Cumberland Times-News

Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum

July 17, 2008

Ward and his mansion stand proud in 'Burg

I've had questions recently - not for the first time! - about William Ward and the house he built at 73 W. Main St. here in Frostburg.

The house has been vacant for a number of years and looked for a while as though it had been abandoned. But it has now been painted white, and work has been carried on inside, reminding us that it was once one of the town's showplaces, the Ward Mansion.

William Ward, who built it, was born near Frostburg in 1812, the son of another William who came to Allegany County ca. 1790 as overseer of the extensive properties of Normand Bruce.

As sheriff of Frederick County, Bruce was in charge of what are now Washington and Allegany and Garrett counties. He was also heir to Walnut Level, the 300-plus acre tract now known as Prichard Farm and first cousin to Francis Scott Key. William Ward Sr. occupied a position of considerable responsibility and important connections.

He also qualified for 15 minutes of fame by building one of the first railroads, a quarter-mile of wooden rails, with four-footed motive power, to carry coal out of a small mine on his property.

Young William was involved with hauling coal to Cumberland by the time he was 15. He was in his early 20s when, along with his brother, he bought the Swan Mill Tract that we know as Borden Shaft.

In addition to a mine, the brothers acquired a grist mill, to which they added a sawmill and perhaps a brick-making operation. Supposedly the Frost Mansion, a few years later, was built of Ward bricks.

The various enterprises prospered. William Ward called himself a farmer. He sold the mineral rights on his property to the Borden Mining Company, although he collected dividends on the stock he continued to hold. By the standards of the day, he was a very wealthy man when he built his 14-room mansion on Frostburg's Main Street.

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Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum
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