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Collection of correspondence, letter book, an 1861 diary, account books, bank books, ledgers and legal documents purchased around 1990.


The collection is open for research. Due to the fragile nature of some of the material not everything in the collection can be photocopied.


These papers are the physical property of the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


[Identification of item], Seth Edmund Ward Papers, WH1067, Western History Collection, The Denver Public Library.


Number of Boxes: 1 (1 lf)

1 oversize folio




Roger L. Dudley

June 2007


Ellen Zazzarino


Seth Edmund Ward was born on March 4, 1820 in Campbell County, Virginia. His parents, Seth Ward and Ann Hendrick, had three other children, all girls. At the age of twelve, when his father died, Seth was apprenticed to an Indiana farmer. After two years, and apparently dissatisfied with farming, he returned to his mother's place in Virginia. She gave Seth $25 and he was essentially on his own at the age of 14. He reportedly wandered through Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri before winding up on a steamboat on the Missouri River where his funds became exhausted. His journey ended in Lexington, Missouri where he borrowed $8.75 from John S. Brown on June 26, 1838. Ward journeyed to Independence, Missouri by stage coach and in less than two weeks signed on to work as a trapper - the least experienced member of a crew bound for the Rocky Mountains - hired by Lancaster P. Lupton.

The Lupton train traveled to a sight north of present-day Denver, known then as Fort Lancaster, now the town of Fort Lupton; the most southerly of a string of forts referred to as the Trappers' Trail. After arriving in Colorado, Ward left the Lupton outfit and joined the company of Thompson and Craig with its headquarters in the northwestern corner of present-day Colorado. They operated from Fort Davy Crockett on the Green River above the mouth of Vermillion Creek near present-day Maybell. Ward worked for Thompson and Craig from 1838 to 1840 earning $25 a month. During this period of employment, the price for furs dropped dramatically from as much as $6 per pound to $1-2 per pound signaling that the end was near for the fur trading era in the Rocky Mountain West.

Ward recognized a business opportunity when settlers began to make their way to places only mountain men and Native Americans had traveled. These pioneers would need supplies whether passing though in route to the West coast, or if they had decided to become ranchers or farmers in Colorado or Wyoming.

In 1848, Ward formed a partnership with William Guerrier creating a "mercantile business on the Arkansas River or in the region of the Rocky Mountains under the name and style of Ward and Guerrier" in the words of their agreement. This successful partnership lasted until 1858. For several years Ward and Guerrier's activities brought them near Fort Laramie, the principle white settlement between the Missouri River and Salt Lake City. During this period, Ward formed relationships with suppliers that would continue throughout his career. Chief among them was Robert Campbell of St. Louis, Missouri. Campbell was one of the co-founders of Fort Laramie, along with William Sublette.

Sometime before 1853, Ward married Wasna, a Brules woman, a subdivision of the Teton Sioux. They had four children before she died of tuberculosis. Only one of their children, Seth, has been identified. In 1866 he married Elizabeth Gerry, the daughter of a South Platte trader.

Fort Laramie became the most pivotal enterprise in Ward's years as a merchant and entrepreneur. On April 30, 1857, Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, appointed Ward to the lucrative three-year post of sutler at Fort Laramie. As sutler he enjoyed a monopoly at the busiest post on the frontier. In addition, he continued to operate with Guerrier as licensed traders dealing with several tribes that provided them with buffalo robes. In August of 1857, the Missouri Republican reported that a supply train belonging to Ward and Guerrier arrived with 12,000 buffalo robes and other pelts. Ward's ten year partnership with William Guerrier ended on February 16, 1858 when Guerrier was killed in an explosion when sparks from his pipe accidently ignited a keg of powder.

Ward hired William G. Bullock of St. Louis as his general manager at Fort Laramie following Guerrier's death. Bullock worked the counter at the sutler's store for more than a decade.

Ward made numerous business trips to Westport, in Kansas City. He also courted Mary, the widowed daughter of a prominent Westport hotel owner, Colonel John Harris. Ward married Mary Frances McCarty on February 2, 1860 over the objections of her mother who knew of Ward's Indian family. Mary refused to live in the primitive and dangerous environment of Fort Laramie. She probably returned to Westport for the birth of their first child, John Edmund, in 1861 and likely remained there. Their second son, Hugh Campbell, was born in Missouri in 1863. That same year, Seth Ward moved their home to Nebraska City, Nebraska where he coordinated freight shipments, while leaving the day-to-day operation of the store, and associated ventures in Fort Laramie, to Bullock.

Ward remained in his post as sutler longer than any other at Fort Laramie. When his tenure ended, in 1871, he had amassed a sizeable fortune, sold his home in Nebraska City, and moved to Westport, which soon became a part of Kansas City. He and Mary purchased the farm estate of William Bent, a 450 acre piece of land now part of the country club area of Kansas City. The home Ward built there, as a companion to the Bent house, remains as a historic home in Kansas City.

Ward was named president of the Mastin Bank in 1873 and remained active in civic affairs for many years. In 1903, he died in Kansas City at the age of 83. His wife, Mary, died seven years later.


The Seth E. Ward collection consists primarily of correspondence received by Ward, and the invoices, receipts and other records of the businesses he operated or was a partner. Virtually none of the correspondence in this collection was written by Ward.

The records document his position of sutler at Fort Laramie from 1857 to 1871 despite his lengthy absences from the fort. Correspondence from his general manager, William G. Bullock, along with the statements, invoices and receipts related to this operation form the bulk of the financial records in this collection. Messages to Ward from Bullock and his main supplier, Robert Campbell and Company in St. Louis, form the bulk of this collection. Ward also ran an occasional mule train of supplies to Fort Laramie. The expense diary of one such trip in 1861 is included. The papers of Robert Campbell and Company are well represented in this collection.


This series consists of correspondence received by Ward, arranged chronologically. It should be noted that except for a single document in FF19 which is on Seth Ward's stationery this correspondence was addressed to Ward not written by him.


This series consists of chronologically arranged invoices, receipts and other financial records of the businesses Seth Ward owned, operated, or was a partner.


Account book recording remittances by Robert Campbell and Company of St. Louis to Seth E. Ward in 1867 and 1868 and the cash paid to Ward during 1867.



  • Ward, Seth E. 1820-1903 --Archives.
  • Fort Laramie (Wyo.) -- Archival resources.
  • Sutlers -- Wyoming -- Fort Laramie.
  • Fur trade -- Wyoming -- Fort Laramie.