A Guide to the Thomas William Ward Papers, 1825-1885
Thomas William "Peg Leg" Ward (1807-1872), architect, veteran of the Texas Revolution and government official, was born in Ireland in 1807. Prior to emigration to Quebec in 1828, he was educated as an architect. Ward subsequently moved to New Orleans and became a member of the New Orleans Greys in 1835 when Texas called for aid against Mexico. His company served under Colonel Ben Milam at the Siege of San Antonio de Bexar, during which Ward’s right leg was severed by a cannon ball. A replacement wooden leg gave him the nickname "Peg Leg" Ward. He recruited a company of volunteers in New Orleans, which served under Thomas Jefferson Rusk. After San Jacinto, Ward settled in Houston and eventually contracted for the construction of the capitol there. In March 1841, he lost his right arm in a cannon accident during a Texas Independence celebration.
Ward served the Texas government in many capacities during the Republic, early statehood, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods. He became postmaster of the Republic, was made chief clerk of the House of Representatives during the Fourth Congress, and in 1840 was elected second Mayor of Austin. On January 4, 1841, Ward succeeded J.P. Borden to become the second commissioner of the General Land Office. He was a major figure in the Archives War, having been ordered directly by Sam Houston to remove the archives from Austin. Ward served as land commissioner until 1848, when he was defeated by George W. Smyth. On June 20, 1844, Ward married widow Susan L. Marston.
In 1850 Ward was appointed commissioner to issue certificates to claimants in Peter’s Colony. He was elected to his second term as mayor of Austin in 1853, but left office later that year to serve a presidential appointment as consul to Panama until 1857. During the election of 1860, despite bad health, Ward participated as an opponent of secession. After the Civil War, Gov. A. J. Hamilton appointed Ward as mayor of Austin – his third and final time in that office – which he left to serve as President Andrew Johnson’s collector of customs in Corpus Christi from 1865 to 1869. He resided in Austin until dying of typhoid fever in 1872. Wardville, TX, and Ward County, TX, are named in his honor.
The Thomas William "Peg Leg" Ward Papers, 1825-1885, contains originals and photocopies of correspondence with family members, friends, and business associates; bills of lading and receipts; legal documents; certificates and a proclamation; broadsides; and newspaper clippings.
This collection contains Ward’s original file numbering scheme, as well as additional non-filed papers. Particularly significant are the papers that pertain to the Archives War, to Ward’s tenure as U.S. Consul to Panama, and to the Texas Republic and early statehood periods in general. Also of importance are the letters from Ward’s son Dudley that describe his participation in the Civil War, especially the Siege of Vicksburg.
Thomas William Ward Papers, 1825-1885, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Revised by Laurel Rozema, September 2009.
Detailed Description of the Papers