This is what we knew: Joseph Henry Ward, born circa 1870 in or near Wilson, North Carolina, was the son of Napoleon Hagans and a sister of Napoleon’s wife, Apsilla Ward Hagans. I couldn’t find him in the 1870 or 1880 censuses, but by 1900 he was listed in Indianapolis, Indiana, working as a physician.
The hunt for Joe Ward’s people thus began.
In the 1910 census of Indianapolis, a nephew, Augustus Moody, born about 1893, is listed in the Ward household. I searched for Augustus in 1900 and found him in Washington DC in this household: William Moody (born 1872), wife Sarah S. (1876) and children Augustus (June 1894) and Crist (1896), plus sister-in-law Minerva Vaughn (1890), mother-in-law Mittie Vaughn (1854), and mother Fannie Harris (1854) — all born in North Carolina. Soooo … Augustus’ mother was Sarah S. Moody, and Sarah’s mother was Mittie Vaughn. Okay, and how was Joe Ward related to these folks?
I went back to the 1880 census of Wilson County and found: Sarah Darden (57, mother), Algia Vaughn (23, son-in-law), Mittie (22, daughter), Joseph (8), Sarah (6), and Macinda (5 mos.), the last three Sarah’s grandchildren. From this I deduced that Mittie Vaughn, daughter of Sarah Darden, had at least two children, Joseph and Sarah, before 1880. I then located young Sarah’s marriage license to William Moody, which listed her maiden name as Ward. So Joseph and Sarah were listed in the 1880 census in their stepfather’s name, not their mother’s, and “Joseph Vaughn,” son of Mittie Vaughn, is in fact the Joseph Ward I was looking for.
How did I know Algernon was a stepfather? He was only 22 years old when he married Mitty Finch, 27, in Wilson on May 6, 1879. (Finch?!?!?! That’s an as-yet unexplained anomaly.) I also found a cohabitation registration for grandmother Sarah Ward and Sam Darden, dated 12 July 1866. This registration, which formalized the marriages of ex-slaves, noted that they had been married five years, well after the births of Sarah’s children Mittie and Appie. If Sam was not their father, who was?
The first clue: in 1902, when William S. Hagans (son of Napoleon and Appie Ward Hagans) registered to vote in Wayne County, North Carolina, under the state’s grandfather clause, he named “Dr. Ward” as his qualifying ancestor. I didn’t know what to make of that — I couldn’t find a Dr. Ward in Wayne County — so I laid it to the side for a bit.
Then I found a reference to Appie and Mittie’s previously unknown brother. On 16 June 1870, Henry Ward, son of D.G.W. Ward and Sarah Darden, married Sarah Forbes in Wilson, North Carolina. If we assume that Henry, Appie and Mittie had the same father, who is this D.G.W. Ward? Was he the “Dr. Ward” that William claimed as his qualifying ancestor under the grandfather clause?
In the 1860 census, D.G.W. Ward (45) and wife Adline (19) appear in Speights district, Greene County, which borders Wilson County to the southeast. Ward reported owning $26,500 in real property and a whopping $112,000 in personal property! (As the 1860 slave census shows, this wealth largely consisted of 54 slaves.) He was one of the, if not the, wealthiest men in the county. And he was a physician. Here, indeed, was Dr. Ward.
David George Washington Ward was married twice — perhaps circa 1840 to Mariah H. Vines, who died after having one child; then to Emily Adeline Moye in 1859. Between those marriages, he fathered at least three children with Sarah, an enslaved woman.