Ward’s Pond sits on the border of Jamaica Plain and Brookline, just north of Jamaica Pond and within Olmsted Park, one of the long links in Boston’s Emerald Necklace of parks. None of the surviving local histories or memoirs of Jamaica Plain we rely on mentions Ward’s Pond or its namesake. Perhaps the fame of Jamaica Pond overshadowed its much smaller neighbor, but as is so often the case in local history, once we start digging we unearth fascinating new stories.
Ward’s Pond sits near the head of the Muddy River, so called, although the river was never more than a stream. It is now within a park along the Brookline Boston border, but for over 250 years was in private hands. The first map to show the name Ward’s Pond was published in 1859. The same map shows no Wards living near the pond, but two Wards are shown along Muddy River to the north. J.O. Ward is shown just south of today’s Riverway on the Brookline side, and H.S. Ward is to the east at the corner of what we now call Huntington and South Huntington avenues. An 1852 map shows a J. Ward living along Muddy River in the same area as well. With these initials to go by, we can begin to connect this Ward family to the pond that memorializes their name.
John Ward the first was born in 1626 in London and emigrated to this country. His son and grandson, Edward and Samuel the first, were born in Newton. John the second, son of Samuel, was born in 1748 in Natick, and in 1771 married Roxbury girl Martha Shed. In 1788, John – now a blacksmith – bought 44 acres of land along Muddy river from his brother-in-law James Shed. The deed gives us little to locate the precise boundaries of the lot, but it was bounded by the town line, and by land of Peleg Heath, which puts it somewhere between Muddy River and the Heath street/South Huntington avenue area. The deed also specifies that the sale is exclusive of the old mill, which may have been the old colonial grist mill that still, at that time, drew off Jamaica Pond water near Ward’s Pond to drive its wheel.
Through 1805, John Ward would continue to buy land in the area from the Shed family. There are no mentions of a pond, but property boundaries on the Road to Worcester and the Road from Watertown tell us that he was buying land on the road where today’s Huntington avenue and Brookline’s Boylston street meet – we would also call it Route 9. This was the very edge of Roxbury, and directly adjacent to the old Brookline settlement of Punch Bowl, now known as Brookline Village. We can imagine that land near the village of Punch Bowl and along the busy road from Boston to the west would have made a good location for a blacksmith shop. In 1804 and 1805, John again enters the records, taking payment from the Boston Aqueduct Corporation for allowing them to lay pipe over his land. This would be the route that Jamaica Pond water would follow on its way to satisfy a thirsty Boston.
John and Martha Ward had eight children, Of those, only two daughters and one son are recorded as having survived to adulthood. Samuel, who would inherit the property, was born in September of 1772. Unlike his father, Samuel became a farmer. Samuel appears in an 1818 newspaper article reporting on a Brighton cattle show. In a plowing match on a fine October day, a yoke of oxen owned by Samuel Ward of Roxbury was awarded second prize. The story notes that farmer Ward’s team pulled the famous plow made by Jeffe Warren of Dedham. Roxbury farmers were leaders in the agricultural improvement movement of the time, so it should be no surprise that a Roxbury man was using the latest in plow technology. We also find Samuel Ward’s farming prowess cited in a history of Boston published in 1881. It states there that “The farm of Samuel Ward now belonging to the Brookline Land Company, was famous fifty years ago for its Roxbury Russet apples, often producing a thousand barrels a year; and also for cherries, of which he sent to market forty to fifty bushels daily in the season, and occasionally he dispatched a four-ox team to Providence with seventy-five bushels.”
Samuel Ward had married Joanna Bird in 1799. Joanna bore 14(!) children, few of whom are recorded to have survived to adulthood. Already mentioned are Henry Shed (H.S.) Ward and James Otis (J.O.) Ward, whose initialed names appear on the 1859 map discussed above. Henry actually died in New Hampshire at 37 in 1844. His share of the old estate would pass to his brother James, who survived him by 11 years.
James Otis Ward
The life of James O. Ward takes us away from Jamaica Plain, but is worth remembering. As told by Dean S. Bird, a descendent on both the Ward and Bird side of the family, James Ward traveled to New York to sell the produce of his father’s farm. Remaining in New York, he became a successful businessman. After first running his own chandlery business, supplying ship owners and seaman with all their various needs, he then purchased his own ships and became a trader between New York and the West Indies. His son, James Edward Ward, founded the Ward Line, one of the largest steamship lines of its era.
When James O. Ward died in February of 1855, flags in New York harbor flew at half mast. In March of 1860, the executor of his estate sold 80 acres of land along Muddy River for $83,000 to the Brookline Land Company. The property plan shown here was drawn in 1845, and shows the Ward Farm at the time. Most of the estate at that time was in Brookline, but the name Ward’s Pond is recorded for the first time, and the pond itself sits inside the town of Roxbury. To the north, the farm extends to today’s Riverway at Brookline Village.
So now we know: the Wards lived on the old Roxbury/Brookline border, more Roxbury than Jamaica Plain residents. They did once own the land surrounding the eponymous pond, and left their name to one of Jamaica Plain’s small jewels on Boston’s Emerald Necklace.
Special thanks go out to Dean S. Bird for his many contributions to this article: family genealogy, stories, and portraits. The portrait of Samuel Ward shown here has been passed down through the Ward and Bird families, and is owned today by Dean.
By Mark Bulger
Massachusetts Spy, October 28, 1818. Brighton Cattle Show article.
The Memorial History of Boston; including Suffolk County, Massachusetts 1630-1880. Vol. 4. Samuel Ward farming citation.
Suffolk County Registry of Deeds:
162:16 – 1/8/1788. James Shed, 44 acres to John Ward.
Norfolk County Registry of Deeds:
22:61 – 7/27/1804; 22:196 – 1/7/1805. John Ward, rights to lay pipe to Boston Aqueduct Corporation.
285:1 – 3/1/1860. Estate of James O. Ward, 80 acres to John Wetherbee Jr., broker, for Brookline Land Company.