, and for forty-five years his headquarters have been maintained at the corner of Oak and High Streets, where he built a new house. Mr. Ward's ranch starts at the edge of the town at the southeast, and continues for several miles, and it contains about four thousand acres, all nicely fenced in and well watered from springs and creeks. There stock and hay are raised, the Shorthorn and other high-grade stock predominating. He also has a ranch of three hundred sixteen acres across the river on the Chico road. It is excellent plow land, and is devoted to the raising of hay, for young stock, cows and calves. Two large barns take care of the harvest. He also has good saddle horses.

Mr. Ward was one of the organizers of the Bank of Oroville, was a director, and its first president until he had to be absent in Arizona for some time, when he resigned. After twenty-five years, on the conversion of the bank to the First National Bank, he was made a director, and in that capacity he has served both this bank and the Savings Bank of Oroville ever since. He has also had some experience as a public official, serving this district as supervisor for six years, during most of which period he was chairman of the board. He is by party preference a Republican, and was a member of the state legislature in 1885.

Five children have blessed the union of Mr. and Mrs. Ward; Houston C., in Phoenix, Ariz.; Minnie G., Mrs. Hulme, resides at San Francisco; George, who lives on the ranch; and the twins, Estelle, Mrs. Tyler, and Alvah, Mrs. Perry, who lives at Oroville, the latter having two children, Estelle and Sylvia Perry. On September 22, 1913, Mr. and Mrs. Ward celebrated their golden wedding. All the children and grandchildren and many friends were present. Mr. Ward was bereaved of his faithful wife on June 25, 1917. She was much esteemed and loved by all. Transcribed by Sande Beach. Source: "History of Butte County, Cal.," by George C. Mansfield, Pages 467-469, Historic Record Co, Los Angeles, CA, 1918.

Family Members




Gravesite Details father; next to Amanda Ward

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  • Created by: Shelane
  • Added: 27 Dec 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 45841275
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John McKee Ward (10 Jun 1832–16 Feb 1920), Find A Grave Memorial no. 45841275, citing Old Oroville Cemetery, Oroville, Butte County, California, USA ; Maintained by Shelane (contributor 47218030) .