Detroit’s first millionaire E.B. Ward is credited with being the first to use the Bessemer steel process in Michigan as well as being a key influence in the city’s industrial growth.
E.B. Ward was born on December 25, 1811 in New Hamborough Upper Canada during his parent’s move from Vermont to Michigan. In 1833, he moved to Newport, MI to work for his Uncle Samuel Ward who was a reputable businessman and shipbuilder. E.B. positioned himself to inherit his uncle’s property by marrying a niece of his uncle’s wife.
In 1840, E.B. was the captain of the Huron, the first steamship built by Samuel Ward’s shipyard. During this time, the westward migration through the Great Lakes was taking place and Samuel and E.B. were able to benefit from this using the routes they had set up. In the years prior to the railroad in Michigan, they ran monopolized travel and freight through the Great Lakes. One of the first steel–hulled boats to navigate the Great Lakes was in fact E.B.’s boat.
E.B. began to invest in large tracts of pineland for the lumber in the early 1850s. He constructed a mill, docks, warehouse and supply store in Forestville, MI but, before the town was officially named, he sold all of his holdings there and moved to Detroit.
When his uncle died in 1855, combining the inheritance with his own investments brought him to the status of Detroit’s first millionaire.
In 1855, E.B. built the Eureka Iron and Steel Co. along the Detroit River. It was here that he began to use the Bessemer Steel Process. While he controlled a portion of the patents essential to generate steel by this process, his competitors managed related patents. Due to this overlap, neither could assemble a state of the art steel facility without violating the others’ claim. Thus a merger of patents took place and the Bessemer Steel Association was created.
By 1868, E.B. had expanded his interests to other states, including a rolling mill in Wisconsin and what would become one of the big four silver mines in Utah. He was brilliant when it came to diversifying his investment and business interests. During the 1860s, he divorced his wife and remarried a much younger woman. When he died his children from both marriages clashed over his vast wealth.
Born: December 25, 1811
Died: January 2, 1875
Buried: Section A, Lot 86