TABLE OF CONTENTS
Thomas William Ward Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Thomas William Ward was born in Ireland in 1807. In 1828, he immigrated to Quebec and later New Orleans where he worked as a carpenter. Ward joined the military group the New Orleans Greys in 1835 and fought in the War of Texas Independence. It was at the siege of Bexar that Ward lost his right leg to a cannon ball and later adopted the moniker “Peg Leg.” Legend states that his leg was entombed with his commanding officer Benjamin Milam after Milam died at the battle. Ward was given 8,000 acres of land in Texas primarily for his military service.
In 1837, Ward was named as the contractor for building the temporary capitol in Houston though he would soon be called to public service. While in Houston he served on the Harrisburg County Board of Land Commissioners and as Houston Postmaster. In 1839, Ward moved to Austin and was elected chief clerk of the Texas House of Representatives and in 1840 mayor of Austin. It was at this time that Ward lost his right arm while firing a cannon celebrating Texas Independence Day. In 1841, Ward was appointed the commissioner of the Texas General Land Office and held the position for seven years. During his tenure, Ward significantly improved the process of transferring land from public to private ownership. These reforms allowed almost 11,000 land titles to be issued to Texans given free land.
Ward would go on to be Austin’s mayor two more times and serve as the United States consul to Panama in 1853. Ward later served as a customs officer for the District of Corpus Christi in the late 1860s. Ward died of typhoid fever in November 1872.
The Thomas William Ward Papers document the life and career of Ward, especially his role as Mayor of Austin and Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office. Photocopies of his correspondence makes up the bulk of the collection, including transcripts of many of the letters. Noted correspondents include Sam Houston, Thomas Green, Thomas J. Rusk, Mirabeau B. Lamar, James Shaw, Anson Jones, Jonathan Hull, Andrew Briscoe, James Reilly, David G. Burnett, and George W. Hockley. Topics covered in the letters include the Texas Revolution, Land Office Business, the Archives War, relations with Mexico, and his work in Panama. Extensive correspondence with his wife Susan and son Dudley is also present. The set of photocopied records also includes broadsides, government and legal documents, and receipts. Rounding out the collection is his 1840 appointment as Justice of the Peace of Austin and his Order Book as commander of the arsenal in Austin during the Civil War.
Open to all users
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
The photocopied documents were loaned to the AHC by a descendant of Ward.
Thomas William Ward Papers (AR.Z.008). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2018/059
Bulk of the collection was copied from loaned documents in 1984. The origin of the Armory Order Book is unknown. The Justice of the Peace appointment certificate was acquired by purchase in 2012.
Original donation arranged by Tim Wilder in 1995. Additions integrated, finding aid created and encoded by Mike Miller in 2018.