The Ward family in Medina County: “Any Ward from Yancey is kinfolk”

The Wards (front, left to right): Betty, Wes, Dorothy, Leta, and John. Back, left to right: Jonl, Devon, Joe, and Jenni.

Noble Wesley Ward was born in 1853 in Mississippi.

As a young boy, his family packed up and moved to Texas, settling in the Gonzalez area southeast of San Antonio. Noble grew to manhood in that area, where his family increased to eleven siblings: seven brothers and four sisters.
Sometime in the 1880s, Noble decided to go to Arizona to purchase some land. Riding horse-back, he stopped to spend the night with family friends near Yancey. His friend told him there was some land south of Yancey for sale, so he decided to check into buying it. Subsequently, Noble soon purchased two properties near Yancey. The first is located some two miles southwest of Yancey on Squirrel Creek, and the second lies about the same distance south of Yancey near the Tehuacana Creek. This second piece of land was about 1500 acres and was purchased in 1889, which was the first piece of land recorded to a Ward in Medina County.
Noble had married Nancy Mills of San Antonio in 1873. He moved his family to the first piece of land and lived on the upper banks of Squirrel Creek in order to have a source of water. His family included nine children – six sons and three daughters – who were born between 1874 and 1896. To support such a large family, a large garden was established near the creek which they had cleared of brush. It was about the size of a football field and can still be seen to this day. Meanwhile, several of Noble’s brothers and sisters and their families had also moved to the Yancey area where they purchased property and became members of the community.
In about 1915, with his first family grown, Noble and Nancy divorced, and she got the ranch along Squirrel Creek. Noble moved to the second ranch property, which is located on the northwest side of the Tehaucana Cemetery at today’s address of 874 CR 749 and which straddles the Medina/Frio County line.
Noble Wesley, at the age of 62, married Mary Alice Scoggin in January of 1916. Born in Yancey in 1890, she was the daughter of a sharecropper family working on the ranch. Noble and Mary Alice had two children: John Wesley Ward (known as Wesley all his life), born in 1916, and Edna May Ward Griffin, born in 1917. They lived their early lives on the ranch and attended school in Yancey.
Noble Wesley, at age 73, passed away in 1926 in Devine, where he had moved his family a couple of years earlier to escape the dust on the ranch since he suffered from asthma. He is buried in the Styles/Ward family cemetery located just off FM 2200 a couple of miles west of Yancey toward D’Hanis. (Noble’s mother, who had moved to Yancey in 1902 and lived with her youngest son, Lee, is also buried there, as well as three of Noble’s brothers.) Mary Alice was left to raise Wesley and Edna, which she did by working at Kelly Field. Meanwhile, the ranch was put into a trust until Wesley would turn twenty-one in 1937.
Mary Alice, Wesley, and Edna lived on N. Teel/Texas 132, directly across from the Las Palmas Restaurant. Their house burned down about 1930, and Mary Alice built the wooden house located on the corner today. The family lost all their possessions at the time, so the only surviving family heirloom is a Model 1873 Winchester 30-30 which was loaned out at the time of the fire.
Wesley and Edna both graduated from Devine High School in 1935. With the country in the midst of the depression, Wesley worked odd jobs where he could find them, including delivering ice to people’s homes and working in gas stations. He also worked on building the railroad trestle over Texas 132 on the north side of Devine. Finally, it was about this time that control of the ranch at Yancey came back to the family, and Wesley began his ranching career.
In 1940, both Edna and Wesley got married. Edna married Arnold Griffin. (See last week’s article for more details). Wesley married Gene Lackey, a school teacher who had moved to Devine from north Texas in 1938 after graduating from North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas). As a young single teacher in Devine, she lived with other young ladies in a boarding house in the Briscoe house, which was recently cut apart and moved from the lot across from First Baptist Church. In addition to ranching on the family property at Yancey, Wesley started working at Kelly Field and remained there through World War II.
Wesley and Gene had two children: Betty Carol, born in 1942, and John Wesley Jr., born in 1945. Betty and John both attended school in Devine, graduating in 1961 and 1964, respectively. They were both active in sports, FFA, band and various UIL activities. Betty graduated Salutatorian of her class and was named to the All-State Girls’ Basketball team her senior year after they placed third in the State Tournament. John graduated Valedictorian of his class three years later. Gene, Betty’s and John’s mother, continued teaching business courses at DHS throughout the 50s and 60s, while Wesley farmed and ranched full time at Yancey and on other property he had purchased north of Moore. Also, by this time, the Yancey property had been split with his sister Edna Griffin.
Betty and John both attended The University of Texas at Austin. Betty graduated in 1966 with a degree in pharmacy and began a career as a pharmacist, first in Devine and San Antonio and later in Springfield, MO. She retired in 2005. John graduated from UT in 1969 as an engineer and began a long career with IBM in Austin. Throughout his career, John continued to ranch with his dad on the family properties.
In 1967, John married Dorothy Anne Wilkinson of Devine, his high school sweetheart. Dorothy also graduated from UT-Austin and began teaching in Pflugerville. They have two sons: John Wesley III (Wes) and Joseph Westbrook (Joe), both of whom attended twelve years of school in Pflugerville ISD. Wes graduated from UT-Austin; Joe from Southwest Texas in San Marcos (now Texas State).
John retired from IBM in 1998, and he and Dorothy moved back to Devine so John could continue to operate the two family ranches. Dorothy worked as the Devine ISD librarian for several years until she retired in 2003. Wes and his wife Jonl and their two children, Leta and Devon, live in Austin. Joe and his wife Jenni live in New Braunfels.
Gene Ward passed away in 1982 after a long battle with lupus. Wesley then married Dorothy McAllister Hughes, a former high school classmate who supported him while he ran the ranches until his death in 1994. Gene and Wesley are both buried in Devine Evergreen Cemetery.
Today, the original 1500 acres, which Noble Wesley Ward bought in 1889 south of Yancey, is owned by five of his descendants. Wesley’s half is jointly owned by Betty and John Ward. John and life-long friends George Alexander and Ron Outlaw run cattle on it. Edna’s half is divided and owned by Mary Conrad, Ruthie Smith and Renée Dougherty (Mollie Sue’s daughter). (The five Griffin daughters – Mary, Molly, Jewell, Ruthie, and Roberta – shared in the heir ship of other Griffin properties.).
There are numerous Ward descendants from those large families, typical of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition to Noble Wesley Ward’s eleven children – nine from his first marriage and two from his second – he had 63 nieces and nephews and 28 grandchildren. And many of them are buried in several local cemeteries in Medina and Frio counties. The family saying goes: “If you run into a Ward anywhere (especially in south Texas), you ask if they know about Yancey, and, if they do, then they are kinfolk!” (As told by John Ward.)