Little Jimmie Ward

Alfred John Ward and James Joseph Ward, 1923, Pleasant Run Golf Course, Indianapolis
Alfred John Ward and James Joseph Ward, 1923, Pleasant Run Golf Course, Indianapolis

Young Jimmie seems to be about the most popular player on the Irvington course, for whenever he steps up to the tee with his small bag of clubs, the crowd gathers. The little chap will step up to the ball after his father, Alf Ward, who is the professional at the course, has teed it up for him, then get ready to swing. Then he will look around with a mischievous grin and say “Watch me.”

Jimmy Ward golfs with dad Alf Ward 28 July 1923

1“Jimmie,” or James Joseph Ward was the only son of Alfred John Ward, an English golf professional from Battersea near London2, and Margaret T Styles, an insane asylum nurse from the town of Baltinglass in County Wicklow, Ireland3. He was also my grandfather. James was born on 23 Nov 1920 in Monroe, Michigan4 where his father was the professional at the Monroe Golf & Country Club. James was just a baby when the family moved to Coldwater in Branch County, Michigan where they lived at 113 North Polk Street5 and Alfred remodeled the golf course in the town.6 The next year, in the spring of 1922, the Bloomington, Indiana Country Club hired Alfred to build their new golf course.7 An article from the Bloomington Evening World introduced the family to the town.8

Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Ward of Coldwater, Michigan, have arrived to take charge of the club house. Mr. Ward has had nineteen years experience on the links of England and Scotland, and is an expert keeper of golf courses. Mrs. Ward has had several years practical experience as entertainer and club house manager, and the members are fortunate in securing such competent people.

In the early winter months of 1923, the Indianapolis Golf Club sought out Alfred to build their new municipal course called Pleasant Run. The local papers, The Indianapolis Star and News ran many positive stories about Alf and one (shown above) that included my grandfather James at age 2 1/2.9 The picture at the very top of Alfred and James is from the newspaper’s photo session for that article and was given to our family at that time.10

Jimmie’s father believes in starting early. He says that it is no use for him to let even a child begin “hitting ‘em wrong” even in play and has carefully taught him how to hold his club and how to swing.

In seeking information about Alf Ward’s career, I have researched other English golf professionals that he worked with both in England and America and found many other newspaper stories of father and son golf professionals. It is likely James would have followed Alf and become a golfer, which I suppose is how most occupations were at the time. For reasons that might never come to light, Alfred Ward deserted his wife and son that first year in Indianapolis and set in motion events that put James Ward’s life on an entirely different path.11

Margaret Ward sues Alfred J Ward for support The Indianapolis Star 16 Nov 1923 p14
Suits Filed in Superior Court, Margaret Ward vs. Alfred J Ward, For support, The Indianapolis Star, 16 Nov 1923

Indianapolis probably would have been a short stop for the family, remembered only as one of many places James had lived as a child. Instead of being raised on golf courses across the country, he grew up in Indianapolis on Talbott Street with his mother Margaret and her brother Thomas Styles, known to the family as Uncle Tommy. Here he married his wife Mildred Butcher and raised their four children.

1930 US Census – Indianapolis – Ward 3, Block 53 – Margaret Ward, James Ward, Thomas Styles (click for full sheet)

The 1930 United States Census offers a snapshot of James’ life seven years after Alfred vacated his role in the family. Margaret Ward was the head of household and working as a cook in a private home. Their rent at 2036 Talbot Ave was $35 per month, equivalent to $503 in 2016. Margaret told the census taker she was 43 years old and a widow. Thomas Styles, age 49, worked as a laborer doing odd jobs but was currently unemployed. Both Margaret and Thomas were born in the Irish Free State with Irish-born parents, had come to the United States in 1888 and spoke English prior to their immigration. James Ward, age 9, was a scholar, born in Michigan with a father born in England and mother born in the Irish Free State.12

Margaret Ward was actually 54 in 1930.3 Her husband Alfred was alive and working on the golf links at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.12 I suspect Margaret knew her husband was still alive but considered it none of the census-taker’s business. As for the error in her age, it was not customary before 1900 to celebrate individual birthdays in Ireland so she and Tommy may not have known exactly when they were born. It is clear from examining records over the years that they were not terribly concerned about their exact age or date of birth.

On the 11th of March in 1936, Margaret Ward fell ill with pneumonia. She died eight days later on March 19th at 11:30 pm.13 James was only 15. Newspapers in Indianapolis14 and Auburn, New York15 where her sisters Annie and Katherine still lived published notices of her death.

Margaret Ward obituary Indianapolis Star 21 Mar 1936 p21
The Indianapolis Star, 21 Mar 1936

WARD – Margaret J. [T.] beloved mother of James Joseph and sister of T. J. Stiles [Styles] of Indianapolis. Mrs. Anna Nulty, Mrs Catherine Hayes of Auburn, N. Y., passed away Thursday, March 19, at the residence, 2026 N. Talbottt ave. Funeral Monday, March 23, 9:30 a. m. at the residence. Services at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral at 10 a. m. Internment Holy Cross cemetery. Friends invited. Friends may call at the home after 3 p. m. Saturday. FINN BROS. SERVICE.

The Auburn (NY) Citizen Advertiser, 13 Apr 1936

Dies in Indianapolis. Word has been received in Auburn of the death of Mrs. Margaret Ward, who died at her home in Indianapolis, Ind., March 23 [March 19]. Mrs. Ward formerly resided in Auburn. Mrs. Ward was a sister of Mrs. Anna Nulty of this city.

1940 US Census – Indianapolis – Ward 7 Block 2643 – Thomas Styles, James Ward (click for full sheet)

In 1940, Thomas Styles, head of household, and nephew James Ward were living at 2026 Talbot Ave. The home was owned and worth $4500. James was 19 and working as a clerk at a drugstore. The previous year he had worked 52 40-hour weeks and earned $550 (the equivalent of $9437.84 per year in 2016). He had completed 3 years of high school. Thomas Styles, unable to work, had worked 0 weeks the previous year but did have income from another source. (I am not sure what this was, he didn’t have a Social Security number that I could find.) James answered the census-taker’s questions as noted by the circled X symbol next to his name. He reported that Thomas was 64 years old, born in the Irish Free State and had completed 4 years of high school.16 This makes Tommy the most educated person in my grandfather’s family up to that point (not counting other cousins in my grandfather’s generation). Alfred Ward had left school at age 12. Margaret was working outside of the home as a domestic laborer as early as age 15. James himself had to drop out of high school to work after his mother died.

According to the Indianapolis City Directory, by 1942 James had moved on from the drugstore and was working as a machinist, still living at 2026 N Talbot St with his uncle Tommy.17 The information for this directory would have been collected in the fall of 1941, right before America declared war on Japan on 8 Dec 1941 in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the previous day. Within a few months, he would enlist in the US Navy and spend the next three years in Samoa, the Philippines, Okinawa and finally Tokyo Bay to witness the Surrender of Japan. See: James Joseph Ward, WWII

1942 Indianapolis City Directory, James J Ward

Reference Notes


  1. “All Around the Town,” The Indianapolis News, 28 Jul 1923, p. 8, Online archives, Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/254176 : 2016. 
  2. England, birth certificate for Alfred Ward, born 24 Jun 1883, registered Jul-Sep, Wandsworth, vol. 1d, p. 662, no. 219, West Battersea, Surrey; General Register Office, Southport. 
  3. Ireland, birth certificate for Margaret Styles, born 19 May 1876, registered Jun 1876, Baltinglass, entry 415, vol. 7, p. 469, Baltinglass, County Wicklow; General Register Office, Roscommon. 
  4. “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” James Joseph Ward, 317014743, index, Ancestry.com, (http://www.ancestry.com: 2016); citing Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007, Social Security Administration. 
  5. “Golf Comment, News and Views,” The Indianapolis News, 23 Mar 1923, p. 34, col.2. Online archives, Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/256854 : 2016. 
  6. “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Coldwater, Michigan, Pictoral City Directory Year Book, January 1922 p. 182, A. J. Ward family, digital image, Ancestry.com, http://www.ancestry.com :2016. 
  7. “Golf Comment, News and Views,” p. 34, col. 2. 
  8. “Country Club to Open House Next Month,” Bloomington (Indiana) Evening World, 11 Apr 1922, p.1, col. 3; Online archives, Find My Past, http://findmypast.com : 2016. 
  9. “All Around the Town,” p. 8. 
  10. Ward family, photos 1923-1940, in Erika Lopresti (Ward) Family photo collection, ca. 1890-2016; Privately held by Mrs. Lopresti, Virginia Beach, Virginia, 2014. 
  11. “New Suits Filed in County Courts, Marion County Superior Court,” The Indianapolis Star, 16 Nov 1923, p. 14, col. 8. Online archives, Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/3425970 : 2016. 
  12. 1930 United States Census, Marion County, Indiana, population schedule, Margaret Ward, Thomas Styles and James Ward, Indianapolis, Ward 3, Block 53, dwelling 64, family 159; digital images, Archive.org, (https://archive.org/stream/indianacensus00reel608#page/n420/mode/1up : 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 608, page 6A, “Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930,” National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC.
  13. Indiana State Department of Health, death certificate, Registered No. 9853 (1936), Margaret T. Ward; Vital Records, Indianapolis. 
  14. “Margaret Ward,” obituary, The Indianapolis Star, 21 Mar 1936,  p. 21, col. 8. Online archives, Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/clip/3415788 : 2016. 
  15. “Dies in Indianapolis.” The Citizen-Advertiser (Auburn, NY), 13 Apr 1936, p. 3, col. 4. Online archives, Old Fulton NY Postcards, http://fultonhistory.com : 2014. 
  16. 1940 United States Census, Marion County, Indiana, population schedule, Indianapolis, Ward 7, Block 2643, 1940 Census.archives.gov : 2016; citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1124, page 13B. 
  17. R. I. Polk, Polk’s Indianapolis (Marion County, Ind.) City Directory (Indianapolis: R. I. Polk Directory Co.,1942) 1372, digital images, “Indianapolis City Directory Collection,” Archive.org, https://archive.org/stream/polksindianapoli1942unse#page/1372/mode/1up :2016. 

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