Nagle’s biography on Eber Ward receives award from state historical society

September 22, 2023

Michael Nagle

Nagle’s biography on Eber Ward receives award from state historical society

WSCC News is a presentation of West Shore Community College in partnership with Mason County Press. 

GRAYLING — Local author Michael Nagle will be recognized this weekend by the Historical Society of Michigan (HSM) during its 149th annual meeting and Michigan History Conference in the Roscommon-Grayling area. 

Nagle’s recent book, “The Forgotten Iron King of the Great Lakes: Eber Brock Ward, 1811-1875” has won a State History Award under the category of Books: University and Commercial Press. 

Nagle is a professor of history at West Shore Community College. This is his second book about a Michigan historical figure who has ties to Mason County. His first book, “Justus S. Stearns: Michigan Pine King and Kentucky Coal Baron, (1845-1933)” was released in 2015.

Eber Ward was one of the early lumber barons who built a sawmill on Pere Marquette Lake. He owned thousands of acres of land along the shores of the Pere Marquette River and other areas of Mason County, along with other areas of Michigan. 

Ward was born in 1811, the son of a lighthouse keeper. At a young age, he began working as a cabin boy on sailing vessels owned by his uncle Samuel Ward. Eventually he became business partner with his uncle. The two developed a large, possibly the largest, fleet of passenger steamers on the Great Lakes. 

Ward and James Ludington, namesake of the City of Ludington, were staunch business rivals. In 1868, Ward began negotiating with Ludington for a terminal site in the town of Ludington with frontage on Pere Marquette Lake. The F&PM had been considering a cross-lake route to Manitowoc, Wisc. since 1859 because the trip around Lake Michigan was costly. At the time, the railroad had also considered placing the west terminus of the railroad in Pentwater.

The HSM presents the State History Awards every year to individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the appreciation, collection, preservation and/or promotion of state and local history. The awards are the highest recognition presented by HSM, the state’s official historical society and oldest cultural organization.

The 2023 winners are:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award—Dorothy V. Walter of Alden
  • Distinguished Volunteer Service—Judy Gager of Greenville
  • Distinguished Volunteer Service—Dawn Malek of Port Sanilac
  • Distinguished Professional Service—Ira James “Jim” Holcomb of Washington
  • History Hero—James Cameron of Saline
  • Books: University & Commercial Press—
    • “Cinema Ann Arbor: How Campus Rebels Forged a Singular Film Culture” by Frank Uhle (University of Michigan Press)
    • “The Forgotten Iron King of the Great Lakes: Eber Brock Ward, 1811-1875” by Michael W. Nagle (Wayne State University Press)
    • “Seeing Red: Indigenous Land, American Expansion, and the Political Economy of Plunder in North America” by Michael John Witgen (University of North Carolina Press)
    • “Great Women of Mackinac, 1800-1950” by Melissa Croghan (Michigan State University Press)
  • Books: Private Printing—
    • “The Great Seney Fire: A History of the Walsh Ditch Fire of 1976” by Gregory M. Lusk (published by the author)
    • “Stories From the Sidewalk: A Walk Through 137 Years That Shaped Detroit” edited by L. Glenn O’Kray and Christopher Merlo (published by the Museum Guild of Dearborn)
  • Education: Educational Programs—“Lakeview Cemetery Restoration Project,” Sashabaw Plains Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution & Independence Township, Clarkston
  • Special Programs/Events—Historical Society of Greater Lansing for its exhibit at the Library of Michigan, “By the Yard: Michigan in Panoramic Photographs”
  • Local Societies—Livonia Historical Society
  • Institutions—Heritage Hall, Michigan State Capitol
  • Websites—“The Keweenaw Time Traveler” by Don LaFreniere, Sarah Scarlett and John Arnold
  • Best Article in Michigan History Magazine—“Under the Cover of Night: Cass County’s Kentucky Raid” by Debian Marty
  • Best Article in Chronicle Magazine—“A Martyr for Peace: Alice Herz’s Journey to Self-Immolation” by Francis Shor

HSM will recognize Dorothy V. Walter of Alden with the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award, the Society’s capstone award. Dorothy Walter cofounded the Alden Depot Museum and the Helena Township Historical Society in 1988 and served as the driving force behind the organization for the next 35 years. Through her efforts, the society restored the derelict 1908 Alden railroad depot and renovated it as a museum. The Alden Depot Museum opened in 1990 and features artifacts and exhibits that interpret the history of the Helena Township area. It also displays one of Michigan’s largest working model railroad exhibits. Walter has served as the museum’s only curator, providing administrative guidance to the board of directors and leading fundraising projects, educational programs, and the design of new exhibits.

The 2023 State History Awards for Distinguished Volunteer Service will go to Judy Gager of Greenville and Ira James “Jim” Holcomb of Washington.

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