Charles Ward: bigger than life
In the 1930's 40's and 50's Hudson was known for two things, the toll bridge and Charlie Ward.
A self made millionaire, Charles Ward began a hardscrabble life in Seattle, Wash. His early years were spent in Alaska territory and Mexico where he was part of Poncho Villa's army. Traveling across the country Ward made many acquaintances that served him well later in life.
His friendship with H.H. Bigelow got him in the door of the calendar manufacturer in St. Paul, Minn. where he eventually rose to the rank of president and general manager of Brown & Bigelow, a St. Paul firm that manufactures calendars and other promotional materials.
The rambling Ward Estate in Hudson covered what is now the Lighthouse at Hudson Pier development, the former JR Ranch property and several other Quality Park Farms scattered around the Hudson area. At one time he owned near 2000 acres in rural Hudson. He was a lover of horses and was often seen on a Sunday horse ride with his lovely wife Yvette. Mrs. Ward owned the Hudson Star-Observer for several years. Executives for Brown & Bigelow also had premier homes in the Hudson area, adding to the wealth of the community.
The Ward's were one of the prime benefactors for the original building of the Hudson Hospital. They were very generous to the Hudson community, rich and poor alike.
The Wards entertained people from all over the country, one of the most famous being the cowboy star Gene Autry. Charlie Ward loved the western life and all that it entailed. His horses and buffalo herd were well known attractions. He also owned a ranch in Rim Rock, Ariz. called Rancho Roca Roja, where he spent his later years. He died in his sleep 1959, in Beverly Hills, Calif. He is buried at Willow River Cemetery with a grave marker stating his belief of "Live and Let Live".
More information about Charlie Ward can be found in books written by Willis Miller of Hudson.