Written by Ruth Nicholson UE. This history was written as part of an application for a War of 1812 veteran plaque which was installed in the Wardsville Cemetery, March 5, 2017. Ruth prepared this history on behalf of Mrs. Sharon McDonald, Harrow ON, descendant of George Ward, her 3rd Great Grandfather.
George Ward was born in Ireland in 1743 and as a young man he joined the British 58th Regiment of Foot, which was first formed in 1755 during the Seven Years war (1754-1763). He basically spent his entire adult life in service for the British. He served in many cities in Ireland, went to Quebec in 1776 and fought successfully at Three Rivers.
Following that battle he became a sergeant over a company of the best marksmen from each of the 9th, 20th, 21st, 24th, 34th, 53rd and 62nd regiments. This company was ordered to Ticonderoga, where they beat the enemy at an outpost but were defeated later and taken as prisoners to Prospect Hill, near Boston. His great uncle was a Rebel general and as such offered George a position on his side but George declined and was later taken to Rutland where he along with 17 corporals and a drummer boy escaped. They headed for the British safe haven of New York.
When in New York, Sir Henry Clinton allowed these men to join the regiment of their choice. George Ward joined the Volunteers of Ireland and he was appointed as drill sergeant and soon became Sergeant Major. This company captured Charleston, South Carolina. For his conduct at the battle of Camden, August 16th, 1780 George Ward was given a medal for bravery.
After the peace, George was discharged as a Sergeant Major, ordered to Ireland and offered a pension that he rejected. He then enlisted 24 young men and took them to England at his own expense. The unit marched to Scotland to meet up with the 24th. Hoping for a good position, George was simply made a drill sergeant. After two years he returned to Ireland, where he served again and then was sent back to Quebec. He did a tour of Detroit and Governor Simcoe appointed him to command a block house on the Thames River as well as four gun boats.
Following this appointment he was called to Detroit to be a Lieutenant in the 24th Regiment. That position was short lived as Lord Dorchester ordered Colonel England to have Ward put on a pension. Colonel England took Ward’s discharge with him to London but Colonel England and the ship, Lady, was taken by the French so that ended the pension action for Ward.
After the Battle of the Thames, October 5, 1813, the enemy burnt Ward’s house down and scattered his family to the woods. Earlier the government of Upper Canada had invited George to establish a public house (halfway tavern/inn) here so it was more than a mere home. When the enemy saw Ward, they captured him, put a rope around his neck and threatened him with hanging.
Late February 1814 the Company of Kent Volunteers was ordered to Camden and though George considered himself to be on parole, he joined the Kent Volunteers due to the violence and damage he had personally experienced from the Americans. They had taken control of his home, damaged his property, cut down 88 apple trees and driven him and his family from their home, at night. He also took along James Moody, whom the Americans had in irons in Detroit, but James had escaped and George had been protecting him in the woods, for five weeks. They both joined the Kent Volunteer militia.
Shortly after joining the Volunteers, George Ward found a favourable place to retaliate against the Americans but the Captain ordered a retreat. The Kent Volunteers reached Delaware the next day and remained there until March 4th. George stayed with part of the company on the south side of the Thames River whereas the Captain was on the north side with the rest of the company, facing each other. George Ward crossed the Thames to talk to Captain Andrew Stewart and to ask leave to visit his family.
Stewart told him there were no Americans closer than Detroit, but he was wrong. Meanwhile the Volunteers were marching back from Delaware and in scattered groupings of two to five at 8 a.m. George asked if he could ride ahead and wait for them to assemble as a group, on his way home. By the time his conversation was over with Captain Stewart, the Volunteers were out of sight. George didn’t see where they went when suddenly he was surrounded by Americans and they took him to their commanding officer, who questioned him concerning The Royals 69th.
George Ward had picked up and hidden a British howitzer that was left behind after the Battle of the Thames, October 5, 1813. The Americans stripped Ward to his shirt and upon seeing a concealed sword, insisted that he knew something. He told them he could tell them nothing but they could send out their own advance party and scout for themselves. The commanding officer of the Americans allowed George to go home but it was late and he couldn’t get all the way home.
George got as far as Big Bend and there he met Thomas Matthews so he told him that he’d give him a horse, bridle and saddle if he’d ride through the woods and tell Captain Stewart the location and numbers of Americans close by. Matthews refused and then George asked him if he was an American and indeed that was the case. Later George Ward accused Thomas Mathews and his neighbour, James Edwards of being traitors.
Since George was not with the rest of the company, due to having been taken into custody by the Americans, some men in higher authority such as William Caldwell, Jaques Baby and Dr. Robert Richardson accused George of being a traitor. George Ward always felt they were jealous of his land. Apparently Caldwell saw George leave the American encampment site and this made him suspicious of Ward’s loyalty.
Though the treason charge was never formally made, George Ward traveled to Amherstburg to defend himself numerous times, attempting to regain his pension. He had been imprisoned seven months in Detroit by the Americans and had been nearly hung by them, his house had been burnt down and his grain and possessions stolen, yet George Ward was never able to get a pension for his time served or to get his name completely cleared.
George Ward had numerous local people write supporting affidavits that were presented between 1819 and 1825 to The Court of Inquire that was established to investigate charges against him. In his final plea, in 1825, to Major General Pergrine Maitland, Commanding Officer of His Majesty’s Forces in Upper Canada, George explained that he was deceived by Dr. Richardson.
George Ward had 23 loyal men and four American field officers attest to his loyalty to the Crown. George requested a court martial but was never given one, despite writing letters late into the 1820’s. George Ward was 70 years old when the matter went to the Supreme Court and no verdict was rendered. George Ward stated that he had served loyally for 34 years.
George Ward lived another twelve years, a long life, that of 84 years of age. Those who knew him well knew he was a man of courage and loyalty. The town of Wardsville was named for him, not far from the famous Battle of the Thames and the Battle of the Longwoods.
Author and historian Glenn Stott states: “George Ward was a hardworking, honest, sincere citizen, who was definitely pro-British. He was a victim of slander which was never proven.”
https://longwoodsbarnquilts.ca/wardsville-barn-quilt-trail/ See fabric quilt to honour George and Margaret Ward, founders of Wardsville. Each square became a barn quilt in the area.
https://wardsvillebarnquilts.wordpress.com/ Actual barn quilt trail also showing cemetery location.
Ward, George, Dominion Archives, reel C2783, RG8 Vol. C 205, p 163-168, December 28, 1829, Paint Creek, Long Wood, Upper Canada
Stott, Glenn, Greater Evils, The War of 1812 in Southwestern Ontario, Global Genealogy, 2012.
Weekend Warriors had its first showing Friday February 24, 2017 at the Wolf Performance Hall, 251 Dundas Street, London, Ontario at 7:00 p.m.
Southwestern Ontario independent filmmaker Barbara Urbach, operating as Crocodile Productions completed the 60 minute documentary film featuring the Upper Thames Military Re-enactment Society, a London based non-profit group whose members participate in living history weekends which recreate battle scenarios from the War of 1812.
Urbach’s film captures behind the scenes footage as she dawns the iconic British Red Coat and joins soldiers on location at some of Ontario’s most famous battlefields including Fort Erie, Chippewa, Fort George, Longwoods and more.
“This film is unique in that we have managed to capture and share personal experiences of key members of the group in addition to the action and drama that plays out before the camera” explains Urbach. “We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished” explains director Gary Van Osch, “It was very difficult since, as in a real battle, the game plan is constantly changing, which although exciting, tends to add a level of complexity to our work, this is also why it has taken seven years to complete the film.
We are certain that audiences will be entertained since we do not follow the normal rules of documentary filmmaking” says Van Osch citing great music, creative sequences and many surprises including roman soldiers dressed in full armour.
The evening’s entertainment started with a musical performance by period singers, and was followed by a short film starring artist/painter Aaron W Smith .
This house was nothing more than a clapboard homestead built in 1870 when Sarah Gamble bought the property in 1926. She was a school teacher who came up from Detroit to find a summer retreat for her and husband Stanley Gamble.
Unfortunately Stan lost Sarah and their infant son at childbirth, so in honour of his beloved wife, he transformed the dwelling into a cobblestone cottage.
Eventually he formed a partnership with local artist Annie Aldred and together they established The Little Stone Tea House. Stan then created a beautiful courtyard with cobblestone archways, a popular place for couples to have their wedding photography done.
Stanley passed away in 1952, and Annie’s tea house closed. The property now belongs to Annie’s nephew Robert Aldred from London.
By John De Boer who lives in Kitchener and enjoys daytripping off the beaten path. Posted June 1, 2016 in the Kitchener Post
On Sunday, March 6, at 2:00pm a Longwoods Memorial Service will be held at Battle Hill Park to commemorate the only major battle fought in the London- Middlesex area during the War of 1812.
This year’s service will feature the dedication of the new flagpoles which have the Union Jack and the 15 star U.S. flag. Following the service, there will be a luncheon held at the Wardsville United Church. All are welcome to participate in this annual and unique program.
Battle of Longwoods site is located at 2945 Longwoods Rd., Southwest Middlesex . Arrive early and park carefully on the side of the road.
The Wardsville Legacy Portraits in the Heritage Gallery at the Arts and Cookery Bank will be replaced by a new show featuring the natural beauty of our region.
The Legacy Potraits occupied the Great Hall gallery September 30, 2011 – March 31, 2014
Over the course of two days in June 2011, about 260 people posed in 69 groupings in a temporary studio set up in the pavilion of the Wardsville baseball park. A team of “wranglers” provided logistical support as folks signed in and queued up for the sittings. David Chidley, an accomplished local photographer, shot each group using a digital camera and provided invaluable on-site counsel and equipment. The local “Package Nanny” (Heather Rowe) set up a digital printer in the ‘studio’ and every group received a high-quality color print on the spot.
Larry Merin used a vintage Hasselblad camera for the portraits, since archivally processed film can be safely stored for decades without deterioration. The project was designed to provide the people of Wardsville with a ‘shoebox’ of images that could be stored in a form that could be seen easily in the future. Stored in archives, the Legacy negatives should remain in pristine condition for many years. Hopefully, they will be printed anew in 2110.
Folks grouped themselves for the sittings; most were couples and families. We also photographed people linked by work (the Wardsville Volunteer Fire Department) and by hobbies (barbershop singers, ballroom dancers, barn quilt painters, a brass band). It was a special honor to photograph a group of War Brides.
There was no 1-2-3 and no “Say Cheese.” Larry reminded each group that the purpose of the photography session was to produce a historical record. He asked them to look into the camera and imagine that their expression and pose would be the way future generations would come to know them. Some responded with smiles, while others were pensive. Some adopted formal poses while others were spontaneous. The photographs reveal the people of Wardsville the way they see themselves and wish others to see them: straightforward, friendly, proud of their village and comfortable with their way of life.
I am grateful to all who presented themselves to our cameras and allowed Dave Chidley and I to record their names and faces for coming generations.
Lawrence Merin, September 2011, Nashville
On behalf of the Upper Thames Military Re-enactment Society (UTMRS) who portray the Royal Scots Light Company of 1814, I would like to express our deepest thanks to the community of Southwest Middlesex for their excellent support and co-operation during our recent War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration of the Battle of Longwoods from March 4-9. The Southwest Middlesex Municipal Council and Staff assisted us in much of the minutiae of organizing an event which meant the closing down of the Longwoods Road, erecting a monument, erecting a tent as well as arranging the billeting of numerous re-enactors.
The Creative Communities Committee did a wonderful job of arranging for a Dinner and Reception at the Glencoe Agricultural Hall on the Saturday, March 8. This same organization decorated the windows of the Glencoe merchants, and with the co-operation of the Southwest Middlesex Council, Staff and Community decorated with large bows the hydro poles of Melbourne, Appin, Glencoe and Wardsville to commemorate the Bicentennial Event.
The entire week showed wonderful community spirit with a brunch provided by the Newbury Fire Services at the Newbury Fire Hall on Saturday morning. The billeting of the re-enactors at the Masonic Hall in Wardsville and the Glencoe Arena on Friday and Saturday nights was kindly arranged by the Staff of Southwest Middlesex. Wardsville United Church provided through the efforts of Todd Trojand a pancake supper Tuesday, March 4, breakfast and lunch on Sunday, March 9.
The Southwest Middlesex Fire Department including the Wardsville Fire Department and the Glencoe Fire Department assisted with the Glencoe Lions Club did yeoman service on a cold winter’s day in parking well over 200 cars on the shoulders of the Longwoods Road. Tom McCollum and John McColl deserve special recognition for their efforts to flawlessly handle this important task.
It is important to recognize the assistance of Dave Little and helpers who guided traffic, spectators (and yes, re-enactors) at the Battle Hill site with extreme efficiency and co-operation.
The memorial service held on Tuesday, March 4, (the actual time of the original Battle of Longwoods) was organized and conducted by Reverend Richard Golden and Betty Simpson of the Glencoe and District Historical Society.
The old Community Hall in Wardsville, now the home of Crocodile Productions, was the scene of an excellent variety show called, The Royal Bash, on Friday night, March 7.
Another feature of the week was the excellent coverage by the daily and weekly newspapers of the local communities. From a series of articles about the background of the Battle of Longwoods to coverage of related activities it was an amazing effort on the part of these periodicals to alert and inform the public.
The comment I remember most was from one of our re-enactors who had travelled from Toronto to be at the event. He commented in wonderment how such a large Commemoration Event as the Battle of Longwoods could have been carried off in the middle of nowhere with such a large audience, military servicemen and re-enactors so smoothly and without a hitch. The answer is the wonderful co-operation of the Southwest Middlesex Community. Thank you so very much for making the week a wonderful Bicentennial event!
Glenn Stott, Chair
UTMRS Bicentennial Committee.