MORE ON SAGA OF KLONDIKE WARD (July 18/97)

When Ward’s Mansion was destroyed by fire in 1965, a newspaper report called the building a “colourful Kentville landmark.” Built sometime around 1904, the mansion had “stood guard high over Kentville for over half a century,” said another newspaper account of the fire.

A column two weeks ago on Klondike Ward barely delved into his story. I used a lengthy obituary from a 1934 Advertiser as my source but many of the facts about the famous mansion weren’t there (the date of its construction, for example.) However, thanks to a call from Marie Bishop, I am able to expand some of the Klondike Ward story. Ms. Bishop told me she had helped in the preparation of a paper on Ward and his family and a copy was on file at the museum in Kentville.

The Klondike Ward story deserves more than a couple of my columns in this newspaper and a brief document stored in a museum. Ward obviously was a Kentville builder and he should be recognised in some way. Perhaps the efforts of this columnist will spark enough interest to get something started.

Anyway, more on the Ward saga. Here are some gleanings from the document on file at the Old Kings Courthouse Museum.

Klondike Ward was an adventurous man. He struck out on his own while a youth, journeying to the United States where he served for a while in the U.S. Marines. Ward joined the R.C.M.P. in 1890 when he was 26 and was posted to the Klondike area of the Yukon. A few years after Ward’s arrival gold was discovered in the Klondike. Ward went prospecting with a friend and in the words of the museum document, “found enough gold to buy his way out of the Mounties.”

Ward returned to Kentville in 1899, apparently a wealthy man. He married a banker’s daughter, Elizabeth Redden, and took her back to the Klondike (where they lived in a log cabin) for another four or five years of prospecting. There he was joined by his brothers, Norman, Winnifred and Nathan.

By 1904 Ward was back in Kentville (where a daughter Evelyn was born) and he began a period of construction. The area in Kentville known simply as the Klondike (I was unable to discover when the spelling was changed) was named after Ward perhaps because he developed it and constructed several of the first homes in this area. There is mention that Ward backed the construction of several major commercial buildings in Kentville but there were no details in the museum paper.

Ward began construction of his Prospect Avenue mansion at this time, sparing no expense in the building of it. One of the bedrooms was furnished with a mahogany suite shipped from Jamaica, for example. On record is Ward’s reply when he was asked why he was building so fancy a home. He said, “I had a little extra money and it will be nice to leave a memorial to the family.”

Elizabeth Ward died in 1924 at an Ontario sanitorium. Ward survived his wife by only 10 years but he was married again to an American, Florence Benner. After his death, Ward’s widow opened the mansion “as a home away from home for the troops stationed at Aldershot Camp.” Florence died in 1957.

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