George F. M. Ward
G. F. M. Ward. Pioneer Business Man of the City Died Last Night
Had been in Ill Health For several Months.
Funeral Services Thursday Afternoon At Christian Church
George F. M. Ward, for many years one of Mt. Vernon's leading businessmen,
and a pioneer builder and booster for the city, died at this home at the corner
of Ninth and Maple street last night at 11:20 o'clock, after lingering near
death for several days.
Mr. Ward was 72 years 1 month and 5 days of age.
Mr. Ward's death was not unexpected, as for many weeks he has been failing
steadily, and his death, while it brings sorry to many friends, was expected.
For 47 years he was in business in this city, rising from a small scale to
the head of one of the largest department stores in Southern Illinois, the
Mammoth Clothing Company.
Head of this large organization, he was forced t relinquish his prominent
part in its advancement the early part of this year, when his health began to
break under the heavy strain and a forced rest of several weeks at a sanitarium
in Hot Springs, Ark., was taken in February.
On his return here, he was unable to take up his work again, and forced to
remain at home the greater part of the time. During the summer he recovered
somewhat, enough to enable him to get down town several times and meet with his
friends and visit the store and bank, but whohlly unable to resume any part in
Then recently his health began to deteriorate rapidly and he gradually
approached the end which came last night.
Funeral services will be held tomorrow, Thursday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. aat
the Firsst Christian church with the Rev. M..P. Pierson in charge.
Burial will follow at Oakwood cemetery.
The body will lie in state from 10:00 to 1:00 at the home
Mr. Ward is survived by his wife and three children, Dr. Todd P. Ward, Henry
Ben Pope Ward, and Mrs. Leota Pope Ham, all of Mt. Vernon.
He was married on June 2, 1880 to Miss Sarah Elizabeth Pope, of Du Quoin.
The following article is one which appeared in the Mt. Vernon Herald over a
year ago, and which relates in detail Mr. Ward's association with Mr. Vernon as
a community builder and business man:
Prominent among the men who have been actively identified with the growth and
development of Mt. Vernon stands G.F.M. Ward. President of the Ham National
Bank, President of the Mammoth Shoe, Clothing and Drygoods company, President of
the Mt. Vernon Lumber Company; President of the King City Building and Loan
Association, a director of the Royal Building and Loan Company and after 40
years service as a director of the Mt. Vernon Building and loan, he has retired
from this position and his son, H.B.P. Ward elected in his place.
Twice Mayor A director of the Mt. Vernon Car Manufacturing Company, a
director of the Mt. Vernon Improvement Company, twice mayor of the city, and
four times alderman, these are a few of the outstanding highlights in the career
of the man who, as a lad of 17, started clerking in a small clothing store.
Nearly half a century has passed since Mr. Ward first came to Mt. Vernon, and
during that time, the city has come to number him among the men who are ever
ready to get behind any project, which has as its objective the making of a
bigger and progressive community. His success is a story of constant application
coupled with fair play and sound judgment.
Born in Connecticut
Born in Harwinton, Conn., he moved to Williamson county with his family at
the age of four. Here he began his education at the grade schools, helping about
the farm during the summer and after school. When he was 13 years old, his
family moved to another farm near Carbondale. Four years later, he began his
business career, as a clerk in Marcus Goldman's Clothing store at Carbondale. He
promptly began to study the business and three years later went to work as a
clerk for Joe Solomon, at Du Quoin, and two years later saved up enough capital
to enter partnership with Joe Solomon.
Came Here in 1879
Coming to Mt. Vernon in 1879, he helped found the firm of Ward and Solomon
which has developed into the Mammoth Company. Three years later, he purchased
his partner's interest and for 23 years ran the business alone.
The town meanwhile had been growing rapidly and in order to give better
service to the community, Mr. Ward formed a stock organization and reorganized
as the Mammoth Shoe, Clothing and Drygoods Company, which is today one of the
largest department stores in Southern Ill, employing approximately 25 persons
with an annual payroll of more than $40,000. Through the policy of service and
honest value, this store has gained popularity until today it draws trade within
a radius of 60 miles.
AIt was in 1903 that Mr. Ward was elected Mayor of the city, and at the
following election renamed to succeed himself. It was during his regime that
electric lights and water plants were purchased by the city and after several
years, has since been taken over by the Southern Illinois Light and Power
Ten years ago, he was named director of the Ham National Bank, the oldest
national institution in the county and three years ago was elected to its
presidency. He is also president of the Mt. Vernon Lumber Company which has the
largest yards in this section. Mr. Ward is a director of the Mt. Vernon Car
His faith in the future of Mt. Vernon has been demonstrated in his connection
with the building and loan associations and also in his own building operations
among which stands the Lincoln building erected on the site where Abraham
Lincoln gave one of his addresses. He also owns the buildings on South Ninth and
Tenth streets and the block on East Broadway, which bears his name.
Mr. Ward is among the group of men who are responsible for Mt Vernon being on
the line of the Southern Railroad. At the time the road was proposed he assisted
in obtaining the necessary right of way and was one of its guarantors.
He has taken an active part in the development of Mt. Vernon as one of the
leading manufacturing centers in Southern Illinois, devoting a large amount of
effort in attracting new industries to locate here which have in turn given
employment to hundreds of men. Mr. Ward is one of the five directors of the Mt.
Vernon Improvement company which functions in connection with the Chamber of
Commerce. The building of th new Emmerson Hotel received his ready support in a
substantial financial way.
Nor has he continued all his activities locally, for twenty years ago he
founded the Mammoth Shoe and Clothing Store at Sullivan. Last year he was named
director of the First national Bank at Waltonville.
He is a member of the Odd Fellows, the Knights of Pythias, the Woodmen, the
Elks and the Mt. Vernon Country Club.
The above is an insight of the man as he stood in the business life of this
city one year ago. His business ability and policy has been unquestioned and
will always be a mark for those who are following after him to aim at in the
years to come.
Obituary from the Mt. Vernon Register, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 1927
G.F.M. Ward, Long a Leading Citizen of Mt. Vernon, died at 11:30 O'Clock Last
Had Been in Mercantile Business Since 1879, and Built up One of the Largest
Stores in Southern Illinois; Served Two Terms As Mayor of Mt. Vernon and Was
Active In Financial Affairs of City.
G.F.M. Ward for nearly fifty years a leading business man of Mt. Vernon died
at 11:30 last night at his home on Maple Street.
Mr. Ward who was 72 years of age, had been in failing health for nearly a
year, and in recent months his condition had grown steadily worse. For several
days his condition had been so critical, that little hope was felt for his
All the members of his family were present when the end came last night.
The funeral services will be held at three o'clock Thursday afternoon at the
First Christian church of which Mr. Ward was a member. The body will lie in
state at the home on Maple street from ten until one Thursday.
George F. M. Ward was born in Harwinton Conn., October 1, 1854 and was four
years old when he came with his parents to Southern Illinois.
He was the son of Henry ward, a member of an old Connecticut family who came
to Illinois with his family in 1858.
The family settled first in Williamson county on a farm, where the children,
several of whon became prominent in the affairs of Southern Illinois, were
George F. M. Ward, who was the youngest of the family, as a boy worked on the
farm of his father, attending the district school at intervals during the 12
years until the removal of his parents to Carbondale, where he was a pupil in
the old district high school.
First Business Experience
His first business experience was obtained at Carbondale and Du Quoin. At the
latter place he entered into a partnership with Mr. Joseph Solomon in the
clothing business and on August 1, 1879, opened a cloting store in Mt. Vernon
under the firm name of Ward and Solomon.
This store was the start of The Mammoth Department Store of this city, now
one of the largest mercantile establishments in this part of the state.
In June 1883, Mr. Ward acquired the interest of his partner in the business
and continued as owner of the store until it was incorporated and heads of
various departments acquired an interest in the business. Mr. Ward continued
acataively at the head of the business however, and owned the great majority of
At the time of the incorporation of The Mammoth Shoe, Clothing and Dry Goods
Co., the officers were G. F. M. Ward, president, Wil T. Forsythe, vice
president, Isaac Vermillion seond vice president, and H. B. P. Ward, secretary
and treasurer. All have continued in business since the incorporation date, the
first break in the ranks coming with the death of the president and founder of
In addition t ohis successful career as a merchant, Mr. Ward was active along
many other lines during his long and busy life in Mt. Vernon. A man of
tremendous energy and industry, he found time to give his attention to many
For many years he served as a director of the Mt. Vernon Car Manufacturing
President of Oakwood
He was one of the men who acquired the ground for the laying out of Oakwood
cemetery, and served for many years as president of the Oakwood Cemetery
He laid out two additions and two sub-divisions to the city and was active in
real estate, owning much valuable business property, and erecting a number of
buildings that proved substantial and beautiful additions to the business
section of the city.
Mr. Ward was acaative in the affairs of the Mt. Vernon Coal Co., during the
life of that corporation and gave freely of his time and money in an effort to
keep the coal mine operating in Mt. Vernon.
He took an active interest in school affairs, always being found on the
firing line, when any movement was on foot to improve the schools of this city.
He served several times as president of the board of education.
Twice Elected Mayor
Mr. Ward Twice served as mayor of Mt. Vernon. His first term of office was a
period when he acquired the light plant which was afterwards sold to a utility
Enjoying remarkable health for a man of his years, until his recent illness,
Mr. Ward continued his many business activities until stricken by illness.
He was always an outstanding leader in any movement that would serve to
advance the interest of Mt. Vernon. No matter what the project was, or what the
demands were, whenever steps were being taken on any plan to push the city
ahead, George Ward was a man who was always counted upon to do this full share
and he never failed. He was a leader in such movements as that which resulted in
the building of the new steel plant, the location of the plant of the
International Shoe Co., in Mt. Vernon, etc. This interest in the progress of Mt.
Vernon continued to the last as is evidenced by the fact that he was one of the
men who took the lead in financing and building the Hotel Emmerson in this city.
President of the Ham Bank
Always interested in financial affairs Mr. Ward was for years connected with
the building and loan organizations of this city and several years ago he became
the president of the Ham National bank, a position when he held until recent
months when, realizing that his health was such that he could no longer continue
in this position, he tendered his resignation.
Mr. Ward had a personality that won and held friends, and he stood high in
the esteem of the people of the city, in the upbuilding of which he took such an
He was connected with the Christian Church and was deeply interested in the
welfare of his church.
In politics he was a democrat and was considered a leader in the affairs of
his party in this county. Several times he served as delegate to conventions of
importance, but his greatest political activity was in municipal affairs in
which he was keenly interested.
On June 2, 1880 Mr. Ward was married to Miss Sarah Elizabeth daughter of Dr.
Benjamin W. and Emeline Pope of Du Quoin, Ill.
The widow and three children all of Mt. Vernon survive together with four
[George F.M.Ward II, Leticia Ward, Helene Elizabeth Ham, Louise Emmerson
The children are Dr. Todd P. Ward, Mrs. Leota P. Ham, and H.B.P. Ward, all of
Local Banks Honor Memory of George F. M. Ward (Mt. Vernon Register)
The Ham National bank, of which the later G. . M. Ward was president for some
years immediately preceding his death, will close at noon for the day tomorrow
in respect to Mr. Ward, whose funeral will occur tomorrow afternoon.
The Third National bank and the Jefferson State bank will close at 2 o'clock
for the day out of respect to Mr. Ward.
Mt. Vernon, Illinois, Herald, Wed. Evening
November 17, 1926
Submitted by: Elizabeth Parr-Johnston
Jan 07, 2002