The University of Iowa LibrariesThe Biographical Dictionary of Iowa: Jacket Art - Agriculture - Cresco, Iowa by Richard Haines ca 1934 -  Photo by Scott Christopher courtesy of Gregg Narber


University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Ward, Duren James Henderson
(June 17, 1851–January 24, 1942)

–minister and highly engaged amateur anthropologist and student of the social sciences–had considerable impact on the serious study of Iowa anthropology, archaeology, and history even though he spent only a few years in the state at the turn of the 20th century.

    Ward was born in Dorchester, Ontario, but spent most of his adult life in the United States. In 1875 he married Zuba Cross, a native of Michigan, while attending Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he eventually received bachelor's, master's, and theological degrees between 1878 and 1884. He was ordained in 1879 and served as the minister of a Free Baptist congregation in Pittsford, Michigan, for a year and then became principal of New Lyme Academy in Ashtabula County, Ohio. After finishing his degrees at Hillsdale, Ward earned a Ph.D. in comparative religion and philosophy from Leipzig University in Germany.

    When Ward returned to the United States in 1887, he took up posts in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as librarian of the Harvard Divinity School and instructor in philosophy, but he remained there only two years. Ward's first wife died in 1889; the following year he married Lizzie Adams Cheney of Cambridge. Ward then embarked on a peripatetic series of short-term teaching and ministerial jobs: superintendent and teacher of the Workingman's School in New York City; assistant pastor of a Unitarian church in Baltimore; pastor of the Dover, New Hampshire, Unitarian church; and professor of English language and literature at Kansas State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University) in Manhattan.

    In 1900 Ward arrived in Iowa City as pastor of All Souls' Unitarian Church, home to many influential members of the State University of Iowa faculty, including Benjamin F. Shambaugh, head of the Political Science Department and Superintendent of the State Historical Society of Iowa. Over the following years, Ward launched several projects to study Iowa's past with the blessing and assistance of Shambaugh and other university figures.

    Ward, a member of the Archaeological Institute of America and secretary of the Iowa Anthropological Association, was a key player in organizing Iowa's nascent anthropological interests. He represented the state on national committees to organize the American Anthropological Association in 1902, and he worked with celebrated anthropologist Frank Boas and the Iowa-born subhead of the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology, W. J. McGee, to thrash out the composition of the new organization, which was eventually structured to allow amateurs such as Ward to become members. In 1905 Ward served on a national committee to promote passage of the American Antiquities Act (1906), which for the first time afforded protection to national archaeological and historical sites.

    More significant for Iowa, during his tenure in Iowa City Ward undertook serious research and writing about two important state topics: the study and preservation of Iowa's ancient mounds and the history and status of the modern-day Meskwaki Indian tribe of Tama County.

    In 1905 Ward laid out cogently the current state of knowledge and theory about the origins of the numerous burial mounds and other archaeological remains across the country, focusing especially on the extensive mounds in Iowa, including the Effigy Mounds in Allamakee County, the mounds near Toolesboro in Louisa County, and the mounds along the Iowa River near Iowa City in Johnson County. He not only explicated accurately the possible origins of the mounds and described the mounds' physical characteristics but also urged preservation and scientific research.

    During the same year–Ward's last in Iowa–he organized and carried out a full- scale study of the Meskwaki, who lived on their own land in rural Tama County. The tribe had a unique modern history, but few whites in Iowa understood that history or its significance. With funds granted by the State Historical Society of Iowa and letters of introduction from the governor, Ward and a student assistant moved onto the Meskwaki Settlement for several weeks. With the help of two translators, they collected interviews with tribal leaders and members and conducted a detailed census of the tribe. Ward also researched and recorded a history of the Meskwaki land purchases and their relations with the federal government, which for decades had insisted that the tribe should be in Kansas along with the Sauk. In addition, Ward commissioned a series of lantern slides from photographs by a local Tama photographer and other photos from tribal members and white residents near the settlement. Ward reported the results of his research at a meeting of the Iowa Anthropological Association in the fall and in two articles published the following year in the Iowa Journal of History and Politics, and he donated the slides and his reports to the State Historical Society of Iowa.

    In 1906 Ward left his post in Iowa City and moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, to become pastor of the Unity Church there, and he also served as an instructor of physics at the State Agricultural College in Fort Collins. Within three years, however, he left Fort Collins and resettled in Denver, where he founded his own publishing company and launched a series of books, mostly written by himself, on the history of religion, popular philosophy, and science. He remained in Denver for the remainder of his long life, dying there months short of his 91st birthday.
Sources Ward's Iowa writings are "The Problem of the Mounds," Iowa Journal of History and Politics 3 (1905), 20–40; and "Meskwakia" and "The Meskwaki People of Today," Iowa Journal of History and Politics 4 (1906), 178–89, 190–219. A brief chronology of his life is found at the Web site of the Harvard Divinity School: ward_duren.html. For Ward's involvement with the Meskwaki and many of his slides, see L. Edward Purcell, "The Mesquakie Indian Settlement in 1905" and "The Ward-Mesquakie Photograph Collection" Palimpsest, 55 (1974), 34–55, 56–63. A program from a memorial service following Ward's death is held in the Boulder (Colorado) Public Library Carnegie Local History collection. Several of his books and articles remain in print and are available from sources on the Internet.
Contributor: L. Edward Purcell