map

1864 map of the area around present-day Wards Road. Several landmarks shown here bear the name Wards, including a ferry, bridge and road.

Please do not read this if you are not a history nut. Or a nut of some sort.

Growing up in Yellow Branch, halfway between Altavista and Lynchburg was not easy.  I was caught twixt and tween. We were close to the borderline of where some students went to Altavista, and some to Rustburg.

Luckily, my father was a history nut.  Living in the country, we had plenty of time to consider more important questions than school districts.  Like, why did Route 29 suddenly take on the name Wards Road as it approached Lynchburg? Later in life, I was downright perplexed when I heard Route 29 being called Wards Road some distance out into the county. 

Now, I know. Or I think I know.

Looking on an 1864 map of the area, we see a major road labeled the Danville and Lynchburg Road that seems to follow much of modern Route 29.  Just north of that as one begins to approach Lynchburg, we see the label Wards Bridge Road. 

However, Wards Bridge is nowhere to be found near Lynchburg itself. It’s on the other end, crossing the Staunton River.

Could it be that the name Wards Road around Lynchburg took its name from a bridge in the area of what is today Altavista?

A pre-Civil War document gives credence to the Altavista explanation.  In an application filed in 1832 for a Revolutionary War pension for one John West, a “Wards Ferry” located on the Staunton River is mentioned:

“In the month of August 1780 he again entered the service of the united states [sic]as a volunteer in a Rifle Company commanded by Capt. Robert Adams, Lieut Charles Lynch Jr. and ensign Matthew Arthur – about the first of September 1780 this Company together with three other Company’s commanded by Captain Jacob Earley [Jacob Early], Thomas Arthur and George Turnbull rendezvous’d at Ward’s Ferry on Staunton River then in the County of Bedford Va. [about 3 mi downstream from present Altavista in Campbell County]*** and formed a Rifle Corps of about seven hundred men which were commanded by Colo. Charles Lynch and Major William Leftwich and were stationed at that place about two weeks then marched from there direct through the Counties of Prince Edward and Nottoway to Petersburg Va.” http://revwarapps.org/s4720.pdf

So, Wards Road started near Altavista, not Lynchburg.  We know that Wards Bridge later replaced the Revolutionary War era ferry.  Was Ward the name of a family or some sort of British expression used in colonial Virginia?  

Was Lieutenant Charles Lynch, Jr. the same Lynch who built the Avoca estate and a member of the Quaker Lynch family who founded Lynchburg?  Could Wards Ferry Road in Lynchburg somehow be related to Wards Ferry and Wards Bridge in Altavista?

Ever wandering and ever wondering best describes how I’ve always been.  Getting lost or finding new evidence simply redirects my search.  It is what keeps us young.  I welcome additional information.  My e-mail is hugh.c.rowland@gmail.com; put Altavista Journal—Union Star in subject and I’ll read your e-mail first. 

 

Hugh C. Rowland is retired from a career as a university dean/administrator and taught government and management courses.  He also served as a historical interpreter for Colonial Williamsburg, during which time he renewed his interest in researching and writing about history.