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The Wards

                Jabez (Jay) N Ward is noted on the founder’s map as having a chair shop and later advertisements in the Pantagraph reveal that he continued his work in home furnishings. He married Martha Tompkins, who was one of the early school teachers in Bloomington. She taught in a school on the corner of Washington and Center beginning in the summer of 1842 in a two story building. That building was built by Benjamin Thomas as a store and dwelling place. Ms. Tompkins Ward described that school room in later years: “First, ranged around the room in close proximity to the wall was a long continuous desk; in front of this were long rude benches, the most of them made of split logs with legs driven into the rounding side. These were for the older pupils. When they wished to write or use maps they changed their position by a movement more characterized by dexterity than grace; they whirled their feet over the bench and sat with their back to the teacher. . . . We had a blackboard too, which was quite an innovation. It was a formidable revolving machine about as complicated as a windmill and like Van Buren’s cloak, good on both sides; this, with a pine table and a small box-stove, constituted our furniture.” I wonder if the furnishings improved after Miss Tompkins married Mr. Ward? “The center of the room was a open drill ground, where classes were marshalled for recitation or discipline; where the teacher promenaded ad libitum in full-fledged dignity, flourishing switch or ruler at will, a terror to evil-doers and a benediction to the good.”

                   Teaching became the occupation and avocation of two of Mrs. Ward’s daughters who lived all their lives in Bloomington.

                    Mrs. Ward, a member of the historical society also preserved the history of the first band in Bloomington. It formed organically when the young men so far from their families sought out companionship and found others who loved and played music. There were eight members of the first band: George Dietrich, Abram Brokaw, Joshua Harlan, James Walton, Nelson Buck, J N Ward, Amasa Merriman and Johnter Hill. The three founders from the map played the following instruments: Brokaw, clarinet; JN Ward, French horn; and James Walton, trombone. These men travelled over the prairie to play in near by towns and attended a state competition in Springfield in 1840. The brass instruments were obtained through merchants in St. Louis, but the drum, it was decided for matters of economy, should be made in Bloomington. Mr. Dietrich was a tinner and formed the shell of the drum. Mr. Peck, who had a tannery, prepared a sheepskin for the head. The part which gave them the greatest difficulty was stringing of the drum ”chold” or cord which should have been made of single thread spun cotton. The men had to somehow spin this thread from the available materials and luckily Johnter Hill “had had some observation in a rope walk, where ship cordage was made, and came to the rescue. The drumsticks were furnished by J N Ward (chair maker) and the brass eagle emblazoned on the front by yet another founder, Asaph Larrick.

                    In 1850 the band travelled to the “still city,” Peoria, for a campaign speech by Bloomington’s own J. F. Henry, yet another founder on our map. A “typical canoe was extemprized (sic), mounted on wheels, decorated with flags and banners galore and drawn by four spirited horses and followed by the band and distinguished citizens.”


                    The Wards had no descendants in McLean County.

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