Entrepreneurial journeys may vary, but all who have started businesses have at least one thing in common: They can look to the experiences of those who came before them for inspiration. There have been many great African-American entrepreneurs through history who have blazed trails for today’s successful business owners. One of them was John T. Ward.
Bom in Richmond. Va., in 1820, Ward, founded E.E. Ward Moving & Storage Co. in 1881 with two horses and a wagon. What started out as a stop on the Underground Railroad has flourished into what is now the oldest African American owned-business in the United States.
Ward’s family has longstanding roots in Ohio dating back before the Civil War. Ward was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, which ran through Columbus. During the war. Ward received government contracts to haul munitions, supplies, and equipment for the U.S. Army.
Ward began preparing what would have been his “business plan” for a moving company as early as 1859.
He performed contracted hauling jobs for wholesale and produce houses, and transported goods and merchandise from warehouses and storage yards to commercial sites and markets.
After the war ended. Ward’s son William joined him in the moving industry. But William later left for a position at the Union Transfer and Storage Company, where he navigated the tanks, becoming teamster, work supervisor, foreman and rate clerk. In 1881, the father and son team connected their experiences and opened Ward Transfer Line, a wagon transportation business in downtown Columbus.
Ward’s youngest son, Edgar Earl. at age 18, joined the company in 1889, assuming its management. It was then that the company name was changed from Ward Transfer Line to E.E. Ward Transfer and Storage Company. The company, in every sense of the word, had become a family-owned business.
Eldon Ward (born 1914), the grandson of William Ward, started in the business at age 5, when he would clean and feed the company horses. By age 8. he had learned to drive the company truck. He officially joined the family business in 1945, later becoming its owner.
As a community leader, Eldon Ward served on the boards of more than 40 community organizations, including the local chapter of the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the Chamber of Commerce.
By 2001, Eldon Ward was the last member of the family to have ownership of the company. He was set to retire and sold the company to childhood friends Brian Brooks (Eldon Ward’s godson) and Otto Beatty
“I am proud of E.E. Ward’s story of surviving slavery, the U.S. Civil War. Great Depression. The Great Recession. two World Wars and 26 presidential terms.” the company’s co-owner Dominique Reighard-Brooks said. “We are grateful to be recognized as one of the most reliable and charitable multi- million dollar moving companies nationwide”